|The Radio Sentence|
I love concision. I love elegance. And I love radio narration that demonstrates both those qualities. Today’s blog post is dedicated to one nugget of narration that knocked my my socks off. It will examine what 16 words can teach us about simplicity, stakes-setting, and where to put the most important word (hint: it’s last).
Here’s the sentence, from a story called “The Hounds of Blairsville”, which appeared in the April 11th episode of This American Life, “Tarred and Feathered”:
“Things are being said about you. Bad things, all over the internet. On something called Topix.”
I was ten the first time I ever saw an imax movie. At the beginning it did one of those timelapse cityscapes, where the cars become blurs, flying through the city’s streets like blood cells through veins and arteries. It was meant to “wow” the audience and get us settled into our seats for the main feature, but I was so “wowed” that I have no recollection of what the movie we watched was about. I wanted the timelapse to continue. I wanted to watch a whole movie of it... I love timelapse.
Since then I’ve fallen in love with audio, too, and I have sometimes wondered how you could create a similar effect in sonic medium. Now I wonder no more, because producer Tony Schwartz has proven that it can be done, in “Nancy Grows Up.” This piece represents, according to Schwartz “Thirteen years condensed into two minutes and thirteen seconds,” and I think Schwartz is being modest when he says that he’s “using the timelapse technique” in the piece - timelapse is a simple mechanical process that involves shooting film at a slow frame-rate, then playing it back at regular speed so it appears fast. Schwartz’ technique, as you’ll see, is much more creative than this.