Soundings Podcast

As of 2023, approximately 144 million people in the U.S. and 464.7 million people worldwide listen to a podcast every month. But back in 2007 when the Stanford Storytelling Project began, podcasting wasn’t yet part of our vocabulary. Instead, we made audio stories and aired them online or on public radio. From 2007-2010, during the years when we were learning to love this medium from the creators at public radio shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and Radio Diaries, the Stanford Storytelling Project released student-produced audio stories under our Soundings feed. Beginning in 2011, SSP created State of the Human, our flagship (and now award-winning) podcast that features our very best student work. Our Soundings podcast feed has become the place where completed student work lives, and it includes our Braden grantee projects, the episodes produced in our Sound Stories and Stories to Save Our Planet courses. Often—particularly when students want to continue working on these projects beyond the scope of their courses or grants—these stories find their way into State of the Human as well. The stories below represent the Soundings stories released in those early pre-State of the Human years. You can find our full list of Soundings stories here.


Do you have a special someone in your life who does all the same things you do, but better? Are you nursing a grudge and need some vindication? On this week’s show we have epic college feuds, petty rivalries, sweet love affairs gone bitter, and the battling little voices in your own head. It’s stories of conflict, within and without. Animosity, axes to grind, enemies and nemeses, hosted by dynamic doppelgänger duo.

Host: Charlie Mintz and Dan Hirsch
Producers: Charlie Mintz and Dan Hirsch
Featured: Hal Mikelson, Carmen Gray, Emily Cox, Will Rogers, Angela Castellanos, Matt Larson, Jasmine Aarons, Laura Stokes, Martin Evans, Roland Greene, Tiffany James
Music: Lauchlan Casey

Release Date: 4 December 2008

Story 1: The Axe

At the core of all animosity, there is a story, usually a story of betrayal and deceit. When we remember the story, hatred crystallizes into something real. A legendary college rivalry tale has shaped Stanford’s relationship with it’s great nemesis across the Bay. One man re-tells the tale every year to keep the spirit (of animosity) alive.

Producers: Dan Hirsch

Featuring: Hal Mikelson

image via flickr

Story 2: Anyone can have a Nemesis

Storytelling producers take to the streets, asking strangers to tell their personal nemesis tales. Prop 8, parents, styrofoam, ambitious conservatives… we encountered an abundance of nemeses, including ones that push people into playing more heroic roles in their own lives.

image via flickr

Story 3: The Beguiled Romance

All humans are susceptible to a type of chemical warfare that assaults us at unsuspected and undesirable times. One student tells of an instinctual attraction that goes against her sense of principle and better judgement.

Producer: Dan Hirsch

Featuring: Jasmine Aarons

image via flickr

Story 4: Satan

One may think that the concept of Satan is as tried and true as the institution of Christianity. In this story, two professors provide a more historical take on our understanding of the Angel of Darkness.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Martin Evans and Laura Stokes

image via wikipedia

Story 5: Turning on yourself… and winning

In the end, you are your own worst enemy? The last story shows that we can inspire our inner hero to defeat our inner nemesis.

Featuring: Tiffany James

image via flickr

Valentines 3

Sometimes a simple question is all it takes to get someone telling a story. We begin this show by asking people to tell the story of their first kiss. Every story is the same. Every story is different. After that, changes of hearts and a deeper understanding of one’s capacity to love. Then we have two glimpses into potential future realities, android love and a Valentinian Apocalypse. Have a great V Day.

Host: Rachel Hamburg

Producers: Aaron Thayer, Eme Akpabio, Claire Woodard, Charlie Mintz, Will Rogers, and Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Max McClure, Heidi Thorsen, and members of the Stanford community who told us their story in White Plaza.

Music: Daniel Steinbock, Max McClure, Fleet Street, and a spontaneous mishmash of singers who were out serenading people on the Saturday night before this story aired, in February 2009.

Release Date: 16 February 2010

Story 1: Your First Kiss

Answering our first of three questions, passersby on White Plaza tell us of their first kisses. Some kisses were awkward, some were sensational, and some were both.

image via flickr

Story 2: When did you change your mind about love?

White Plazans tell of a time when they shifted their perceptions of love–sometimes shifts for the better, and often for the worse.

image via flickr

Story 3: The Heart that Grew Three Sizes in One Day

White Plazans tell of a time they realized their capacity for love.

image via flickr

Story 4: Falling for Androids

The first winner of our winter story contest, Max McClure, reads a story about love beyond the bounds of species. Will he find love in all the wrong places?

image via flickr

Story 5: Apocalypse, February 14, 2023

Heidi Thorsen, the second winner of our story contest, posits the Valentinian Apocalypse of Love. Is this the big one?

image via flickr

Form Follows Function

Hidden structures and forms constantly influence the way we think, from social norms to rules of grammar. This week we give you four stories that illuminate the forms that underpin our lives. First, you’ll learn about a successful cosmetic surgery industry in modern day Korea. Second, a software predicts hit songs before they’re hits, based on a formula (note: this piece also aired on our “Prediction” show). Third, Iambic Pentameter makes itself known in the modern world. And finally, An artist incorporates naturally occurring patterns into her audio art.

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Host: Bonnie Swift
Producers: Bonnie Swift, Hannah Krakauer and Noah Burbank
Featured: Olivia Puerta, Nellie Olsen, Olivia Prevost, Noah Burbank, Sarah Rizk, Sam Alemayehu, Jill McDonough and Jen Carlile
Music: Palaviccini, Talisman, The Yeltsin Collective

Release Date: 2 June 2008


Story 1: Beauty in the Eyes of the Beheld

Western culture can influence Eastern perceptions of beauty, and in this story, the body-image of women. This piece surveys a growing trend, in which Asian women undergo a surgery called blepharoplasty (more commonly known as “Asian Double Eyelid Surgery”).

Producers: Olivia Puerta, Nellie Olson and Olivia Prevost


Story 2: Are You a Hit?

A new software predicts the next big music sensation, and some local talent is put to through the software to see how they measure up. Does this mean the end of true artistic integrity and creativity? (note: this piece also aired in our episode titled “Prediction”)

Producers: Sarah Rizk and Sam Alemayehu

Story 3: Prison and Poetic Form

Stegner poet Jill McDonough uses the structure of the sonnet to write a book of poetry honoring people who have been executed in the United States. Then she is interviewed by our Fiction Editor.

Producers: Lee Konstantiou
Featuring: Jill McDonough


Story 4: The Sounds of Clouds (and of other Natural Things)

Have you ever wondered what clouds sound like? Jen Carlile uses a programming language to convert visual images of clouds into a musical experience.

Producers: Noah Burbank
Featuring: Jen Carlile


Images: :Dar., hellocatfood, and msnc on Flickr


It’s easy to look around and see signs of social fragmentation, so today’s show takes a different approach and examines a few instances of people coming together: community. We explore an off-campus house that aimed to be an intentional community devoted to sustainability and find out where they failed and succeeded. We meet a community of Burning Man devotees who came together for a floating party on the Sacramento River Delta. Also we hear music made by a community of people who’d never met each other. Plus, the solution to the dirty dish dilemma.


Host: Charlie Mintz

Producers: Charlie Mintz, Rachel Hamburg, Matt Harnack

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock, Philip Narodick, Zuzanna Drozdz

Music: Noah Burbank

Links: Compostmodernist; inbflat

Release Date: 17 November 2009

image via wikimedia

Listen to the Full Show:


Story 1: Dirty Dish Dilemma Part 1

Community is essentially a group of people trying to live together. Daniel Steinbock has always viewed groups of people as complex systems. So what does he do with a complex system that’s stacking dirty dishes in his sink?

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock

image via flickr


Dirty Dish Dilemma Part 2

The solution to the dirty dish dilemma might just be a simple formula called U + 1. This formula can even be proven with a computer simulation of a sink. Yes, somewhere out there is a computer simulation of a sink, filled with dirty dishes, and it might just solve the biggest problem facing communities.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock

image via flickr

Story 2: Lessons from a Community that Didn’t Happen

Matt Harnack lived in the same house as Daniel Steinbock, of U + 1 fame. He had high hopes for the house as a place of community spirit and abundance. But what happens when not everyone shares your vision of community? What do you do then?

Featuring: Zuzanna Drozdz, Philip Narodick

Producer: Matt Harnack


Story 3: At Ephermisle

Part Burning Man, part Waterworld, Ephemerisle is a yearly event that welcomes artists, architects, college kids, weirdos, geniuses and hundreds of other people who just want to hang out and be creative on the water.

Producer: Rachel Hamburg

image via flickr


Story 4: Community in the Key of B Flat

Most communities share a physical space. Our last community exists only on the internet. It’s a website where people submit videos of themselves playing some instrument delicately and slowly in the key of b flat. But does it sound good? How can a community function with only one rule?

URL: Inbflat

Producer: Charlie Mintz


Genetics promised us the book of life laid open. But even after the sequencing of the human genome, there’s still a lot we don’t know. How do people make choices based on the imperfect knowledge that genetic science provides? Today we look at a few examples of that. We hear a story about sperm donation and the perils of choosing your child’s father out of a book. We hear a story about using genetics to make a decision about surgery. We walk into an MRI to investigate the genetic basis of personality. And a short story about cannibalistic vultures. Prepare for a show that will leave you doubled up in a helix of joy.


Host: Charlie Mintz

Producers: Charlie Mintz, Matt Larson, Laura Chao, Angela Castellanos, Leah Bakst

Featuring: Max McClure

Music: Cults, Boomsnake, Mothlight

Release Date: 23 November 2009

image via flickr


Story 1: Two Women, a Frenchman, and Seth Rogen All Walk Into a Bank

Producer: Matt Larson

Imagine the chance to choose half your child’s genetic material from a book. How would you pick? The best looking? The smartest? The least Seth-Rogen-like? This is the choice one coupled faced when one half decided to become pregnant through a sperm donation.


Story 2: Uncertain Information

What would you do if you knew you were predisposed to get a certain disease? What if that disease was breast cancer? How far would you go to prevent yourself from getting sick?

Producer: Laura Chao

image via U. of Minnesota


Story 3: Is Your Personality in Your Genes?

Why do we end up like our parents? Is it because we model ourselves after them (despite vowing never to become them)? Or is there something in our DNA that codes for hating sports, or talking to strangers, or just being plain stubborn?

Producer: Angela Castellanos and Leah Bakst

image via flickr


Story 4: It Was Suggested the Vultures of the Region Refused to Eat Their Own Dead

Author: Max McClure

After the collapse of society, a scientist attempts to figure out why vultures refuse to eat their own dead. A story about science at the end of civilization–an odd, unsettling piece we think goes best with a plate of gado-gado.

image via wikimedia

Hidden Roots of Rock

In a very special show, the Storytelling Project interviews the founders of the legendary Composition Blues Band, the group that has taught us just how much of Rock ‘n Roll has descended from the powerful and often traumatic experience of the writing process. We get the story behind their recovery of the true lyrics of classics by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and many more, and to hear them perform some of their biggest hits. Tune in to hear the amazing stories behind the writing and rewriting of rock ‘n roll and classics—how “Johnny Be Good” started as “Rhetor be Good” and how Dylan’s anthemic chorus in “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35” was originally “Everybody Must Use Modes”—and learn about their new, international project, a re-examination of the Old Testament that reveals just how much its writers, and indeed the entire culture of the period, wrestled with the writing process.


Host: Jonah Willihnganz

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Marvin Diogenes, Clyde Moneyhun

Music: Composition Blues Band

Release Date: 9 March 2010


Interview, Part 1: “Painful Laughter”

The Composition Blues Band discusses how they formed, and how they came to learn about the traumatic composition background that inspired such greats as Elvis Costello and George Thorogood.

image via flickr


Story 1: The Delaware Destroyer

Blues musician George Thorogood didn’t like his writing teacher, and this is a song he wrote about it.

image via flickr


Story 2: “Rhetor B. Goode”

Chuck Berry’s early experiences with rhetoric, and how the blues legend came to write his most famous song.

image via wikimedia


Story 3: “Ever Since my Plato Left Me”

If Chuck Berry is Plato, then Elvis Presley is Aristotle, wrestling with the duality of rhetoric. Is it good? Is it evil? This is a song about that place of confusion.

image via wikimedia


Story 4: “Three to Five Sources”

Sure the Rolling Stones could write songs about girls, but could they write songs about writing? Their hit “Wild Horses,” as the Composition Blues Band tells us, isn’t about love. It’s about writing a research essay.

image via wikimedia


Interview, Part Two “Rhet and Roll”

Many rock ‘n roll songs have a spooky prescience. Mick and Keith could reference the internet before it was even invented. The Composition Blues Band talks about what they call the Cosa Nostradamus effect.

image via wikimedia


Story 5: “Everybody Must Use Modes”

Bob Dylan, while he was writing the folk songs that made him famous, was at the same time earning his degree in Rhetoric and Composition at NYU. When he was first asked to direct a writing program, he was still a formalist, obsessed with the rhetorical modes. This is a song about that.

image via wikimedia


Story 6: “¿Cuantas Palabras?”

The Composition Blues Band takes their exploration of the hidden roots of rock outside the English canon. Because when it comes to the universal experience of rhetoric and composition, language is no barrier, as this song shows.

image via wikimedia


Interview, Part Three: The Future of the Composition Blues Band

The forms of composition are found in the great creations of mankind. For example: the pyramids. But is the essay more like a proper pyramid, or an inverted pyramid? The general to the specific, or the specific to the general? It’s an argument that has roiled civilizations from the beginning of time. The Composition Blues Band takes on this and other controversies in the last part of their interview.

image via wikimedia


Story 7: “Comma, Comma”

Rock legend Ritchie Valens had a monograph about commas in progress at the time of his unfortunate death. Born out of trauma, but rising above it, this last song is a testament to the power of music, and the deep role that composition plays in all our lives.

image via wikimedia

Medium Food

We’re all talking about our relationship to food lately, thanks to everyone from Michael Pollan to Oprah (even Michael Pollan on Oprah). Fast food, slow food, smart food, food miles, food pyramids, food security. Yes, we’re joining the fray, but turning the tables a bit to look at how food and food movements are a medium for forms of change—personal, social and otherwise—especially in the big city, where we so often rely on others for our food. We take the show to San Francisco, visiting the foggy gardens of the Sunset and the sunny fruit stands of the Mission, and even the rooftops in the Tenderloin. We talk to a new breed of urban farmer and we meet an earth scientist, a chef, a Salvadorian emigrant, a city rat, a country mouse, and a whole class of third graders. In our last segment we return to Stanford to find out how students are changing their own relationship to the their environment through our new favorite medium, food.

Host: Natacha Ruck

Producers: Natacha Ruck, Charlie Mintz

Music: Bibio, Alessandro Ricciarelli, Gerd Baumann, Ken Grobe

Featuring: Page Chamberlain, Susannah Poland, Caitlin Brown, Maya Donelson, Rebecca Alonzi, Tree, Suzi Palladino

Links: Garden for the Environment, Graze the Roof, The Free Farm Stand, Stanford Gleaning Project, Glean Map

Release Date: 2 March 2010


Story 1: It’s not Just about Food

The physical experience of farming took host Natacha Ruck back to a memory of her childhood. It also triggered an epiphany about what food and food movements mean today.

image via flickr


Story 2: The Garden on the Rooftop

In one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods, tender shoots are growing on the rooftops of the Tenderloin. By tender shoots we mean fifth graders, who are learning to grow and prepare their own food.

Featuring: Maya Donelson, Rebecca Alonzi


Story 3: The Rhythms of Nature and the Beat of the City

We visit the Garden for the Environment to experience how the rhythms of the natural world can jive the beat of an urban landscape.

Featuring: Suzi Palladino


Story 4: The Free Farm Stand

Urban farmers in the Mission District in San Francisco are trying to create a new kind of exchange with their neighbors using brussels sprouts, salsa and seedlings.

Featuring: Tree


Story 5: The Savvy Gleaner

In which we visit a farm, or rather, the Farm. It’s easy to forget that Stanford actually produces its own bounty of edible fruits and vegetables. You just have to know where to look.

Featuring: Susannah Poland, Caitlin Brown


Story 6: A Society of Abundance

We return to the man who started this hour, Page Chamberlain, a professor in the School of Earth Sciences, at Stanford. He tells us what the food movement is really about.

Featuring: Professor Page Chamberlain

Off the Pedestal

What happens when we put people on pedestals? And what happens when we take them off? Host Killeen Hanson interviews her father about his estranged father. Andrew Altschul exposes the ordinariness of rock-stars in an excerpt from his novel Lady Lazarus. Lee Konstantinou interviews Arnold Rampersad about his biography of Ralph Ellison; his question is not “What kept Ellison from publishing anything after Invisible Man?” but rather, “How did this author climb onto that pedestal in the first place?”



Host: Killeen Hanson

Producers: Killeen Hanson, Noah Burbank, Lee Konstantinou

Featuring: Brent Hanson, Andrew Altschul, Arnold Rampersad

Music: Noah Burbank

Release Date: 16 February 2010

image via wikimedia


Story 1: Dad meets Dad

Killeen Hanson interviews her father about reuniting with his father, who disappeared fifty years earlier.
Featuring: Brent Hanson
image via flickr



Story 2: Excerpt from Lady Lazarus

Andrew Altschul reads from his book, Lady Lazarus, which follows the life of Calliope, the daughter of two devastatingly famous rock musicians.



Story 3: Invisible Man’s Human-ness

We talk to a professor of American Literature about his latest book, a biography of Ralph Ellison, and the challenging task of writing about the life of a literary legend.
Featuring: Arnold Rampersad


Childhood is a funny thing, especially since that window we call adolescence keeps getting longer and longer. When do we stop being children, and when do we become adults? We bring you an hour of radio built from a creative writing Stanford class–stories of growing up, not growing up and the moments that stick with us the most.


Host: Hannah Krakauer

Producer: Hannah Krakauer

Featuring: Michelle Goldring, Lexie Spiranac, Sarah Grossman, Jeff Bauman, Chrystal Lee

Music: Nataly Dawn

Release Date: 23 February 2010

image via flickr


Story 1: The Fuzziness

It’s easy enough to look at a person and decide for them whether he or she is a child or an adult, but is it always so easy to tell with ourselves? What does it even mean to be a grown-up? First, a story about the blurry, perhaps undesirable transitions between childhood and adulthood.

Author: Michelle Goldring

image via wikimedia


Story 2: Kick the Other Person as Hard as You Can

Some growing pains happen when your bones get bigger. Some growing pains happen when your opponent kicks you as hard as she can. Our next story is about growing pains of the second kind. It’s also about corruption, Tae Kwon Do, and yelps.

Author: Lexie Spiranac

image via flickr


Story 3: My Family Held a Meeting on My Ability to Think

After giving up sports, Sarah began playing music with her brothers every night. Beatles’ songs, everyone on a different instrument, and Sarah on vocals. It was the start of a bonding between the siblings. But it was a bonding that went too far, and it started to worry her family.

Author: Sarah Grossman

image via flickr


Story 4: The Order is Invariable

If there’s one thing we have control over growing up, it’s our bedrooms. We decorate, arrange, rearrange, and sometimes even try to paint. But there is another approach to making your room–and your life–your own. Some call it OCD, Jeff Bauman calls it peace.

Author: Jeff Bauman


Story 5: Leave the Bears Alone

Admit it. You had stuffed animals when you were a kid. When did you give them up? Was it too late? Embarrassingly late? Well, no matter when it was, chances are you didn’t have a relationship with your stuffed animals the way the narrator of our next story did.

Author: Chrystal Lee

image via flickr


Story 6: What Sundresses Say

Our next story is about what it’s like to be fixated on style. How do you live a life devoted to following fashion trends? What does it do to you, and is it worth it?

Author: Emily Vogel

image via flickr


Story 7: If My Dog Finds Out He’ll Kill My Wife

Our last story is comic piece about studying abroad, growing up, and trying to find an identity at college. For reasons we appreciate, but can’t quite fathom, it’s told in the voice of a 30s private eye.

Author: Billy Kemper

image via wikimedia