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

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

Note to Self

The theme of this week’s show is self-preservation — that is, the preserving of whatever it is that makes you you, be it letters, journal entries, or a digital measurement of your heart rate and blood sugar for every hour of the day. We bring you stories of cybernetic “lifeloggers,” a crafty, image-tweaking Founding Father, and the most astoundingly comprehensive diary ever to find its way into Stanford’s Special Collections. We also have poems from one of Stanford’s poets in residence, Kirsten Andersen.

Host: Charlie Mintz
Producer: Charlie Mintz
Featured: Kirsten Anderson, Liz Bradfield, Hsiao-Yun Chu, and Judith Richardson
Music: Boomsnake, Howard Hello, George Pritzker

Release Date: 13 May 2008

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Story 1: Guinea Pig B

There are scrapbooks, and then there is the legendary Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Chronofile. Fuller was a designer, futurist, speaker, and prolific life-logger. Stanford has his diary, if that word even applies to the massive collection of documents, notes, letters, and much more. Host Charlie Mintz interviews the curator who made sense of the Chronofile, and learns about the wisdom of self-preservation.

Producer: Charlie Mintz
Featuring: Hsiao-Yun Chu

Story 2: Guinea Pig F

Long before Fuller glued his first newspaper clipping, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was pondering how best to preserve his life. The answer? Turn himself into a literary figure. Of course, this raises an interesting question: who is the real Ben Franklin?

Producer: Dan Hirsch
Featuring: Judith Richardson

Story 3: Life-Logging in Blank Verse

“Lifelogging” is usually about data. Numbers, figures, statistics. But to capture the most important parts of a life, maybe poetry is the best medium. We hear from a Stanford Stegner poet, who imagines a life into poetry.

Featuring: Kirsten Andersen and Liz Andersen

Story 4: Note to Self: Look Back at This and Laugh

Journals can be funny. Not at the time. Often they’re very serious at the time they’re being written. But later, very funny. At least when they’re filled with the kind of teen angst that you thought was buried forever when you went to college. Producer Dan Hirsch visits a live reading of old poems, songs, and of course, diary entries.

Producer: Dan Hirsch

Coming to You Live

What is it about live performance that makes it so appealing, terrifying, and wonderful? What drives people to stand up in front of an audience, to perform without a safety net and put themselves on the line? In today’s data-driven world, where everything can be recorded, stored, and recalled at any time, what role does live performance play? This episode begins with the harrowing experience of our host subjecting himself to the most extreme form of live performance of all: stand-up comedy. We continue with a story from playwright Amy Freed and Stanford professor of drama Kay Kostopoulos. And finally, we follow a production of the Stanford Spoken Word Collective, and get a peek at what goes on behind the curtain.

Host: Micah Cratty
Producers: Daniel MacDougall, Micah Cratty
Featured: Amy Freed, Kay Kostopilous
Music: Noah Burbank, Dave Chisholm, Greg Sell, Chris Babson, Zach Katagiri, and Kissing Johnny

Release Date: 19 May 2008

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Story 1: I Figured Doing Stand-Up Would Help my Dating Life

Micah Cratty never set formal goals for college, but there were things he thought he should accomplish, like winning the Super Bowl, dating a supermodel, that kind of thing. But one goal seemed achievable, perform comedy at a comedy club in front of an audience of strangers.

Producer: Micah Cratty

Story 2: Saying Yes to the Human Being

Producer: Daniel MacDougall
Featuring: Amy Freed and Kay Kostopilous

Story 3: I eat Chromosomes for Breakfast

In our last story we take a look at a kind of live performance whose popularity is secure, at least in college: spoken word. We went behind the scenes at the Stanford Spoken Word Collective’s Spring Show preparations to try to capture the magic of the live.

Producers: Micah Cratty
Featuring: The Stanford Spoken Word Collective

The Novel

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a prize-less, month-long contest in which thousands around the world attempt to write their novel in one month. Thirty days, fifty thousand words minimum, and no prize at the end (save for their own satisfaction). On this week’s show we follow of National Novel Writing Month and learn a little about the novel while we’re at it. A class of Stanford students tries to finish their novels without flunking out, a San Francisco write-a-thon filled with wannabe novelists, and the elusive 150 thousand word woman. Plus interviews with a professor, a PhD, and a book critic on the history of the novel.

Host: Charlie Mintz
Producers: Lee Konstantinou, Charlie Mintz, Killeen Hanson, Dan Hirsch, Jonah Willihnganz
Featured: Emily Rials, Bianca Ceralvo, Mark McGurl, Emma Ziker, Chris Baty, Noam Cohen
Music: Max Citron
URLs: Chris Baty

Release Date: 29 December 2008

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Story 1: NaNoWriMo at Stanford

This story (which, if you listen to the show, will come in pieces throughout the hour) tracks the progress of a class-load of Stanford students writing their novels. Thirty days. Fifty-thousand words. Go.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Story 2: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Novelist

Novels have always been important, but did they ever suddenly become self-important? We interview and author about the history of this monumental form of entertainment. Here is a clue: Henry James.

Producer: Lee Konstantinou

Featured: Chris Baty

image via wikipedia

Story 3: 150,000 Word Woman

Our narrator takes us into the heart of a write-a-thon, held in conjunction with NaNoWriMo. We hear plots, themes and ideas synthesized from every genre in the literary world, alongside the motivations behind the authors who take on the challenge, and some who exceed expectation.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

image via wikipedia

Story 4: The Novel Lives

In an interview with literary critic and founder of NaNoWriMo, we delve deeper than deeper into the question of the hour: exactly how dead is the novel?

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Chris Baty

image via wikipedia

Story 5: The Death of the Death of the Novel

We interview a Stanford graduate student about his work in the story of stories. Does it ever end? He thinks so.

Producer: Lee Konstantinou

Featured: Noam Cohen

image via wikipedia

Take It for Granite

When you live in a place, it’s hard not to take it for granted. But in California that’s almost impossible — the landscape is simply too striking to forget or ignore. Today’s show is about what happens when you attempt to really appreciate the place you call home. Two travelers spend five days retracing the historic and unmarked trail of the Buffalo Soldiers. Then a portrait of backcountry life in Yosemite. Finally, a poem about a wild tree with a universe inside it. And in this podcast, a supplemental interview between poet Peter Kline and Storytelling Poetry Editor, Elizabeth Bradfield.

Host: Bonnie Swift
Producers: Justine Lai, Killeen Hanson, Liz Bradfield, Bonnie Swift
Featuring: Shelton Johnson, Ward Eldridge, Peter Kline
Music: Noah Burbank, Mt. Eerie, The Microphones, Kate Wolf

Release Date: 27 November 2008

Listen to the Full Show:

Story 1: Defenders of a New Idea

Before the National Parks Service existed, the U.S. Army protected our first national parks. We trace the road that the Buffalo Soldiers once took from the Presidio of San Francisco to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We don’t exactly find what we’re looking for, but the landscape reveals some unexpected clues.

Producers: Justine Lai and Bonnie Swift
Featuring: Shelton Johnson and Ward Eldridge

Story 2: The Yosemights

A student spends the summer in Yosemite National Park, far from her life at Stanford, and in that short time, discovers a new existence.

Producer: Killeen Hanson

Story 3: Manzanita

Peter Kline reads a poem about a Californian tree with a universe inside it. This tree has few practical uses.

Bonus Story: Interview with Peter Kline

Storytelling Poetry Editor, Liz Bradfield, interviews Peter Kline, Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He reads “The Almond Orchard,” and they discuss, among other things, the idea of West.


It’s natural to want to be someone you’re not. So why demonize the impostor? Today we have three stories of people who tried to pass themselves off as someone they weren’t. First, a story about a degenerating mobster turned private investigator, with some very unorthodox ways of getting the job done. Then a story about a scientist who invented his data and got busted. Finally, a memoir about one woman’s longing to have curly hair. Each one recalls an oh-so-typical journey of self-deception: after attempting to recreate themselves from the outside-in, they deal with the consequences.

Host: Charlie Mintz
Producers: Charlie Mintz and Matt Larson
Featured: Lawrence Klein, Tommy Wallach and Maria Hummel
Music: Pascalle, George Pritzker and Andy Seymour

Release Date: 13 November 2008

Listen to the Full Show:

Intro Story: Poser

Failed attempts to be someone else can leave us stranded in the domain of the imposter. Fakes, frauds, phonies… what are they but attempts at change gone bad?

image via flickr

Story 1: The Case of the Degenerating Detective

Tommy Wallach spends a summer with the most unlikely Private Eye, whose approach to inquiry is more about making the facts than finding them. Is it possible that some lies are better than truth?

Author: Tommy Wallach

image via Wikipedia

Story 2: Scientist vs. Scientist

In pursuit of acclaim, and under pressure, even the brightest can succumb to the follies of pride. Matt Larson depicts a face-off between two scientists: one who can resist the temptation to cheat, and one who cannot.

image via Wikipedia

Story 3: Waves

Maria Hummel inherited her mother’s straight hair, and along with it she inherited her mother’s disdain for straight hair. As she prepares to give birth to a child of her own, Hummel reflects on her lifelong envy of curls.

image via Wikipedia


A Mississippi county fair, the real deal on Sarah Palin, high school elections, campaign calls to grandparents, and what happens when one same-sex couple finds their fate tied to the opinions of an entire state. In this show we look at the small side of big politics, “smallitics,” or how the national stage is truly made up small actors with big roles.

Host: Dan Hirsh
Producers: Jonah Willihnganz, Clare Bennett, Charlie Mintz, Micah Cratty, Lee Konstantinou, and Dan Hirsch
Featured: Bridget Whearty, Ronnie Musgrove, Jenna Reback, Allison Fink
Music: Nimbleweed

Release Date: 29 September 2008

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Intro Story: Joe the Plumber

All politics are local politics. In 2008, this has never been more true.

Story 1: Mississippi on My Mind

The Neshoba County Fair is one of the lesser-known and most important stops in the national political campaign tour. Saturated with southern cooking and carnival colors, this is a story of big politics with a local, southern twist.
Producer: Dan Hirsch
image via Wikipedia

Story 2: Yukon Home

Determination and independence are ingrained in the individuals and communities that call Alaska home. This year mainland politics have invaded their frontier. A Stanford student gives us an Alaskan’s take on Sarah Palin.
Producer: Clare Bennett
image via Wikipedia

Story 3: Capturing the Friedmans’ Vote

Itʼs harder than you think to discuss politics with Grandma. A group of Jewish students at Stanford pick up their phones, call their ‘Bubbies’ and get more than they bargained for.
Producer: Charlie Mintz
image via Wikipedia

Story 4: Perfect Record

In high school, failure is typically met with more failure. This student’s political struggle shows us how it takes more than gimmicks and gall to win an election.
Producer: Micah Cratty
image via flickr

Story 5: Those Women

Following a surprising decision by the California Supreme Court, one couple decides to put their reservations aside and use the ‘M’ word. At the time, they had no idea that this very personal decision could turn into a discussion for an entire state.
Producer: Lee Konstantinou
Featuring: Bridget Whearty
image via flickr


This week, we have three stories about the life-changing, transformative power of sound. First, we look at brain activity during moments of silence in music. Then, a student investigates the healing powers of traditional Cambodian chants. Finally, a class of Stanford students led by John-Carlos Perea find a new community while learning the art of the powwow drum.

Host: Hannah Krakauer
Producers: Angela Castellanos, Bonnie Swift, Hannah Krakauer 
Featured: Trent Walker, Vinod Menon, Daniel Levitin, Jonathan Berger, Chris Chafe, Gabe Turow, Pat Moffitt Cook, Sherwood Chen, John Carlos-Perea, Michaela Raikes, Ben Burdick, Luke Taylor, Jidenna Mobbison 
Music: Chloe Krakauer

Release Date: 26 May 2008



Story 1: Silence Speaks Volumes

We take a look at how our brains are able to process the huge number of sounds we hear every day. Turns out that if noises are interspersed with a few moments of silence, we may be much better off.

Producer: Angela Castellanos


Story 2: Healing Sounds


After a long, stressful day, listening to music can make us feel more relaxed. But there’s a traditional form of Cambodian chanting, called Smote, that claims to be able to do much more than relax us. A Stanford student recounts his experiences with the music, and how his skepticism about its healing power changed.
Producer: Trent Walker



Story 3: People Find the Drum Who Need the Drum

John-Carlos Perea came to Stanford for 10 weeks to teach Stanford students the art of Native American pow-wow music. They learned how the music has served as a bond within the Native American community, and created a new community of their own.

Producers: Bonnie Swift and Hannah Krakauer
Featuring: John-Carlos Perea, Michaela Raikes, Ben Burdick, Luke Taylor and Jidenna Mobbison