Sound Stories

Rainbow audio wave with Sound Stories written above

ORALCOMM 129, 4 units
Instructor: Jake Warga

This special seminar is designed for students interested in creating documentary stories for radio, podcast, and other sound media. Students will learn both the core principles of telling strong stories, whatever the medium, and the strategies of telling entertaining, persuasive stories for the ear. Just like film or the novel, sonic stories offer a fascinating mix of constraints and opportunities, and you’ll learn how to invite listeners into an experience or insight that combines theories, facts and feelings into a single space of empathy. This is a hybrid class – equal parts classic seminar and creative workshop – and students will create stories from start to finish and learn skills from pitching and interviewing to writing, editing, and digital production. Students will work in small groups to document places through the stories that inhabit them – from police departments and local shelters to and community centers. Recommended for students interested in creative nonfiction, documentary, film, and even sound art. No prior experience necessary. (Cardinal Course certified by the Haas Center)


StoryCraft


TAPS 21, 2 Units, satisfies WAYS-CE requirement
Instructors: Dan Klein and Michelle Darby

StoryCraft is a hands-on, experiential workshop offering participants the opportunity, structure and guidance to craft compelling personal stories to be shared in front of a live audience. The class will focus on several areas of storytelling: Mining (how do you find your stories and extract the richest details?); Crafting (how do you structure the content and shape the language?); and Performing (how do you share your stories with presence, authenticity and connection?).


Documentary Fictions

Documentary Fictions poster
AMSTUD 176B, 4 units, satisfies WAYS Creative Expression requirement
Instructor: Jonah Willihnganz

More and more of the best American fiction, plays, and even comics are being created out of documentary practices such as in-depth interviewing, oral histories, and reporting. Novels like Dave Eggers’s What is the What, plays like Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, and narrative journalism like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, all act as both witnesses and translators of people’s direct experience and push art into social activism in new ways. In this course students will examine the research methods, artistic craft, and ethics of these rich, genre-bending works and then create documentary fictions of their own. Readings will include works by Katherine Boo, G. B. Tran, and Charles Johnson, and author visits will include a master class with Rebecca Skloot. No prior creative writing or journalism experience required.


Narrative Design


TAPS 176A, 4 Units
Instructor: Jonah Willihnganz

This class examines narrative design in performed storytelling, especially live drama, oral storytelling, and radio, and compares it to narrative design in other forms, such as print, photography, and the graphic novel. After considering what media theory, psychology and neurobiology understand about how different forms of narratives operate on us, students will create a “base narrative” in print and then versions of that narrative in two different other forms. The goal is for students to understand narrative design principles both across and specific to media forms and be able to apply them to move audiences. Students will have the opportunity to meet and work with master storytellers including Anthony Doerr, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See.


Who Killed Jane Stanford … The Podcast

History 50N, 4 Units
Instructors: Jake Warga, Richard White

In 1905 Jane Stanford died of strychnine poisoning. Who may have killed her remains unknown. For this seminar, you will become collaborative historians and journalists to research the case and create investigative audio podcast much like WBEZ’s Serial. Building on research by a previous freshman seminar, you will together you will examine suspects, circumstances, and the often odd actions of central figures and then build an audio story out of interviews, archival materials, and sound recordings. In your application explain your interest, and any experience with, podcasting.


Finding Your Story


PWR 91, 3 units, satisfies WAYS-CE requirement
Instructors: Jonah Willihnganz and Fred Luskin

This class will feature a special session with US Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Grammy Award winner Aimee Mann.

Life challenges us to become aware of the stories that shape us—family stories, cultural mythologies, even popular movies, television shows, and songs—and then create and live our own story. We face this challenge throughout our lives but perhaps most acutely as we move into adulthood; this is the period when we most need to become conscious of stories and their power, and to gather practices and resources for finding our own story. This class, designed with seniors in mind, will explore how great stories and your own storytelling can help you reflect deeply about what truly calls to you in this life.

We will engage with some of the world’s great stories—myths, parables, teaching tales, modern fiction, even aphorisms, koans, and riddles. In them we can find both elements that resonate with our own story and provocations that help us unearth and cultivate our native gifts—the genius in each of us. We will look at short excerpts from masterworks and myths from around the world, all voices in the largest conversation we have as humans, the one that asks: who am I? why am I here? what truly matters? how can I be happy? Together we will investigate how these stories, and stories like them, can be used to help us find our own story.

The scholar and storyteller Michael Meade says that we live two adventures in each life. The first involves securing our basic needs and making a place for ourselves in the world. The second is learning, deeply and continuously, who we are and what we stand for. This is a class for the second adventure.


Sticky Stories


d.school Seminar
Instructors: Jonah Willihnganz, Erik Olesund, Emi Kolawole

For designers, the creative process is bookended by stories—we start with the story our users tell and we finish with the story that our product, solution, or service tells. Good designers therefore need to be very good story-listeners and story-tellers. This short course will help students develop the core skills to become both by applying what linguists, psychologists, narratologists, and neuroscientists have learned about how exactly stories generate meaning that sticks.

This class is a deep dive in interviewing, synthesis and storytelling. Students who apply should have a strong familiarity with the design thinking process, a commitment to develop their empathetic capacity, and a curiosity about how the mind makes meaning.

By application only. Undergraduates and graduate students encouraged to apply. Apply here with the d.school Pop-Up common application.


Stories for the Air

EGL 191T, 3 Units
Instructor: Molly Antopol

David Sedaris’ humiliating stint as one of Santa’s helpers. Davy Rothbart’s journey to Brazil in search of a miracle healer. Sarah Vowell’s hilarious road trip to presidential assassination sites across the country. By focusing on personal experiences, these writers have moved readers with their approachable, honest and confessional voices.

With the rising popularity of radio programs such as StoryCorps and This American Life, along with a media revolution that has made recording and distributing audio essays easier than ever, an increasing number of us are finding new outlets to tell our stories. In this course, we’ll read classic and contemporary essays as writers, looking at the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and sometimes re-interpreted or subverted. We’ll then write and workshop our own personal essays, which we’ll record as a show, dedicated to the work we’ve created as a class.


The Art of Storytelling

PWR 91A, 3 Units
Instructor: Jonah Willihnganz

We live by and through stories: family stories, national stories, stories of personal transformation and spiritual revelation. Stories are the medium of our lives, a vehicle for changing our lives, and thus understanding how they work and how to use them gives us enormous power, as almost any artist, politician, or executive will tell you. In this course we investigate a variety of storytelling forms to build a repertoire of tools for telling the stories that are important to us, whatever form they take—oral, textual, visual, sonic, or some combination thereof.

We will begin with what is arguably still the most common and influential form of narrative, oral storytelling. We listen to segments of Homer’s Odyssey, WPA oral histories from the 1930’s, and public radio’s This American Life, discussing what the fields of rhetoric, linguistics, and neuroscience have revealed about both the nature of narrative and our experience of it in oral form.

We will then look at forms of textual narrative, especially modern fiction and memoir, identifying the principal features that distinguish textual storytelling. Next, we turn to visual storytelling by exploring the “grammar” of forms such as the photo essay, text-less cartoon, and silent film, comparing their strategies to oral and textual forms. In the second part of the course we will turn to forms that combine the oral, textual, and visual—the feature film, the graphic novel, and video games.