A different “take” on audio memoir

The audio part isn’t so hard, but the pix….

In working on my memoir textbook, I reached the section about doing a recorded version of one’s story, which I reasoned wouldn’t be terribly difficult. The content is the same after all, even if the delivery method is completely different. I assumed the biggest problem might stem from the idea that most people haven’t spent much time, if any, doing “dramatic” reading. When our kids outgrew having us read to them, most of us packed away the voices we used to separate the big, bad wolf from the three little porkers.

Dollarphotoclub_33938903 smBaring some unfortunate physical limitation, there’s no reason those voices can’t be unpacked. Reading with feeling isn’t that hard. We’ve all heard voice-overs on television and in movies. We know what an unseen speaker sounds like: they sound the way we’d like to sound if we were telling the story. Only, in most cases, with more feeling. They are all pros, after all.

But that isn’t the point. This is: the most compelling aspect of a recorded memoir is the person reading it. It’s their story, and not just in their own words, but in their own voice!

In order to demonstrate this, I pulled up a tale from my own life, the Barber Shop Story. I cranked up the built-in voice recorder on my discount PC and started reading. The owellesplayback quality wasn’t great, but I couldn’t be sure if it was due to the machine or the voice. In either case, the volume was way too low, and the freebie software didn’t include anything to edit or enhance the recording.

So I abandoned my first effort–coughs, sputters, mispronunciations and all. Instead I downloaded a copy of Audacity (available here) and made a donation to the wonderful folk who make this program available. I also dug up an old microphone. It’s not great, but it has a stand so I could record without actually holding it. (Leaving me free to reach my Manhattan.)

That recording came out better. Far from perfect, but better. Better still, I completed a five-minute recording in less than 30 minutes. Based on my limited experience, crude facilities and inherent laziness, it was enough to convince me that audio memoir has a great future. It’s wonderful! There would be a recording that someone might listen to long after I’m gone. Holy moly–I’d live on!

Alas, I didn’t stop there.

Nope. I started thinking about how much better I could make the recording if I only added images. What I really wanted was a slide show. Not only could I tell my toddler tale of adventure, I could bring it to life with pictures! How cool would that be? Only, the Howdy Doody TV 1953question I should have asked was, how long will that take?

As it turns out, it took too long. Less than twenty hours, but way more than ten. And almost all of that time was spent looking for acceptable illustrations, enough to fill up the five minutes of audio. These included: photos of myself at age three (I found one), photos of my family when I was three (I fudged those), photos of the town where it happened (Lombard, Illinois, in 1953), plus vintage photos of barber shops, elevated train tracks, old Plymouth sedans, and candy from the days of Howdy Doody.

I used slide show creation software called Photo to Movie (available here), with which I was already quite familiar. If I’d had to learn all the software from scratch, the process would have taken even longer. But, I hasten to add, not so long that it would prevent someone from doing an entire memoir this way. One would simply have to budget their time, do a little bit each day, and compile a wonderful and unique life record.

Anyway, here’s a link to that show on YouTube. I didn’t take the time needed to repair damaged photos, nor did I re-do the sound track to repair the obvious glitches. But this will give you a good idea of what I had in mind. I’m sure I’ll go back and make the updates it needs one day, but right now I’ve just got too much on my plate. This, however, qualifies in my mind as a darned good start.



About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Memoir, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A different “take” on audio memoir

  1. Lloyd says:

    Here is a great example of your creativity, and well worth all the time and effort you chewed up to complete it. Wish I knew how to share this with the clan, but maybe that’s your choice. Again very well done, and I think I’ll watch it again.

    • joshlangston says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I do intend to go back and polish it one of these days. It’s that procrastination thing, y’see. As for sharing the link, why not just copy the web page address in an email and urge everyone to whom you send it to click the FOLLOW button? (The short form, in case you missed it, is: JoshLangston.com)

  2. An-l says:

    Josh….I really enjoyed this…you did a beautiful job on the story and the video. See you tomorrow, maybe.

  3. Amanda says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed that! I’ve heard that story many times, but the pictures really made it come alive. Now that I’m a mother to a three year old, I have a whole new appreciation for the restraint your mother demonstrated ;-)…

  4. Pat says:

    As a mom and grandmom, you had me literally holding my breath until Brian was safely at the barber shop. I knew it would end “right” but my heart still skipped a beat. Wonderful story!

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