Thoughts About Audio Storytelling

“War of the Worlds” 1938 Radio Broadcast

The broadcast aired on Halloween in 1938. One thing I noted was the constant return to very upbeat and soothing music throughout the broadcast. From my understanding, the radio show was live, so effects were employed to make it seem that interviews were happening in other places. For example, the first interview was supposed to take place in a professors office space where the ticking of a clock was heard. The second interview supposedly took place outside in New Jersey. There were wind effects and the sounds of people nearby. This made it sound like the interviewer was outside with a crowd of people who were onlookers to this object which fell on a farm. The broadcaster also used the fact that it was only sound to set the stage and create the desired atmosphere. He described the locations, what he was “seeing” and “hearing,” and how people were reacting to the events he was describing. It was a masterful feat at storytelling through radio.

Click here to listen to the whole broadcast.

I can understand how people thought this was really happening. The Grover’s Mill attack was very convincing. It helped to have so-called experts reporting about the alien beings. The use of bulletins from reputable agencies also helped increase the reality of the broadcast. I’m surprised at some of the strong language for 1938 such as mention of a “charred body” being identified at the hospital. It is funny that the public believed a machine gun could hurt these Martian invaders.

Ira Glass Part I

Ira Glass speaks about the elements of the story. One part that stuck with me was the question of where to start a story? Do you start at the action? Or, do you start at the part before the action? Through his most basic story about the man who wakes up to unusual quiet, Ira shows us how the most mundane thing can become suspenseful if told correctly. My second takeaway from Part I is the idea that the story has to have a point. The actions must lead somewhere. Otherwise, what is the point? This is probably the most challenging part of storytelling.

Ira Glass Part II

Ira Glass speaks about finding a great story. He said that finding a great story is more time-consuming than telling the story. The most important takeaway here for me is that I will go through a lot of recording to get to a good story. I struggle with this. Often, I don’t bother to record anything because I recognize that it is going to take a lot of film time, audio time, and editing. And, a lot of the time, it feels wasteful.


Overall, I think that sound production is quite difficult. I prefer those content creators who use minimally produced content with little sound and rough, uncut video. Having sensitive hearing, sound effects bother me. Listening to the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast made my skin crawl because of the tinny sound of everything. Stuff like that is difficult for me. I understand how others require sound effects and such to create a mood or foreshadow events. I’m probably not going to be as good at that because erroneous sounds are painful to my ears. The challenge for me is to find sound effects and music which are at a tone that doesn’t make my ears bleed!

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