This week we have been solely focused on audio storytelling, and in the process, I have learned a lot more about how audio can aid a story. There are many different ways audio impacts the storytelling process, all depending on what kind of story it is and how the audio is used. For example, a story can be made up of only spoken dialog, with no sound in the background whatsoever. Or, the story could be made up of mostly sound effects. In most films/videos, it is more of a mixture of these ideas, with dialog being spoken by the characters, along with numerous sound effects during the scenes. In horror movies specifically, it is important for the audio to be prominent and convincing, as it is this audio that really can make horror stand out.
A horror example from previous weeks that I was reminded of was the comic Last Respects. From the scene pictured below, the line “the rusty hinges squealed a horrified protest as he pushed the cemetery gate open!” jumps out at me, because of the level of detail provided. It is very easy to imagine what the audio from that one line alone would sound like, and that is one of the ways that the storytelling process was aided.
This week, I listened to DS106 Radio Tuesday night, when the story Pigeons from Hell was being played. This story focused on an old, haunted manor, and a demon-like creature that had taken over and began to kill innocent people. Even though this story consisted solely of audio, the character and scene descriptions, along with the sound effects, really brought the story to life. According to chapter 8 of Sound Design and Science Fiction, “Alien: Audio Biomechanics”, sound effects have three functions; “to simulate reality, to add or create something off scene that is not really there, and to help the director create a mood”. If the story does not have interesting or entertaining audio, then there is nothing that would hold the interest of a potential listener. Instead, in the case of Pigeons from Hell, I was able to actively listen and imagine the story visually as it was being told, and it held my interest from beginning to end.
Also this week, I picked a page from Tales from the Crypt: Last Laugh to analyze and reflect on. This was a comic, but the writing made it easy to imagine how the audio would be portrayed. For example, in the image below the writer made it easy to decipher where the dialog between the two characters would be elevated, by bolding some words, and by using appropriate punctuation (exclamation marks). It was also interesting to imagine what other audio would be included besides just the dialog, such as the two men walking down the hall, or the doctor taking off his overcoat. The Moon Graffiti story that we were assigned to read this week also made good use of sound effects to make the story seem more believable and alive. It is clear that audio is very important for a story, and in some cases, is the only element of a story. Audio is also very important in the creation of a story’s mood and atmosphere. Outside of dialog and sound effects, audio is also often used in musical form. There are not many better ways to symbolize a sad story or scene than to use some kind of somber music. Conversely, happy music can quickly lighten up the atmosphere, and bring joy to the viewer.
In conclusion, from these examples and more, it is clear that audio is one of the defining aspects of a story, and is a major aid in the storytelling process. Audio can create an atmosphere, emphasize horror elements, and most importantly, make or break a story.