On Monday and Tuesday nights we listened to the BBC adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep on ds106radio. We had great participation on Monday, and only one person showed up on Tuesday, but there were still many valuable insights and observations about how sound was used to drive the storytelling.
It was noted how simple sounds, like paper shuffling on a desk, let the listener visualize the scene. An echo on a voice indicates the size of a room. The sound of rain on a car roof shows us the scene. We can even hear the type of shoes:
There were also background sounds, hums and metallic drones, that had interesting effects. In some cases they gave a futuristic impression, like in the corporate headquarters. Other times, they subtly raised the tension in scenes. The presence of background sound throughout simultaneously kept our minds attuned to sound but also made it almost subliminal. Moon Graffiti excelled at this as well, exemplified by the point where the astronauts put on their helmets. You could visualize what was happening by the way their voices changed with the helmets on.
One of the challenges of audio storytelling is exposition. How do you show what’s going on, using dialogue, without it seeming forced? The BBC production, along with some versions of Blade Runner, used voice-over narration to do some of the work. There was a conversation between JR Isadore and Pris where JR casually mentioned “It’s my apartment after all,” which told a lot about what was going on in the situation.
I got a time-warp feeling from the production. The detective style dialogue and narration sounded like 40s noir. The music interludes were late 60s classic rock. The post-apocalyptic setting and the android technology were futuristic, but some clues in the script put the setting between 1988 and 1993. The novel was published in 1968, and one listener connected that to the music.
Another listener said this was a great activity. The idea actually came from a ds106 student, back when we did Wire106. It was suggested that we live-tweet an episode. We did, and everyone saw a benefit to having that synchronous conversation. So we’ve continued it ever since. The point here is we welcome your ideas. The best parts of ds106 come from student input.