Weird Little Things: An Endeavour To Make Weird Audio In 2023
Endeavour to be weirder and more experimental. Dilute nothing. Pure
expression and bending of lines. Ideas such as genre and categories and
target audience mean nothing in the face of the inevitable heat death of
Let no-one tell you no.
Absolute undiluted You.'
Ten rough games are preferable to one polished game for learning and
variety of expression. If the last 10% of a piece takes 90% of the time,
that’s 9 more pieces you could have made.'
- The Communist Sister Interactive Manifesto – Freya Campbell
It is December 2022.
This time last year, I quit my job working in a cinema and made audio editing my full time job.
When I was 12, I got my first 4-track hard disk recorder and spent Christmas Day chopping up guitar parts with it. It's strange to think that I do that for a living now.
It's been a good year. I had enough freelance work from the world of non-fiction podcasting that allowed me to live, I made music for Doctor Who: Redacted, and I received Creative Scotland funding to continue making my audio fiction concept album The Tower, and make it in a way that allowed everyone to be paid properly, we even did a live show at the end of it.
All of this is to say that I worked very hard in my first year as a freelancer.
I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about the kind of creative I would like to be, and how I want to exist in the world of audio drama. A world that is, for better or worse, starting to see an industry form at the corner of its vision.
When I was in discussions with Rusty Quill about joining their network, it was observed in a meeting that the way I make and release audio drama doesn't really fit the conventional model for podcast advertising. I felt oddly proud.
In November I traipsed down to High Wycombe for the first ever Audio Drama Hub Podfest. I got to run a workshop on audio editing and spend two days talking about ideals and possibilities within audio storytelling as a medium. There was a competition for 90 second audio dramas told with only sound design and no dialogue. I got to see some old friends, as well as meet some wonderful new people. I spent the long train back up to Glasgow full of inspiration and half-formed, recklessly unsellable ideas.
I started making an audio drama from scratch live on the Tin Can Audio Twitch channel. I played a journaling game (Anamnesis by Sam Leigh) live on stream and turned what I had written into a script. We then recorded that script and, at time of writing, I'm editing and scoring those recordings, all in front of people on the internet. What I thought was a foolish endeavor and something that would add more stress to the already stressful process of making something actually turned out to be one of the most fulfilling and genuinely enjoyable production cycles I think I've ever had. I remarked at one point that this was the first time I'd ever made an audio drama purely for fun.
I want to make more things for fun.
I want to have more ideas that are recklessly unsellable.
I want to make more things that don't fit conventional models for advertising.
I want to make Weird Little Things.
This is not to say I'm planning on doing whatever the audio drama equivalent of going off-grid is. I have a handful of projects, both fiction and non-fiction, freelance and personal, lined up for 2023, and I'm aware a surprising number of people are quietly wondering when the final part of The Tower will be coming out. I'm still intending on doing work that allows me to pay rent and eat food.
I love my job, and it is a privilege to make podcasts and music and audio drama for a living. I’m now in the very fortunate position that my freelance corporate podcast work allows me the space to chase ideas and make Weird Little Things and share them with people, experimenting with production, with sound design, with form, with medium, even with distribution (I've been obsessed with the intimacy of voice notes recently, maybe there's something there). I have more journaling games I want to play and make something with, I have absurdly talented friends I want to collaborate with and make something with, I have strange devices that make noise that I want to play and make something with.
I have more ideas, I always have more ideas.
And it doesn't matter if it doesn't work! Figuring out why it didn't work is so useful, and makes it all the more wonderful when it does.
The history of recorded audio storytelling is littered with Weird Little Things. This is the medium that brought us Daphne Oram and the novel idea of the Radiophonic Poem, which in itself came out of the world of musique concrète, a genre that has never stopped blurring the line between storytelling, music and sound design. There has always been a space for Weird Little Things in audio, albeit a dark corner of the space where the lights flicker constantly, where the machines that don't quite work anymore are stored, where you hear the occasional sound that almost sounds like cackling, and you're never quite sure whether it's a person, or the machines.
And doesn't that sound like a cool place though??
There is joy in absolute, undiluted experimentation, in making things just for the sake of making things.
I've spent a year chiseling down ideas to fit in boxes, watering them down to be palatable to a target audience. Sometimes it's been because of clients, sometimes it's been because of me and, most of the time, it turns out to be the right thing to do.
But sometimes, very occasionally, more often than you might think, there's the chance to disassemble the boxes, try something new with an old recipe, and I think that's always worth exploring.
So, here's to 2023, and Weird Little Things.