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Week 02 Episode 01: Exercises

Table of contents

  1. Listen
  2. Transcript
  3. Exercises
    1. Today’s writing exercise
    2. Today’s audio exercise
  4. Further Reading
  5. Subscribe



[Digetic sounds of a bus]




Hi there, welcome.

Come on in, take a seat. Take a seat.

There’s plenty of space at the back there. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable.

Hi, no, you’re not too late, come onboard the bus, there’s space at the back there. Yes, past the onboard Tiki bar and behind the in-bus swimming pool.

So, hi everyone! (taps mic) Can you hear me at the back?

Welcome back to Parallel Worlds. Before we get going, please do make sure to put on your seat belt. In case of an emergency, your exits are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and just there. You go to the back, see the man in the red hat? Yes, him, waving now. Under his feet there’s a hatch, you just have to pull it up and climb down until you smell freshly cut grass and feel a slight sense that your hands are made of rubber.

I know, it’s a weird emergency exit, but the odds are you won’t have to use it.

But that’s the safety out of the way.

So, welcome. Welcome to Parallel Worlds.

As you know we’re on a journey, a journey together.

[digetic sound stops suddenly]

See what I did there? A journey?

[the sound of a bus continues again]

And we’re working towards a project about Wanderlust, working in parallel between reality, your daily life, work, your artistic or design practice, and fictional worlds, an imagined place which you’re building.

I am here to guide you, maybe to point out a couple of things along the way, but what you’ll see on the journey is up to you.

This week, we’re starting a new part of the project: we’ll be working in audio for the first time. Last week you wrote everything down. This week we’ll be using freewriting, and recording our own voices and elements that make up the soundscape of our lives right now. If you’re listening to this as it’s going out, you can also upload your audio to our shared folder. But you can also keep it private.

So, I should tell you a little about the new audio recording parts. Until now, you’ve been writing. I’ve given you a brief, then played some silence, and then picked up again at the end. But it will be a bit more complicated when we switch to audio recording.

Let’s talk about audio. I’m not going to ask you to use fancy equipment. What you have right now will do fine. If you’re listening to this on a smartphone, you can just use that. Any smartphone should be able to record audio files – the key is to find an app that will also let you export them, so that you can edit later. On an iPhone, the Voice Memos app that’s built in works well. On an Android there should be an app called Voice Recorder. On both platforms there are also higher-end recorders which give you higher sample rates and so on – but generally, the quality of the built-in recorder should be OK.

Later you’ll need to find a way to edit your files which works for you, but we can deal with that when it comes up. There are lots of things that work well on your phone – like GarageBand, on an iOS device, or numerous other apps, on Android etc. There’s also a dedicated page on the course website at called resources, which contains links to articles and advice on writing, recording, and editing sound, as well as a list of great podcasts to listen to if you want audio inspiration.

But as I say, we will tackle these problems as they come up, and I am here to help you find what you need in order to produce work. I am really excited to see, or rather hear, how you’ll be able to use this course to extend and frame your own practice, how you’ll be able to take the various world-building techniques we’ll work through and use them to create your own audio worlds.

So, let’s focus on the tasks we have to do today.

First up, this is a normal writing task, the same as you’ve done for the past week already. If you look under your seat, you’ll find a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. I’d like you to put them on.

Excuse me, yes, you, yes, they go on your head. Here, put this bit here [right audio channel disappears], and this bit here [left audio channel disappears].

How’s that?

OK, so as ever, we’re working through tasks from the reality of the situation you’re in right now, to a fictional reality. So, let’s start with a five-minute freewrite about what’s going on in your life right now. What’s important to you right now? How are you feeling? What’s happened in the last few days? What’s coming up soon?

You’ll have five minutes to write whatever you like, in whatever language you like, using whatever suits you best. The important thing is to keep writing the whole time: don’t slow down to question whether your writing is good or bad, just keep your pen, or your metaphorical pen, moving!

Are you ready? Then let’s write!

[5 minutes]

Welcome back! How was that? Did you manage to keep writing the whole time? Did you hit a blank? Anything unexpected? What voice is coming through these bits of writing? Is that what you expected? Does it feel like you are writing, or someone else is?

As ever, you can leave a voice message for the show to let me know how it’s going, there’s a link in the podcast description. So that it doesn’t feel like you’re taking this course alone, I will use the voice messages in later episodes, you can hear what other people are up to, what they’re thinking, what they like and dislike.

OK, so this is the moment where we switch modes. From writing to talking.

You might find that you need to do both in order to get this task done. You might find that you can just talk into your phone without any problems. This next activity relies on you being able to improvise.

You are going to narrate a guided tour around the place you’re currently in. I want you to point out all the best tourist spots, the places you simply must go, the things you just have to see. I want you to set a timer for five minutes, and try to spend that whole time describing what is around you in a logical way.

If you get stuck at all, think how tourist guides work. They point something out, a landmark, then tell you a little about the back-story of that thing. It only needs to be enough to whet the viewer’s appetite, or keep them occupied until the next landmark. Up ahead on your right, you’ll see the Phantom’s Corner, the most famous spot we’ll be passing on this tour. Phantom’s Corner actually got its name in the 1870s, when a schoolboy named Philip Trussel claimed he’d seen an elderly horseman loitering there one foggy evening. Despite there being only one reported case of a phantom, and despite Trussel himself being a notorious liar, the name Phantom’s Corner stuck, and we still use it today. On the right now you’ll see the ……

So, please pause the podcast, and record a five-minute tourist guide to your immediate surroundings. Let your mind wander, try to paint a picture for someone who can’t see what you’re seeing. Describe the provenance of objects, where they came from, how they relate to each other, why they’re interesting. Take us on a journey.

I’ll meet you back here when you’re done. Now go!


Welcome back, welcome back to the bus.

How was your audio journey? Would you be willing to share it? If you’re in the class at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, I’d like you to upload the recordings so that everyone else can listen. If you’re an independent listener – welcome! - just make sure you keep the recordings safe somewhere, because we’ll be coming back to them later.

The final thing I’m going to ask you to do today is more recording. Sound can transport us to places in a way that visuals often struggle to do. There are countless heart-warming videos of elderly dementia patients suddenly being able to sing along to a song from their youth. I tend to carry a sound recorder with me when I travel, and capture some of the ambient sounds of places I’ve been, houses I’ve lived in, moments from my life. The distinctive clunk of keys in my front door can transport me to that place and the state of mind I was in when I recorded it more effectively than any picture.

So I’d like you to record the sounds of your daily life. What does it sound like when you’re making tea, or answering the door? One of the benefits of recording sounds is that you can put your phone down, and just leave it for a while. The files aren’t huge, even phones without all the memory in the world should be able to let you record for a long time without worrying about space.

But try to capture the sounds that make up your day. Listen back to them. If the recording is bad, just think – hey, I can do better tomorrow! If you want to send me some of your daily sounds, you can also record them on a voicemail, link in the show notes!

That is it for today. I hope you enjoyed this little journey. I look forward to hearing your sounds.


Today’s writing exercise

  • 5-minute free write about life and surroundings at the moment

Today’s audio exercise

  • A tour around your immediate surroundings as if you’re a tour guide

Further Reading

  • Resources - resources and inspiration for writing, producing, and editing audio stories
  • - a great list of audio resources


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Copyright © 2020 Ollie Palmer. Site content distributed under an MIT license (you are free to reuse content as you like); student work remains their property.