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Story Corps and voice recording

October 13, 2009
Story Corps mobile booth in Grand Rapids, MI

Story Corps booth (click photo for more)

Yesterday, Paul Turner and I took a road trip to Grand Rapids to experience Story Corps, an independent oral history project that has recorded over 27,000 everyday people interviewing family and friends. Millions of people listen to their weekly broadcasts on NPR (check out their podcast here).

The Story Corps mobile booth, a converted Airstream trailer, was set up outside of the Public Museum of Grand Rapids. When the hour for my prearranged appointment arrived we entered the booth and were given some instructions. The actual interview lasted forty minutes. Afterward I received a free CD; a copy will be archived at the Library of Congress. At the end of the week the booth and its staff of facilitators will head to Norfolk, VA.

I have been a fan of Story Corps for a while. I love the concept. My only gripe with them is that the snippets on NPR are always sad. After my interview I asked the facilitator to pass on my wish for more upbeat stories.

Digital voice recordings are relatively easy to make. You can edit them with free software, save what you create as an MP3 file, and post it on a website or in Concourse. People often react to the suggestion of audio with the question, “why not video?” Well, audio is less complicated and less expensive. In some cases images add little or even distract from a message. An video interview is often little more than a “talking head.”

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