“StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.” – StoryCorps site

StoryCorps project question generator helps to provide a list of possible questions for such oral history interviews.

For an alternative view on interviewing technique, Colin Marshall, posts on his blog “What I can tell you about interviewing after conducting, editing, and broadcasting 100 of them.” His emphasis, in contrast to the above list generator, is to approach the interview more like a conversation, wherein, you follow up on topics and are motivated by your own curiosity. As he relays it, “if a guest says, ‘And then I killed my entire family and buried them in the back yard,’ your next question should not be, ‘So where did you go to high school?”

From a technical perspective, much of sound recording is motivated by a desire to isolate sounds so that you can make a “clean” recording. “Clean,” here refers to a primary sound that is as removed as possible from background noise and signal noise generated by the recording device. The pattern of microphones, their placement, and sensitivity are all part of securing such a clean recording. While this technique is invaluable in narrative and documentary recording contexts, the fact remains that we hear a world full of different sounds. This so-called, “soundscape.” much like a landscape, is populated by different elements, together forming a unified view of a time and place. In radio and now podcast production, interviews are often produced with additional audio tracks to help put people’s voices back into a cultural and acoustic context or soundscape. This might be environmental sounds, isolated sound effects, or even non-diegetic music that is used to create a mood that reflects the content of the interview.

The radio program, “This American Life,” hosted by Ira Glass, has become synonymous with this art of sound mixing to create a musical soundscape for interviews. Below are a couple of examples. Note how the entrance and exit of the background music is used to punctuate ideas as well as mark as shift in mood.


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