Dispatches | October 08, 2012

This weekend, I went up to Chicago with contest editor Claire McQuerry and audio editor Kevin McFillen to check out the Third Coast International Audio Festival. Held every other year, the festival brings in audio and radio producers and other like-minded listeners interested in the what, the why, and the how—along with the present and future–of audio stories. This was its tenth audio conference and judging from what we heard from all the people we met this weekend, the most successful conference yet.

One of the first things that struck me about the weekend was the accents. The first day, I heard Dutch, Finnish, and Swedish, which is when I knew that “international” was not just clever marketing. Also, there was the remarkable diversity in technique: how audio creators add music, storyboard, edit, filter, channel, the equipment they use. In some ways, it’s as easy as Transom makes it appear and in other ways, the level of sophistication and complexity is breathtaking.

There were many terrific moments this weekend, but the one that really jumps out was Saturday morning. Third Coast’s Julie Shapiro and EveryBlock’s Sandor Weisz presented the four winners from the 2012 Third Coast ShortDocs Challenge. At breakfast in the Hilton Orrington, with several hundred people listening, Abby Wendle played her three minute audio documentary “Glass, Not Glitter.” Chosen from 180 submissions from over twenty countries, each submission had several requirements: include two neighbors, use of at least three seconds of silence, and use of a color in the title (glitter, apparently, is a color). All four winners were in attendance and came up on stage to answer a few questions from Julie and Sandy about the piece.

Wendle’s piece was a retrospective on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. A transplant from New York, she discovered that many people didn’t want to talk about the attack, even seventeen years later. Or that many people moved away. Just getting people to speak to her at all was one of the biggest hurdles. But then she did something that was absolutely incredible and it silenced the entire room. This was a tremendous experience. I’m pretty positive that people weren’t talking, that we were all listening carefully to Wendle’s work. But if you’ve ever had a moment at a reading, or a concert, or a speech, whatever it might be, when something takes all the air out of the room … well, it was just like that. Beautiful, stunning, heart-wrenching, and amazing, all at once.

I won’t spoil it for you: you can listen to Wendle’s doc, and the other short doc winners here.

We’re delighted that we can offer our small slice of audio content—poets reading their work, interviews, our contest winners—for you, and after this weekend, we’ll be kicking the tires on new audio ideas to bring to you in the near future.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye