considerations on audio experiences
As a teenager in 1985, I was walking through a South American construction site. A group of construction workers takes a seat for a snack while listening to an amazing audio rendition of a popular soap opera. The vivid presentation, in conjunction with action sounds and ambience, made the experience compelling while the construction workers ate their lunch. In a few months, I noticed the same thing when I went to a factory, took a taxi, or ended up going to the grocery store; people were "tuned" into the radio experience.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock - by jakkapan File #: 214704190

Research shows that there is a synchronization between the listener and the speaker (1), the story becoming an effective medium to create empathic connections helping us to get closer to each other. When listening to a story we make sense of the information by pairing it to existing memories, facilitating the understanding and long term memory for easy recall when needed.
Radio, or the idea of listening to content, provided the opportunity to perform other activities that required visual attention. Radio as a medium is still popular, but audio storytelling has evolved into different variants, the most prominent of which are currently audiobooks and podcasts, that share common ancestors: the famous but slowly evolving "Talking Book" and widespread radio. Many technological obstacles made the talking book impractical, as the recording medium only allowed for a few minutes of audio storage. Readings and enactments became popular on radio, with shows that attracted a large number of listeners and followers.
“(Story creates a) synchronization between the listener and the speaker” - Joy VerPlanck, D.E.T.

Image Credits: Adobe Stock - by Avdyachenko - File #: 331500233

Certainly, the rise of television and movies reduced radio audiences, but as technology advanced, talking books became more popular. At certain point, it became clear that ‘radio can get into places that TV can’t’ says director Boz Temple- Morris, specialized in audio dramas productions.
The revival of audio storytelling is widely attributed to improvements in mobile technologies like smartphones, tablets, and multimedia entertainment systems in automobiles. Audio drama recordings are now also available as podcasts on the internet. (4)
I recall listening to audiobooks while driving from Florida to California with a group of friends. Years later, while working on farms, we reconnected and began listening to NPR stories via the internet. It became clear to me that the terminology referred to a different medium, but the practical applications we assigned to the products became interchangeable.
“A good story’s a good story from the brain’s perspective, whether it’s audio or video or text. It’s the same kind of activation in the brain,” says Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University.
Emma Rodero, a communications professor at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, explores how audio productions keep people's attention. According to Rodero, one of the core advantages of audio storytelling is how it allows people to create their own renditions of the characters and scenes in the story. However, she believes that listening, as opposed to reading, is more active because the brain must process the information at the rate at which it is played. (5)
“Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media because you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind and you’re creating your own production,” Rodero says. “And that of course, is something that you can never get with visual media.”
(1) Hasson U, Ghazanfar AA, Galantucci B, Garrod S, Keysers C. Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world. Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Feb;16(2):114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.12.007. Epub 2012 Jan 3. PMID: 22221820; PMCID: PMC3269540.
(2) Schatt, D., Ryan, P. (2021). “Sometimes I get so hypnotized I forget where I am…” The benefits of repeated story listening. In: Story Listening and Experience in Early Childhood. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
(4) Purcell, Julius (27 March 2015). "The resurgence of audio drama"Financial TimesArchived from the original on 23 July 2015. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
(5) Wen, T. (2015, July 22). This is your brain on podcasts: Why audio storytelling is so addictive. The Atlantic. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from
It was a wonderful experience to see the scene come alive with the aid of the sounds surrounding the actions. I read the entire script and studied the scene to help me ascertain where to put emphasis, and to highlight the photograph of the brother that will come in the following scenes.
While doing the spotting, I felt that I was thorough with the sound effects for the scene, but when building the sound world of the piece, I found out that we can go as deep as we want with layers of detail and subtleties that will enhance and direct the experience.

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