Stories through Sound

Overview: Soundscapes and Oral Histories

For your final project, consider a story you would like to tell using sound as your primary medium of expression. Audio, unlike the visual and literary media we have focused on in previous projects, is primarily a time-based medium, and therefore offers its own unique creative opportunities. Chose either a soundscape or an oral history interview as your story-telling method. A soundscape is a more abstract way of telling a story or recreating the mood and experience of a real or invented place: Think of painting a landscape but with sounds instead of images and colors. An oral history is someone else’s story, which you draw out through thoughtful interview questions. Whether you choose a soundscape or an oral history, you should record your own original audio using an audio recorder, a microphone hooked up to your computer, or an audio app on your phone. Then you will edit your recording into a 4-5 minute story using GarageBand (macs), Audacity (pc or mac), or Audition (Adobe Creative Cloud).

A significant number of the sounds used should be original recordings, but you may also use additional sounds downloaded from online resources, as long as they are in the public domain or have an appropriate creative commons license. Make sure to turn in a citation sheet for sounds that you did not record yourself.

Note: Attendance is optional on Thursday, 4/27. Your instructor will be there at the very beginning and at the very end of class that day to check-in. I will be in my office that day as well from 2:00pm to 4:00pm: Avery 479.

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Required Readings

An Introduction to Digital Audio Formats

Audio File Formats


Required for Soundscapes:



Required for Oral Histories:

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Recording Original Sounds

  • Recording Devices. There are very decent recording apps available for smartphones, so this may be your best option for recording original sounds. You can also record directly from your computer software. Consider hooking up a better microphone to these devices in order to record. Portable audio recorders and microphones can be checked out from WSU Academic Media Services, which is attached to the Holland Library.
  • Settings for Your Recorder. Read the basic recording instructions that come with your device. See if you can adjust the levels as you record, or make sure levels are set to auto. Use a lossless file format (WAV or AIFF) to save these recordings if possible: You can always convert to a compressed file later (MP3 or AAC).
  • Recording Conditions. Remember to create recordings in a quiet setting without additional distracting noise, especially if you are doing an interview. Make sure your recorder is pointed in the direction of what you are trying to capture. (Try covering your microphone with a sock if you are outside and it is windy!) Make test recordings, listen back with headphones or at home, and re-record for best results!
  • Additional Sounds. You may also use sounds recorded by other people as long as they have the appropriate creative commons license or are in the public domain. There are many resources listed here: (Make sure to keep citation info and links! You will need to turn in a citation sheet.)

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Editing Software

You may edit your sounds using one of the following programs, which are all available in the AML. I recommend choosing one that is also available to you on a personal computer so you can work at home if you want. You may use your login to locate appropriate tutorials for the program you choose. (Your instructor is most familiar with editing in GarageBand.)

  • GarageBand comes with apple computers and can be used for basic sound editing in addition to recording/editing music. Your file extension for your work file will be BAND. Following tutorials that relate to producing a podcast may be most helpful, since you aren’t recording your own music: Try GarageBand: Podcasting at This one from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is also good: GarageBand: Basic Editing (note: the interface for the latest version of GarageBand is a little different than the screenshots here, so ask your instructor if you have any questions about this tutorial as you get started.)
  • Audacity is open-source editing software for macs or PCs (download Audacity). Your file extension for your work file will be AUP. Use Learning Audacity in as a resource. Audacity also comes with a manual that will help you get started. Links to tutorials, such as Editing an Existing Audio file, are included. You can also use How Record and Edit Audio Using Audacity and WikiEducator’s Using Audacity.
  • Adobe Audition CC is professional-level software and is available if you have a creative cloud subscription. Your file extension for your work file will be SESX and you will need to remember to include your individual sound files along with your SESX file when you turn in your project. Use the Audition CC 2017 Essential Training in as a resource.

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What You Will Turn In

Tuesday, 4/18:

Your individual sound files with a corresponding list that describes what each one is and corresponding filename. Include Citation Sheet as well if you are using any sounds you didn’t record yourself. Put all the files in a folder called “yourlastname-yourfirstname-04-samples”

Tuesday, 5/2 (We meet 8:00am-10:00am final week):

Digital Files in a folder called “yourlastname-yourfirstname-04”:

  • Final work file saved as “yourlastname-yourfirstname-04” with all work intact (BAND for GarageBand, AUP for Audacity, SESX for Audition). If you are working in Audition you must also include all the individual sound files you are using in your Audition file.
  • Final sound file compressed as a high quality MP3, MP4, or AAC. Make sure bit rate is high: 256kbps. (This will need to be exported from the program in which you are working.)
  • Citation Sheet, saved as a Microsoft Word document, crediting all sounds you did not record yourself
  • Notes