The Poetry of Podcasting: Emphasising the Oral in Oral History

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Siobhán McHugh will share some of the secrets of how she has turned oral history into award-winning audio narratives for over three decades.

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The eminent Italian oral historian Alessandro Portelli has described the oral history interview as 'a performance in search of a text'. Print is unsatisfactory: a transcript makes it easy to scan the content but robs it of the crucial meaning conferred by the aural dimension.

The audio medium captures beautifully the orality of oral history, retaining every emotional inflection or pregnant silence, while not being as intrusive as video. But how then do you make lengthy audio recordings accessible and engaging? Radio documentary has long provided one text format in which to showcase edited oral history, but it was available only to a privileged few who had a combination of technical skills and access to the airwaves. The advent of podcasting has changed all that.

Anyone can now make a sound recording freely available online and call it a podcast. But that doesn't mean people will want to listen to it. Turning two-hour interviews into compelling audio storytelling is a specialised art that requires an understanding of the grammar and aesthetics of audio as well as an attuned ethical mindset. In this presentation, Siobhán McHugh will share some of the secrets of how she has turned oral history into award-winning audio narratives for over three decades.

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