To consider how a writer might approach writing a drama podcast is to think about how we experience sound. Listening is an embodied, immersive, aural experience. Sound is – it happens now.
Second by second, variation, addition, removal; multiple noises layered by distance and volume. We are immersed in sound – it continues with or without our awareness or attention.
This onward flow holds vibration and rhythm, change and juxtaposition moving in time. Bergson likened our experience of time to that of a ‘musical phrase which is constantly on the point of ending and constantly altered in its totality by the addition of some new note.’
The sound play's continual movement in time becomes its essential form as a dynamic process of sound, various and multiple. It can break time from linearity; moving backwards, forwards, whichever way it wants to go. It can sidestep through minds, through walls, arresting time, repeating moments whilst within its very construct always moving forward in its own time frame, in its own telling within its own time duration. This creative duration provokes ideas about the substance of the sound play and its potential to be an ever-evolving time-moment, its poetics immersed and its rhythms realised in the immediacy of its sound-materiality.
In this blog I will explore the idea of a drama podcast and radio play as a dynamic process of sound - Martin Esslin describes the experience of listening to the radio play as ‘akin to the experience one undergoes when dreaming - the mind is turned inwards to a field of internal vision'. Here I resist spatializing the form, but instead consider it first as a dynamic process of sound. The unique challenge then for the writer of the sound play becomes not only how to create this immediacy of sound but how to sustain its continual creative duration.
Describe a place: This might be a place you know well or a place of your imagination. A memory, a half-remembered fictional place, some brand new place that strikes your mind, somewhere you have never been but long to go. This place may be where your next play might happen. Take five minutes to describe it, noting this isn't about the factual but an imaginative invitation into a new world - so keep the writing sharp and fresh and don't get caught up in long descriptions.
Repeat the exercise but as much as you can describe this place through sound. What do you hear, what do you imagine you hear? How do memories of a place, of a voice, of a moment resonate in sound? What are the unspoken and unsayable words that remain in that place? What are the echoes?
Finally, combine these two descriptions and see if you can make the visual and aural environment cross over and through each other. Then spend time editing and as you think about writing podcasts, read the description out loud and see if you can find rhythm, change, variation and juxtaposition in the actual sound of the piece itself. For example, how is a piece of writing transformed if you place a two word sentence next to a six word sentence? Is there room for a moment of silence? Try a few different versions, be playful and don't be afraid to cut it up.