Audio Essays

Kuehl Prize award for projects related to the environmental causes of disease.
November 2012
Maine South - English - Robin Corelitz
Foundation Award: $500

Students will create a collaborative “sound” essay that explores the relationship between the environment and disease by: exploring audio essay as an art form, researching an aspect of environmental disease that is compelling to them as a class, learning the art of the interview and capturing sound files from various local interviews, and finally collaborating as a class to compile, direct, edit, and mix a 10-12 minute audio essay. Ideally, this work will be supported by two guest speakers - Gwen Macsai and Sandi Wisenberg, and capped off with a trip to a recording studio to master and engineer the project so that we can submit the project to various national radio programs

Two sections of English 2 Accelerated will participate in this intensive writing workshop/collaborative essay project. First, we will listen to episodes of the Third Coast International program: Re: Sound (explanation below). 

We will explore how words and sound come together to invite listeners to take an active role in storytelling. We will invite Gwen Macsai, the host of Re:sound and a resident of Chicago, to speak to our classes. We will also invite S. L. Wisenberg, a Chicago-based writer and essayist, to speak to our classes about the art of the personal essay/creative non-fiction. 

Next, students (as a class) will choose an area of environmental disease/impact that they are particularly interested in working with. Topics can include: food wastelands in Chicago, organic vs. non-organic foods, the vaccination debate, cell phone usage as linked to cancer, detoxification through sports and fitness, and many more. I will encourage students to think locally - can they interview doctors, researchers, family members, coaches, or members of our own school community, to talk about these environmental impacts? 

Students will learn the basics of interviewing and then, in groups, interview at least one person by audio recording. They will write a collaborative personal essay that fuses text from their interviews with their own research and synthesis of the material. They will then begin the process of compiling their audio files into a class sound essay that knits it all together; the goal is to have a 10-12 minute audio essay that is completely written, directed, produced, and edited by the students themselves. 

We will (funding permitted) hope to take a trip to a recording studio in order to have our program mastered and mixed. We will then submit our work to Re:sound and other national radio programs in the hopes of on-air play. 

Resound is Third Coasts remix of music, documentaries, found sound, sound bites, and little audio surprises we find all over the world. The show features personal narratives, sonic portraits, investigative documentaries, experimental sound art, and humorous essays. It’s radio you can’t hear anywhere else, unless you live everywhere else. 

Host Gwen Macsai, an independent producer and essayist, presents this remarkable work along with behind-the scenes interviews and other “bonus tracks” for your listening pleasure. The show is produced by Katie Mingle.