Back into the Recording Cave

After my last podcast was so well received by the society, I was given the chance to do another one. This time I got to attend a really prestigious event; the awarding of SfAM’s first honorary fellowship! I’d been looking forward to this event for over a month, filling my spare time with choosing what to wear, researching Lord O’Neill (the person who was being given the fellowship) and planning my podcast questions.

It was at this stage that I encountered my first challenge; what do you ask a Lord? Even though I’ve interviewed people before, this felt like as close as I would get to meeting royalty and I didn’t want my questions to be too dry. I wanted to inspire conversation with Lord O’Neill so that he wouldn’t be bored with me and also provide some insightful questions so that any listeners to the podcast could get a bit of an inside scoop on Lord Jim O’Neill and his work.

Luckily, SfAM’s Digital Communications Officer, Stewart has an incredible interviewing history and helped me to come up with some more exciting questions than my initial ‘what does this honorary fellowship mean to you?’

Armed with my questions in a small notebook, my recorder and my bulging suitcase for staying the night with a friend, I was ready to go and record the material I needed. The setting was as idyllic as it sounds in the podcast and the chill of the sun setting only made me want to wrap myself in a blanket which the venue had provided plenty of.

I arrived early along with the other SfAM staff and began chatting comfortably with them as the venue filled up around us. Lord O’Neill entered seamlessly and I knew that was my que to introduce myself and what I was doing. Laura, SfAM’s Events and Projects manager, told me that she would warn Lord O’Neill about me when he arrived which I was grateful for; I didn’t want to seem like I had infiltrated the party just to get a juicy story. Despite this forewarning I didn’t want to bother him as he chatted to the people he knew, and I found myself stalling. Eventually, Laura whisked me away from the canapes and planted me in front of Lord O’Neill which led to me getting an incredible interview which started with the question ‘if you could be any microbe, what would you be?’ Listen to the podcast to find out the answer to that one because I know you’ll be dying to know!

After my interview with him, Lord O’Neill asked me what I was doing at university and when I told him, he instantly introduced me to someone so that I could network with them! What a brilliant person he is! When I was interviewing him, he was down to earth, straight with his answers and it was easy to share in his enthusiasm for antimicrobial resistance and the work he was doing to tackle it!

The rest of the evening was a blur and soon after my interview with SfAM’s president, Professor Mark Fielder (also a brilliant person), it was time to leave the beautiful venue behind.

On the train home the next day, I listened back to the audio I had recorded and made some notes about the plan for the podcast. I’m finding it easier to imagine a story around groups of audio recordings now and I kept my mind on a lecture I had been in the week before about story telling.

It was a couple of days before I started editing and there were all sorts of challenges to overcome this time around. Once I had finalised the linking script it was time to record it, but where to do it. I’m currently living at university and the next problem was what to construct my recording cave out of. At home, my parents have these huge chairs with huge cushions that I can fit into easily and record things but at uni there was nothing similar. With the sofa cushions being used as a makeshift bed for my housemate’s friend, I managed to prop up my pillow, exercise matt and a cushion on my bed with a blanket draped over them to make a roof. This was Makeshift Recording Cave Version 1. Unfortunately, it failed because my lungs were cut off from oxygen by the edge of my bed which I had to lean over to get into the cave.

Makeshift Recording Cave Version 2 was a success. Positioning my wheelie desk chair by the window, I opened up my exercise matt to drape it around back rest with a cushion and weighed it down with a random Pilates weight. It would do, and I managed to set up my laptop and recorder so that my voice would hopefully be absorbed by all the soft material surrounding me.

Whenever I record my parts for a podcast, my mouth goes unnaturally dry and I have to drink lots of water to stop my voice sounding sticky or croaky. I’ve said this before but it’s a continuing problem, so I’ll say it again; I often find it hard to stop myself going into jolly-hockey-sticks mode. There were so many takes when my voice increased in pitch and I sounded like the Queen if she were to discover her dogs chewing her slippers. My dad told me to try and keep my voice to it’s natural, lower tones and I think I managed it for most of this script.

Once I had ploughed through and recorded all my links it was time to edit everything together. Everything was going swimmingly until I realised that I hadn’t recorded any wild track (the background hubbub) to fill in any gaps. This meant that I had to scrounge what I could from the pauses in the interviews and I just about managed to get enough. I had even written down in my note book to record wild track but had obviously forgotten after the high of getting such a good interview with Lord O’Neill! At least I can learn from this. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use any of the wild track from the ECS symposium, the sound was completely different and would have interrupted the flow!

It wasn’t long before I had edited all the clips together and it was time to consider which music to use behind the speaking to fill the silence behind my voice.

I laughed so much at all the music I went through, imagining the atmosphere that tracks such as ‘Front Porch Blues’, ‘Turn Up, Burn Up’, ‘Bongo Madness’ and ‘Jumpin Boogie Woogie’ would create for the podcast. Eventually, I found one and took time to make sure that it wasn’t over- powering my voice or any of the interviews.

Saying that I felt relieved when it was finished paints a negative picture on the process which isn’t the case. Listening to your own voice for a day and a half is a tad draining but worth it in the end! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy creating things like this and SfAM are giving me so many opportunities to do what I love!

I always learn a lot from making podcasts; did you know that the wave form of my croaky voice often looks like a fish skeleton? I’m learning how to use Audacity more effectively and exploring more of the tools it provides. I’ve also had a valuable lesson in interviewing people which will come in useful in the future!

Bring on the next podcast!

Click here to listen to the podcast on SfAM’s Microbeblog!

If you want to listen to the first SfAM podcast I produced, click here and read about my first time inside the recording cave.

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