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What We Can Learn From StoryCorps

What is StoryCorps?

StoryCorps is an online database of human stories. Their purpose is not just to archive examples of the human condition, but to prove that no matter how we label ourselves or what we’re struggling with, there are people who can relate. In this way, global connections can be created in a world that increasingly depends on its neighbors.

How does this relate to multimodality?

Going along with my other post about the aural mode, recording people’s voices isn’t as simple as it seems. You have to consider how you sound and if it meaningfully contributes to the point you’re trying to make.What makes it work or not? Not only just their voices but how do other sounds contribute to the main idea? We’re going to look at each of these things within three beautiful stories.

Story 1: Danny and Annie Perasa

It’s extremely difficult to separate my personal reaction to this story from my professional one. This couple fell in love on their first date and married soon after. Danny loved Annie so much, he left her romantic notes every morning and remained her happily faithful husband for over thirty years. Danny contracted terminal cancer and passed. Their beautiful story is chronicled over three interviews. I hope my analysis of what makes it such a powerful story will do this story and the others justice.

In today’s post-The Fault in our Stars era, romance and cancer are highly relatable conditions. According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics Report, the second highest cause of death in 2014 was cancer. People can identify with how it rips apart families. Such a solemn subject requires an appropriate speaking tone. But, what’s appropriate? For Danny and Annie that means humor mingled with sage nuances. Their timbre reflects the finality of his cancer, but rather than speaking gravely, their tone portrays gratitude for the time they’ve had together. The creak in Danny’s voice reveals his advanced age, and his voice is sweet as he reminisces about his first date with his wife. Their love comes to life in their voices.

The video is a compilation of three interviews. To distinguish one from the next, they leave silence in between and provide music in-between to make it explicitly clear. This example of the aural mode works to influence the spatial mode, which is concerned with the spatial organization of a text. This example further proves the rarity of a monomodal text.

Story 2: Jasmine Pacheco and Carmen Pacheco-Jones

Carmen Pacheco-Jones suffered from the loneliness of moving from foster home to foster home. When she became a mother herself, she abused drugs and was imprisoned. Her five children were separated and went into foster homes. After being released, Carmen quit drugs and alcohol and reconnected with her children. Jasmine, who was ten when her mother was taken by Washington police, reflects on how her mother’s decisions affected her life and how she raises her own daughter. Listen to their story.

You can hear how years of drugs have torn at Carmen’s lungs and throat. Well, a combination of that and emotions strangle her words. Regret and understanding permeate her tone. These vocal features make her story believable. The obvious regret pulls at your heart strings. Her identity as a mother is clear in her shaky tone. She cares for her children. This too is relatable.

Her daughter uses a stronger voice. She sounds like she’s put up a barrier to the pain. Her voice is strained, but steady. She talks about how she’s had to fight for her family, and her confidence is reflected. Juxtaposing her voice to her mother’s reveals years of untold suffering that give the story credibility.

Story 3: Steve Giacchi

Steve Giacchi worked on the 81st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th. As he was escaping down the stairs, he helped a woman carry her pocketbook. They were separated on the 44th floor. After he made it to safety, the woman’s phone regained service and kept ringing and ringing. He knew it was her husband and couldn’t answer until he knew if the woman was alive. Later, Steve reconnected with her. Listen to Steve’s story.

Steve has a deep, J.R. Simons kind of voice. It’s tainted by his time in New York City. His connections to the city – family, friends, co-workers, etc. – were threatened by the attack on the twin towers. The nation felt the devastation of those attacks, but none so much as the people on the scene and their families.His accent adds street credibility to his story.

Even the way he tells his story, collected and somber, adds suspense to the events. His tone doesn’t give away the fate of the woman. The lack of effusion also exaggerates the tremors Steve has surely suffered from the attacks and their aftermath.In a similar fashion to Jasmine Pacheco, he’s put up barriers to deal with a traumatic situation. This is haunting because it proves the verity of the tragedy.

So What?

Evidently, how you tell a story is more important than the content. Throwing your voice in one direction or another shows your audience how happy you are or how much you’ve suffered. Directing your voice can bring a story to life and is important to consider when composing text in the aural mode.




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