Audio Reflection: Moon Graffiti

Moon Graffiti

I thought this audio story would be really cool and fun since it’s called “Moon Graffiti.” This story is based upon Richard Nixon’s contingency speech titled “In Event of Moon Disaster.” As soon as I read that line, my hopes of this being a fun story vanished.

The clip itself begins with a narrator saying the name of the podcast “The Truth.” While he is speaking, there is a beep and some static in the background. This immediately made me uncomfortable. Then there is a voice coming through a walkie-talkie accompanied by more static. I became more uncomfortable. To me, hearing someone speak through a walkie-talkie is reminiscent of almost every movie or TV show that includes the use of walkie-talkies; the person on the other end is probably going to die.

We then hear the Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong communicating with Houston, informing them that they are about to land. An alarm, more beeping. Faster this time. Buzz and Neil begin talking more franticly before we hear the sounds of the rocket crash landing. Then silence, an extremely effective silence. A silence that simultaneously makes your heart drop and fills you with anticipation.

Next we hear someone acting as Nixon say the opening lines of contingency speech.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to
explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

Richard Nixon’s Contingency Speech “In Event of Moon Disaster,” written by William Safire

One the presenters, Jonathan Mitchell, then narrates everything that happened in 1969 right up to just before their successful landing. While he is speaking, there are sound effects that illustrate and emphasize the part of the story is telling at the moment: the sound of a rocket shooting through space as he says the words, “maiden voyage;” echoing beeps emphasizing the vast emptiness of space as he says, “a place with unfamiliar gravity.”

The story picks up again with Armstrong asking Aldrin if he is okay. The two then determine that there are only about 7 to 8 minutes of air left in the cabin and decide to put on their helmets. When they put on their helmets, you can hear the sound of the visor coming down, and even more effective, the white noise in the background cuts out at the same time you hear the visor shut. Their voices also go from being crystal clear to only being through the static of a walkie-talkie. all of these sounds and lack of sounds make the listener feel as though they are in the protagonists’ place, wearing a full space suit.

Starting at 5:41, we hear Armstrong go down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. Once he is out of the ship, there are a few seconds of no sound except the two men breathing and some eerie, atmospheric “music” playing in the background, illustrating just how in awe the men are.

The men then further assess the damage done to the ship during their crash landing. Buzz calls Neil over to look at something, and you can tell from Buzz’s tone and the delays in between one of them saying something, that whatever Buzz found is really not good. The fuel cell is damaged beyond repair and there is no fuel left.

They accept that they’re grounded, or at least they know that they are grounded. Neil suggests that they should start the geological survey, and Buzz, as if he didn’t even hear what Neil said, suggests that they get the radio working. Neil tells him that the radio is dead and Buzz continues to suggest things they communicate back to earth. It takes Neil saying that the radio is dead another 3 or 4 times before Buzz actually hears him and accepts that they have no way to say their goodbyes to their families. The desperation in Buzz’s voice and Neil’s attempts to get Buzz to hear him almost made me cry.

At one point, Neil is talking about graduating from flight school, and Buzz is starting panic, but we don’t know this information because he says something; it’s the sound effects that give us this information. Neil continues talking, but we don’t know what he says after a certain point because amidst all of the overlapping sounds that are playing, we can hear words repeating over and over. Neil snaps Buzz out of it and Buzz lays down presumably because he is feeling faint from his state of panic. They continue their conversation, but it kind of just peters out.

Next, we hear the rest of Nixon’s contingency speech and are able to conclude the men did in fact die on the moon.

Audio Reflection: RadioLab’s Songs That Cross Borders

I listened to Songs That Cross Borders by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

As someone who listens to a lot of music spanning many different genres and languages, I was immediately drawn in by the title of the podcast. For me the voices of Jad and Robert were very calming which helped keep me immersed in the story of the podcast. The podcast talks about how some music reaches across borders to countries that we wouldn’t think they would reach. It talks about how Dolly Parton has a large fan base in Zimbabwe and how country music is loved in several middle eastern countries as well. One of the hosts interviews Gregory Warner who recounts a story of how he went to Afghanistan, and he brought his accordion with him and would occasionally play it while he traveled. While playing he his translator asked him how he knew an Afghan song and Gregory responds that it is an American song called “Those Were The Days.” It turns out that an Afghan singer named Ahmad Zahir “Afghan-ized” a whole lot of other western music. The podcast diverged a little bit to talk about how Zahirs music and and other songs that he had actually wrote influenced the culture by talking about freedom and how he was killed for the music that he had written. Even when the podcast had diverged it was easy to stay immersed because they did not use sound effects that were out of place for the time and place that the story was taking place. When demonstrating the “Afghan-ized” music they would over lay the original song with the song that Zahir had written to let you hear how similar they were. They told us the story of Zahirs death and a story from Zahirs wife about her dreaming about his death the day he died. During the telling of the dream they used some ethereal music in the background which made it more dream like and added to the imagery that they were describing from her story.

To me the podcast did very well at keeping me focused on it and did not use out of place sound effects so it was effective at keeping me immersed in the imagery that the two hosts were creating the and story that they were telling.