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Audio Mixing and the Struggle of A2

Creating/Mixing Audio: If you struggled with A2 or if you felt like you were behind, why did this happen for you? As the instructor, I’ve noticed that many more people seemed behind than on the visual assignment. Is there something about working with audio that makes it more difficult than working with visual materials? What are the unique challenges of working with audio? What are the lessons that we could offer to other noobs? 

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A2 was way more taxing on me academically than A1, and that caused a lot of stress for me. First, I had gotten my A1 assignment back and had not gotten the grade I expected. This affected my A2 assignment because I guess I had it in my head that no matter what I would not be able to anticipate the scale of subjectivity in my grade. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the system of grading in the class because there are technical elements to be graded, but ultimately the final product most also be judged as “good” or “bad.”

With that being said, I did still have a pretty secure idea of what I wanted to do and I executed it—but barely. One of the biggest problems I noticed was that we were given little instruction and the instruction was the most basic elements. I think Audacity and Garage Band are far too different from Photoshop to set us out with a short lesson and expect us to be comfortable. Even if someone had not been familiar with Photoshop, there is a strong element of fun in working with it. Even if you don’t know exactly what all the tools are, there are definitely a few tools that look like the tools we used in MS Paint as kids, and ultimately manipulating images, if tedious, has a pleasing outcome.

Audacity is not like that. I felt very limited to the two tools I knew how to use and everything else was foreign to me. Also, the end product is not something I was excited about (no one wants to hear two minutes of their voice). Beyond that, I didn’t feel like I was mixing audio at all, I was just chopping different pieces around and throwing them back together with little finesse. I know there’s a whole world of tools and details to mixing audio, so it almost seemed crass and disrespectful the way we had create a piece so quickly and with so little knowledge. It just seemed like this project was set out on a much smaller timeframe than the last one, and that frustrated me because it happened to fall on a terrible week midterm-wise (isn’t it always that way?!).

Another unique challenge of working with audio is the presentation. With a visual piece, you present it and then someone can look at it for a brief or extended period of time, but a audio piece is, theoretically, meant to be presented once, for that length of time, and understood with in those constraints. Getting an entire rhetorical concept seemed like such a huge feat to me with those limitations, and that caused much anxiety for me.

I don’t know what lessons I have to offer, but I think it would be really beneficial to spend a lot more time in the beginning going over what Audacity can do. Perhaps giving all of the students a sample piece of audio and then together step-by-step doing some manipulation to it would make them feel more secure in the world of audio mixing. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of time with Audacity after this class.

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