Monday, 2 April 2007

I survived The Chronicles

Taking a recommendation from Dr. Rotwang of I Waste The Buddha With My Crossbow, I downloaded The Chronicles, a c. 1988 college produced, Canadian-made, radio play that takes place in the Traveller game world.

It takes me back…I was 20 and in a military college playing Shadowrun and running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st. ed. My exposure to Traveller was light: I had a PC and as I recall, the GM had planned a H2G2 campaign; it promised to be fun, but it never got started.

So I thought, let’s see what all the rage is…

…I’m now wishing that there was someway to do MST3K for radio plays.

First, let me say about the whole production, regardless of the effort the two music students put into the producing it: it sounds as if having access to new toys such as “synthesizers, a sampling keyboard, drum machine, sound board, microphones and a 4 track tape deck” made them tech-drunk. There is little audio in the play that is not modulated in some grotesque manner as to make it nearly unintelligible in many parts. No echo effect was left unused.

My commute to work gave me 45 minutes to waste. About halfway through I could not stop laughing while conjuring up memories of MST3K. The soundtrack was new age a la Music, From Some Guys In Space. The story reminiscent of Raul Julia in Overdrawn at the Memory Bank meets BJ and the Bear, if BJ was an asshole and his chimp offered nothing to the story (oh, wait, the chimp never offered anything).

Yet nothing made me smile more than the audio montages! The narration would wrap up a scene where the writers clearly imagined something was taking place and deserved music, but they felt it could not be narrated, thus they invented the audio montage.

About the zealous use of audio effects, would psionic communication echo in your head? Yes…if you didn’t have a brain. But if you did have a brain, and I concede in my own mind’s eye, psionic conversations would sound normal.

All negativity aside, the story was decent enough that if it should get new treatment, and a new director, I have some tips for the producers: 1) pick up the classic Orson Welles’ radio show of War of the Worlds on CD. Maybe even get some old radio soap operas from the 20s and 30s. From them learn one lesson: go light on the sound effects that don’t drive the action of the characters or the environment; 2) Don’t enhance the narrator because it “feels” more futuristic. Let the voice be the listener’s own, like reading a book. Throughout The Chronicles I was just waiting for a “Bidibidibidi” and the narrator to be credited as Dr. Theopolis; 3) go easy on the big words: pirates don’t use “small unit tactics"; and 4) you don’t need a college to fund a recording lab: if you had the original masters, a Mac and Apple’s Garageband could digitally mix down a new version of The Chronicles with very little effort, and it could sound so much better.

Posted by caffeinated at 11:05 PM in kaffehaus


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