Marking time, badly

A one-man band only in some respects

Music in podcasts is one of those divisive topics on which few people agree. My own view is that most American shows have far too much music for my taste, and that my own episodes have too little. I'm not talking about continuous soundbeds, as done so well by Benjamen Walker. I'd never even try that. No, I'm talking about a bit of music to set the scene, mark transitions and, where possible, maybe heighten the narrative, but that is darned hard work.

One reason is that, while there are many, many sources, paid and free, for royalty-free music, there is no way to skim through sounds as you can glance at images, a fact that also bedevils podcast discovery. It takes forever, and often I'm not even sure what I am listening for until I hear it. So I envy shows that have a dedicated musical director or some such, maybe creating original music as well, even though some of them overdo it, to my taste. You might think, as a one-man band, that a little music would be easy for me, but it isn't.

A few years ago I went to a brilliant talk by Martin Austwick at the Hearsay Audio Festival, about scoring podcasts. He poked fun at the ubiquitous marimba all the while offering great ideas and practical advice, on the strength of which I bought myself a mini MIDI keyboard thingie. After a couple of fun days marvelling at the wonderful noises it could make (cue Tom Paxton), I mostly put it aside to gather dust. Too hard.

Yesterday, with time on my hands and what I think might be a need as the new season approaches, I started playing again, and this time it was a lot more fun and a lot more rewarding. The two funnest parts are being able to edit my rotten time keeping and, having done that, adding absurd instruments, although not marimba. And then I made a fateful mistake: I sought guidance online. And weren't there amazing things being done with GarageBand on an iPad? And don't I now possess an old iPad, but one completely able to waste hours of my time doing amazing things to the annoyance of all around me?

Will these new toys find a home in my podcast? Maybe, just maybe.

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