'Sharing their experiences': The 'AudioLog' podcast combines pandemic stories with improvised music
“One thing that I’ve learned and noticed about the way that we’ve reacted to the pandemic is that we’re all ready to move on… but we haven’t really taken time to sit down and think about and process what we experienced,” says Density512 executive director Jacob Schnitzer. “So this is one way of making a space for people to share what they’ve experienced and also to hear others share what they have experienced so that way we can all know that we’re not alone in this.”
He’s talking about AudioLog, the podcast that Schnitzer and his partners in Density512 have created during the ongoing Covid pandemic. The chamber orchestra collective, like so many performing artists in 2020, had found themselves without a way to perform for a live crowd but still wanting to create art and connect with an audience. “In the middle of the pandemic, we were thinking about what Density512 was going to do next,” he says. “And, you know, the question is ‘What do people need post-pandemic?’ And I just had this strong feeling that people need a space for healing. And, you know, in a time where we’ve been so isolated, the opportunity to feel seen by others is just paramount.”
What they landed upon is a convergence of music and storytelling. “We collected stories from people in our community,” Schnitzer says. “And they answered the question[s]… How did your life change during the pandemic? What did you discover about yourself or about the world? What was the most important thing that you learned?
“People submitted stories in which they reflected upon these questions,” he says. “And their answers were, you know, totally different, unique, and personal to each person. And then we have four improvising musicians [Kenzie Slottow, Charissa Memrick, Alan Retamozo, and Schnitzer himself] who processed the stories and emotions that people shared and transformed them into music. So the text comes from the audio recording of the community members and it’s treated as an equal musical partner to the musicians who contributed to the sonic landscape.”
Schnitzer says that each story was unique, but they did share some connective tissue. “The thread that, I think, connects everything is the level of vulnerability that people shared,” he says. “And just the deep personal well that people were pulling from when sharing their experiences.”
He says that podcasting was the perfect medium for what Density512 was trying to accomplish. “There’s something about hearing somebody’s story in your ears with headphones or AirPods when you’re going about your day,” Schnitzer says. “You can hear that person inside your head, inside your brain. And there’s just a level of personal intimacy that you can feel from listening to the stories that people shared with our project.”