Science Fiction: Sound Composition Assignment

A creative exercise in speculative media composition

due: between Thurs. 9/28 and Tues. 10/3

In the spirit of Orson Welles’ accomplishment in his 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, your task with this assignment is to select a segment from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or 2001: A Space Odyssey to adapt into an audio experience, and adapt it to make it sound plausible or consistent with our reality.

To be successful with this assignment, you’ll want to balance your voice with special sound effects that you could generate yourself or adapt from sources on the web. You want to first locate some sound technology that will work with devices you have readily available–your mobile phone or tablet, for example.

Tech you need:

GarageBand is a great option for iOS devices, and there are a host of apps you can try for Android phones. I’d appreciate it if you can export your file as an .mp3 , a standard audio format.

How to get started:

To be successful with this exercise, you must do more than simply read the text out loud. I will be looking for signs that you have altered it in at least two or more of the following ways:

  1. Make it sound plausible in our moment: Change events so that they resonate with something happening in our moment–something we can recognize from everyday news. (You might make reference to current government officials or crisis events, or to reference technology we are familiar with.)

  2. Or, make it sound plausible in the world of the text: Create your adaptation as if the time and setting of the text were real (for example, as if there had really been a World War Terminus, etc.) In this case, make sure that the sound effects and language are consistent with the rules of the world in the text.

  3. Create nonverbal sound effects Make it the event sound as if it is live and happening currently, and make this as realistic as you can. For this you should actively seek out or create your own sound effects.

  4. Alter the language in the original: You might cut the language of description but don’t lose the substance of it. You might even change the events to make this adapatable to our moment. Do not change it so much that there is nothing recognizable to connect this with the original.

Your creative adaptation needs to build on or reply to a passage from the text you chose, and represents your interpretation of it.

Create and submit two files:

  1. Generate a 3-5 minute sound-clip of your creative adaptation, and save it as an mp3 file.
  2. I’ll ask each of you to draft a short piece (a few paragraphs) documenting your decisions about what you selected and how you decided to alter it to help me understand what you’ve attempted to accomplish. This can be a text file or word-processed document, or a web page (if you know how to create one of these.)

Filenames: Use this format to name your files, to be sure they’re associated together.

File Submission: I’ll invite you to a Box directory where you can upload these two files by the time they’re due.

Return to Science Fiction syllabus