Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 9:48 pm | Fair 70º


Tim Durnin: Podcasts Foster the Art of Engaging Storytelling

It's easy to get lost in hours of smooth listening, with a wide range of content from which to choose

I drive and walk a great deal. I spend eight to 10 hours a week in my car and almost as much time wandering the neighborhoods around my home. True to our culture, I multitask and am rarely without my iPod and earbuds. Leaving music aside, there is a great deal of engaging content available to keep me occupied.

I find something uniquely gratifying about the simplicity of listening. Sound guides the artistic brush and my imagination fills the canvass. Voices take on a singular importance. I experience much greater intimacy with the subject matter and find myself more focused and attentive.

I have been listening to podcasts for several years. In that time, I have stumbled across some incredible content. My tastes run the gamut from literature to science, and I thought it worth sharing some of my unexpected discoveries.

Kurt Andersen is the voice of Studio 360. Andersen has a pastoral, almost parental manner. His tone is magnetic. Studio 360 explores science and creativity in a way that is best described as captivating. “American Icons,” one of several series available through Studio 360, is brilliant radio.

Recent episodes explore recognizable themes — Buffalo Bill Cody, I Love Lucy and The Great Gatsby. But there is nothing conventional about Andersen’s approach. It is as if you are looking at an old friend from a perspective you didn’t know existed. The effect is a unique and comforting rediscovery of the familiar.

The voice of This American Life, Ira Glass, is reminiscent of the overly bright teenage prodigy you simply can’t ignore. The youthful enthusiasm and charisma are infectious and pour over the storylines to give energy to and animate even the mundane.

The subject matter is not easily classified as Glass explores myriad topics with a childlike innocence and curiosity. The reporting is refreshingly free from commentary and conclusions, leaving it to the listener to create their own meaning and define their own ends.

For literature lovers, the short story has been given new life in podcasting. The short form is the perfect expression for listeners with limited time or who share my imperfect attention span.

Selected Shorts is a weekly podcast hosted by Isaiah Sheffer that offers an hour-long escape into the realm of short fiction. Live performances are recorded for rebroadcast, and readings are performed by familiar voices from the stage and screen.

I have found that hearing a story read is a very different experience from reading it. Each performer offers a unique interpretation of the work. Even familiar material is given a new and refreshing life through this venue. It is a pleasant way to be immersed in literature.

Another story form is honored and explored through The Mot, which focuses its attention on the art of storytelling. Profound, funny, heartbreaking, personal stories are told live in venues across the United States. Some of the best stories and storytellers find their way to The Moth’s weekly podcast.

Through The Moth, the stage becomes confessional, diary and journal. Listening, one can’t help but feel more connected to the world and the wonderful cast of characters that fill our lives. While the storytellers may not be known personally, the stories can often belong to someone one knows. It is a profoundly insightful art form.

That is the content I enjoy most, content that connects and makes the world smaller, more familiar and known. My driving and walking now bring me closer to a likable and livable world, filled with folks, both fictional and real, with whom I’m happy to have acquaintance.

— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and serves as chief operating officer for Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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