I’ve skipped the podcast era entirely. I have a twofold allergy to the form. The first is a mild and manageable hate response triggered by the conversational inflections that all podcasters seem to have adopted, contracted as though by virus. It is, to my ears, a contrived, musically composed cadence of spontaneity, “And … here’s what I found.”
But that’s just me, with my curmudgeonly sensitivities, inherited from my dad. That alone didn’t knock me out of the podcast market.
It’s the infuriating pace of development. By the time the host or hosts have finished with their setup (which usually involves something about breakfast on the morning they begin their quest and an audio clip of someone getting into a car), I’d expect to be five or more paragraphs in the body of an argument, a memoir, or an expose in The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New Yorker, whatever.
Podcasts are too slow unfolding in their richness. This is the price of their hybrid nature, rendering exposition as a casual dramatic form. As effective as field audio and production elements can be, they are just not the same as watching a documentary about high tech in Bangalore. Podcasts are caught in a rhetorical middle. Prose is better at one half of what they do, and video is better at the other half.
Of course it occurs to me that the leisurely pace, the personable rhythm of podcasts — coupled with great, well-researched content and suggestive audio production — is for many listeners exactly the point. Podcasts must transport the mind somehow but leave the eyes to the business of driving to D.C. on 95 or cleaning the toilet. And they must eat time.
Well, I have floated the idea of doing one myself, combining commentary on the local music scene with elements of the oddball audio theater I’ve been producing with the Magnificent Glass Pelican for more than 25 years.
And I wonder if I will start talking in that familiar way, too. I am almost certain that I will.
Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.