Silence is the loudest sound.

Silence is the loudest sound.

Moon Graffiti” grabs you right from the moment you start listening. The producers achieve this primarily using two distinct styles when introducing the story. NPR’s “How Audio Stories Begin” describe these techniques as diving immediately into the narrative and introducing a mystery. We are confronted with alarms signaling a sense of danger and urgency, as well as overlapping voices speaking calmly with a undercurrent if slight distress.

Then, we hear the mechanics of a crash.

Throughout the podcast, we hear several sound effects that create and direct our mood through the action. First and foremost, is music. Music is used to create an eerie sense of foreshadowing. The initial music after the crash is in almost direct opposition to the astronauts’ first reaction. They are clam, collected, unafraid, but the music signals to the audience that something much more dire is on the horizon.

The sound producers also play without sense of hearing to convey certain ideas and feelings. First, while one of the astronauts is taking photos of the site, the camera clicking is much louder and isolated from other background sounds, drawing our attention to it. If it were a visual, I’d image a scene where each click as accompanied by a black and white photo frozen on the screen for a few seconds. Sound is again distorted as Buzz begins to loose oxygen. The sounds become jumbled, distance, and experience interference. We can visualize him getting weaker and bewildered based on the sound.

 

Often, voices themselves can become the sound alteration. When alternate universe Nixon delivers his speech, his cadence and tone, as well as the slight crackling underlying the voice are reminiscent of actual Nixon footage, but also strongly makes me think of Walter Cronkite’s announcement of President Kennedy’s assassination.

The most engaging method (for me, at least) is actually the lack of sound. When were are relying on our sense of hearing, silence can be more suspenseful, frightening, or disorienting than any sound we could hear. We are left to our own imaginations – what did they crash, where did they crash, and most importantly, are they alive? Sensory deprivation is used in all forms of performance art to create this feeling of uncertainty. Movies, television shows, theater productions, and radio stories all use forms of fading or cutting to black.

Another terrific use of silence in this piece is for poignancy. Human brain often needs time to assess and absorb impactful events. When hear this used when the astronauts discuss god and death; and again when Nixon’s character reads his speech.

 

These techniques combine to create a hauntingly moving account of how history could have been different.

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