Sunday, 19 May 2013


I had a good idea the other day. This is not unusual, ask anyone who knows me. I have good ideas a lot. If I'd sold all my good ideas I'd be a wealthy man now. But two things conspired to make me start work on this one...

My friend Hugh is a storyteller. He has recently begun making videos of his stories. Whilst they are fine tellings, for me something goes missing in the process and, to this critic at least, they just can't compare with the live experience.  His sound recordings somehow capture what he does much better. As The Times critic Rachel Campbell Johnson put it, in a review of one of his performances, some years ago:
"...the images that billowed and faded across the darkened auditorium were quite different from those that unspool across a screen."

So the good idea (mentioned over lunch last week) went something like this:
It should be possible to make a visual accompaniment to an oral storytelling that does not get in the way of the images the words make in your head. If they were somehow more abstract but gave a sense of place and atmosphere, without imposing too much on the images the spoken word conjures, that might visually dramatise an oral story  without illustrating it in the conventional sense...

Mrs DG has heard a fair few of my good ideas over the years. Struggling a little to make sense of this one, or at least to picture exactly what I meant, she suggested I make a version of one of the stories I tell. The next day in the mail came a newsletter asking users of Zeega (the excellent transmedia app I've been posting about for a couple of months) to post some new creations.


"In two weeks, Zeegas — a new form of interactive media — will be installed on four projection screens at San Francisco’s renowned Museum of Modern Art and experienced in a virtual exhibition by more than 1 million Twitter followers."

I set to work.
I chose a story told to Hugh and me many years ago by a lovely lady called Ann Salwey. It's somewhere between a joke and a mystery. I've since heard it told (very badly) by David Frost. Hugh uses it in his narrative about his great-uncle Arthur Ransome (good genes). Now I'm a respectable - though not great - storyteller, but I recorded the story with Audacity and added some steam train sound effects. I chose Rachmaninov's celebrated 2nd Piano Concerto both because it added a little Russian drama and because it was used in another great train story - Brief Encounter. Then I uploaded the whole sound track to Soundcloud (see below).
I set about my visual dramatisation by collecting and making animated gifs and still images. Zeega was used to edit the images and sounds together. I finished it in the early hours this morning.

Was I successful in my aim of making visual enhancements for an oral storytelling?  You must be the judge.
You can watch the Zeega and/or hear the storytelling unadorned on the Soundcloud widget below. If you have an opinion on this, please do comment on this post or contact me on Twitter @magiclanternman.