The House Among the Laurels

27 Apr 2006

I’m done editing my first podcast, a reading of Hodgson’s story “The House Among the Laurels.” The text is out of copyright, and I am making my recording available under a Creative Commons license (anyone who wants to make a derivative work for non-commercial use is free to do so).

I’m not really satisified with the audio quality, and my voice was not at its best, as I had a bit of a cold, but if I don’t get going and publish the first one, I’ll never get to the second one… so better to put out a “1.0” and perhaps record it again later, if needed, when my technique has improved. Please keep in mind that this was recorded using a very beat-up laptop in my living room by a tired guy with a cold. (Is that a ringing endorsement or what?) Despite all this, I think it is a pretty good reading.

I tried various strategies for reducing the audible noise in the recording including using a noise gate filter, but that just made the speech sound bursty, and Audacity’s noise filter, but that gave a strange phase-shift effect, even at low levels (I’m not sure why; it worked much better on stereo audio from a casette player digitized with the iMic).

“House” is considered number two in the Carnacki series. Why not start with number one? Number one, “The Thing Invisible,” is quite a bit longer and the style is not quite as tight. I have not quite decided whether I want to record it as-is, or edit it, or perhaps do something more elaborate with it. “House” is a better introduction to the Carnacki stories.

The stories follow, for the most part, the same basic pattern. The “ghost-finder” Carnacki periodically sends notices to a small group of friends inviting them to dinner. The introduction is extremely brief and almost no information is provided about his guests, or the meal. This lack of specificity imagines the reader to imagine himself or herself as one of the guests, listening to the story. After the meal, the group sits with him and listens to the tale.

Carnacki tells the story, in an informal and somewhat self-deprecating style, with occasional digressions about other ghost-finding incidents and references to ancient manuscripts or scholars. Carnacki usually conducts an exhaustive search for a natural explanation for the “haunting” by daylight, but ultimately winds up spending a night alone, or with a small group, in the haunted house, or room, often within the “electric pentacle,” a protective circle of his own invention, that combines the traditional protective “magic circle” concept with technology.

In the end Carnacki discovers that the “haunting” has either a natural explanation, or does seem to be a supernatural manifestation, or in a couple of cases, has a bit of both. The dramatic tension consists, for the listener, partly of wondering what kind of story this will turn out to be. Getting to the bottom of the “haunting” seems to be Carnacki’s primary motivation: he doesn’t care that much, for example, whether criminal evil-doers that may be involved are apprehended. If a supernatural explanation is involved, if possible Carnacki tries to end it, by destroying the haunted artifacts that allow the manfifestation to occur.

Carnacki’s audience is entirely silent until the end, when they might ask a question or two. When he is done Carnacki throws them out by saying “Out you go,” and his guests wander home.

The framework is very scanty, usually consisting of less than half a page. The points at which we switch narrativer perspective to are indicated on the printed page only by a change in punctuation. This is a little bit difficult to convey in the podcast without actually using separate voices for the guest who narrates, or the questioners at the end. Since the story provides us with almost no information about the guests, I did not really come up with separate voices for them. Carnacki also sometimes includes extensive quotations by other characters that make up part of his story, and these are often written in dialect, to convey a distinct accent. These are much more amenable to a little voice acting, so I gave it a shot.

I’d like to pursue turning these into more of a genuine radio drama. I’ll consider some ways to do that later.

I have set up a podcast specifically for the Hodgson stories. If you have iTunes, you can subscribe directly, by using the “Subscribe to Podcast…” command under the “Advanced” menu. This is the link.

I have also submitted my Podcast to the iTunes Music Store, so I may have a page there, but it has not been processed yet. I also need a piece of artwork (300x300 .png file) to represent the podcast! Any takers?


Creative Commons Licence
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