You Can*t Sling No Bull

“You Can’t Sling No Bull”
Teaching Writing With Sound
Bruce Ballenger
Boise State University
Before this class, I was a self
labeled “bull-slinger.” I wrote what
I was expected to write, what my
professors wanted to hear, and I
got good marks for it. Audio,
however, is much more personal.
You can tell when a person doesn’t
believe what they are saying, and
even more so when they do.
Narrative (voice and
Documentary (Voice,
Music, Interview,
Ambient Sound)
• Motivation
Write the way you talk.
It’s a didactic medium. You have to say
what it means.
You’ve got ten seconds to convince me it’s
not just about you.
Listeners should hear what you’re saying,
not how you’re saying it.
Begin and end strongly.
I grew up with Marlon Brando. Well, technically not the real Brando, but the idea of
Brando, the mythology of Brando. I gratefully stood in the glittering trail of his
celebrity, a comet that has always shown brightly over the dark nights of my
childhood. And, in a way, even now. My mother grew up with Brando in Chicago,
and after the war, they both left the city for New York, where they hoped to land
acting careers. If you ask her, and sometimes if you don’t, my mom will show you
pictures of the two of them: smirking at the camera at a table in a New York
restaurant, feeding her cocker spaniel in her Brooklyn apartment, and when they
were younger still, beaming at the camera together, hands full of bocce balls,
standing in front of my grandparents’ country house in Wheeling, Illinois. Briefly,
mom played Stella opposite Brando in “Streetcar Named Desire.” He rocketed to
fame and they never spoke again. Naturally, I always enjoyed my second-hand brush
with fame. It made me feel special, and in my family feeling special was a salve for
feeling shame.
Embodied writing
Collaborating on Meaning
Major Assignments
• Commentary
• Narrative
• Documentary
Conciseness and
“In creating these simpler sentences that work
to convey a point sooner and more clearly, I
found that my writing became more pure in a
sense. There was no dancing around the
subject, or lengthy flowery descriptions that
could trigger disinterest in a listener.”
Other Sound Projects
• Ira Glass Style
• Podcast
• Audio draft
• Veterans History
• Research essay
• This I Believe…
• This American Life, Kitchen Sisters, This I Believe

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