Keeping an audio journal
This post was originally published on adamstoner.com. You can read it at adamstoner.com/recordings
If audio isn't your thing, I've also written a post on how to keep a written diary too which you can read at /journal.
I've kept an audio journal for over five years.
When I began I was studying Radio Production at the University of Gloucestershire. I've worked for a couple of radio stations since then including the UK's children's radio station Fun Kids where I currently produce podcasts including The Week Junior Show and Activity Quest.
During university I would record voice memos on my iPhone and email those to a Tumblr account. I'm not sure I was fully aware of what a podcast was at the time but I suppose that's essentially what I was making; a hyper-deconstructed, voicemail-esque, far-too-frequent podcast.
After university I downloaded all of the voice memos and binned the account but I carried on logging my thoughts and capturing sound. These voice memos feature friends old and new, relationships past and present, and places that no longer exist. One of the earliest is my then-girlfriend and I walking around the since-demolished Beechwood Arcade in Cheltenham. Others are filled with the sounds of buskers and church bells, lecturers and concerts.
Soon I realised a lot of creatives do the same thing, especially musicians and others who work in audio, but keeping an audio diary isn't something that's just for people who work in audio. The average person can also benefit from becoming an audio diarist.
My setup today isn't that much more complex than the one from 2015. I occationally use a dedicated audio recorder (a Zoom H1 with a pair of Apple Earpods plugged in) but otherwise I still whip out my iPhone to record birdsong, to blab some passing thought into the record, or conduct impromptu interviews with my friends and family ('where are we off to?', 'tell us what you can see', 'what are you doing?') – much to their annoyance, I'm sure.
I catalogue and regularly back these recordings up to both Tresorit, my cloud hosting provider of choice, and external drives to make them both safe and highly searchable.
Here's how you can become an audio diarist:
- The best microphone is the one you have. Your iPhone is as good as any studio microphone. It's what I record all of my podcasts on!
- Introduce each clip with the date, time, and where you are. If there are other people nearby get them to say hello and introduce them too.
- You don't have to talk. Audio diaries can just be sounds from somewhere. The trickle of a nearby stream, the sound of applause at a stand-up gig, the rowdiness of a central London pub pre-COVID and post-9pm.
- No written diary is a diary if you burn every page after writing it; no audio diary is an audio diary without audio. Back up your recordings (via iCloud for iPhones) and back them up again. Label them something sensible so you can find what you're after. Let's take my last entry as an example:
141020 (the date) 1856 (the time) at Home (the location) talking about lockdown rule changes (the subject)
The key with any diary whether it's written or recorded is both quantity and quality. Record often – I make three entries a day on average – and – for added emphasis – keep what you record safe. The more you add to it, the more valuable it becomes to your future-self (or whoever you might be making your diary for).