BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Audio Project 1: The Audio Feature

Unit code DRAM21222
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit focuses on the audio feature – a flexible genre which incorporates aspects of drama and documentary – and the creative and dramatic potential of sound. Students will work in small groups to create original ‘audio features’ using combinations of pre-existing or original recordings of speech, sound and music. The audio feature lies in ‘the shifting landscape between the play and the documentary’ (Piers Plowright) and is a genre which encourages a creative use of sound, taking in abstract and impressionistic soundscapes and more narrative-driven combinations of speech and sound. The work of key practitioners in the development of the audio feature on radio will be drawn on as sources of inspiration, with a particular focus on the pioneering output of Louis MacNiece, the Radio Ballads of Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker, the Inventions for Radio developed by Barry Bermange and Delia Derbyshire and the work of Piers Plowright. 


Pre-requisite units


Any L1 Drama Practice module – Performance Practices 1; Performance Practices 2


Co-requisite units


Any L2 Drama Core Study module - Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2




  • To introduce students to the concept of the audio feature and its origins in radio, providing knowledge of the key developments and practitioners working in the field as well as the range of approaches to the genre, ranging from more abstract and impressionistic sound poetry to more familiar combinations of drama and documentary.
  • To develop an understanding of the creative and dramatic potential of sound and how different sonic elements (speech, sound design, music) and characteristics (e.g. spatial and timbral properties) can be combined to artistic, dramatic and informative ends.
  • Working in small groups, students will devise and pitch a project proposal for a 10-15 minute feature, research, prepare and record relevant sonic materials and then receive training in industry standard audio editing software to arrange these sonic elements into an effective and meaningful whole.     

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit students should be able to:

  • Apply the technical and associational (e.g. intertextual/ideological) properties of various sonic elements (speech, sound design and music, whether original recordings or pre-existing material) in combination with each other in order to create a meaningful audio feature which addresses a particular concept or issue. 
  • Place their practical work within intellectual and historical traditions of radio features and sound art. 
  • Use industry standard audio editing software to construct a 10-15 minute audio feature.


Indicative syllabus (representative only – all of the topics listed below may not be covered every year):


The audio feature – its origins in radio, key practitioners and formal properties

Soundscapes and sound design

Recording and interview technique

Developing the proposal

Pitching the proposal

Researching, gathering and recording the audio material

Audio editing

Self-reflexive appraisal and sharing of the completed features

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly workshops will include lectures, discussions, creative exercises and listening sessions.


The course unit will be complemented by a Blackboard site that conforms to minimum requirements including a course handbook, weekly course breakdown, provision of reading material, reading lists. Supplementary material from workshops will be added as appropriate. The blackboard site will be prepared and available to students at least one week prior to the beginning of the first teaching week each semester.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Apply the technical and associational (e.g. intertextual/ideological) properties of various sonic elements (speech, sound design and music, whether original recordings or pre-existing material) in combination with each other in order to create a meaningful audio feature which addresses a particular concept or issue. 
  • Place their practical work within intellectual and historical traditions of radio features and sound art. 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key developments, works and practitioners in British radio and the radio feature in particular as well as more recent applications of audio features
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the creative and dramatic potential of sound 
  • Understand the principles of audio editing and layering different sonic components (speech, sound and music) into a cohesive, effective and meaningful whole
  • Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate recording and interviewing techniques

Intellectual skills

·         Analyse, evaluate and develop sonic material within aesthetic and technical contexts;

·         Research existing audio features for guidance on completing the set task;

·         Evaluate the potential of a particular subject or situation for an audio feature, and put this into practice;

·         Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different conceptual and dramatic strategies in bringing their project to fruition;

·         Plan sophisticated audio structures that creative meaningful interactions between different sonic elements (speech, sound design and music) and solve technical and practical problems in bringing these to successful realisation for eventual presentation;

·         Apply standard professional musical notation and evaluate its applicability to creative objectives.

Practical skills

·         Apply knowledge of the technical and practical features of different components of sound creatively;

·         Articulate conceptual debates, arguments and dramatic strategies through sound;

·         Create audio works that blend and juxtapose speech, sound and music in a coherent and meaningful way;

·         Collaborate with actors and interviewees;

·         Supervise and direct rehearsals, recording sessions and audio interviews;

·         Use industry standard audio editing software (Pro Tools)

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrate organisational and management skills in booking actors and interviewees, arranging rehearsals and preparing the final project for presentation;
  • Demonstrate attention to detail through preparing and editing audio material to professional standards;
  • Demonstrate creative problem solving;
  • Collaborate with other students in realising their ideas, and the ideas of others.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Analysing texts and materials for dramatic potential and conceptual relevancy
Group/team working
Collaborating with group members, actors and interviewees
Inventing a creative concept and putting it into motion; fulfilling set task with set resources
Being responsible for overseeing a creative product from inception through production, post-production and final presentation
Project management
Finding and booking actors, interviewees and recording space
Oral communication
Interpersonal skills (collaborating with other students and actors/interviewees)
Time management (running workshops, rehearsals, recording sessions; working to fixed deadlines; devising a dramatic structure, preparing audio materials in time for workshops, recording and editing sessions as well as final presentation); editing (of original and pre-existing audio material)

Assessment methods

60% Group-devised original sound feature - Approx. 10-15 minutes

40% Critical report on the project’s concept and creative process - 2000-2500 words


Formative: Ongoing feedback during workshops - peer to peer and tutor to student



Resit assessment

Reflective essay - 2000-2500 words

Feedback methods

  • Tutorials and workshops on work in progress (including initial project pitch and during the audio editing process)
  • Feedback from peers in seminars and workshops
  • Written feedback on the project and critical report
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

  • Crook, Tim. 2012. The Sound Handbook. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Hendy, David. 2013. Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening. London: Profile Books.
  • Kahn, Douglas and Whitehead, Gregory (eds). 1992. Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Niebur, Louis. 2010. Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Rattigan, Dermot. 2002. Theatre of Sound: Radio and the Dramatic Imagination. Dublin: Carysfort Press.
  • Schafer, R. Murray. 1993. Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester: Destiny Books.
  • Sterne, Jonathan (ed). 2012. The Sound Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Street, Seán. 2012. The Poetry of Radio: The Colour of Sound. London and New York: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Butler Unit coordinator

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