An Audio Experiment

April 21, 2021

I’ve started a podcast, which, like this blog, is called Clerestory.

The initial structure is that I speak for 20-30 minutes about topics related to writing, complexity, and selfhood; i.e., pretty much what I wrote about on this blog last year. Right now I loosely organize the discussion around the reading of a piece of a prose and the reading of a piece of poetry.

So far I’ve discussed/read:

  • Episode 1: McPhee’s Basin & Range/Hart Crane’s “The Air Plant”
  • Episode 2: The two main texts of Taoism/Keats
  • Episode 3: Althusser/Hardy’s At Castle Boterel
  • Episode 4: Viktor Shklovsky/Eliot’s Little Gidding
  • Episode 5: Interstitial/Yeats’ All Things Can Tempt Me
  • Episode 6: Thomas Kuhn’s “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice” (1973)

How has this come about?

This experiment is thanks to two friends’ forays into the medium which I have enjoyed — and thanks to their encouragement:

Also, Anchor now offers free hosting and an easy-to-use platform.

I had never seriously considered starting a podcast before. I have yet to post it or promote it elsewhere, as I am, for now, less interested in increasing my listenership than I am in increasing my listenability.

In other words, I’m using it primarily as a place to practise more polished speech. But if all goes well, that will change. I hope to share the podcast further once I sound better, and once there are a sufficient number of past episodes that only the most devoted will take the time to delve into my inevitable early mishaps.

Still, putting the podcast somewhere somewhat public puts pressure on me to perform better than I otherwise might, which is why I’m posting it here — and I do hope you’ll listen.

My interest in improving my speech has come partly from more frequent usage of voicenotes over the course of the pandemic. This lovely, meandering medium reminds me more of written letters than of anything else. They are unlike phone calls and are often better (particularly when dealing with very different timezones).

It has also come thanks in part to my enjoyment of the conversations on Clubhouse. If you’re on it, you can find me here.

I appreciate your listening as well as any feedback you might have; easiest thing is to DM me.

How has it gone so far?

So far I’ve enjoyed selecting prose and poetry from the top of my head and talking about it. But I’m not wedded to that format. I may eventually attempt interviews, discussions, and the like. I may try more completely extemporaneous podcasts, as well as more readings of poetry, at some point in the future.

It’s been a learning experience to produce the podcast, if what I’ve done warrants such a word. At first I wanted to speak fully off-the-cuff, but it seems like this is optimistic for a first-time podcaster. Not only do I do a lot of “umming” (see below) but I frequently think of things out of order and have to backtrack.

I’m less keen to learn editing than I am to learn eloquence, but I’ve nonetheless already switched from using Anchor’s built-in recording to Audacity. It’s powerful but unintuitive to use. It also amuses me that it looks pretty much the same as it did a decade ago, or even two. If you know any other free/open source alternatives, let me know.

I’d eventually like the podcast to feel less formal, so I may try to reduce editing over time.


I’ve been told by some that I “um” too much, while others have said they don’t mind it.

This has led to me looking up the verbs “um” and “ah” in the OED. I reproduce that research here mainly because I find the British phrase “umming and ahhing,” which means “to vacillate,” funny.

The humour comes in part from the fact that in non-rhotic varieties of British English, the h in “ah” is pronounced as an r: “umming and ahhring.” See intrusive R.

Example: He was umming and ahhring about starting a podcast.

um, int.:

  1. Used to indicate hesitating or inarticulate utterance on the part of a speaker.
  2. Used to indicate hesitation or doubt in replying to another.

I especially like the teleology of “to um.” The definition states that it indicates hesitation (which it would do in speech) or to indicate inarticulate utterance (which it would only do in writing).

ah, int.:

  1. intransitive. To say ‘ah’ as an expression of surprise, wonder, realization, etc. Frequently in collocation with ooh or oh (cf. to ooh and ah at ooh v. 1, oh v. 1).
  2. To say ‘ah’ in hesitation or indecision; to vacillate. Usually in collocation with a similar verb or verbs; now chiefly in to um and ah (cf. um vb. at um int. Derivatives).

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter or see more here.