Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Intinn: Addiction

Intinn is the Irish word for mind. It's also the name of a radio documentary series that I've been working on for a few years. Yes I know. It shouldn't take that long to make podcasts. But it has. The project is the brainchild of Pearse O'Caoimh, a lifelong acquaintance with whom I have shared many's a moment. His work in the world of radio/podcast is fruitful. Intinn is just one example. 

As is so often the case with creative endeavours, our list of suggested topics seemed at first endless, bristling with potential. Each meeting seemed to end with a sense of real affirmation.

"Yeah.. Definitely!"

"I'll email you!!"

"Have a great weekend!!!"

There were a few of these morale boosting coming-togethers before we set down to the nitty and gritty of actually putting something together. 

At first, the thinking was that we'd make something about gambling and/or online gambling. The approach would be holistic, with one part dealing specifically with brain mechanics and how they become altered by addiction. That was my particular brief.

So I set about tackling issues that most definitely did not tally with my skill-set. Science was always a weakness in education. So sifting through articles about the latest advancements in our understanding of the brain was always going to be a challenge. I spent days staring at my laptop trying to make sense of a language loaded with terms I'd heard of, but never really grasped.

Neurotransmitters, opioids, dopamine... ??

Slowly though, a picture started to emerge. In cognitive terms, the crux of addiction seemed to rest on an obscurity between "liking" and "wanting". 

There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. And by now it was clear that the ins and outs of the hijacked brain were holistic enough by themselves. The brain, it seemed, was enough to analyse. 

The American voice is that of scientist Dana Smith. Being able to get in touch with her, interview her and use her contribution in the final piece is a testament to the times we live in. I began on Twitter..

We interviewed Dana using Skype recording software called Pamela. It was a while ago now but I remember being extremely nervous. The notion of talking to an expert about neurology was daunting. Afterwards, Pearse and I noted that we had actually not heard her opening answers, so conscious were we about how we appeared to her. But after calming down and listening back to everything she said, we knew we had something we could build the piece around. 

Once we recorded the basic tracks, we started adding sound effects. Pearse showed a lot of originality on this one. I think he got a real kick about making our own effects. Most of what can be heard, and there is a lot, is very much DIY.

The music was composed by Colm O'Caoimh, Leo Pearson and Andy Byrne. In those early stages, Andy was also leaned upon heavily as Pearse and I struggled to figure out why “that microphone isn't responding”, or problems to that effect. When you embark on a project like this, it's helpful to know people whose help turns stubborn impasses into temporary stalls.

Colm and Leo's soundtrack captures the mood of the piece superbly. Certain parts remind me of something like On The Run from The Dark Side Of The Moon. They probably knew that I'd be easily bought in that respect.

There's also voice acting from Michael Norton. He's the one who asks the free-flowing tour guide “where the jacks is” and encourages the addicted user to “Go on... Just one more time”. Recording those parts was definitely the funniest part of our experience.

That Intinn is online at all is very much down to another old friend of mine, John Roche. John had originally planned to set up the site himself and had gone a long way to doing as much. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep it up because of doing too many things that he actually gets paid for. But he was able to direct me in setting up the site on Squarespace. John also called in help from illustrators Colm Brennan and Halley-Anne Kennedy. Their work, which is on the finished site, speaks for itself. A list of credits is in the About section

The second episode of Intinn will be online soon. In the meantime, if you care enough to have read this far, you might as well listen in on number one.

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