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Random Friday Fun Facts: Dr. David Skinner and the music of the 16th century

About a month ago I was in the UK for a girls’ weekend (by myself), and as I’ve been trying to do more with my Renaissance English History Podcast lately (like my Tudor Minutes on youtube), I decided to find an interesting person to interview for the show.  At the top of my wish list was Dr. David Skinner, a musicologist I knew of from his work on various Tudor documentaries, as well as having a wonderful consort of his own, Alamire.  I emailed him, and would you believe he was not only in the country the week I was there (the summers of anyone associated with a British choir is always busy touring) but he was also willing to give me some time.

This was the first time I’d ever interviewed anyone for my podcast, and I was feeling quite nervous, thinking maybe I should have started with some minor historian at the university of podunk Stoke on Trent or something, in case it was awful.  I was already fairly comfortable with him as a subject, and so about a week before I started watching all of his youtube videos, listening to all his CD’s, and rewatching all the documentaries in which he had participated.  I tried to get my hands on some of his scholarly papers, but sadly they weren’t really available outside of UK libraries.

I started a list of questions in Evernote; the sorts of things I wanted to know about, thinking it would be of interest to others.  I set off on my train to Cambridge, making sure along the way that the microphone works, and everything is in tip top shape.

Then things start going sour.  It begins to pour.  It’s the end of July, so I am dressed fairly summer-like.  Bare legs, for example.  It’s about 60 degrees and pouring with rain, and I don’t have an umbrella.  At the Cambridge station I wait as long as possible to see if the rain will let up.  When I see that it won’t, I go out and stand in the taxi queue, cradling my bag with my laptop so that it doesn’t get soaked like the rest of me.

I have the cab driver let me out in front of Boots, where I proceed to buy a pair of tights, and an umbrella.  I ask the cashier at Boots where I can find a public toilet in which to put the recently purchased tights on.  She points me to one in the Lion’s Yard mall, and so I skedaddle over there, and get the tights on, no easy feat considering I’m a bit soaked.  I dry my hair off under a hand dryer, and reapply my make up, which is smudged down my face.

I am now feeling warm and mildly presentable, and I have an umbrella, so I won’t get soaked again.  I proceed to head over to Sidney Sussex College, and while I’m sure I know where it is, I can’t seem to find it.  The colleges just aren’t properly labelled.  Eventually I am standing outside the main gate and ask a student if I’m in the right place, and while he looks at me curiously, he assures me that I am.

I go in and announce my presence in the main office, and Dr. Skinner comes down to greet me.  We head up to his office, and I get my microphone out and start to ask him questions, and begin to record our conversation.  Then I realize that the microphone, though it’s receiving power and is on, isn’t being recognized by the audio recording software.

Feeling like a bit of a prat, I stop and make some pretense of wanting to do an edit, but of course I just look stupid.  I try to pull it together and we go on, having just the laptop mic pick everything up.  I keep switching over to the Audacity window to make sure it’s still recording, praying that the laptop mic is getting everything.

We talk for an hour (I could have listened to him for six hours easily), and I thank him profusely, get myself back out to the main road, and make a mad dash to Cafe Nero where I open the laptop, plug in my headphones, and check to make sure everything was properly recorded (it was).  Then I made about three copies of each raw file, put it into multiple files on dropbox, skydrive, google drive, and my hard drive.

I finally had a chance to get it all edited, and I was still having issues with the sound not being even.  I wanted to include music that he had talked about, and I wasn’t sure how I could do it without people having to jiggle the volume knob, which I know was going to be really annoying.  Nothing in audacity seemed to be doing anything to make it better.

Hubby reminded me about Auphonic, an online program that will do the final post production on audio files and even everything out.  I ran it through the engine – you get 2 hours of free production time each month without having to buy extra credits when you sign up with your email address – and it took about 20 minutes for the email to come saying that it was complete.  I listened eagerly, and what a difference it had made!  There was no need to fiddle with the sound!  Totally awesome.

So, after all of that – soaking wet hair, cold legs, tights, smeared make up, broken mic, feeling nervous because it was my first interview, etc etc… below is the finished product.  Whew!  Now that I feel pretty comfortable doing these interviews, I’ll definitely be doing more.