THE BEST OF THE BEST OF 2021
From the Third Coast International Audio Festival, these are the eleven best stories of 2021. In Our 21st year of the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition, with over 600 submissions from around the world, these are the stories that our judges couldn't keep out of their ears and minds, the ones that pushed the boundaries of what audio is capable of & reconstructed our world in sound.
Read on for what our exceptional crew of judges had to say about each award-winning work, and click through to hear the pieces, and learn about them from the makers themselves.
From This American Life
[Best Documentary: Gold]
Time Bandit will become a cherished fossil in the soul. It’s a whole new way of thinking about speech and time and audio. Its structure is simple, yet the ideas here are out of this world: radical and mind-bending, taking us in unexpected ways through jazz and translation and art-making and selfhood, with a Wizard-of-Oz lifting of the curtain that reveals something profound about our assumptions as makers. It’s a piece you listen to with your whole body. — Judges Gretta Cohn, Axel Kacoutié, Arionne Nettles, Sophia Paliza Carre & Sophie Townsend.
From VICE News Reports
[Best Documentary: Silver]
This is a rare peek into the mind of a young person making big decisions at a crucial time. Monaea’s energy is remarkable, and her story feels urgent in its joy and in the way it tackles hard subjects. Working with diary material is not easy, and we’ve all heard a lot of it. The craft here is basically flawless, and this takes a well-traversed form and does something completely new and extraordinarily sparkly with it. — Judges Gretta Cohn, Axel Kacoutié, Arionne Nettles, Sophia Paliza Carre & Sophie Townsend.
A Falling Tree Production from BBC Radio 4
[Best Documentary: BRONZE]
From the Judges: By radically de-centering hearing listeners, Inventions in Sound thinks deeply about what sound is. It pokes at ableist ideas in poetic, soulful, challenging ways that could really only work in this medium. A polemic full of magical, jewel-like moments that exploded our brains, took us out of our bodies, made us cry, and haunted us long after listening. — Judges Gretta Cohn, Axel Kacoutié, Arionne Nettles, Sophia Paliza Carre & Sophie Townsend.
From ShortCuts, a Falling Tree Production from BBC Radio 4
[Best Documentary: Short]
We would never have thought to make a story like this – which is so rooted in the right now – in exactly this way. The approach is so innovative, with sound design that does more than just illustrate the narrative – it becomes part of the communicative language of the piece, drawing on techniques from music production and science fiction. The voice crosses registers and slowly becomes more and more compressed, digitized, and robotic, bridging the divide between body and technology. — Judges James Kim, Veronica Anne Salinas, Duncan Speakman
From DeutschlandRadio (Deutschlandfunk Kultur)
At the semi-intangible meeting point between a musical composition and a radio documentary work, Simultaneous sits between worlds, bleeding into each the two. It’s a very challenging approach to pull off successfully, but this surprising, conceptually layered, and beautifully crafted multichannel piece pushes the boundaries of the medium while remaining rooted in simplicity. Brilliant. Knocked it out of the park. — Judges James Kim, Veronica Anne Salinas, Duncan Speakman
From FAXINA Media
[BEST DOCUMENTARY: NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE]
This story covers a lot of emotional ground, and complicates simplistic narratives around immigration and domestic violence through thoughtful storytelling choices. Heloiza, the host and creator, brings her own experience as a Brazilian immigrant and former house-cleaner to her interviews;the comfort between her and her interviewee, Elza, comes across strongly in the tape. Through vivid scenes and subtle and lovely sound design, we feel the tension Elza feels as she faces hard choices, and she is given the space for messiness, complexity, and agency. — Judges Michelle Macklem, Ngofeen Muputubwele, Caro Rolando
From It's Nice to Hear You
[BEST NEW ARTIST]
The ambition of this project really stands out: elements of fiction, research, interviews, and comedy. It’s clever, fresh, nerdy, passionate, charming, centered in humor, and so much fun to listen to — but it also gave us goosebumps in its intimacy, innovation, and thoughtfulness. It shows such mastery and understanding of what audio is and can be. We can clearly hear the voice of the artist as she entangles herself with her subjects and plays with the so-familiar tropes of narrative podcasts and romantic comedies in an amusingly disruptive way. It’s ripe with potential, an embodiment of everything audio can do. — Judges Simone Alicea, Jenny Asarnow, Alex Sujong Laughlin