Twelve thousand people attended the live broadcast of the last episode of the season of Estirando el chicle (Podium Podcast) on September 23rd. Tickets had been sold out for months. The opening act for the protagonists, Carolina Iglesias and Victoria Martín, was the singer Rigoberta Bandini. It was a milestone in the history not only of audio in our country, but also of comedy shows. The other great Spanish conversational podcast, Deforme Semanal Ideal Total (Radio Primavera Sound), by Isa Calderón and Lucía Lijtmaer, began as a theatrical show. In these physical and ritual encounters it becomes evident that, after the experience of listening to a podcast, essentially digital, there is a community of bodies and brains ready to laugh and to belong.
A similar energy was experienced at the Teatro del Soho in Malaga on May 24, when Iglesias and Martín presented the gala for the first Ondas Globales Podcast Awards. Promoted by María Jesús Espinosa de los Monteros, general director of Prisa Audio, it brought together professionals from Spain and Latin America, both pioneering figures (the podcaster Molo Cebrián, the Chilean program Las Raras, the sound designer Teo Rodríguez) and recent phenomena ( from the interviews for Vanity Fair of Hotel Jorge Juan, by Javier Aznar, to the stories of Fútbol a muerte, by Marion Reimers for Spotify). At the ceremony it became clear that it is an Ibero-American creative space that is in full effervescence and expansion.
According to the iVoox 2022 Observatory report, podcast listening time has doubled in the last year in Spain. Among the most popular programs are Nadie sabe nada (Cadena Ser), by Berto Romero and Andreu Buenafuente, or El Partidazo de Cope, by Juanma Castaño, that is, radio episodes in digital capsules. Although the word podcast can also designate those migrations that are consumed at any time and place and, above all, individually, it especially refers to projects that were born to be pixels, with a script and sound design, in the habitat of platforms. Articulated in seasons and heard on mobile phones, they are creating their own rhetoric, star system and canon. As Fernando Izuzquiza reminds us in El gran cuaderno del podcasting (Kailas), they are characterized by their distribution in an RSS feed. In other words, because of their circulation on the Internet and because of their metadata: they are, above all, digital creatures.
Its growth as a narrative, as a habit and as an advertising strategy (the branded podcast) is part of the general context of a consumption of culture that is increasingly linked to devices and of progressive audification. The new audible homo not only listens to podcasts or audiobooks while walking, traveling by car or on public transport, but also sends audio messages via WhatsApp or uses voice-controlled personal assistants. The same gigantic economic investment that has developed Siri and Alexa has digitized our reading and wirelessly updated our old habit of listening to stories without the support of images.
As in the rest of the cultural territories, the podcast has landed in our ears with a strong generic division, inspired by the one that prevails in the publishing and audiovisual industry. Thus, if news and talk shows predominate on the television schedule, daily morning shows (among the most listened to are Hoy on El País and A.M. on Spotify) and conversational podcasts have prevailed in the sound field. And if thriller and true crime are best-selling genres in soap operas and television series, documentary proposals like Crims (Catalunya Ràdio), by Carles Porta, Criminally-mente (Podimo), by Paz Velasco de la Fuente, triumph in audio aggregators. , or Black and Criminal (Podium Podcast), by Mona León. The headphones add to the usual morbidity and horror in these stories the feeling that they are whispering in your ear and serially the details of the universal history of abjection.
Although the cases per episode predominate, some great stories have deserved long-term podcasts. The Argentine series The True Robbery of the Century (Adonde Media) investigates one of the greatest bank robberies in criminal history, narrated by Mariano Pagella with a good pulse and exceptional testimonies: some of the authors of the almost perfect plan speak for the first time . In Spain, Álvaro de Cózar and Toni Garrido combined their talents to recount the life of another great rogue, King Juan Carlos (in X-Rey , Spotify). And they have worked separately on also shady stories, such as Los papeles (El País), about Luis Bárcenas, and Bacon (Sonora), about the theft in Madrid of several paintings by the great painter.
Science fiction, however, shows in the series to listen a centrality that we do not see in other narrative languages. The possible canon of sound fiction includes almost exclusively futuristic, dystopian, speculative works. Most are from Podium Podcast: El gran apagón and La firma de Dios, by José A. Pérez Ledo, La esfera, by Polo Menárguez, and the crazy Biotopia, by Manuel Bartual. With its time travels and its magnetic soundtrack, Caso 63, by Julio Rojas for Spotify, also belongs to that constellation. It is going to be adapted into English with Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore as protagonists, in a reverse movement to that experienced by another science fiction audio series on the same platform, Sonia, who was born in the US under the name of Sandra.
Although the spirit of the thriller runs through both chronicle and fiction, there are innumerable programs that talk about topics that have nothing to do with robberies, murders or intrigues. Education and curiosity, for example, are reasons why many people search Apple Podcast or SoundCloud. There are many podcasts on economics, geopolitics, culture, psychology, history, or astronomy. Most of them are conversational and are based on interviews with experts, such as his attention, please (El Cañonazo), by Roger Casas-Alatriste, on the economy of attention; but there are also those who rehearse aloud based on a script written by the narrator himself, as is the case with the history and design paradoxes in La gran D (Podium), by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa; with silence and historical memory in De eso se no habla, by Isabel Cadenas Cañón; or with literature in Todo está en los libros (Sonora), by Alberto Olmos, who —house brand— announced his project in an article in Zenda Libros titled I am not interested in your podcast.
But in the age of Netflix, podcasts respond above all to the logic of microgenres. That is to say, those robot portraits or Frankenstein creatures made with characteristics alien to Aristotelian theory. As Elena Neira, an expert in the Streaming Wars (Dome), has explained, these are tens of thousands of hybrid descriptions (“Critically acclaimed dramas with strong female leads”) that build communities of taste based on increasingly personalized recommendations. . The world of podcasting can be considered from that platform logic, especially since it shares an ecosystem with music, which has been producing variations of subgenres since at least the 1970s. In the audio environment, the microgeneric has more to do with personal passions and obsessions than with the trends detected by algorithms. At least still.
The Edu Galán Casete (Sonora) program expertly mixes different levels of discourse: Spanish sociology of the last fifty years, phonographic records from the National Library and jokes, which in the mouth of Arévalo or Barragán were very funny and, told by Today's humorists hardly make us smile. In podcasts as personal as that, it's about accurately representing your own psychology, your interests, reflected as in a mirror in the spectrum of an archive. And for this it is difficult to stick to a single genre. And if not, tell the journalist Mar Abad, author of books like Romanones: A zarzuela of power in 37 acts (Books of the K.O.), than in Crimes. The musical (El Extraordinario) has designed an artifact that adds to historical cases both the opinion of experts in criminology as well as choirs, music and a lot of irony and self-confidence.
The Peruvian writer Jaime Rodríguez Z. has expanded his book Only We Are Left (Galaxia Gutenberg) to the podcast universe with Informe de los bosques (Podium), which could be defined as an autobiographical sound essay on anxiety with fictional passages. We writers have discovered in this new language both a laboratory and a way to find new readers thanks to the speed at which any digital narrative spreads and the varied profile of listeners. This is causing mutations in transmedia expansion. The chronicle Ñamérica (Random House), by Martín Caparrós, has become a podcast and not an audiobook. And Núria Pérez has published The monster with the monocle and other beasts (Jekyll
Not only do creators contribute to audiodiversity –from podcasting or social networks, from radio, journalism, music or literature–, production companies and platforms, but also other agents, such as audiobook publishers ( Storytel, Penguin Books) or cultural institutions. The publishers Anagrama and Acantilado produce their own podcast, in which two of their authors talk. Many theaters and museums publicize their shows or exhibitions through sound capsules. The Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona has financed Each layer of the atmosphere, four chapters in which the singer Maria Arnal and the curator José Luis de Vicente interview key figures in science and music of our time. The Juan March Foundation is going further and has begun to see itself as a platform for cultural content, Canal March, where projects such as La biblioteca de Julio stand out, a sound series by Bruno Galindo that gives new life to the library that they treasure of books that belonged to Cortázar. The Kirchner Cultural Center and the Anfibia Magazine of Argentina or the Autonomous University of Mexico also produce podcasts. And, in December, Fundación La Caixa launches what is probably the most ambitious project along these lines: the Caixaforum platform, with dozens of audiovisual and sound documentaries produced in-house on scientific, technological and cultural topics.
The raw material of literature is language, the text, and that of cinema and series, the image. That of the podcast is, of course, the sound. That is why the most interesting from a conceptual point of view are those who work on it in a self-conscious and novel way. The builder (Sonora) does it through the collage technique and the absence of a narrator. The program is made up of dozens of fragments of telephone calls from Enrique Ortiz intervened by the police. Thus, we are witnessing a veritable festival of corruption and involuntary humor, which reveals the shamelessness of the Alicante PP and Spanish builders in general. There is also no narrator in Tell them my life was wonderful, by Alberto Torres Blandina and Miguel Espigado, or What the girls want (Furor Podcast), by Josefina Avale. In this, the harshness of the life of adolescents, especially migrants, from the villas of Buenos Aires is communicated; in that one, the sagacious and funny reflections on contemporary life follow one another. In both, horizontal polyphony becomes a great intellectual and sensory experience.
If the best audiovisual documentaries are often based on previously unpublished image files, the sound documentaries pursue recordings of voices that have not been heard. The Mexican production company Detective has built two podcasts thanks to repertoires of this nature: Transportista, which gives voice to a drug shipment pilot who is imprisoned in a US jail; and Pablo Escobar. Escape from the Cathedral, where the "gonorrhea" and "sons of bitches" pronounced by the most famous drug trafficker in history are heard thanks to the CIA or DEA wiretaps leaked by an anonymous source.
We also find that turn towards the strictly sound in fiction projects. The sound of crime (Spotify) is a series by María Mínguez that shows the work of the National Police's forensic acoustics unit, how it deduces from audio notes and voice messages who the criminal is. Y Blum (El Extraordinario), by Bartual and Carmen Pacheco, narrates the protagonist's obsession with the mystical dimension of avant-garde music.
Following the successful formula of Case 63, Hidden Number (Spotify) also uses the framework of speculative fiction, alternative universes and time paradoxes, but through technology that is capable of making phone calls between the past and the future. In the essay Teleshakespeare (Galaxia Gutenberg) I proposed the idea of a mannerist turn eleven years ago to understand how series, from the end of the first decade of the century, can be read as twists on those that had just become canonical. That is to say: Mad Men reinterprets and stylizes The Sopranos. In their accelerated development, podcasts are also undergoing their own conceptual twist. His own mannerisms and insistence.
Audioseries, fiction and without it, do not aspire to be movies or TV series without images. Neither are radio programs processed for the internet. Podcasts are finding their own identity. They are creating their own audio spheres around their followers, around their listeners. And each time they are more meta-sound, that is, more aware of their superpower, of their uniqueness, of their sonic condition.
Jorge Carrión is a writer and cultural critic, a regular contributor to this supplement since 2002. He has won the Ondas award for Best Experimental Podcast for Solaris, sound essays (Podium Podcast) and is now premiering Ecos (Caixaforum / Podium Podcast)