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Short Cuts presents "true stories, radio adventures and found sound"

Editor's note: Short Cuts returns to Radio 4 on Tuesday 11 September with a new series of programmes featuring short documentaries from the UK and abroad. Here, the presenter Nina Garthwaite writes about some of her favourite recordings - GS.

"My name is Witold Sadowy," says Witold Sadowy.

"I am an actor," prompts a young woman

"I am actor .... I speak no, err, English," responds Witold.

"and during the war...." she persists.






"During... During the war"


Now let me stop the tape right there. This isn't the kind of thing you'd expect to hear on Radio 4. For one, there doesn't appear to be a story, and if there is, it's going to take a really really long time to tell it in English.

This is a transcript of one of my favourite moments from the first series of Short Cuts which aired last January. It was recorded not during an interview proper but during the sound check and, of course, it needs to be heard, not read.

Littered with giggles, this touching slice of audio contains as much character and story as I would ever hope for in a radio feature and speaks volumes about human interaction and non-linguistic communication.

About to start its second series, Short Cuts is a weekly half-hour programme of true stories, radio adventures and found sound.

Episode one has already got ears itching with a piece made by a journalist who secretly wore a wire and recorded his life for five years. It's part of an edition called Tracing the line which also includes tales of cave divers, wrinkles and singing bankers.

Stories are not always epic and nor should they be. The miniature documentary below (now beautifully animated) was produced by Michel Montreuil for series one's The Comfort of Strangers.

It's a simple tale of a woman's short and unexpected encounter with a whale. To me, it's evidence enough that sometimes a moment is all you need - both for a story to happen, and for it to be told.

The Dee Dee Conover story is a beautifully crafted bit of radio, a perfect example of what can be done in a matter of minutes.

Short documentaries can also offer a surprising amount of space to experiment: it's a place to play. Below is a sneak preview from episode two of the new series, a piece created by the indie-pop duo Summer Camp.

They've made a documentary song; it's a cut up of dating advice from the biological anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher, spliced with the voices of love-struck teenagers found in the BBC archive. It's a song and it's a documentary and it's exactly the kind of ingenious fun that I think the radio is made for.

On Tuesday afternoons during the next six weeks you can join me to discover an amazing array of miniature documentaries and find out how the briefest moments can sometimes make the most powerful stories.


Nina Garthwaite presents Short Cuts.


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  • Comment number 1. Posted by jetalm

    on 11 Sept 2012 15:09

    I was not able to hear the program, but read the article "Why I secretly recorded my life" by David Weinberg.

    Very importantly, the article did not mention that audio recording without the consent of both parties is illegal in 16 of 50 of the states in the U.S.

    Further, federal law mandates that “…‘oral communication’ uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation.” Which means that Weinberg probably broke federal laws with all of the recordings he made without consent of the people he recorded.

    You have to have a court order to make surveillance recordings legally. While you may be able to argue that state laws preclude that in 34 states that do not require consent of the non-consenting party, your actions might still be brought before a justice in federal court.

    Weinberg probably broke the law for nearly five years and those recordings (and very likely the BBC article and sound program) are evidence of his actions.

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