Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Telling to Remember

I recently presented a paper at a conference on Bible translation in Dallas. My topic was on storytelling and collective memory. I was inspired to research this topic after reading and reviewing McIver's Jesus, Memory, and the Synoptic Gospels. I am also a storyteller, and promote Biblical storytelling in various language groups that have no written Bible. Thus, the link between storytelling and memory becomes compelling to me. So, we encourage storytellers to learn these Biblical stories in groups, hoping that group learning and processing will enhance the memory and telling of that particular story. It is fascinating research seeing how studies in drama, artificial intelligence, and psychology contribute to this topic. Here is the paper I presented.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Storytelling is part of life

One of the aspects of storytelling is that firstly, it is part of life and most everyone I would say enjoys a good story. Secondly, I like researching storytelling because one can look at it in so many different ways, from storytelling in early childhood, to storytelling in sacred literature, to storytelling being linked to artificial intelligence. Pick a field, storytelling is part of it. 

Another interest of mine is photography. So, when I read about storytelling being the key to creating strong images I thought I would share my excitement. You can read about it on the DPS post The Secret of Creating a Strong Image by Oded wagenstein The quote I especially like is that 

"It doesn’t matter what subjects you like to shoot. If you want to become a good photographer, you have to be a good storyteller first. An image with a story, one that evokes emotion and curiosity will rise above other images and catch the viewer’s attention."
The idea of telling a story with a photo is a good challenge for me. I know the story behind the photo, but helping the viewer in on it is the challenge, keeping in mind who the audience is and what the main point of the photo is. Then, once those parts are composed another challenge would be to convey the twist, or the unexpected event, which is what makes a story interesting. The photo above is a farmer in Kerala, India at the end of the day in his manioc garden. I like the photo because of the color, I like manioc, and he obviously takes pride in his work. Not much of a story though.

 The photo below is from Papua New Guinea of cooks showing off their meals they made and served. Again, I liked the food they served while participating in a storytelling workshop there. What is interesting to me is the man on the left who was not a cook, but still was included, which is typical of life in the Pacific.

Here's to learning more about storytelling and how it ties into our lives!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Storytelling images - imagination or visual?

A group of us were just discussing what the difference would be telling a story with input from an individual's imagination as compared to telling a story based on visual input as from a video. I would imagine that they would be quite different outcomes as some academics have found that the visual generally trumps everything else. In other words, what we have viewed becomes cemented in our story imaging.

I once told the story of when Saul, a.k.a. Paul became blind on the way to Damascus. After finishing the story, some of the audience asked why I left certain details. I tried to think what I left out and couldn't remember what I might've missed. So I asked, and they responded that I left out the part about him falling off of his horse. I couldn't remember that being part of the written story. Storytellers do omit certain details depending on what they want to focus on. But, I honestly couldn't remember anything to do with a horse in this story, especially Saul falling off one. It turns out that in Caravaggio's (1601) painting of this scene, Saul is on his back looking up, and on the left is a horse, presumably the one he rode and fell from. This audience knew this story well, but still believed that there was a horse in it somewhere. I reflected and thought that this is a good example of the visual trumping everything else.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Word painting in a told story

At choir practice the other night, our director, wanting to share some of his music education pointed to a frame in our anthem and cited it as an example of word, tone or text paining. He asked the composer, who was part of the choir, whether or not he intended it as such. In any case, it worked. In music, word painting "is the musical technique of writing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death." (from Wikipedia) An example our director brought up, and that Wikipedia cites is in Handel's Messiah, where the crooked (wave-like tone) is made straight (level tone).
All that to say, is the other day I listened to someone telling the story of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18 and 21), where Sarah laughs when she hears she's to have a son in a year's time. Here's an opportunity to include a laugh or two to paint the story. Sarah and Abraham are well past child-bearing years and aren't getting any younger. Indeed she does bear a son, and funny thing, she feels like laughing, and states that others will laugh with her too now that Isaac is born, his name actually meaning 'he laughs'. I imagine Sarah's first laugh was one of disbelief, like a laugh that comes so quick one can't help it when hearing something so implausible. Her second laugh, once Isaac was named must've been something heartier than the first.
So, thanks for the teachable moment, Andrew. Word painting is another tool I can intentionally use in telling a story.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Storytelling guilds

Last night we attended a local guild of storytellers and felt a positive rush at the end of a hectic day. It was worth the snarly traffic and extra effort to get there. Why, because it gave us a safe audience to trial our stories. The feedback was great too, and constructive. Storytelling guilds tend to meet regularly, prodding tellers to hone their craft, and providing a framework for newbies to learn in a safe environment. It's something I'd highly recommend if you want to improve your storytelling.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Most of the Bible in 90 minutes - Dennis Dewey

Last night we had the privilege to see and hear Dennis Dewey perform an array of Bible stories beginning, of course at 'The beginning... , going on to 'The Fall', 'Abraham, Sarah and their guests','The Exodus', 'The Daughters of Zelophehad', 'Jonah' (we all liked the fish - and the song of lament), 'Jesus' Birth', 'Jesus, the boy in the temple', 'Jesus Calms the Storm', 'Jairus' daughter', 'The parables of the persistent widow' and 'The two praying', 'Jesus death and resurrection', and a bit of 'John's revelation'.

Wow! It was a great performance! Dennis brought out the voices of the characters in the stories and let the emotion of the story speak. And we felt like we were part of the story. I couldn't imagine listening to a sermon (although I've endured my share of long sermons) for 90 minutes and wanting more. 90 minutes represents a lot of material, both for the storyteller and the audience, and yet we discussed different scenes on the way home and this morning as well. We're still talking over the stories with our colleagues and they are as vivid in our minds now as they were last night.

As a storyteller, it's great to be in the audience and see tellers like Dennis perform. It gives me more ideas of how I'll tell one of those stories in the future, not that I'll attempt to do as Dennis did, but his voice and performance gives me more to think about and to explore.

It was a great experience. Wish you could have been there.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Holy Writ as Oral Lit - Alan Dundes

I'm just finished reading Alan Dundes book, 'Holy Writ as Oral Lit', and found some gems to mull over. He states that 'Variation is the hallmark of folklore' (p.5) and that the variation within the Bible indicates that the Bible itself is folklore. Having asserted this, that the Bible is folklore is not saying that it is untrue, rather that its origins are oral rather than written, and the stories were passed on by eyewitnesses and audiences. He gives many examples of how the Bible accounts fluctuate (time, number, name, place, etc.) and states that he could've written much more on the subject. Robin Griffith-Jones in his book, 'The Four Witnesses' also discusses variation in the Gospels reflecting the point of views of their authors, each Gospel being written for a different purpose. Putting them together as a succinct account therefore does a disservice to the intent of the author. In the same way, storytellers have main points, or what Doug Lipman refers to as the Most Important Thing that they keep in mind when telling. In fact, the story is shaped by the Most Important Thing (Lipman, Improving your storytelling. 1999:87).

For me, the introduction and conclusion were the most interesting part of this book. Dundes states what folklore is, and that folklore doesn't stop being such once it is written. Generally people think of the terms of story, folklore and myth as things that are untrue. In the academic world, such is not the case.

Whatever your beliefs about the Bible might be, I think this book is a good read, especially if you also are interested in folklore.