W.D. Minihan

Catch me in the NARRATIVE, jackin’ your MECHANISMS

This American Life: What Doesn’t Kill You

The theme of this episode is based around stories of people who have nearly died and what life is like for them after the fact, a subject matter of general interest to me. Totaling at 4 stories the tales range from the familiar, such as cancer, to the obscure, such as obsessive compulsions to swallow sharp objects. The through-line here can be found in the presentation and editing style. Low points are darkened with plucks and open hats, optimism is riding on a steady beat, and uncertainty slides down foreboding synth leads. Around the 17 minute mark the music is used in an interesting fashion. It begins playing while the guest is speaking, but continues smoothly into Ira Glass interjecting more information, then back to the guest. This is a good way to insert exposition without abruptly stopping the flow. This also displays how exposition can be used to keep things from getting drawn-out and meandering. While isolated sound effects are quite rare in this episode, it is the music that moves everything and provides structure.

The end of this episode is what hit me the most, for reasons unrelated to the stories. It was just Ira listing off names and over the sound of “Survival Song” by Andrew Jackson Jihad. I didn’t see the song credit when I chose this episode, but this track was a favorite of mine during my late teenage years. It just hit one of those memory buttons out of nowhere.