January 2009 Archives

The next generation of free audiobooks

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Because of Rockford's Rock Opera's worldwide success I often find myself speaking to audiences and meetings about the wider issues around the future of audiobooks, downloadable stories and read along stories.

New technology such as the iPhone, faster download speeds and a more tech savvy population (especially amongst children) are all having an impact on how we 'consume' our entertainment and there no doubt that streamed video is the driving force behind many recent innovations. Yet, despite the fact that new technology means that there's more and more possibilities for visual video streaming, audio stories and listen along books continue to grow in popularity.

Anyone who's every enjoyed listening along with an adventure in sound will know why! Quite simply, there's a unique escape to be found in sound waves - a world of imagination and, especially for children, an amazing world of learning. Audio books are great for language acquisition and literacy.

But that's all very well. Sonic tales have been around for years - apart from new means of delivery - iPhones, iPods, Sony Readers and the like - where are the innovations?


Without being too big headed :), Rockford's Rock Opera's multi media approach to on line delivery - not only a story, but also the facts behind the fiction, resources, extra free materials and video content - represents a great model for the future.

On one hand the ecological story can be enjoyed in the ears and in the head. We've spend a great deal of time creating a adventure with sound effects where worlds are created in sound and music but also, we've provided more visual stimulus to go along with the story. So listeners become drawn further into the production and learn more, their imaginations already having been fuelled by the limitless excitement of their imagination.

To know more, simply play chapter one of RRO - it's free audio for children and adults so what are you waiting for? Experience the future of aural entertainment!

Keystone Species - from Rockford's Rock Opera Free Audiobook

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For all of you who know the message behind Rockford's Rock Opera and the download ecological musical story you'll know that we place great emphasis on the importance of ALL LIFE, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

The story also highlights the fact that man tinkers with the natural balance of nature at his peril... a fact made all too obvious in the following true story:

Parachuting cats into Borneo! A Cautionary Tale.

In the early 1950's, the Dayak people of Borneo suffered a terrible malarial outbreak.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) had a solution: to spray large amounts of DDT to kill the mosquitoes that carried the malaria.  The mosquitoes died; the malaria declined; so far so good.  

But there were unexpected side effects.  Amongst the first was that the roofs of the people's houses began to fall down on their heads.  It seemed that the DDT had also killed a parasitic wasp which had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars.  Worse, the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats.  The cats started to die, the rats flourished, and the people were threatened by outbreaks of typhus and plague.  

To cope with these problems, which it had itself created, the WHO was obliged to parachute 14 000 live cats into Borneo. Operation Cat Drop, now almost forgotten at the WHO, is a graphic illustration of the interconnectedness of life, and of the fact that the root of problems often stems from their purported solutions.

(Quoted in Rachel Wynberg and Christine Jardine, Biotechnology and Biodiversity: Key Policy Issues for South Africa, 2000)

Music, Free Audio Books and Learning

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I found this on the web and thought it very relevant to our experiences with Rockford and the many emails we've received about the use of the songs and lyrics in education. Certainly there seem to be many, many enlightened teachers and parents around the world who are already using music in the teaching environment:


How is it that for most people music is a powerful part of their personal life and yet when we go to work or school we turn it off? The intentional use of music in the classroom will set the scene and learning atmosphere to enhance our teaching and learning activities. Plus, using music for learning makes the process much more fun and interesting! Music, one of the joys of life, can be one of the joys of learning as well. The following pages give you suggestions for when and how to use music during your teaching or training. With these techniques, you, the teacher, can orchestrate a classroom environment that is rich and resonant-- and provide learners with a symphony of learning opportunities and a sound education

Music helps us learn because it will

establish a positive learning state
create a desired atmosphere
ild a sense of anticipation
ize learning activities
change b
rain wave states
focus conce
increase atten
improve memory
cilitate a multisensory learning experience
release tension
develop rapport
provide inspiration and motivation
add an element of fun

Reprinted from the book Music and Learning by Chris Brewer, 1995

Rockford's Christmas Free Audio Adventure in January

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Well, here we are on January 12th and it's time to share with you a picture of our local school choir rehearing Rockford's Christmas Song. As you can see, the event was also filmed for a forthcoming documentary film.

You can hear the results of the recording session in the videos section of the website and we're already planning activities for next Christmas! Yes, this year we've learnt, to promote a Christmas single properly you need to start in January.

A lot more Rockford activity over the past few days too including plans for a new way to deliver the story on the web, and plans for a new book version of the audiobook. Also, going to the BETT SHow later this week so I'm sure they'll be some good new contacts to be met...

Anyway, for the time being, here's to Rockford's Rock Opera Christmas Number One 2009.
Just in case anyone thought the story of Rockford's Rock Opera isn't all 100% true, here's a picture of the real tree near the lake in Battersea Park - "with a blue carrier bag caught in its bare winter branches" - where Rockford meets the mysterious Cocklebur Ick and where all his adventures being.

So, why not visit Battersea Park and you can see it - and lots more scenes from Rockford's Rock Opera - for real! You might even find yourself on your way to Infinity...

The Real Poo Bag Tree.jpg

Audiobooks rise in Popularity

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Some News from Publishers Weekly Magazine that's worth passing on with regard to Rockford's Rock Opera and our love of the audio adventure format:

In the USA during 2007, sales of spokenword audiobooks rose 12%, to just over $1 billion and the percentage of adults who now listen to audiobooks rose to 28%, according the Audio Publishers Association's annual sale and consumer surveys.

Young listeners are apparently the fastest-growing segment of the market, with the APA reporting that 53% of teenagers have listened to an audiobook. Sales of CDs and downloads increased in the year, while sales of cassettes declined. CDs represented 78% of audiobook sales in 2007, with downloads comprising 17%, up from 14% in 2006.

The car continues to be the place where most people listen to audiobooks the most, with 40% of consumers reporting they listen to audiobooks during long drives and another 18% listen on their commute to work. Twenty-three percent of consumers said listening to audiobooks was a good use of time while doing other activities.

Thanks to the APA and Publishers Weekly for the info. For more visit their websites.

Are Audio Story's Cocklebur Icks Real?

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If I had a penny for every time I've been asked this question I'd nearly be able to buy a very large curry by now.

For those of you who don't know, the Cocklebur Ick is one of the extinct stars of Rockford's Rock Opera - our unique adventure in sound. As you'll know, they are cute small yellow creatures with rough green stripes down their backs and who had the misfortune to stick to things (including Rockford the dog, in our audio story). You may also know that Cocklebur seeds were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro - hence their name.

When, in the free audio stroy we meet the Cocklebur Ick she's on her way to the Island of Infinity and a home amongst the world's extinct creatures and so is, unfortunately, the last Cocklebur Ick... take a look at The Tale of the Cocklebur Ick video to know more.

So, were Cocklebur Icks real? 

Well, the truth is, I don't really know. Originally I thought we'd made them up but then someone wrote to us from Hitchin in Hertfordshire (UK) to say they remember Cocklebur Icks playing in the streets at night when they were a child. SInce the writer was in her 80s when she wrote this must have been a long time ago.

So, in search of the truth, we're shortly off on safari to Hitchin to ask the locals if anyone else remembers Cocklebur Icks. We'll let you know...

Evil Presence Removed from the Natural History Museum

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Regular visitors to the Natural History Museum in London may be familiar with the dark bronze statue which looks out from the stairs overlooking the main entrance hall. As far as I'm aware the statue has been there for decades. It commemorates one, Richard Owen, founder of the museum and, in his day, a highly controversial character - having been accused of taking credit for other people's work and sabotaging the research of his rivals (for lots more, take a look at Wikipedia).

That Owen was a bit of an unpleasant character is made easier to believe when you see what he looked like! Never was there such an angular, twisted face! Still, he lived to a great age so someone must have loved him, and he did found the Natural History Museum!

Anyway, as a result of our research for Rockford's Rock Opera (Part 4), we decided to take another look at Richard Owen. (We may have a job for him in the audio story). 

So, along we went to the museum only to find out that his statue isn't there anymore. It's gone. Usurped, quite rightly and ironically, by Charles Darwin in this, the 200th anniversary year of his birth. (As contemporaries, Darwin and Owen knew each other well and it was reported that Owen was the only person the mind mannered Darwin ever hated.)

Above. Charles Darwin's statue at the Natural History Museum (after a night of heavy drinking).

So, if you want to see what Richard Owen looked like, don't go to the museum, take a look on Wikipedia, and learn a bit more about one of natural history's more controversial characters who may yet turn up in Rockford's Rock Opera... 

Happy New Audiobook Year!

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Welcome to 2009! And to what will be the first of many Blog entries detailing the life and times of Rockford's Rock Opera. Although we launched the website and audiobook last year, it looks as if 2009 will be the year in which we start seeing the results of all 2008's groundwork.

So, with a trip to the Natural History Museum tomorrow, the story will start... 

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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