It's been 17 years since the ambitious and innovative nine-part science fiction audio drama The Fourth Ambit first aired.
On this site, we look back on that series and some of the other radio plays produced by Dawson Nichols and Jim Horne.
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History of The Ambit Group
From 1999 to 2001, The Ambit Group produced a series of audio dramas, beginning with an adaptation of the Dawson Nichols play, I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe.
It was recorded over one weekend with group of local Seattle actors, and then a month was spent editing and mixing. Original piano music was composed, sound effects were created, and the combination of simple technology and sophisticated story-telling techniques resulted in the popular radio program that aired in several countries and on satellite radio around the world.
The next year was one of significant experimentation. Virtual Solitaire was a less-traditional story, and telling it required ramping up the technology. Special effects from various sources including both digital and analog synthesizers combined with more exotic sound processing to draw the listener into a virtual world described with sound.
Everything came together in 2001 for the nine-part sci-fi series, The Fourth Ambit. This massive undertaking based on all-new material took nearly a year working full-time to complete. Sound recording and sound manipulation technology was pushed to new limits. Hours of original music and effects were created. Special microphones and state-of-the-art processing software were combined in new ways.
The futuristic world of Ambits within Ambits is rich and detailed, and as the tale unfolds, we meet dozens of characters. Because of the difficulty of keeping actors under contract for a full year, a bold decision was made — the recording cast was reduced to a single actor. Dawson Nichols not only wrote every word of the script, he voiced every character himself. The biggest crowds and most raucous overlapping conversations are all him, carefully mixed on up to 40 simultaneous audio tracks.
The Fourth Ambit
The Internet has grown into a chaotic conglomeration of full-immersion virtual spaces collectively known as the Ambit. As a tracker, Gilles's job is to navigate his way through this madness.
In doing so, however, he becomes immersed in a web of intrigue. There is order behind the seeming chaos - a Second Ambit behind the first. And the revelations don't end there. Behind the chaos, beneath the order there is a Third Ambit. And even a Fourth.
Each episode is 58 minutes.
|The Fourth Ambit © 2001, The Ambit Group|
I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe
Meet Joseph Walker, a patient at the Oakbrook Mental Health Facility. In this audio drama, Joseph obtains access to a cassette recorder and then creates an audio letter for his sister Rose.
Over the course of several days he introduces her to his doctor and several fellow inmates, one of whom suggests to Joseph that his life bears a striking resemblance to that of Edgar Allan Poe.
Joseph then proceeds to familiarize himself with the works of E.A. Poe. His fluency with Poe's work is astonishing—to others and himself. And it is this familiarity, this ease with Poe's works, that leads Joseph to believe that he himself might be the Master of Horror.
This production is 1 hour 17 minutes.
Based on the acclaimed play of the same name, Virtual Solitaire takes place in the digital world of the near future.
Computer software has become even more sophisticated, and Nathan has been hired to help calibrate emotional responses for a new adventure game.
This precursor to The Fourth Ambit is 1 hour 21 minutes long.