Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Stars Are So Big, I Am So Small... Do I Stand A Chance?
For some people, it's gardening. For others, it's tinkering on old Buicks. For me, it's listening to stories of the public radio/NPR type. Why? I don't have time enough to explain all the reasons. Perhaps, though, it's mainly due to the primordial nature of the oral tradition. There is just something overwhelmingly prehistoric about storytelling. It's comforting, redolent with tradition.
I don't want to be just a consumer of stories, however; I want to produce them, too. Which is why (four days ago) I moved to Portland, Maine to attend the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Salt offers its students three documentary tracts from which to choose: radio, photography, or narrative non-fiction. I, as must be obvious, am pursuing radio documentary.
Day two: the professors hand us our recording gear and our assignment. The assignment forces us to brainstorm a question and record what local Portlanders had to say about it.
Initially, I thought this would be easy. But walking around Congress Ave. at 3:15 pm on a Wednesday with comically oversized headphones, a giant microphone, and an obscenely expensive digital recording box can make almost anyone feel like a freak.
My question was straightforward: What does it mean to you that a black
candidate is running for president?
After a few overly self-conscious minutes of feeling like a man from Mars, I approached two twentysomething women. I told them my question and they were eager to offer their words. So were most people to whom I spoke. My final interview was with someone who said that while heartened that a woman was chosen for the VP slot, he also suspected the decision was based on some sort of "sexist poaching." In any case, however, he said his newborn son will grow up with a radically different understanding of who can be elected to this nation's highest office than most of us ever did. He said that Obama represents a new paradigm for reality moving forward.
These are hardly mind-blowing ideas, but it felt real and spiriting to engage on such a thoughtful level with someone only 12 seconds after meeting.
In the coming days, I am going to fashion the responses into some sort of coherent mess and perhaps even send out the final audio postcard by next week.
One post in, this blog seems primarly a way to archive my thoughts on craft, but it will hopefully serve something larger, too. That something has no name. That something is who we are.
Labels: radio documentary