vox pop·u·li, n.[Latin] the voice of the people;
popular opinion. Abbr.:vox pop.
Welcome to the [Hearing Voices] travelling collection of Homeless Plastic Freak Cults and other Radio Audities. Within, find audioworks of Creative Non-fiction Radio, by Practitioners of the Black Arts of Montage (juxtapositions), Collage (overlays) and simple Storytelling.
Whereas Typical Newsfolk first decide what a story is, then find tape to match, the stories herein are fashioned only after gathering Interviews, Ambiences, Events (and whatever else enters your mic), then deciding what the story is -- what story the tape tells. Cinema-verite director Robert Drew called it ``working from the material." Here are some personal favorites of "radio verite":
M O N T A G E
In 1981, through the Freedom of Information Act, NPR acquired recordings made by former residents of Jonestown, Guyana (now residing in other realms). From 900 hours of audiotape, producer Deborah Amos1 distilled a 90-minute documentary: "Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown."2 To convey the hypnotic, horrific charm of Jim Jones on the microphone, she went in-studio with Tech Wiz Skip Pizzi3 and emerged with this stagefright:
C O L L A G E
"Tupperware®" documents of the clan of the plastic containers. The Kitchen Sisters® (keepers of Lost & Found Sound) taped parties, conventions, and "Tupperware®" people. In 1983, they prepared this rhythmical recipe for vox-pop possibility that still sounds fresh today:
J U X T A P O S I T I O N
That same year, Jay Allison premiered a radio circus called "Freaks" (recently re-aired on This American Life). From his collection of true stories told by real people, he manufactured this unreal tale of collective unconscionable surruralism4:
V O X - P O P
Perhaps my all-time favorite non-fiction radio piece was produced in 1984 by Scott Carrier. For several months he hung with the mostly homeless protesters living across from the White House in "Lafeyette Park." These two 2.5-minute segments, from this 15-minute documentary5, start with Scott's intro narration, and end with one of the wackos Scott came to call a friend:
A U D I O S
If I've contributed to radio audity, perhaps it's in the use of music and rhythm to tell stories, presenting documentary as song. I call my pieces "audios" (as in video artists' videos). This one, a present to my wife, premiered Valentine's Day, 1993; it's called "Old Together":
F O U N D - S O U N D
The final piece, also early 90s, is not by a radio person, but a composer, Bob Ostertag.6 A half-hour version aired, as did much adventurous audio, on the now-defunct series New American Radio. "Sooner or Later" starts with a single short recording of a Salvadoran boy. The tape is presented, first, as is, then subtly sampled, stretched and looped, until each second of speech unveils its musicality. In this excerpt, you hear the original unaltered recording, followed by several manipulations:
Non-Spanish speakers will not know what the boy is doing. I've saved that disturbing news for last.
vox pop·u·li, vox Dei,
the voice of the people (is) the voice of God.
1Deborah Amos is now with ABC. [^]
2NPR has more info and the full version of "Father Cares." [^]
3Skip Pizzi is now Program Mgr.- Interactive Television Technology at Microsoft, and Exec. Editor- BE Radio. [^]
4sur·rur·al = surreal + rural (coined by "Southern Culture on the Skids" to describe their music). [^]
5The full 15minute doc, "Lafeyette Park," is here in Scott's [Hurting Voices] collection. [^]
6A Bob Ostertag bio/discography is at Detritus (dedicated to recycled culture) and in Negativland. [^]
for the arts