Vox Pop

Intro from Jay Allison: What is the quality of our national dialogue in the approach to war? Are we listening to each other? Whose voice is heard? The pundits, the politicians, the people? Does the dialogue even matter anymore? How is our democracy behaving these days? These are some of the questions driving our featured shows. Scott Carrier was driving, literally, 8000 miles around the U.S., asking questions like those above. He created a vox (vox pop; vox populi, voice of the people) with the answers. He hasn't been able to place this piece on American radio. He's hoping maybe some foreign networks will be interested in listening. The Australian performance artist Wednesday Kennedy sent us her piece just in time for the anniversary of September 11th. The air was cluttered with memories at that time and her work didn't air nationally in this country, but it has been carried in many other places in the world. The American voices she found still ring and we wanted you to hear her work. Both Scott and Wednesday exist outside the mainstream. So do many of the voices they capture. What happens to voices like theirs in times like these?

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State of the Union
Produced by Scott Carrier

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Listen to “State of the Union”

Last Night in New York

Last Night in New York
Produced by Wednesday Kennedy

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Listen to “Last Night in New York”

Scott Carrier EMAIL

September 2002

Jay,

I’m planning to spend three weeks driving around the country interviewing people about the current state of our union. Personally, I think we’ve had a number of hard changes that have come down on us rather quickly, and I sense widespread confusion, apprehension, doubt, and concern for our democracy. I think that the media are picking up on this, but the various programs on television and radio seem to not know how to cover it other than by putting more pundits and experts on the air, when actually what is needed is for the common man and woman to be given a voice. So I’m going to try to do this.

At this time, I ‘m not sure of my route, but my basic plan is to try to talk to as many people as I can, asking a few questions– Is America different now than it was a year ago? What has been lost, or gained? What needs to be done, if anything? These are the questions I will ask of everybody, but they are primarily an excuse to get people talking about how they’ve been feeling over the past year and what kind of vision they have of the future.

I would like to end the trip in either Woods Hole or New York, where I will work on the tape and produce an hour-long program.

Scott

Hearing Voices “State of the Union” was created with help from HearingVoices.

Notes From Wednesday Kennedy

In the weeks after Sept 11th… I prowled the streets of Manhattan with a camera and mini disc… recording the roller coaster of emotions and responses in the wake of the catastrophe. Last night in New York is a journey through the voices of native New Yorkers trying to find their balance in a dramatically altered landscape and captures the heart beat and mood swings of the city during the weeks after the most devastating attack on American soil. “Last Night” lets the city’s people speak for themselves.

Credits:

“Last Night In New York” was produced at ABC Radio National and broadcast on The Night Air. Executive Producers on LNNY include Brent Clough and Natalie Kestecher. It was engineered by the masterful Roy Huberman. The piece has also been broadcast on WNYC’s Radiolab presented by Jad Abumrad, and was performed as a multimedia show at The Trilogy Theatre in New York during Aug/Sept 2002. The show will perform the Merlin Theatre in Budapest in 2003.


Additional support for this work provided by
Open Studio Project
with funding from the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and from theNational Endowment for the Arts logo

Scott Carrier

About
Scott Carrier

Scott Carrier, author, photographer, professor, and radio producer; among the places to hear and read his works: This American Life, Harper's Magazine, NPR, Mother Jones, and Esquire. Scott was also the first Mentor for our Transom Online Workshop.

Wednesday Kennedy

About
Wednesday Kennedy

Wednesday Kennedy’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in HQ, Australian Style and the Meanjin Literary Journal. She was also featured in “Short Fuse: TheGlobal Anthology of New Fusion Poetry,” launched in New York on Oct. 15, 2002 (see www.rattapallax.com). She also writes and performs regularly for the Australian Broadcasting Corp., which presented a radio version of “Last Night in New York” on the Radio National program “The Night Air” on Sept. 11, 2002. Her other radio pieces include “Telling Stories at the Algonquin Hotel” and “Virginia Wolff Goes to Centrelink.” She thinks the difference between Australians and Americans is in the “cawfee.” But now Starbucks has come to Sydney, there’s not much difference.

Comments

  • Jay Allison

    12.30.02

    Two Vox Pop

    In the Transom office, each of these pieces was compared to the flag. A single fabric of bright opposing colors, snapping.

    This is a time of extreme possibilities, a time when we are open to "all options" in relation to the rest of the world. As Americans, each of us are implicated in whatever happens. We all live under the flag, are part of it.

    The flag symbolizes freedom, of course… our freedom to speak. The underlying questions raised by these vox pieces are: Who gets to be heard? Who is listening?

    Not coincidentally, these are key questions, too, for public radio.

  • scott carrier

    1.02.03

    a start

    The main criticism of my piece has been that the tape is not interesting, that it is boring and dated. I disagree. I think the tape is hard not to listen to because it’s real people talking, not news people or experts or pundits. They are not sanctioned to speak, I was not sanctioned to go around asking questions.

    I realize that this may be the opinion of a self-righteous producer, and so I’d like to hear some discussion about how I’m wrong. I’d like to hear why the piece sucks or just doesn’t make the grade. I’ve done lousy stories before, this won’t be the first.

    As for Wednesday’s story, I like it quite a bit. It’s scary because the emotions are so raw. I’m glad she did it, and I’m sorry nobody has played it here.

  • Lu Olkowski

    1.02.03

    boring?

    I’m generally a lurker not a talker on these type of things, but where is everybody?

    Who’s listening?

    I think that now people mainly want to know that they are not alone. Things seems to be spinning out of control and more people than ever before feel helpless. It’s hard to believe we (americans) could become more complacent, but I guess we can. Quite honestly when I heard Scott’s piece I felt not so alone any more. I heard a few people who made sense. I have not been hearing these thoughts in the general media. It made me feel better about my fellow Americans, my fellow Americans that I have not heard from, who I think have been asleep. It’s good to hear from them. Of course there are a few who sound like my cranky old Republican uncle, but I am glad to hear them, too.

    So as far as boring. No. Maybe they meant, not new enough. Maybe they just want splashy, big news items. I think people can use ‘newness’ as an awfully big excuse to not pay attention to something. The problem with newness is that we have an administration who trots out Ari and just refuses to engage in conversation. When they don’t communicate, it makes newness hard. A question is asked. It is not answered. If you ask it again, it is not new. You never get an answer. I think our job is to keep asking and keep pounding away, as frustrating as it is.

    The person who said the tape is boring is wrong. My guess is that person is scared or maybe just a little lazy. I hope some other people who have influence can grab on to these pieces and do something with them — get them out there to the general public. I realize that they may not fit into conventional formats, but there is a way. They are too good.

  • julie shapiro

    1.02.03

    scott,

    i didn’t find the tape boring, but the folks who you talked to revealed things i totally expected them to say. (well ok, except for the sheep herding (?) woman who’d not heard much about the state of anything for years). it was sort of unbelievable to hear such a selection of cliche, vitriolic right wing sound bites, except that it was all too believable. so i’m sure the piece is representative of who you met along the way / how so many americans feel about the ‘state of the union’, but i’m also wondering who you talked to that didn’t make it into the finished piece.

    not that i expected to hear from peacemongering hippie-punk hybrids in the middle of north dakota, (though that’s not to say they’re not out there) but i’m wondering – how did you decide who to keep in vs. edit out? did anyone tell you things that totally surprised you, but wouldn’t have contributed to your overall plan for the radio story, or did you count on the shape/texture of it changing depending on who you ended up talking with?

    julie

  • Andy Knight

    1.02.03

    I didn’t find it boring, either, Scott. But the only surprising part was the woman who claimed to have not heard of 9/11. Otherwise, I didn’t find any viewpoint worth a trip cross country. I’ve heard all of that in my own town.

    Wednesday’s piece is simply amazing. It’s so beautiful and disturbing… I don’t know what to say other than "wow."

  • Jeff

    1.02.03

    The tape is not boring. And that’s not the point anyway. The point is that the questions got asked. The thing that bothers me about the state of the union is that we’re all so numb. And here’s somebody going out and trying to shake us out of it by asking some fundamental questions. That has real power.

  • Jeff

    1.02.03

    Not that it isn’t important to have good tape. But the tape is good. Anyway, liked the piece.

  • scott carrier

    1.03.03

    Julie,

    My method in production was to use the best tape. In getting the tape my plan was to find people who had thought through the issues enough to have an opinion one way or another. I wasn’t doing a study or trying to answer a question. I was mainly trying to give people a chance to speak–a vox pop, not statistically valid but they can be interesting. Most people had no opinion one way or another. I know this sounds hard to believe, but it’s true from my experience. I think it would be difficult to underestimate the average intelligence of Americans.

    Some good tape got cut because it was redundant, and not quite as good, or because it was too heated or loaded. I played a rough and longer version for several people and listened to what they said and then made the choices myself.

  • Viki Merrick

    1.04.03

    When I finished listening to this the first time, I was stunned to think that it had been turned down for air. I don’t really care if it echoes pre-conceived notions of right-sided expression or not. I was warmed to hear voices from all over the country, the big small places. It made me feel many things at once and most likely that lack of easy definition is why so many "mainstream" producers didn’t know what to do with it.
    So I listened again to try and hammer out those "many things" Scott’s piece evoked in me.

    This is a breathtakingly vast part of the planet
    We live in oppression and free-expression
    choice and helplessness
    ignorance and paranoia
    It is all beauty and terror
    This is what that flag really looks like
    something you wouldn’t want hanging on your wall
    something you can’t take your eyes off.

    Wednesday’s piece does this with an even more jarring effect.
    She’s not American, she’s looking in from the outside and still it is a terrifyingly rich mosaic of an American flag.

    The question of what goes to air and what doesn’t makes me wonder about truth again, or better yet, honesty. Can only the facts of our state of the union last night in New York make it on air? What about the honesty beyond, behind, beneath those facts?

  • Robert Wright

    1.04.03

    Godot on cable

    No, the tape wasn’t boring. In fact, it was damn good. It’s alarming and depressing that it was turned down for national broadcast. That dramatic monologue by that right-wing guy is pure poetry. Yes, he’s for war. He’s lumped everything he feels positive about in his big pot-luck stew of a brain. He’s for war, international trade and another season of Friends, perhaps. The tape isn’t boring. Waiting for war is boring. When it happens, if it happens, some non-English speaking people who live far away are going to die. It happens all the time. TV will try to hype it up to make it interesting but it will just be one more thing we see for a moment or two on TV reported by a stunningly attractive woman with pouty lips, the kind I never see in the supermarket. There’s an unreality about it. When we talk about it, we fumble around because we’re all disconnected. We all may as well be that woman with the sheep.

  • Ben A.

    1.05.03

    the more I listen …

    … the more I want to move to Australia. Wednesday Kennedy’s piece is great. Totally blows away my previous favorite-Sept.-11-story. In fact, completely skies over most everything I’ve heard for the past six months. Maybe longer. What a great doc.

    Nothing more to say right now other than: thanks, Jay, for posting this piece. Thanks, Wednesday, for making it.

    Ben

    PS: Anybody know what the live performances were like?

  • Robert Wright

    1.06.03

    bad radio

    I finally gave Wednesday’s piece a good listen. And then I went to dictionary.com to look up the word "turgid" just to make sure. Yup, that’s what I’d say it is. Of course, I might just not appreciate good Australian radio. Didn’t that piece about an obsession with The Sound of Music also come out of Australia? I thought that was turgid too.

  • Viki Merrick

    1.06.03

    turgid?

    means bombastic and pompous in language. It also means swollen.
    Yeah it’s swollen – so is this country.
    if you meant bombastic and pompous – I’m curious as to why, the accent? the night-ness drama of her messages? I agree it is a jarring delivery but I found it weirdly moving. I think it’s more useful to elaborate than drop, at least in this forum.

  • wednesday kennedy

    1.06.03

    turgid and boring

    I don’t know whether it’s possible to over dramatise the events of Sept 11th. Perhaps we were so used to talking about nothing that when the time came for us to speak we were either mute or hysterical.
    (either response appropriate considering the circumstances)
    I loosely structured the piece on the stages the city went through in the weeks after the attack and my own personal response as a part of that tapestry. I also tried to capture the turbulence that the city experienced at the time. I also wanted to capture voices and opinions that Australians would not otherwise have access to via CNN.

    Most Americans know nothing of the world but the world is force fed
    America on a daily basis. This breeds a huge amount of resentment and part of my aim with this piece was to humanize Americans and separate them from the face of the govt, the media and the war machine.
    Whether you like the style of either piece is pure aesthetics
    but I don’t think with the current state of events that Americans
    can afford to be either cynical or bored.
    As for Scotts piece… i thought it was beautiful
    more later…

    wednesday

  • Tom Livingston

    1.07.03

    Carrier Piece – I love it!

    Ok, here’s how I respond totally as a listener. I was pointed to the piece by a friend, listened to it last night and loved it! There were actually four remarkable moments for me – the first was the guy credited with a Greatful Dead connection. I found myself in complete agreement with what he was saying, and nobody is saying it. The second was the ikky guy from Louisiana, who spoke in ways nearly opposite to how I believe, but in a totally calm, matter-of-fact way. Third was the woman who had never heard about September 11 or the pending war, and fourth, the New Yorker bit was great because of the juxtaposition with the woman who had never heard of September 11. Great for the uniqueness of the voices. Thank you! I hope it finds a home on a prominent national program.

    Tom Livingston

  • wednesday

    1.07.03

    futility

    I’m listening to scotts piece and I’m very moved. For me, to hear these voices makes me feel less lonely. What I love about collecting
    vox pops and hearing scotts vox pops is that after a while you do see threads, you do hear the same voices saying the same things in a slightly different way and it helps me make sense of my own experience to hear other people’s interpretation of the landscape. The conversations about futility particularly resonated with me because I experienced that feeling when I staged the show in New York. I had struggled so hard to get here but it was greeted with a strange indifference. To perform the show felt very dangerous and at the same time completely irrelevant.
    People said ‘it’s yesterday’s news’, as if by saying that they would get over it and it would all go away.I took it personally initially and then one night i watched my friend take to the stage at another venue and perform a song she wrote about Sept 11th and the audience was very resentful. It was as though she was taking them back to a place that they didn’t want to go. Perhaps it comes from that feeling of futility, the feeling of ‘if I can’t change it why bother talking about it’ I don’t know ? understood the need to leave it alone in the aftermath of Sept 11th but idon’t understand it now. That’s why forums like this comfort me because they chip away at that feeling of futility.

  • Julia Barton

    1.07.03

    future foretellers of America

    "Yesterday’s news" is the favored American form of denial, a little stock-phrase emanating from the dark cavities in our brains where we stuff all the things that disturb and upset us so we can go on being fake-happy. Then 10 or 30 years from now it all comes seeping out and we think, "Wow, we were really swimming in misery then, but pretending that nothing was wrong and we loved every minute of it!"

    This comes from someone who grew up in Dallas in the 80s and never heard anyone mention the Kennedy assassination, then figuring out many of the adults around me had all lived through it, some very close to it.

  • Robert Wright

    1.08.03

    Stuff I wanted to know from Scott but was afraid to ask

    Scott, For your State of the Union piece, what kind of mic did you use and how close did you get it to the speaker’s mouth? Did you use a DAT recorder or a minidisc or cassette tape? If you used a minidisc, was it a Sharp or Sony? Did you wear headphones when interviewing people? Did you introduce yourself and explain what you were doing and then ask if you could record their voices or did you just thrust a mic there way and explain later or during the conversation what you were doing? Or, did you start a conversation with a person, find it interesting, and then ask if you could sort of talk about the same stuff while recording it? Did some/many refuse to be recorded? Were some people suspicious of your motives? Did anybody want to know first where you stood on certain questions before they shared their ideas with you? How many total hours/people did you record? Did you try any video during this trip or did you just stick to audio? Oh, and while I’m drilling with you questions, has the Friendly Man ever complimented you on your fine work? How’s he doing? And, does anybody in radio ever ask you if Carrier is your real last name?

  • cw

    1.09.03

    what’s been heard or not heard before

    While I have heard some of the sentiments expressed by the interviewees in Scott’s piece before, I did not hear them on the radio. So I disagree that these people’s viewpoints are boring or stale. I think if you meet a lot of varied people or work in a very public capacity and talk to a diverse group of people frequently you are more likely to have heard some of these viewpoints expressed. But mostly people interact with their own demographic and the television, end of story. I don’t think most people interact on a daily basis with 5-10 different individuals outside their demographic. And I rarely hear people from 5-10 different demographics represented on television or radio news.

    So I liked this piece and what struck me about it was that the little "man on the street" type coverage there is on television and radio tends to be extremely sound-bytish. This piece sounded more like what actual Americans think– whether you agree w/ them or not.

    And I don’t think there’s anything that’s rightwing or reactionary being said in this piece that isn’t being said in fancier language by our gov’t officials every day.

  • scott carrier

    1.09.03

    answers to questions

    Scott,

    For your State of the Union piece, what kind of mic did you use and how close did you get it to the speaker’s mouth?
    A shure vp88 stereo microphone, set to the low spread, held about 6 inches from the mouth.

    Did you use a DAT recorder or a minidisc or cassette tape?
    A dat

    If you used a minidisc, was it a Sharp or Sony?
    A sony

    Did you wear headphones when interviewing people?
    yes

    Did you introduce yourself and explain what you were doing and then ask if you could record their voices or did you just thrust a mic there way and explain later or during the conversation what you were doing?
    I always introduce myself and explain what I’m doing, then after they agree to talk I take out the equipment.

    Or, did you start a conversation with a person, find it interesting, and then ask if you could sort of talk about the same stuff while recording it?
    Sometimes it happened like that.

    Did some/many refuse to be recorded?
    Some did. Not a few.

    Were some people suspicious of your motives?
    Some were. Not a few.

    Did anybody want to know first where you stood on certain questions before they shared their ideas with you?
    No, everybody seemed to pretty much understand the form–man on the street. They knew I was working and what was needed was their opinion.

    How many total hours/people did you record?
    Somewhere around 15 hours and 40 people. Not many.

    Did you try any video during this trip or did you just stick to audio?
    Just audio.

    Oh, and while I’m drilling with you questions, has the Friendly Man ever complimented you on your fine work? How’s he doing?
    I’ve never met or spoken with him.

    And, does anybody in radio ever ask you if Carrier is your real last name?
    You’re the first.

  • cw

    1.11.03

    an article

    an article on alternet i came across today that i thought people here discussing types of voices on npr might be interested in

    All Things Considerate to White Boomers
    http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=14891

  • Barrett Golding

    1.22.03

    STATE OF UNION radio special

    HearingVoices.com and Transom.org have decided to grab the VoxPop by the horn and put these shows on public radio ourselves. we’ve created a one-hour radio special, "State of Union." designed for stations to air in next few weeks to accompany the State of the Union speech. the special features Scott’s and Wednesday’s pieces, along with the new Transom/Show by Dennis Downey, and a piece by Christopher Lydon (a preview of his upcoming, new "Whole Wide World" series). our guest host is none other than Jay@Transom. here’s the official promo blurb:

    STATE OF UNION is a new one-hour (((HearingVoices))) special, a public radio accompaniment to the President’s Congressional Address. Jay Allison, of Transom.org, is Guest Host. The stars of the show are Americans, expressing their opinions, participating in our democratic discussion. We hear new works by producers Scott Carrier, Christopher Lydon, Australian Wednesday Kennedy, and writer Dennis Downey. We travel 8000 miles of America, we roam the streets of New York City, and we receive reflections from Marconi’s transatlantic broadcasts of 100 years ago.

    here’s a 30-second mp3 audio promo Jay and Viki Merrick made for the special (Viki produced the hour). we’ve put up State of Union webpages for listeners and for stations. so call your local pubradio emporium and Demand They Air this thing.

  • Mark Hineline

    1.25.03

    The good and the bad

    I’ve been worrying about voxpop and Scott’s piece over on the AIR list. It’s probably more appropriate to do so over here.

    I liked the piece a great deal, and never found it boring. Like others, I loved the woman who hadn’t heard about 9/11.

    It gave me great comfort to hear the one man say (I paraphrase): I can’t believe that we are going to kill people so that we can go on driving our SUVs. Why did it give me comfort? Because I agree completely, and more importantly because this voice didn’t have an ounce of cynicism. These were the remarks of a righteous man speaking from the left, and this is something that I almost never get to hear.

    (The attitude of far too many on the left is "what do you expect?")

    The bad: I don’t think that Scott should have let stand the Grand Canyon man’s claim that only Arabs, never white men, engage in terrorism. I wanted him to ask, as interlocutor, "what about Timothy McVeigh?" just as he engaged the sheep herder by expressing incredulity that she hadn’t heard of 9/11.

    Perhaps what I have said above is inconsistent. I’m glad that Scott got out of the way of the first man, the man who complained that we were going to war for oil. I wish Scott would have pushed the Grand Canyon man to justify his prejudices.

  • Jay Allison

    1.27.03

    The Notion of Rebuttal

    I see your point, but perhaps as you suggest, you’ve undermined it by suggesting Scott should confront people who disagree with you and let stand the voices of righteousness, in your terms.

    To my ear, the point of this piece (and the hour-long anthology we just distributed) is the relatively unmoderated nature of it. The chorus — the angry cries, sorrowful wails, the ignorance, the insight — we get to hear all of it, in a less tidy and packaged way than the dished-up media opinion we’re used to.

    Here, it’s up to us as listeners to decide where we stand, how we would respond to any of these voices. Do they persuade us? Do we want to refute them? Who is right?

    Maybe your frustration at the lack of refutation to some of those statements will provoke you to speak.

  • Jay Allison

    1.28.03

    State of Union

    We just put up both MP3 and RealAudio files of the hour-long broadcast special in which these pieces appear, along with Dennis Downey’s Song of Marconi and Chris Lydon’s interview with "Amber" (both featured elsewhere at Transom.)

    You can download the hour-long show or hear it streaming online here at the HV site.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    1.29.03

    God, I’m urgently grateful for these pieces. Thanks and congratulations to all of you.

    who wrote the intro to the special?

    you’re ready to go international now, aren’t you? is this going on the air in Australia? other English-speaking countries? translated elsewhere?

    Wednesday, has your piece aired elsewhere in the world?

  • Jay Allison

    1.29.03

    international

    who wrote the intro to the special?

    Do you mean the narration, Nannette? if so… moi.

    We are hopeful that the program will be picked up internationally. We know that representatives from the CBC, Ireland, BBC, ABC and many others are regular visitors to Transom and often acquire content from producers here.

    If any of you are lurking and are interested in the special, go to this link at the HearingVoices site. Barrett Golding can get you a CD. Email him from the HV site.

  • scott carrier

    1.30.03

    they’re all A-rabs

    So why didn’t I ask the guy about Timothy McVeigh? Mostly, I didn’t want to stop him. But also because the statement seemed so obviously wrong. No race, ethnicity, or country has a monopoly on terrorism. Not now, not ever. My sense at the time was to let him keep talking, not to bother a man who is digging his own grave. When I was editing the piece I realized there would be strong reactions about the statement, and I left it in because I was pretty sure that there are many many Americans who feel and think like Mike from Lafeyette. This is a part of the state of our union.

    But I am willing to consider the point that my silence was a mistake. I can understand Hineline position. And, then, it’s not the only mistake in the piece. When I play this for people and ask for comments everyone has something they didn’t like or something that wasn’t correct or something they want to argue about. And the objections are as varied as the people in the piece. I’ve been surprised by this, because usually most people agree with what sucks in my stories.

    Another thing. They played the piece here in Salt Lake City on the member station as a lead in to an hour long call in program. Both the phones and the emails were busy the whole time and the responses were like a continuous venting of emotions. This response, by the public, was quite different from the critical responses in that not one person mentioned the piece or anything that was said in the piece. They all inserted themselves into the piece and didn’t look back. I was very happy about that, because it’s just what a vox pop should do. And now reading this discussion I’m thinking the same thing. This is a good discussion about very tricky subjects.

  • Barrett Golding

    3.07.03

    Stealing Voices

    i’m outta new ideas, so i stole one of Scott’s old ones. specifically, i used the voices he collected (con permisso) for this Vox Pop show, and another of his excellent pieces, done for TAL, called "Are You Ready for War?" then i mixed scott’s stolen vox w/ a friend’s music, and voila…
    speaker icon Road to War (2:48 MP3 2.5M)

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