Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Recording Real Life:

Andy Warhol wrote a book called “A, a Novel,” which is a transcript of an audio recording of one 24-hour period in the life of a person who socializes with Warhol’s friends and associates. When I read ‘A’, I suspected the transcript was cleverly edited, but it’s supposed to be verbatim except for errors introduced by the three teenage girls who transcribed it, and possibly the loss of part of the original (some tapes possibly burnt by one of these girls’ mothers). The title, ‘A’, may be derived from the observation that “uh” is the most common word on the tapes.

At the time, this book was a monumental undertaking. The artistic reason for that is the incredibly boring nature of the tapes. Few geniuses other than Warhol would have seen the merit in publishing them. The techy reason of course, is the physical inconvenience. Tape recorders were not portable in the 1960’s. You could lug them around, set them down, plug them in, and use them, and in ‘A’, the recorder is lugged a lot. (There are even conversations where the people discuss changing the tapes in the tape machine, which were probably 60 or 90 minutes long, each.)

Today it would be much easier to record a day in somebody's life and publish it online. But since it’s been “done,” nobody’s likely to do it unless they discover a new angle. Part of Warhol’s genius in writing ‘A’ was to preempt an art form that would have been much easier to invent twenty or thirty years later.

But I’m puzzled that people are not doing 24-hour life recordings now. (If you do, edit out the fast-asleep part, PLEASE.) Technology has made this easy, Podcasting has made the results easy to publish in raw form, modern mores makes it unnecessary to “bleep” some of the content, and there is surely an immense potential audience that’s curious for this sort of thing.

Twenty-four-hour-tapers, hit the RECORD button and get going! Post the result in one- or two-hour installments. Lots of us will listen, and you’ll get many comments on your forums.

Bonus URL: Ed Felton & friends have updated some familiar Christmas stories here. I particularly like the Gift of the eMagi.

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