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Charlie Bertsch

Charlie Bertsch is currently on the faculty of the Honors College at the University of Arizona. He is also co-editor-in-chief of Souciant, an eclectic magazine of culture and politics based in Europe. Back in the early 1990s, he helped found Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, one of the longest-running online publications in the world, and has also written regularly for ZEEK, Tikkun, Phoenix New Times, and Punk Planet.

“Leaving Traces of the Voice: Realism in the Music Interview”
When we talk about voice in writing and, more specifically, writing about music, what usually comes to mind could fit rather neatly into the category of style. But what about those times when what we write is structured around the transcription and presentation of words spoken out loud, both by our subjects and ourselves? Too little attention has been paid to how voices are given voice. In my presentation, I propose to help remedy that neglect by reflecting on different approaches in the crafting of music interviews and then more closely examining those which aspire to reproduce the flow of a conversation, rather than deploying specific quotes in the service of a story.

My primary focus will be the practice of presenting interviews “warts and all” that developed in the underground press of the 1960s and 1970s and fanzine culture, before going on to become a point of pride for publications like Maximum  rock ‘n’ Roll and Punk Planet. Drawing upon numerous examples within this tradition, including details from my own experiences as an interviewer, I will consider the process of editing a conversation down to size when also trying to achieve this effect of realism. Additionally, I will ponder what it means to include mistakes, hesitations, and the extra-semantic details from a conversation, even when significant portions of its contents end up on the cutting room floor. In conclusion, I will then situate my findings within the context of broader debates about oral history and its interface with recording technology, noting in particular the influence of Studs Terkel’s populist approach and the eccentric counterexample found in Andy Warhol’s radical “novel” a.

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