BEHIND THE SCENES with Sarah Boothroyd

How does your piece interact with the "Trans-X" theme that runs through the compilation?*

" Trans mission, trans fer, pass on, trans late, analyze, trans cribe. . . ." This piece opens with a vocal narrative listing off words that describe journalism. This sets the stage for the rest of the piece, which is an exploration of the idea that journalism is a trans mission of thought -– a trans fer of information from source to reporter to audience. Besides the narrative voice, there are several other voices that turn up in the piece. These are the voices of interviewees, recorded in the field and on the phone. These clips are audio leftovers from interviews that I've conducted over the years –- they are the scraps of unusable tape left on the cutting room floor. Creating this piece was an exercise in "reverse editing": I edited in everything that would usually be edited out of a journalistic segment. These interview clips illustrate the trans missions or interactions that take place between reporters and interviewees –- from the reporter checking the audio levels before an interview starts to a source refusing to answer a question during an interview. Finally, the narrative voice not only hints at the "what" of journalism, but also the "how." As the narrative iterates "climax, reveal, hero, villain, goal, obstacle" and so on, the piece touches on how information is trans lated through journalistic methods -– how it is shaped and structured for consumption

In this case, your work is both narrative and conceptual. What are the main challenges of making conceptual audio work? Are you afraid listeners won't "get" it?

There is a broad spectrum between absolute transparency and complete opacity –- between announcing the meaning of a work on a huge banner in the sky and hiding that meaning in a locked chest at the bottom of the deepest sea. In this piece, the narrative voice attempts to strike a balance between these two extremes. The words are an effort to make the piece accessible, to point the listener toward contemplating the work's theme –- which is journalism, its methods, products, agents, and audience. While the narrative elements in the piece do point directly to this theme, the words are arranged in a list-format without any connective tissue between them: it's up to the listener to eke out the relationship between the words and thereby create the overall meaning themselves. This is generally my strategy for resolving the narrative versus conceptual debate: I try to leave enough room for the listener to participate in the interpretation and construction of meaning, but I try not to leave so much room that the listener is frustrated and lost amid a sea of indecipherable symbols. Also, although I do want people to "get it," I don't think that there is necessarily only one "it" for them to "get." I suppose what I really want is for them to "get something." I hope listeners who are interested in digging into the thematic content of the piece find the material thought-provoking, but I also hope that the listener who just doesn't "get" the journalistic theme finds the rhythmic musicality, variety of scenes, and other sound design elements intriguing and engaging

How do certain production techniques in your piece deliver information, as well as sound design

The vocal narrative delivers information -– each word is a clue as to what the piece is about. But the narrative voice is more than a carrier of information -– by doubling it and altering it with various other effects, I've morphed the voice into a sound design element. The narration can be experienced on two levels -– at the level of content (what is being said) and at the level of aesthetics (how the words sound). I've altered the narrative voice to give it an ethereal or omniscient quality and also to separate it from the rest of the soundscape -– to situate it above or in front of the interview clips and the rhythmic printing press loops. By contrast, the interview clips featuring the reporter and her sources are not manipulated at all, and in this way they retain their "real world" tone and texture. The only manipulations applied to these interview field recordings are pans, which help delineate between the different scenes by changing the aural location of them. The pans also create a sense of dynamism and movement within the scenes, keeping the piece lively and moving at a quick pace. I created rhythmic loops out of printing press sounds and layered them under the vocal narrative and interview clips in order to give the piece some structure, to create scenes, to mark transitions, and also to add some musicality, ambience and texture to the piece. There are three major loops that occur throughout so the work has a triptych structure -– a format that is quite classical and accessible to many listeners. The piece ends with a bridge that consists of several highly manipulated and spacious sound elements followed by a denouement in which the interview clips seem to indicate that the piece is coming to a close. For example one interviewee says "Hopefully I've answered some of your questions clearly enough" and another says "That's pretty much it for me." In this way the piece ends on a self-referential note: as "Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain" is drawing to a close, so are the field recording interviews that are interspersed throughout the work. There is also a broader self-referential aspect to this work as well: while this piece is about the transmission of ideas, the work itself is also one such transmission -– one that is edited, arranged, and presented with a particular purpose in mind.