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Tape recordings

Photo by Eric Schofhauser

I’m locked in a string of important interviews right now for stories at my day job at Washington Law & Politics. Which means a lot of transcribing from my tape recorder and a lot of alone time with my subjects’ thoughts. I’ve been doing this for years now, but something came over me the other day in a way that it really hasn’t before. Basically, this:

There’s something eerie about listening to the voice recorder. About hearing the old white man’s slow scratchy voice recount the facts of the significant trial. Of course it’s no Nixon scandal, nothing romantically society-changing. I’m not taping any sensitive sensual or criminal behavior.

And yet, there’s still something troublingly intimate about being alone again with your subject in the absence of him. Something powerful about controlling the amount of times he tells and retells certain details. Something that pricks your sympathy at hearing him pause before he lets out that long slow sigh– two, three, four times, you listen to it over and over again, hearing his emotions. He’s weary. You’re taken back to his office, back to the varnished desk, and the bookshelves and the corded phone through which you’re recording these moments, these admissions and retrials.

Sure, it’s nothing “-Gate,” but it’s still history; it’s still captured in a little blue recorder and you can still hear that sigh over and over again, long and slow.

It’s all there. The devil’s in the details.

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