Standing at the beginning of a career in the arts is like looking through a telescope, into space. The stuff out there is real, tangible—you know this intellectually—but it’s so far away, physically and experientially, that it might as well sit on the other side of a television screen.

There’s a sense that people who have successfully transformed their “passions,” their “hobbies”—writing, painting, making radio, acting—into professions are of a different species, somehow. Or, rather, that in the act of doing something so remarkable, something that we beginners so fiercely desire, they have also transformed themselves into something other than people—symbols, maybe; not humans.

Most interviews with the Jennifer Egans and the James Francos of the world start from the premise that the interviewee is an entity. By the end of the interview, this entity should be deconstructed: the reader or listener should know that, say, Jason Schwartzman has interests, desires, and habits. He probably, in fact, is not knowable on the basis of his work alone: there’s depth and nuance. Who is he? What’s his acting process like—and what does he like? (Reading and listening to interviews, incidentally.)

But the interviews on the website The Days of Yore, which launched a little over a year ago, have a different starting point. The site asks artists “about the years before they had money, fame, or road maps to success”: it takes for granted that these are people, and that they had a substantial life before they were famous. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that leaves considerable space for seeing these people as eating, breathing, farting humans hoping for a break. Like us.

Gary Shteyngart: “I never really learned how to cook, which was a big problem. So I would live on dirt cheap take-out. There was one take-out where you could get rice and a little piece of beef for like $2.49. Then I would live off of chicken nuggets. Sometimes, when I felt flush, I would have Chinese food, for $4. The soup was always free. Hot and sour.”

Kristen Schaal: “It took me a long time to land a job, which was stressful. I tried the restaurant route and got rejected consistently. After a couple months I finally got hired at Planet Hollywood in Times Square because they will take any sucker. It was hard to make money there because you had to tip out of your food sales to your runner and busser and bartender, instead of tipping out of your tips. If you got stiffed by a table you might be paying the restaurant to let you work there that night. It was a nightmare.”

Jennifer Egan: “Another thing I remember from that period was that it was so hard to make a date with people. I would ask when someone could get together and they would say in, like, three weeks.[…]I would be flipping ahead in my calendar through weeks of empty pages and I would think, ‘Really? Not for three weeks?!’ I found myself sort of begging people to hang out with me. And, of course, New Yorkers get a whiff of that desperation and they’re out! ‘Don’t cling to me!’ I was that clinging, drowning, frantic person.”

There is a lot of de-romanticizing going on here, which, if you’re a patron of the arts but don’t want to be an artist yourself, could be a turnoff. The questions can be nonspecific (“What’s it like being a writer today?” “Did you aspire to fame and fortune?” “When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?”), such that the interviewer rarely emerges as a personality. But the intensely human responses, if not interactions, that emerge are—for me and, likely, others who want to make a living creatively—encouraging, and a comfort.

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Welcome to The [Un]Observed blog. We’re excited that you’re here. Within these pages you will discover the minds behind The [Un]Observed: what we find interesting, what we love, and what we are skeptical of. You’ll find interviews with people who engage with all kinds of sound in genre-bending ways, reviews of new audio work, and in-depth looks at issues raised by pieces on our main site. Above all, this is a space to explore sound—in all its elemental, sociological, and artistic manifestations.

7 September 2011
Issue 09

After some creative strategy brainstorming over here at HQ we have decided to take a new direction with our next issue.

Issue 09 will be the first in a continuing series of themed issues of The [Un]Observed. With this focus we aim to challenge our curatorial style, to continue to forefront the work of a growing number of artists and producers, whilst allowing The [Un]Observed to realize itself more fully as a publication.

The first issue takes the theme of Borders. We are already over the moon about the works we have lined up and can’t wait to share them with you.

7 September 2011
The [Un]Observed: Live

After the success of our last event at OHIO in March, we’re going for round two.

We’re hoping to add a performance element to the lineup, showcasing the talents of some amazing local artists, in addition to our selections from the magazine.

We are committed to maintaining our goal of clearing a space for creative thinkers and audiophiles to meet and mingle and listen. Stay tuned for details.

5 May 2011
Get Your Audio On (with food)

Francesca Panetta was in town and to celebrate, we decided we would have an audiofile party, a chance for people who love sound to geek out for the evening over delicious food. So a little over a week ago, we got together, at tart made by Philip, and talked shop with Andrew Roth, Ben Furstenberg, Aaron Ximm, Roman Mars, Amy Standen and Jeremiah Moore. We realized how fun it was and hope to have more audio parties in the future…

5 May 2011
We’re going Terrestrial…Again!

In less than two weeks, The [Un]Observed will have its debut on WGXC in New York, the radio station for the brilliant Free103point9 which presents some of the best transmission arts around. We’ll be launching our show with new work from the upcoming edition. On deck will also be the remarkable Gregory Whitehead who has been an inspiration for many on how to make great audio. Stay tuned on May 14th for The [Un]Observed on WGXC.


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