Yesterday, I listened to some radio interviews on BBC while working. In this way, I discovered that I'm not very good at working while paying attention to other people talking. But they were nice interviews. Spacious, conversational; covering a lot of ground. The interviewer is a bit too much in the BBC style of in-depth interviews, the extreme version of which is the completely blunt-object style of interview seen on Hardtalk. I can't watch that show, because there is no sense that anyone is ever allowed to finish a line of thought before they're interrupted by an attack. It's like the conversational equivalent of the Middle-East peace process. Nobody thinks things through, they're just locked in position and pretending to debate.

In this show, though, the only trouble manifests in too much of a desire to show off the interviewer's knowledge and a tendency to put long trains of thought into the interviewee's mouth. It's not too annoying, though. He's good at giving them a lot of room to breathe.

I've interviewed quite a few people over the years, when I was in the Student radio, and later working freelance doing literature material here and there. I think my biggest fault is that I'm too friendly with the person I'm interviewing. Don't ask difficult questions, try to keep the conversation going and smooth things over. But I have done a few that I'm proud of. Particularly a couple of interviews I did with Scandinavian jazz musicians like Bugge Wesseltoft, Nils-Petter Molvær and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (whom I interviewed just two months before he died). Those were not just nice interviews, but nice conversations with extremely friendly and interesting people.

It's something I'd like to get better at, but it's always been worked out so that just enough time passed between each interview that I've never gotten into the habit of it. It's still a slightly uncomfortable situation.

The ones I listened to yesterday were the Gyorgy Ligeti Interview, which made him seem like a really nice old man. And the one with Tom Stoppard. The rest are in the sidebar. All sorts of interesting people: Milos Forman, Frank Gehry, Michael Frayn, Edward Bond, etc.


Blogger Susanne Christensen said...

I think interviews are meant to be slightly uncomfortable situations, or rather, I mean, it doesn't have to affect the text in a negative way that you were not feeling relaxed while talking. That's my experience anyways, after three interviews -- Greetings to Berlin!

July 19, 2006 4:00 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Probably not, but I think I ask better questions when I'm comfortable enough that my mind works, at least. I've had the odd moments of star-struck fannishness.

July 19, 2006 4:03 pm  

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