BEHIND THE SCENES with Susan Stone

Where did you first hear about Ruby's story? How much of Ruby is your translation or interpretation

Writer Sumner Carnahan first introduced me to the waitress Ruby, who told inarticulately but searingly of her philandering ex-husband. Ruby is a deaf-mute, who speaks in halting, pseudo-aphasiac phrases of her sexual betrayal and loyalties. Her story is written in a letter to Carnahan in the way Ruby perceived language: a mosaic of facts tiny enough to draw only a few details

Ruby was the essence of the disembodied voice. How to convey the heat of the truly voiceless waitress? Tall order

I imagined voices in Ruby's head debating the good/bad, and then built loops out of different "takes" about Ruby loving these men to echo her multiple frustrations. In using my own voice I was trying to sound out her resolve, the desire, the anguish of a woman in waiting

Considering that a lot of your work blends fact with fiction, how do you convince your audience to trust what they're listening to

Certainly, there's the risk of too many odd tricks, of leading a listener in labyrinthine ways through sound to story, through too much effect, devoid of a lead. The desire to tantalize might, dang it, ostracize. How to execute the story and not kill the tale? It's fun to play fast and loose with narrative deceptions, and sidetrack the tale through provocative uses of sound and language. But then comes the question, to whom are you telling the story, and don't you care? And in the pursuit of painstaking constructs of silence as accent, in the uses of manipulated voice as ambient material, doesn't it matter? This is not navel-gazing

You want the listener to participate in the creation, relate to the acoustic field of associations. That's the adventure. Not to be provocative in an alienating way, but to poke around and provoke a bit. Because you hope the work is anchored in a way which resonates, which means something in the end to the listener

In that netherland between fact and fiction, there is always creative possibility of recomposing radio through novel ways of imparting information about the pressing issue, the hot topic. It can be in the writing, the sound-gathering, the assembly, the mix. How to whet the ear, that infinitely erotic orifice which always discerns what really matters (your name across a crowded room)... the last door to close at night

To the eye appeals the outer man; the inner to the ear (Wagner, McLuhan, Schafer, and probably a lot of other people).

Your production style is so distinct. How did this develop over time

The first, truly arresting audio compositions that caught my ear were the radio plays of horspieler Peter Handke, the text/song compositions of Luciano Berio performed by Cathy Berberian, a little trilling seahorse and flying fish poem of dada poet Tristan Tzara, and Helene Sisoux's audio play Dora. Works that can change the temperature in a room

Lilting, looping, sonorous voicings, luscious and bizarre. Rhythms and layers, multilingual collages, polyphonic. Bon-bons. The constructions seemingly serendipitous. Artists in love with language, with the abstract and nonsensical, taking pure pleasure in utterance, noise, and ambient sound

It led to a love of cyphers, riddles and charades. Fertile ground to someone with a little kinky Appalachian family lore—where accents can weigh down speech just long enough that a voice seem mores instrument than message

So my work began, and returns, to nuances of language and inflection of the human voice to reveal character and conflict within a story. Early pieces were drawn primarily from imagined inner monologues, building outward to a physical plane linking the character's relationship to the space (the bedroom, the hotel, the snake pit, the bridge). It's still easy to fall back into the construction of collage or portraits based on imagined thought rather than what was said. And to frame it all based on what bearing the landscape has on the subject. But there are new things bumping along now

I must keep asking myself: what makes the tale -- if not tall -- at least tilt?