As Elvis Costello said about describing sound with written word, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s a really stupid thing to want to do.” While we don’t think it’s stupid, we certainly recognize the difficulty of the task (on a side note, if anyone wants to dance about architecture, please YouTube it for us!). However, John Biewen, the audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and Alexa Dilworth, publishing director at the CDS, set out to tackle the project of writing about sound in a fascinating way.
Their book, Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound, is a collection of essays by a diverse group of storytellers who typically use radio as their communication medium. The writers translate their radio work, giving each chapter a distinct and original voice. The editors’ website features interviews with Biewen, short biographies of the contributing writers and links to their work.
Biewen gives insight to how he went about selecting the writers for the book:
Two essayists in the book, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, known as The Kitchen Sisters, are the producers of several NPR programs, including Hidden Kitchens, a series exploring community cooking around the United States. The program inspired their first book, Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters, which was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Writing on Food, as well as being recognized as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2005. The two chronicle the stories of American cooking traditions that would typically go unknown to the public.
The Kitchen Sisters are among more than a dozen interesting personalities who helped contribute to Reality Radio.
Biewen and The Kitchen Sisters will be in Durham July 26 for a performance of Reality Radio, to be followed by a signing. The event begins at 7 pm in Bay 7 of the American Tobacco Complex. For other events for the book around the nation, you can visit the Reality Radio website.