Between Here and Gone: Radcliffe application
Name: Susan Schardt
Name of Project: Between Here and Gone
Discipline code: 32f
“Between Here and Gone” is an audio construction using sound, music, storytelling, oral history, and writing to examine what is here and what is no longer here. I will document and express a specific aspect of human experience drawing primarily, though not exclusively, on the experience of dying. My principal interest is the “space between things,”and I’ll bring this region into focus beginning at the outer edges. I intend to trace those who are on the way to “gone,” and to document what remains after they’ve left. Working from the outer edges inward, I seek to illuminate and experience the point at which this shift from “here” to “not here” occurs.
I seek support and guidance from Radcliffe’s diverse Institute of scholars and artists as I devote my full attention to explore, producing, gathering new material, and editing my existing body of work related to the project.
Between Here and Gone concerns something difficult, perhaps impossible to portray or identify with precision: the moment that occurs between someone being here and then not here. My intention isn’t to create a portrait of grief, nor a portrait of death, nor of life, though each of these elements provides the architecture for what I seek to create.
Between Here and Gone traces, through sound, written word, storytelling, and interviews, evidence of that which is leaving – what’s gathered, observed, described—and of what remains after we are gone. I have a body of raw taped interviews to begin my audio construction – Worthington and Trevor Forever (sample CD) – and I’ll gather new materials: oral histories, last words, music, and writings. By investigating what comes before, and what comes after, my quest is to provide evidence — and allow a listener to experience – the margin between what is here and what is gone.
Sound is my medium; my ear my primary instrument. My formal study was music; from age 8 into my 20’s, I actively studied and performed. I left conservatory training to pursue what would eventually become a career in radio.
I love radio as much as I love sound and music. I love radio’s power to exercise the imagination. I love the intimacy of it – I whisper into a live microphone and am – all at once – whispering into someone’s ear”¦ into the deepest recesses of their mind. I love the fact that it isn’t visible. Sounds ride the air. My activity takes place out of sight, sparing me from the pains of self consciousness. Radio gives me an exhilarating, unique kind of freedom to create
My principle arena since 1988 has been public radio. The body of work I’ve developed comes from a wide range of projects I’ve undertaken as a media strategist and producer. As a strategist, my task is to assimilate what exists – trends, patterns, needs – and anticipate what lies ahead. These gathered materials provide evidence – raw materials – from which I make predictions and map out instructions to those who’ve hired me to help them get from “here” to “there.”
Over the last 17 years, I’ve also developed a radio program and new format for presenting music that uses, as its organizing principle, the idea that “everything happens in the margin.” In the Margin of the Other is a 2-hour live and often improvisatory mix of music, sound, and spoken word. I draw from a wide range of material without regard for genre. My activity is in the margin, and in this place between one piece and another I listen for cues – a rhythmic pattern, the color of an instrument, text, a melody or phrase. The possibilities for what will lead me to choose what comes next are vast. The connections are not always obvious to the listener. That isn’t the point. Where we’ve been and where we’re going leave their own impressions. My fascination and interest, however, and I believe, that of my listeners’, is in those moments when something is turning from where we were to where we are going next.
I’m live, spinning sound out into the air. We are coming to the end of the 5th movement of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. My ear picks up the piano ostinato – repeated rhythmic pattern. This, I decide, will lead us where we go next. With a stroke, I bring us into another piano, broadened slightly, harmonically, beating out a nearly identical pulse. It’s Shirley Horn, her intimate rendering of Estate. A delicate, nearly indiscernible transition, the effect is physical for me and, perhaps, for the listener. Something gives way in the middle of my body – heart charka? – opening. It’s a quiet sensation – a feeling of quiet enlightenment. For a listener, I’m told, comes the wonder of finding oneself in completely unfamiliar territory.
The overall experience of a listener “in the margin” – the effect of pulling attention and activity into this place – is one of anticipation and expectation. Where will we go next? Will I recognize where I am? Is it going to be something new, that I’ve never experienced before?
The margin intrigues me not only in the dark studio where I’m connecting with an invisible audience, one-one-one, through the mediums of air and sound. It permeates my work as a strategist as well and, I think, makes me good at what I do in the more public sphere: developing plans to launch a program, to realize a new, completely abstract program idea, to fix a problem with declining audience. I pay attention to this place where the not-yet-quite-a-pattern exists, but there are clues and vestiges of one. This is where the most interesting things happen — random, uncertain, aleatoric relationships form. This is the place of promise, of (new) birth — of ideas, of trends, of patterns, of realizations. Everything happens in the margin.
My recent life’s experiences – loved ones dying, my role and exposure to this passage between life and death – compel me to turn my expertise to this particular margin. When I contemplate illuminating the place between life and death – here and gone – I feel moved. This is an inviting, familiar place. I’m drawn to giving it definition”¦ tracing it’s lines and being able to lead others to it; to say to them, through their ears, without words, necessarily, “See? It’s right here. You know this place.” I have an optimistic, almost spiritual view, that the experience of “opening” I described earlier elevates a person; that this elevation instills hope and helps to penetrate the false attitude that life is predictable or fixed, and it helps people understand – one listener at time – that they are more than they think they are
Between Here and Gone brings together the many disciplines I’ve developed in the medium of sound. I’m an “insider” to the public radio industry; a rare bastion comprised of passionate thinkers who care deeply about making a positive difference in the world. I’m at a point in my career where I want to extend my ideas beyond limitations brought by concerns for format. Public radio has evolved into a mature industry whose primary franchise is delivering high quality journalism. One consequence is that there are few opportunities to produce work that is long form, experimental, or that demands a more artistic approach to the medium. This Fellowship would give me an opportunity to stretch out and change directions so that I might – after years of devoting myself to supporting work of other producers and program makers – immerse myself in my own abstract ideas. I’ll flourish among the Institute’s writers, thinkers, and those concerned with space and form, and require the support of such a diverse intellectual community to realize what I feel is a unique invention.
I intend explore whether the Murray Center for the Study of Human Lives, would serve as a repository for some of my constructions and, in turn, find support from the Center as I develop format and architecture for my piece.