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Psychedelic Headphones.

Inquiry as Telos

Jenny Edbauer Rice

In a short 1977 article on using oral history in composition classrooms, Lisa Ede offers a remedy for what she calls the “student boredom” that often comes with essay writing. In “Slough of Despond,” Ede argues that oral history projects can breathe new life into composition assignments by allowing students to directly engage with subjects through personal interviews. The novel aspect of Ede’s suggestion is that oral history can serve an uplifting purpose: perhaps a remedy against boredom. I have used Ede’s suggestion in my own classes, which often ask students to produce with and through audio. But I also find myself thinking of such inquiry less as a remedy and more as a mode of life. This short audio piece is an experimental revision of Ede’s notion. It is born from the idea that vernacular inquiry can itself perform rhetorical interventions in the world. Sound inquiry—the common act of creation through live archiving—thus becomes its own telos. Boredom, joy, memories, stories, everyday sounds: they are the stuff through which we gain insight, or theoria. In this short audio piece, I perform sound inquiry using the words, stories, and sounds of Austin, Texas residents who are engaging their own inquiries of place.

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Inquiry as Telos

Transcription: Trevor Hoag

(Music with chimes and soft voices, birds chirping).

(Laughter) Yeah, people don’t like grackles, but I’ve always kind of enjoyed their presence. I guess it sounds like home to me.

Our backyard backs right up against Mo-Pac, right at the Winsor exit of Mo-Pac. Two cars have actually hit the deck on our house. We could never afford to live here if wasn’t for the fact of cars driving in our backyard.

And he came running back up to the house, and he said, “Mommy, mommy. They’re gonna have a big party down at the park.” And I said, “Really? What is it?” He said, “Well, they’re putting candy on all the bushes. And there’s a little donkey, and it’s got flowers all in its hair.”

There used to be this cool graffiti on this tress going across the Colorado, said: “Heavyweights 1955.” At some point in time, there was a group of kids that called themselves the Heavyweights. That is so cool! Well they blacked it out, you know, cuz I guess somebody complained this is graffiti. And like the day after they blacked it out, someone came along with neon pink spray paint and said “Eminem is God.” And I thought, “Well, if Eminem is God, you know, then what would Eric Clapton think?”

I was born in Dallas. Elementary school, junior high, and most high school in Houston. I went to college and got a degree in business—I dunno what the hell I was thinking about. Graduated, three years work with my Pop, drove each other crazy. Packed ‘em up, I-10 West to LA, ten years out there, and just wanted to get back to Texas so I decided to move back, to Austin. Houston, Dallas, San Antone, not an option.

My name is Tom Gresnick. We’re in the Mo-Pac tunnels underneath Mo-Pac highway along the Hike and Bike Trail. And . . . I bring a lot of various things down, a lot of metal instruments. The way the tunnels reverberate the sound, with the cars overhead and being almost really central to the city of Austin, it’s just a nice place to get away. (Birds chirping).

I came to Austin from India as a graduate student. I found myself a roommate. She was also from India, and when we went to sign our lease the manager told us that she would take money orders, and we could get those from the 7-11 down the street. Now, the street address of this apartment complex was 600-something, so we figured that seven hundred eleven would be close by.

The Hill Country is Mother Nature’s beautiful blanket with trees and plants and streams. It is the blanket that nature has given us.

No, that’s something they’ve been trying to do for the longest . . .  You know, it ain’t no secret, that’s just how it is. I ain’t trippin’ a bit, I like white people, but I do know every time it’s a new type of building or a new house that’s built that’s worth more than the house that been there, that do raise up the property taxes, so I guess that is something that’s going on.

I love birds, all kinds of birds. My favorite ones are the grackles. My kids and I named ‘em. All the female grackles are “Tish.” All the male grackles are “Ramone.” And during courtin’ season, Ramone really goes out of his way to impress Tish. It’s gotta work sometime because there are plenty of grackles.

(Musical outro with voices and chimes).

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