conducting an interview // part one: prep

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One of the subjects I will interview for this project is Harold Gold, one half of the co-owner duo behind Gold Million Records. The interview will take place on March 11 (edit: additional footage was recorded on March 18 due to technical problems on March 11). It will be recorded on-location at the store. I feel it important to interview Harold in particular because he opened the store himself in 1976 (with his own record collection serving as inventory, to boot) and was originally its sole owner.

My plan for this interview is to ask fairly general questions to see where Harold will take each topic. Rather than try to impose my opinions or ask pointed questions that would require stunted or specific responses, I figure I’ll try to keep my dialogue simple and give him the floor as much as possible. This will allow Harold to discuss, at length, any topic that comes to his mind while speaking and will let him expand on the question without feeling constrained. We will also talk about the history of the store chronologically, from its opening in the mid-’70s up until its current incarnation. In this way, the interview will serve as both a narrative and a series of what Harold would consider monumental moments in the store’s history.

The use of methods like this contributes to the “orality” of oral history, as Alessandro Portelli calls it. By giving Harold the opportunity to expand on questions past the typical parameters, we are finding out what he truly considers to be significant. Portelli says that “[a]n informant may recount in a few words experiences which lasted a long time, or dwell at length on brief episodes[…] In all cases, there is a relationship between the velocity of the narrative and the meaning of the narrator.” Understanding this concept helps the interviewer decode the subject to an extent, and gives the interviewer insight into how the subject sees themselves and their background. Whereas in a written history all facets of a story might appear to be equal, the use of oral storytelling hands the subject the authority to emphasize what they find the most noteworthy.

Additionally, I intend to begin the interview in the same fashion as Studs Terkel: by asking the subject to state their name and “who they are” in whatever way they choose to do so. Beginning the session with this, I believe, warms up the subject and gets them in touch with themselves before commencing answering the intended questions.

In terms of topics, I am hoping to cover: the history of the store and its various names, locations, and inventory adaptations; the backgrounds of the owners; why selling vinyl (and reselling used vinyl) was — and still is — important in today’s musical climate; the format of vinyl itself; the community of Bryn Mawr and why the store has typically been located there; and, at the heart of it all, what it is that has made Gold Million so successful over the past few decades.

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