notable conversations on the record
March 7, 2019 6:04 AM   Subscribe

What are some live conversations that are notable for their dramatic, political, historical, cultural, technical, or personal significance whose audio is freely available?

By conversation, I mean any kind of unscripted recorded interaction that involves some amount of exchange between the interlocutors. The more back-and-forth the better. For example, interviews, legal hearings, phone calls, panels, Q&A, candid recordings, and podcasts could all count.

My reference points include Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air; Sontag, Lightman, Penrose, and Wilson on a panel at MIT; Malcolm X on air; and the Switchboard corpus (for being the first of its kind).

I'd prefer conversations that are significant to the participants or the listeners in some way, but they don't have to be as lofty as my examples, and they don't need to involve historical figures. If you're thinking of a recent podcast episode that involves some comedians in an exchange you find intensely interesting, that's perfect, just tell me why it matters to you or your community.

Links to high-quality audio would be very appreciated. Transcripts and video would also be great but aren't essential.
posted by icosahedron to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot to add: conversations that include interesting verbal and nonverbal exchange are even better! e.g. body language, facial expressions, movement, significant pauses or laughter.
posted by icosahedron at 6:07 AM on March 7, 2019

Maybe Best of Enemies with Vidal and Buckley?
posted by beccaj at 6:23 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

David Frost interviews Richard Nixon
posted by runincircles at 6:31 AM on March 7, 2019 [3 favorites] has audio recordings of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments dating back to 1958.
posted by burden at 6:37 AM on March 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I find NPR’s StoryCorps stories particularly valuable in understanding the lives of everyday people.
posted by bulclippr at 6:55 AM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

The aforementioned Vidal-Buckley thing is pretty famous. There's a nasty slur involved, so you might want to avoid it because of that, but some would say that's part of what makes the conversation notable.

LBJ ordering pants is a classic.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

The PEN America Digital Archive captures more than 50 years of cultural programming at the intersection of literature and freedom of expression advocacy. (That's their blurb.)

Here's one example:
An interview with James Baldwin by Frank Schatz regarding John Brown.Mr. Baldwin furthers the discussion to the legacy of slavery, a nation in perpetual decline, and the American tendency to "destroy history."
Pretty much any conversation with James Baldwin is guaranteed to be a revelation.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Margaret Mead & James Baldwin, A Rap on Race. It’s available in book form but the audio is on YouTube here. I always love listening to Baldwin’s fierce eloquence.
posted by Orlop at 7:23 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jinx, Winnie the Proust.
posted by Orlop at 7:24 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

David Frost's interviews with Richard Nixon come to mind.

Sports analyst/reporter/commentator Joe Buck has a great video series called Undeniable where he interviews mostly athletes (natch). Very in depth and a lot is not just about the games, but about the athletes lives and memories and how they fit in their times.
posted by AugustWest at 7:37 AM on March 7, 2019

John Berger's Ways of Seeing is great! It's scripted, but it's kind of transgressive tv anyway.

Anything with James Baldwin, his face was so mobile and he was so devastatingly intelligent.

I guess I'm a sucker for the days of smoking on television?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2019

Thirding Vidal/Buckley as well as Baldwin/Buckley.
posted by Maecenas at 7:47 AM on March 7, 2019

Chomsky and Foucault debating human nature.
posted by lilies.lilies at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Hitler and Mannerheim recording, the only known recording of Hitler speaking in an unofficial tone.
posted by lharmon at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2019

I've been listening to Web of WMN, from the Wonder Media Network. They pick someone to interview, and that person then picks someone from their circle to interview, etc.

The first person being interviewed is Sosie Bacon, who then interviews her mother, Kyra Sedgwick, in a later episode. They talk about issues that are important to them, and I enjoy it a lot.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2019

I enjoyed 'Talking Funny' from HBO - its a conversation about stand up comedy between Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis CK. You may have seen a clip recently when it became popular because of their discussion of using a racial slur in comedy. Overall, I found the whole conversation fascinating.

In the same vein, 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee' is just Jerry Seinfeld having conversations with other comedians as they drive around and get coffee. It used to be free, but it is on Netflix now.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:23 PM on March 7, 2019

"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered—"

ohhhh, Buckley was so butch!
Seconding Buckley vs Vidal
posted by james33 at 5:43 AM on March 8, 2019

You may hate both of these people, but I watched a YouTube video conversation between Russel Brand and Jordan Peterson that covered morality, art, politics and just about everything else. It was extremely interesting, with no name calling or histrionics. Just a really good discussion. Sorry I don't have the link..
posted by Enid Lareg at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2019

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