THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

Introduction

Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

16 July 2018

Recording of the week: have you eaten yet?

This week's selection comes from Rowan Campbell, former PhD placement student who worked on the VoiceBank collection.

The greetings used in different languages can reveal a lot about what is important to their respective cultures. And as someone who is always thinking about the next meal, this Singaporean phrase is close to my heart (or stomach):

汝食饱未 (lí chia̍h pá buē)? You eaten already? (C1442/6296) 

When I lived in Hong Kong, my friends would use a similar phrase in Cantonese, and variations of it it crop up in other East Asian countries too. I like how it operates on two levels: first and foremost, it allows you to immediately plan to go have dinner if you haven't already eaten! But behind that is an expression of consideration for the other person's wellbeing - because what better way to show someone you care than to share a meal with them.

Dumplings-2392893_1280

This recording comes from the Evolving English Wordbank, an extensive collection of recordings that capture English dialect and slang from around the world. The collection was created between November 2010 and April 2011 by visitors to the British Library exhibition, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices and includes local, regional and vernacular forms and idiolectal expressions used within families or friendship groups.

Follow @VoicesofEnglish and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

09 July 2018

Recording of the week: exploding seed pods

This week's selection comes from Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environmental Sounds.

The soaring temperatures of summer can have explosive results, especially if you happen to be standing near a gorse bush. This thorny, evergreen shrub produces an unmistakable sea of bright, yellow flowers from January to June. As the flowers begin to fade, a mass of black seed pods emerge to take their place. Slowly but surely, the heat of the summer sun dries out these downy carriers until the structures burst open, expelling the tiny seeds enclosed within. The force of this explosion produces a sharp, popping sound, as can be heard in the following example recorded on the Isle of Wight by Richard Beard.

Exploding seed pods (BL ref 212269)

24921214482_051c505a74_bGorse seed pods (Photo credit: Starr Environmental on VisualHunt / CC BY)

This recording was chosen in memory of the field recordist Richard Beard (1953-2018) whose work in the wildlife section helped process hundreds of unpublished collections for more than a decade. Richard also contributed many thousands of his own recordings to the British Library, some of which can be heard in the Weather and Water collections on British Library Sounds. An oral history interview with Richard, conducted in 2013, can be found here.

Follow @CherylTipp and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

02 July 2018

Recording of the week: Nar Sur - a little known music genre from east Baluchistan

This week's selection comes from AHRC Collaborative PhD candidate, Christian Poske.

An unknown recordist captured this Baluchi folk song with a cylinder phonograph in Dera Bugti in Baluchistan in the winter of 1911. He noted down some information, including place and time of recording, topic of the song and instruments, but no names of performers or music style. The cylinders were later received by Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941), author of The Golden Bough and regarded as the greatest of ‘armchair anthropologists’, who acquired a collection of about 2100 ethnographic wax cylinder recordings from all parts of the world throughout his life.

In the course of the current collaborative project involving the British Library Sound Archive and the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology in Gurgaon, it became clear that the recordist documented the regional music genre Nar Sur. Named after the naḍ flute and the word sur for tune or melody, songs of this genre support the oral transmission of Baluchi history among communities. A notable feature is the throaty, drone-like singing style, while the flute player varies the melody. In the recording, the singer narrates the story of the battle between the Marri and Bugti people, the two largest ethnic groups of Baluchistan.

Song in Nar Sur style about battle between the Bugtis and Marris (C663/530)

Mohammad and Allah Bakhsh QaisraniMohammad and Allah Bakhsh Qaisrani, photograph from Suttar, D.G. Khan district, Punjab, Pakistan (Photo: Nicholas Pierce)

Another recording from September 1984, made by Nicholas Pierce in Kot Qaisrani in west Punjab, now Pakistan, features the singer Allah Bakhsh Qaisrani and the naḍ player Mohammad Bakhsh Qaisrani performing other folk songs in the Nar Sur style. The genre is practised along the Sulaiman mountain range in east Baluchistan till the present day and as literacy is still low in the region, the songs remain important means for the maintenance of Baluchi culture.

Many thanks go to Dr Janet Topp Fargion of the British Library and Shubha Chaudhuri of the ARCE for enabling this research, and to Dr Sangeeta Dutta for her support in the evaluation of recordings.

Christian is currently conducting his PhD, jointly supervised at SOAS and the BL, and is one of the researchers on the collaboration between the BL and ARCE, supported by the Rutherford Fund via BEIS. See International research collaboration on South Asian audiovisual heritage  for details of other work done during the project.

Follow @BL_WorldTrad and @soundarchive for all the latest news.