THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

13 posts from October 2017

31 October 2017

Made-up about this boss new Liverpool Dickie

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

We can all probably remember the first time we met a Scouser [= ‘person from Liverpool’] face to face. Leafing through Tony Crowley’s excellent Liverpool English Dictionary immediately transported me back to 1983 and a fellow first year student in halls of residence who regularly described himself as dead made-up [= ‘really pleased/excited’] or disdainfully proclaimed that’s last [= expression used dismissively of e.g. unpleasant drink or food/embarrassing choice of clothing/dismal taste in music]. Made-up and last are both in Crowley’s wonderful new dictionary, which is the culmination of years of research into Liverpool English. There have been countless entertaining and informative treatments of Scouse [= ‘the dialect of Liverpool’] – both in print and online – but Crowley provides a long overdue authoritative inventory of Liverpool vernacular based on evidence from published works, thus enabling a reader to trace the provenance of over 2,000 fascinating expressions.

Liverpool English DictionaryIt’s intriguing, for instance, to be able to consult his entries for items in the Library’s own Evolving English WordBank – examples of contemporary dialect and slang words and phrases submitted to the British Library by members of the public in 2010/11. The following items that feature in both resources include established Liverpool favourites such as made-up [= ‘pleased’]; forms that reflect local pronunciation, like antwack(y) [= ‘antique’]); references to local specialities, customs and folklore, such as Wet Nellie [= type of bread pudding] and Hickey the Firebobby [= bogeyman evoked to frighten children/deflect them from asking awkward questions]; and recent coinages, like jarg [= ‘fake, useless, rubbish’]. Returning to 1983, it turns out my new friend was actually from Formby, so might potentially be dismissed by sticklers as a Plastic Scouser [= ‘person from the Liverpool hinterland rather than the city itself’]. Intriguingly, there’s no entry for Plastic Scouse(r) in Crowley’s dictionary, although there are several (conflicting) definitions in Urban Dictionary and elsewhere online including this BBC Voices Recording. Opinions as to the exact geographic boundary of Scouseland [= ‘Liverpool’] inevitably vary, but towards the end of our first term my mate from Formby certainly staked a genuine claim to membership of the wider Scouse community by asking me if I was intending to put up any chrizzie dezzies [= ‘Christmas decorations’] in my room. This brilliantly playful construction is an example of a highly productive process of word formation in Liverpool English – abbreviating the stem of an existing word and adding the suffix <-y> or <-ie> (e.g. plasticplazzy) and/or changing the final consonant of the stem before adding the suffix (e.g. plasticplaccy).

Crowley includes several of these highly distinctive hypocoristic forms. Many are arguably universal in colloquial speech, like bevvy [= ‘drink’ (from ‘beverage’)], bezzie [= ‘best mate’], butty [= ‘sandwich’ (from ‘bread-and-butter’), chippy [= ‘chip shop’], footy [= ‘football’], offy [= ‘off-licence’], pressie [= ‘present’], sarnie [= ‘sandwich’],  trackie [= ‘tracksuit’], tranny [= ‘transistor radio’] and wellies [= ‘Wellington boots’]; others are probably more geographically and/or socially restricted, such as bezzies [= ‘best clothes’], cozzie [= ‘swimming costume’], lazzy [= ‘elastic’], lecky [= ‘electricity supply’], lippy [= ‘lipstick’], photie [= ‘photograph’] and trainies [= ‘trainers’]. Even more noteworthy, though, is the set of entries that are, if not absolutely unique to Merseyside, then much more common there than elsewhere. Several refer to significant local landmarks, such as Dellie [= ‘Adelphi cinema’], Mizzy [= ‘Wavertree Playground’ (known locally as ‘The Mystery’)], Parly [= ‘Parliament Street’], Scotty Road [= ‘Scotland Road’], Sevvy Park [= ‘Sefton Park’], Tocky [= ‘Toxteth’] and Vauxy [= ‘Vauxhall Road’ (I’ve never heard Vauxy in reference to the Vauxhall Road in London, for instance)]; others refer to municipal institutions or authority figures that have special local significance, including binnie [= ‘binman’], bizzies [= ‘the police’ (from ‘busybody’)], corpy [= ‘Liverpool Corporation’], cuzzies [= ‘customs officer’], lanny [= ‘landing stage’], ozzy [= ‘hospital’], plainee [= ‘plain-clothes detective’]; while several relate to domestic objects and/or cultural activities including food, daily routine and leisure pursuits, such as avvy [= ‘afternoon’], conny onny [= ‘condensed milk’], cowie [= ‘cowboy film’], finny addy [= ‘finnan-haddock’], loosie [= ‘cigarette sold individually’], mobie [= ‘mobile phone’], muzzy [= ‘moustache’], emmy oggie [= ‘empty house’], rollie [= ‘roll-up cigarette’], squashies [= ‘squashed/broken chocolate sold at reduced price’] and sterry milk [= ‘sterilised milk’]. As a productive form, Crowley’s dictionary cannot possibly hope to be comprehensive, but forms like conny onny and mobie demonstrate how this process applies equally to traditional and to modern household items and my mate's use of chrizzie dezzies shows how it can be used to create highly original forms that may or may not be adopted more widely – the BBC Voices Recordings captured basies [= ‘baseball boots’] and grungies [= ‘fan of grunge rock music’], for instance.

Crowley’s dictionary is a unique celebration of the extraordinary ingenuity and creativity of Scouse vocabulary. To explore the equally distinctive Scouse accent, try this recording in the Library’s Evolving English VoiceBank.

30 October 2017

Recording of the week: Rabindranath Tagore's 'Songs of Patriotism'

This week's selection comes from Dr Janet Topp Fargion, Lead Curator of World and Traditional Music.

Born in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a writer, poet, artist and teacher. He was the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1913, for his poetry collection Gitanjali. Tagore wrote over 2,000 songs during his life, referred to as Rabindra Sangeet, in which he expressed his world view commenting on politics, progress and education. This song is taken from an album of patriotic songs, and is sung by Hemanta Mukherjee (1920-1989), popularly known as Hemant Kumar, a respected Indian singer, composer and film producer. 

Nai Nai Bhoy

Rabindranath_Tagore

Tagore's work was hugely influential on European writers and thinkers. A part of his life narrative is highlighted in the Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage exhibition at the Library of Birmingham in collaboration with the British Library running until 4 November, 2017.

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Nai Nai Bhoy is taken from Songs of Patriotism – Rabindranath Tagore. Label/catalogue: His Master’s Voice ECLP 2280, 1962. BL shelfmark: 1LP0156677

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

26 October 2017

Black History Month – Dean Dixon

Dean_Dixon_(1941)

Dean Dixon photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1941 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For Black History Month this year I have chosen to highlight the work of African American conductor Dean Dixon who was a familiar figure in the London concert halls of the 1960s.

Born in Harlem, New York in 1915 to West Indian parents, Dixon studied at the Julliard School of Music and graduated from Columbia University.  His professional debut was in 1937 at Town Hall, New York and in 1941 he was the first African American to guest conduct the New York Philharmonic receiving further engagements with other first rank American orchestras.  He founded the American Youth Orchestra in 1944 and became responsible for various university courses in music education while later in his career he was responsible for organising children’s concerts.  However, the 1940s was a difficult time for African Americans to succeed in the United States and many musicians went to Europe in the search for fulfilling work.  Dixon first went to Paris in 1949 then worked in Israel and Scandinavia.  During the 1950s he was director of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and from 1961 to 1974 director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra during which time he was also director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.  During the 1970s Dixon returned to the United States to guest conduct many of the well known orchestras.

Dixon first appeared in London in May 1955 conducting an all-Beethoven concert with Eileen Joyce as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 4.  He was often a guest conductor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and when Rudolf Schwarz’s contract as director of the orchestra came to an end in 1962, Dixon was one of a team of conductors chosen to take his place in the forthcoming season.  He was in good company as some of the others included Colin Davis, Antal Dorati, Rudolf Kempe, Lorin Maazel, Jean Martinon and Igor Markevitch.  When Dixon conducted Mahler’s First Symphony in May 1963 the Times critic corrected his own ‘mental reservations’ when he wrote: ‘Mr Dixon is an American Negro conductor, and as such might be supposed to feel alien to the music by a Central European composer of the decadent “fin de siècle.” In the event, these mental reservations proved entirely unfounded, for Mr Dixon’s performance recaptured on the whole the spirit of the First Symphony most admirably.’

Dixon recorded for the Westminster label including an excellent disc of Liszt Symphonic Poems with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Schubert Symphonies, the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Antonio Janigro and MacDowell Piano Concertos with his first of his three wives, Vivian Rivkin.  Recently, German label Audite has issued radio broadcasts of Dixon accompanying the great Rumanian pianist Clara Haskil and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 from 1962.  With the Prague Symphony orchestra he recorded a disc of Weber Symphonies for Supraphon.

Dixon championed American music making recordings for the Desto label, and the British Library holds a rare recording of excerpts from the American Music Festival of 1948 with Dixon conducting the premiere of the Viola Concerto by Quincy Porter with Paul Doktor as soloist. 

Porter Viola Concerto

Dixon also broadcast rare repertoire for the BBC including the Second Symphony by Humphrey Searle.  When he accompanied Greek pianist Gina Bachauer in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon one critic wrote, ‘…the highlight of Beethoven’s third piano concerto was the rapport between the soloist (Miss Gina Bachauer) and orchestra in the Largo.’  Here is the opening tutti of the concerto demonstrating Dixon’s attention to detail with crisp wind playing and fine moulding of phrases.

Beethoven Concerto No. 3

Dixon died in 1976 at the age of 61.

Follow @BL_Classical for all the latest news

23 October 2017

Recording of the week: not on period instruments

This week's selection comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Recordings.

Those of us brought up in the 1980s and 1990s only hearing Haydn performed on period instruments missed a lot. While these were innovative and fascinating, older recordings of symphony orchestras - with large string sections performing Classical repertoire on contemporary instruments - became outmoded. This recording from 1953 of the Oxford Symphony by Geroge Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra is a delight, full of elegance, wit, virility and humour - all the best traits of Haydn's genius.

Haydn Symphony no. 92  G major (Oxford)

  Joseph_Haydn

A collection of Haydn's symphonies can be found on British Library Sounds.

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

16 October 2017

Recording of the week: soul midwives

This week's selection comes from Holly Gilbert, Cataloguer of Digital Multimedia Collections.

Friends, Vanessa and Felicity, talk about their work as soul midwives which involves working with people who are dying to ensure that their death is personal and dignified. They describe the different ways that people approach and experience death and how their work has changed the way that they view life and think about their own death. They discuss at length the mysteries that surround death, how other people react to what they do and the gift of insights that they feel are given to them by the people they work with. They also describe the experiences of death that made them want to do this job, they talk about how much they enjoy what they do and say that, contrary to what people might think, it actually involves a lot of joy and laughter.

The Listening Project_soul midwives (excerpt)

Vanessa and Felicity

This recording is part of The Listening Project, an audio archive of conversations recorded by the BBC and archived at the British Library. The full conversation between Vanessa and Felicity can be found here.

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

12 October 2017

LISTEN: 140 Years of Recorded Sound

Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound is the Library's new free exhibition in the Entrance Hall Gallery until 11 May 2018.

This exhibition also inaugurates the Library’s Season of Sound which, includes happy hour listening sessions, a series of talks and late-night shows.

What would you find?

  Gallery_blog

100 Sounds

In the exhibition space we present 100 sounds from the archive, amounting to nearly seven hours of playing time, dating from 1889 to 2017 and covering music, drama, oral history, wildlife, environmental sounds, accents and dialects, and radio.

Many of the selections are rare and unpublished and they can be accessed from any of the exhibition’s listening pods, which have been designed for a secluded and prolonged listening experience.

Hand-out_blog

 Some of my favourites…

  • Radio drama: a musical excerpt from an off-air recording of a radio play by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin - The People in the Park made in 1963. This is an example of a radio drama which was not saved by the BBC and which the British Library has preserved from an off-air recording. The chosen musical excerpt is representative of the humour and the strong feminist message of the piece.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan live at WOMAD recorded by the British Library in 1985. The Library has 2500 hours of recordings made at the WOMAD Festival by a team of volunteer staff from 1985 till the present.
  • Brendan Behan singing ‘The Old Triangle’ in 1954 from his play The Quare Fellow. This is a private recording donated by the Theatre Royal in Stratford East.
  • An excerpt from an oral history interview with chef Cyrus Todiwala, interviewed by Niamh Dillon in 2008, recalling his reaction to first encountering Indian restaurant menus when he arrived in the UK from India in the 1990s.
  • A wildlife recording of a Turkish soundscape at dusk made by biologist and field recordist Eloisa Matheu in 2010.
  • Hugh Davies performing his composition ‘Salad’ on a variety of egg and tomato slicers in 1978.

Also… the voice of Florence Nightingale; James Joyce reading from Ulysses; the voice of Brahms; Maya Angelou live in Lewisham; the earliest recording of British vernacular speech; bird mimicry; whale songs; …

‘Mystery tracks’

To put you in the zone we have installed five ‘mystery tracks’ at the very front of the exhibition space. If you are curious to know the ‘when’, ‘where’ and the ‘who’ of the mystery tracks, the details are revealed in a hand-out available elsewhere in the space.

Mystery tracks 1blog 

Timeline

For reference there is a timeline listing key developments in the history of recorded sound (including radio), and illustrating how the effect of recordings and recording technologies has changed our relationship to sound over the years.

Listen timeline_blog

Artefacts

The British Library has a collection of rarely seen audio players and other artefacts. For this exhibition we have taken a few out of storage. Players include an Edison home phonograph from 1900 and a Nagra SN miniature tape recorder from 1970. The artefacts include a colourful selection of picture discs and the original nickel-plated stamper used to press a disc version of Tennyson reciting 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' in 1890.

Listen to Tennyson reciting 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

Edison Diamond Disc phonograph_blogEdison Diamond Disc phonograph (c.1919)

Boy Wireless

To illustrate how archival sounds can inspire new works in the 21st century, composer and sound artist Aleks Kolkowski has created a unique sound installation.

Boy Wireless was inspired by a diary kept by a sixteen-year old radio enthusiast, Alfred Taylor, writing in 1922-23, at the dawn of broadcast radio. The original diary is also on display in the space.

BoyWireless_B Boy Wireless sound installation by Aleks Kolkowski

Aleks Kolkowski_blogAleks Kolkowski at the British Library cutting souvenir voice recordings on the exhibition’s opening night.

Save Our Sounds

The Library’s sound archive is one of the biggest on the planet. It contains six and half million audio recordings from all over the world in over forty different formats. The preservation of recorded sound is at the heart of our work. In 2016 the Library launched the Save Our Sounds Programme to digitise the most vulnerable items in our collection and in other collections across the UK. Donations to support the programme are welcome.

Follow @BL_DramaSound and @soundarchive for more news.

11 October 2017

James Gowan on the Engineering Building at the University of Leicester

"The building committee we were dealing with wanted to make a statement, and indicate their presence, and make a splash, and I think that was probably successful" - James Gowan

47958155_bebd6e3385_bThe Engineering Building, Leicester University by Steve Cadman at Flickr

James Gowan on the Engineering Building design

The Leicester building did involve a lot of drawings but not as many as one would expect because most of the time we were sorting out options rather than doing working drawings.  Because we were in the dark really, we didn’t have a model to work to, not like a Corbusian model, we were shaping the thing up from scratch.  So we were trying out various types of roofs, various arrangements for the front, and that was done at a smaller scale.  … One of the things that fixed the building was that, the fact the hydraulic tank had to be 60 feet up in the air to get the pressure ….and we had a lot of pressure from the building committee to have a tower facing Victoria Park and having a presence that could be seen by the wider public. ….The building committee we were dealing with wanted to make a statement, and indicate their presence, and make a splash, and I think that was probably successful. 

JGowan&JSterling_0266_10James Gowan and James Stirling, Gowan in the foreground (© Sandra Lousada)

The building proved ground-breaking in its form, construction and use of materials and aroused huge interest nationally and internationally with many younger architects recalling site visits while under construction.  However, it was the last project Stirling and Gowan worked on together.  Subsequently, James Gowan focused on housing for both private clients and for the public sector and James Stirling became known for large scale urban projects such as the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain and No. 1 Poultry in the City of London.

Niamh Dillon, Project Interviewer, Architects' Lives

Listen to James Gowan's full interview at British Library Sounds

10 October 2017

National Life Stories Podcast Episode 2: Electricity

Dr Tom Lean, Project Interviewer on An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry, chatted to David Govier for our second National Life Stories podcast. Tom takes us back to 1950s Lancashire when Granville Camsey (born 1936, shelfmark C1495/09) was about to become a power station apprentice.

021I-C1495X0009XX-0004M0Granville Camsey collecting the prize for student apprentice of the year from the Lord Mayor of Manchester, 1958

Granville eventually became a senior manager at the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) in the 1980s and a Director of National Power in the 1990s, but in 1952 he was a craft apprentice from a working class family:

“I was introduced to the power station because my mother had a weaving friend in the mill, Mrs Ashworth, and her son had got a student apprenticeship at the power station and she said: ‘You'll never believe it May, they gave him two pairs of overalls.’ And I can remember my mother saying ‘you should go to the power station, they give you overalls...’”

Listen to the podcast to find out how Granville's career (and fashion sense) developed from his early years in overalls to managing power stations in the age of privatisation. Along the way, Tom explains what the oral history project set out to do, how he recruited his interviewees (by rolling eighty-year-olds down a mountain, seeing as you wondered), and what happens when the interviews are finished (he puts them next to the magna carta, apparently).

National Life Stories podcast episode 2 - Electricity

You can hear Tom and Granville, among many others, speak about An Oral History of Electricity Supply Industry at ‘The Life Electric’, a British Library event on Thursday 19 October. Book your tickets now!