THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

73 posts categorized "Interviews"

21 May 2018

Recording of the week: "We regret to inform you" - bad news from the sound archives

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This week's selection comes from David Govier, Oral History Archivist.

An Oral History of the Post Office includes memories of telegram delivery boys who delivered telegrams by hand with news of war casualties during the Second World War, and their reflections on what it was like delivering the bad news. Delivery boys were always told what the news was. They were instructed to ask if there was a man in the house first. They also had to wait at the door in case a reply was requested.

Roger Osborn (C1007/16) discusses the wording of war telegrams which would always start with the words “We regret to inform you…” A friend of Roger’s in Tring, Hertfordshire, ignored his instructions when delivering news of the killing of a woman’s husband. He noticed the woman out shopping and gave her the telegram. Her first reaction was to hit him over the head with her loaf of bread.

Des Callaghan (C1007/38) remembers delivering three telegrams in Nottingham to one home: one with the news that the son was missing, the second the incorrect news that he was dead, and the third that he was actually in a prisoner of war camp - and Des got a £1 note in return!

These extracts come from An Oral History of the Post Office, a collection of life story interviews with a sample of Royal Mail and Post Office staff in the UK conducted between 2001 and 2005. Interviewees include, of course, postmasters and postmistresses, postmen and postwomen but also those involved with postal sorting and transportation (by road, air and train); stamp design, printing and marketing (the story of the stamp); legal, purchasing and property departments. The collection also includes interviews with staff who worked in lesser-known departments such as the Post Office Rifles, the Post Office Film Unit and the Lost Letter Centre.

There is an emphasis within the collection on change within living memory from the 1930s to the 1990s: the separation of post from telecommunications, computerisation and automation, new management practices and the diversification of new services offered by Royal Mail and the Post Office.

A CD of extracts from the collection entitled “Speeding the Mail: an oral history of the post from the 1930s to the 1990s” was published by the British Library and the British Postal Museum and Archive in 2005, and over forty extracts are available online at British Library Sounds.

Speeding the Mail CD

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

23 April 2018

Recording of the week: a continual symphony of sound

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This week's selection comes from Charlie Morgan, Oral History Archive & Administrative Assistant.

Oral histories are often nostalgic; interviews tend to take place towards the end of an interviewees life and in many cases they are speaking about aspects of their life for the first time. In that respect Michael Rothenstein’s (C466/02) longing description of growing up in the Cotswolds is not unique. But the way he expresses the sights, sounds, and colours of his childhood, as well as the connections he makes to his artistic practice, make it particularly engrossing.

Michael Rothenstein was a printmaker, painter and art teacher whose work often incorporated aspects of nature and rural life – and it seems there’s a good reason for this. In this recording he speaks fondly of growing up in the Stroud Valley, describing it as a wild place with “a continual symphony of sound” where you could be almost deafened by “the birds, the sawing of the grasshoppers in the grass”. Not only is this a wonderfully vivid description, but for us who work in sound archives and are constantly advocating for the importance of sound it’s fantastic to hear someone frame their memories in this way. Still, Michael does talk about other senses too. Specifically he draws attention to the sites of nature and describes how in the summer “the air shivered with the cloud of butterflies… It was glittering, you cannot imagine how beautiful it was”.

1280px-Frampton_Mansell_St_Lukes_Church

Frampton Mansell, close to Stroud in the Cotswolds (Sourced from Wikipedia. Image credit: Saffron Blaze, via http://www.mackenzie.co

Interviewed in 1990 at the age of 82, Michael laments the pace of change during his lifetime. For him “the fields have lost their voice” and the butterflies have “vanished”. Yet if the butterflies have vanished they certainly live on in Michael’s work. Many of his paintings contain butterflies and this interview helps us to understand where the inspiration for this came from. To quote Michael’s friend Peter Muller “they have flown out of the Paradise of your infancy”. A beautiful phrase in a beautiful recording. If you think you’ve heard all there is to hear on childhood memories, think again and give this a listen.

This recording is from Michael Rothenstein’s interview in the Artists Lives collection. Artists Lives is an ongoing National Life Stories project to document the lives of individuals involved in British art, including painters, sculptors, curators, dealers and critics. This extract was published on the CD 'Artists' Lives' in 1998 and you can access the full life story interview online at British Library Sounds.

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

18 April 2018

Classical Podcast No. 1 - The first orchestral record made in Britain and the extraordinary story of Norfolk Megone, Nelson and Bonaparte

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By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music

Cecil MarchBerliner E500 Cecil March recorded 18th August 1898

Welcome to the first of an occasional series of podcasts showcasing treasures from the classical collection of the British Library Sound Archive.

Part one of the podcast details the background to the first orchestral recording made in Britain in 1898 by the Hotel Cecil Orchestra. 

Part two  pieces together the extraordinary story of the orchestra's conductor, Norfolk Megone.  Below are images referenced in the conversation.

 
Cecil front page-page-001Front page of the Hotel Cecil magazine (BL collections) 

Cecil back page-page-001Back page of the Hotel Cecil magazine (BL collections)

Bertini manager blurb-page-001Introduction by G. P. Bertini, manager and dedicatee of the Cecil Two-Step (BL collections)

Sheet music title pageTitle page of sheet music (BL collections)

Will Bates Schubert SerenadeBerliner E5009 Serenade by Schubert played by Will E Bates recorded 16th August 1898

 
Megone Bridlington(Courtesy Marlborough Rare Books)

Devonshire Park(Courtesy Marlborough Rare Books)

For all the latest classical news follow @BL_Classical

26 March 2018

Recording of the week: the four rooms of creativity

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This week's selection comes from David Govier, Oral History Archivist. 

Why do a corporate oral history? The late Wally Olins, co-founder of Wolff Olins, explains his mixed motivations in wanting to set up an oral history of the company – from an urge for immortality, to the representative nature of his firm, and the future context of an ever-changing business world.

Wally Olins on oral history (C1015/08)

Michael Wolff, another co-founder, uses a metaphor of a house with four rooms to describe the creative processes the firm uses. The first room is the one of 'great work' – the room of inspiration; the heroes in your field from whom to learn, and to prove from the strength of one’s own work that one is not a fake. The second is the room of ‘good reason' – firstly having the skill of selling by creating good reasons for buying in to things, while remembering that no project can satisfy every reason. The third room is 'precedent' – building on past successes, trying not to re-invent the wheel, but at the same time innovating. The fourth room - 'not knowing' - is the most exciting one; Wolff explains that creativity comes from being willing not to know anything, to force oneself into a dark empty space and trusting one’s creativity to transform it.

Michael Wolff on the four rooms of creativity (C1015/03)

The Oral History of Wolff-Olins covers a cross section of individuals who contributed to the development of Wolff Olins, one of Britain's leading brand consultancies. Interviewees include founders Wally OlinsMichael Wolff, and Jane Scruton, designers, consultants, marketing and creative directors past and present as well as kitchen, administrative and support staff. The company's iconic branding work has included: First Direct (1989), Orange (1994), Tate (2000), London 2012 (2007) and Macmillan Cancer Support (2006). This National Life Stories project was recorded between 1987 and 2000. Over thirty of the interviews are available to listen to online at British Library Sounds.

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

08 March 2018

Laurie Anderson at the ICA - #IWD2018

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Happy International Women’s Day!

Here is a recording of composer-musician, performance artist and filmmaker Laurie Anderson in conversation with art critic Sarah Kent, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 26 November 1990.

Laurie Anderson _Image CC BY Maria Zaikina on flickrLaurie Anderson. Image CC BY Maria Zaikina on Flickr.

Anderson talks about the use of voices (both male and female) in her performances, to highlight positions of power and authority, and to make remarks on gender politics.

She also talks about the relationship between live performance and recordings, her sources of inspiration, and the making of her album Strange Angels which she explains had its origins in a casual conversation at an airport - with a stranger who turned out to be film director Wim Wenders.

The interview goes on for about half an hour followed by an audience Q&A.

For more recordings of performance, drama, and literature at the British Library check our Sound and Moving Image catalogue  and follow us on @BL_DramaSound

19 February 2018

Recording of the week: Mike Leigh

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This week's selection comes from Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary & Creative Recordings.

Film-maker Mike Leigh in conversation with novelist William Boyd, 22 March 1991, at the ICA, London, around the time of the release of Life is Sweet, Leigh's critically acclaimed comedy-drama about the trials of an ordinary North London family. Leigh talks about his filmic influences, who include Ozu, Woody Allen and Satyajit Ray, and his rehearsal-based working methods. Life is Sweet currently holds a 100% rating on the critics' tomatometer at rottentomatoes.com, as does his earlier feature High Hopes.

Mike-Leigh

 Photo by Potatojunkie on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

This recording comes from a substantial collection of talks and discussions held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London between 1982-1993. 

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

04 December 2017

Recording of the week: Britain's first supercomputer

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This week's selection comes from Tom Lean, Project Interviewer for An Oral History of British Science.

It has been 55 years since the commissioning of Atlas at the University of Manchester in 1962, one of the world's very first supercomputers. Developed largely by the University of Manchester and Ferranti, the enormous machine was probably the second most powerful computer at the time and pioneered a number of innovations in hardware and software. Capable of processing about a million instructions a second and with over 670 kilobytes of memory, Atlas had as much computing power as several smaller machines, albeit far less than the simplest desktop machine today. It was said that when Atlas went offline, Britain lost half its computing power. Yet despite this awesome potential, only three Atlas computers were ever built. As Atlas's lead hardware designer Professor David Edwards recalled for An Oral History Of British Science, it was rather difficult convincing the sceptics that Britain even needed a machine that was so powerful:

We only need one computer for the country_Dai Edwards (C1379/11)

University_of_Manchester_Atlas _January_1963

The Atlas computer at the University of Manchester, 1963 (Iain MacCallum)

Visit the library's Voices of Science web resource to explore 100 life stories about environmental science, British technology and engineering from 1940 to the present.

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

06 November 2017

Recording of the week: watching Britain's nuclear bomb tests

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This week's selection comes from Tom Lean, Project Interviewer for An Oral History of British Science.

On 8th November 1957, hundreds of British military and scientific personnel gathered at Christmas Island, a remote speck of land in the Pacific Ocean. They were there for Operation Grapple X, the first successful test of a British hydrogen bomb. At 1.8 megatons, the blast was about a hundred and forty times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and signified Britain's mastery of the secrets of thermonuclear power. Amongst the witnesses to the mushroom cloud rising above Christmas Island was a 35 year old technician named Frank Raynor. As he recalls, in perhaps something of an understatement, it was “quite impressive” to watch:

Frank Raynor_C1379/76

Grapple

The tests were also witnessed by Laurance Reed, a naval officer on HMS Warrior. He describes a shipboard atmosphere of excitement, anxiety and awe when the first bomb was dropped. 

Laurence Reed_C1503/37

The full interview with Frank Raynor can be found in the Oral History of British Science collection on British Library Sounds.

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