THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

167 posts categorized "Recording of the week"

16 April 2018

Recording of the week: a windy delivery

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

It's not only letters, local newspapers and pizza flyers that pop through our letterboxes. Sometimes the wind can get through too. This can be heard to great effect in the following recording, made on a blustery January day in 2007 at the home of sound recordist Richard Beard.

Letterbox-1926493_1920

If you fancy listening to the gentle patter of rain or a spot of rumbling thunder, why not pay a visit to the Weather collection on British Library Sounds. Best bring a brolly though.

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

09 April 2018

Recording of the week: Steve Reich at the ICA

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

Tape-recorder

Anyone who enjoyed BBC Four's recent two-part documentary on American minimalism Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism might also like this recording of composer Steve Reich discussing his life and work. Reich was joined in conversation at the ICA, London, 28 January 1986, by composer Gavin Bryars and composer/broadcaster Michael Berkeley. 

This recording is taken from a large 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.

02 April 2018

Recording of the week: anyone for tig/it/tag?

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This week's selection comes from Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English.

The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Peter and Iona Opie, 1959) lists numerous regional variants for ‘truce terms’ – the code word used to withdraw briefly from a playground chasing game or to seek immunity from capture – including barley in the West Midlands, skinch in the North East, kings in Yorkshire, cree in South Wales and the West Country and scribs in Hampshire. The Lore of the Playground (Steve Roud, 2010) confirms continued use of many of these terms alongside more mainstream national variants such as time out, paxies and freeze and previously unrecorded local forms such as twixies in Essex, jex in Croydon and bugsies in Devon. 

Fingers

When we invited visitors to the 2012 Evolving English exhibition to submit contributions to the Library's WordBank, children's playground games proved a particularly rich source as can be seen from the contributions here of fainites from London, squadsies from Leicester, skinchies from Skipton and thousies from Bournemouth. It's also worth noting how the contributor from Bournemouth uses both it and tag to refer to a basic chase game as this, too, is known variously across the country as it, he, tig, tag, ticky, dobby, touch, king etc. and that the contributor from Leicester is unsure whether the past participle of tig is regular (i.e. tigged) or strong (i.e. tug).

Fainites (C1442/1873)

Squadsies (C1442/1487)

Skinchies (C1442/993)

Thousies (C1442/351)

You can hear over 100 recordings made by Iona Opie from the 1960s onwards of children demonstrating and discussing playground games across the UK.

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

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.

19 March 2018

Recording of the week: South African gumboot guitar

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

I was studying Zulu street guitarists in Durban in 1984 when I met Blanket Mkhize, a guitarist from Glebelands male hostel in Umlazi township on the outskirts of the city. Blanket had a fascinating playing technique using the back of a comb to 'bow' the strings. He was, I believe, trying to use his guitar as a violin as well. For Blanket was also a gumboot player. Gumboot is a spectacular dance style performed by a team of men who, clad in heavy gumboots (very thick wellingtons), stamp, slap, clap and kick their heels in perfect synchronisation. And in gumboot you include, when you can get hold of one, a violin. Together with my fellow student, Carol Muller, we joined Blanket's gumboot team and spent a wonderful year rehearsing and performing with the team. What a privilege! Blanket was the dance leader and so often gave the guitar accompaniment duties to his friend, Albert Manothisa Nene. Albert is a refined dancer and a real virtuoso on guitar. Albert lived in the same area of the hostel as Blanket. One day he sat down with Blanket's cassette ghettoblaster and recorded himself playing gumboot guitar. The recording is full of tape hiss, clunks and thumps, and half way through Albert stopped the machine to check how much tape he had left. Here are two excerpts from this session, the first in a contemplative finger-picking style, the second with a more up-tempo ukuvamba (lit. vamping) strumming style.

Gumboot guitar

Blanket Mkhize (with whistle and tassles) and Albert Nene (right, with guitar). Glebeland male hostel, Umlazi township, Durban, South Africa, 1984. Photo: Janet Topp Fargion

Gumboot guitar

The full recording - over 25 minutes in all - and others of gumboot guitarists can be heard on Gumboot guitar: Zulu street guitar music from South Africa (Topic Records TSCD923). The entire collection is housed in the British Library with the reference C724: Janet Topp Fargion Collection.

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

12 March 2018

Recording of the week: A singing rat

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This week's selection comes from Richard Ranft, Head of Sound and Vision.

Even among wildlife sound recordists accustomed to capturing unusual sounds, it is a surprise to hear the sound of a rat, and one which literally sings, with a change in pitch and rhythm.

Amazon bamboo rats are a family of large tree rats found in the jungles of south America. While recording forests sounds on an expedition in south-east Peru in 1985, I often heard this sound at night, but didn’t believe locals who claimed it was made by a rat.

I had heard rare recordings in the British Library’s unique sound collections of high-pitched sounds made by the laboratory rat and the widely distributed Brown Rat. But this sound seemed, well, so unrat-like. It was also frustratingly hard for me to record, as whatever creature was making it only vocalised rarely, for a few seconds before going silent, at night in the pitch blackness of the tropical forests, from within dense clumps of bamboo near where I was encamped.

When I finally got this recording after many failed attempts, I was determined to identify the source. So I crept nearer and nearer over a period of about 15 minutes, expecting to see a large frog. Luckily it called again, and I was ready to switch on my torch. There in the light-beam, partly hidden by bamboo stems and leaves, was indeed a furry bamboo rat. Mystery solved! The call is used as a territorial signal to its own kind, much as a bird sings a song in its territory.

AmazonBambooRat

Drawing of an Amazon bamboo rat (illustration by Asohn19262 / CC-BY-SA)

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05 March 2018

Recording of the week: being uncouth at drama school

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

Mother and son, Radhika and Omar, talk about Omar’s experience of attending a drama course at LAMDA - The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Omar describes the assumptions that he feels people at LAMDA have made about him as a mixed-race East Londoner and they discuss the experiences of some of his fellow students as well as one of the teachers on his course. They emphasise the importance of learning from people who are different to us and not making judgments based on stereotypes. They also discuss the difference in attitudes towards career choices between Omar, who is a second generation immigrant, and Radhika, who moved to England from Sri Lanka when she was 8 years old.

The Listening Project_Radhika and Omar

Radhika and Omar

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 Radhika and Omar can be found here.

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

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.