Sound and vision blog

02 March 2009

I Hear a New World

As part of his work with the University of York Sound Archive’s digitisation project, PhD student Ewan Gordon has been developing a thesis on sound recording history and the development of stereo. 

“The Oral History of Recorded Sound collection provides valuable interviews with those directly involved in the development of stereo recording technique and commercial decision making, says Ewan.  “As periods of technical experimentation, the processes are often poorly documented and these first hand accounts provide an invaluable insight into the methods employed,” says Ewan.

The recordings document a swathe of developments across the 20th Century, from early experiments by Arthur C. Keller and Alan Blumlein in the 1920s and 30s, to the possibilities for multi-track magnetic tape explored  by The Beatles.

Ewan has been exploring  a range of interviews to piece together the story of stereo.  “Since Alan Blumlein died during the war, interviews with his son Simon and personal friend  J.B. Kaye have complemented written sources regarding the Blumlein's audio patents,  whereas interviews with Arthur Haddy provide valuable information about the recordings made with Sir Thomas Beecham at Abbey Road Studios. Together these recordings detail  a fast moving period of development within the British recording industry and bring the story to life.”

He has also discovered valuable insights into the commercial exploitation of new audio technologies, through interviews with Sir Joseph Lockwood (former Chairman of EMI), Kenneth Townsend MBE (former sound engineer at Abbey Road) and iconic record producer George Martin.

Ewan is currently in the second year of his PhD, and the Oral History of Recorded Sound has helped shape the direction of his thesis.  “The collection allowed me to make valuable connections between the often lesser documented technical staff and place their roles in context. This has opened  new avenues for investigation and has guided and prioritized my research planning at other British archives.”

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The history of sound recording is quite interesting. So many names that many people haven't heard of put so much into making sound recording what it is today. I'm glad there is a website that recognizes these people

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