Sound and vision blog

4 posts from February 2012

27 February 2012

Recording of the Week: Professor Sir Alan Cottrell (1919-2012)

OhbsTom Lean, National Life Stories interviewer, writes:

The National Life Stories team were saddened to learn of the death last week of Sir Alan Cottrell, who was interviewed for the Oral History of British Science project in March 2011 (Sound and Moving Image Catalogue reference C1379/46).  Sir Alan was born in Birmingham in 1919 and studied at the University of Birmingham for both his BSc and PhD . A centrally important figure in the modern history of metallurgy, he spent the second Second World War improving the hardening of tank armour, before moving postwar to atomic research establishment at Harwell, where he worked ensuring the safety of the Magnox nuclear reactors. As Goldsmiths Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge he became a champion of new approaches to metallurgy and understanding how materials behave on an atomic level. In 1965 he left academic life to serve in a succession of senior posts in the scientific civil service, and succeeded Sir Solly Zuckerman as Chief Scientific Adviser in 1971. The interview with Sir Alan can be accessed online via British Library Sounds.

20 February 2012

The new British Library Sounds website

Launched today, the new British Library Sounds website at lets you listen for free to 50,000 tracks of music, spoken words and environmental sounds. Listeners at licensed UK universities and colleges may additionally download tracks for their research.

Here are 10 'taster' clips:

Originally launched as a service for UK universities and colleges in 2007 as 'Archival Sound Recordings', with support of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) under its Digitisation Programme, the new British Library Sounds site introduces a number of enhancements available to anybody:

  • completely redesigned pages
  • improved navigation
  • new audio player with waveforms
  • improvements for linking to pages
  • improved sound maps
  • and if you sign up for free registration, you can:
  • add notes at specific points on the audio timelines
  • create your own playlists
  • add tags and 'favourite' specific tracks so that you can easily find them again on return visits to the site.

More information.

Feedback on the new site is welcome and will help us add further improvements to the site.

13 February 2012

Recording of the Week: Montezuma Oropendola

Cheryl Tipp, Wildlife Sounds Curator, writes:


The song of the male Montezuma Oropendola is one of the most unforgettable sounds of the Central American rainforests. Named in honour of the 16th Century Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, this New World bird weaves his song into an elaborate courtship ritual that can be heard throughout the day during the breeding season. With his claws wrapped tightly around a branch, the male will swing forward, displaying his bright yellow tail feathers and performing his distinctive, gurgling song. The aim of this behaviour is to maintain mating privileges with the females in the colony; If the display is not up to scratch however, females will choose to mate with a superior performer.

'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners.


06 February 2012

Recording of the Week: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4

Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music, writes:


After making some discs for Polydor in Paris at the beginning of her career, Clara Haskil recorded for the newly formed British company Decca during the 1940s. This recording, her first for Decca, is notable for being the only commercial recording she made with a British orchestra and the fact that the conductor on this occasion was Italian pianist Carlo Zecchi who had been a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni. Haskil, a shy and reserved person, was not fond of making recordings but on this occasion she seems at ease and gives a fluid and controlled performance. The cadenza to the first movement shows her clarity of playing, her lightness of touch and delicacy in rapid passages. In the slow movement Haskil’s sensitivity comes to the fore in the dialogue between the forceful orchestra and pleading piano while the last movement has a lightness and rhythmic lilt helped by Zecchi’s conducting.p>

'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners.