THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

7 posts from May 2015

28 May 2015

It'll not take you long for to learn a lile bit Cumbrian dialect grammar

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English writes:

This month we've uploaded linguistic descriptions of conversations about local speech in Barrow-in-Furness, Brampton, Kirkoswald, Sedbergh and Workington. Together they constitute the set of BBC Voices Recordings made by BBC Radio Cumbria. The descriptions list the participants' responses to a set of prompt words and, in the case of Barrow, Sedbergh and Workington also include a detailed description of the phonology and grammar of the speakers.

Most of us are immediately struck by an unfamiliar dialect word - like the stereotypical use of lile [= 'little'] by speakers in Workington here or hadder [= 'to rain lightly'] in Kirkoswald. We also instantly recognise differences in pronunciation and as these recordings show Cumbria has a particularly diverse range of accents - listen, for instance, to the recordings in Barrow-in-Furness and Workington. Grammatical differences between dialects, however, are often overlooked or - in many cases - dismissed as somehow 'wrong'. Consider, though, the following negative constructions:

0:41:25 they're not getting taught at home properly (Sedbergh)

0:07:20 we're not gonna talk right neither (Workington)

1:03:02 it's not really a life-changing thing (Barrow)

In the examples above the negative particle, not, remains intact while the verb in each case is reduced. This type of construction - known as 'auxiliary contraction' - tends to occur more frequently in northern dialects and in Scotland; elsewhere these statements would be more likely to surface as they aren't, we aren't and it isn't - i.e. the verb remains intact and not is contracted. In northern English you'll hear forms like you'll not [= 'you won't'], I've not [= 'I haven't'] and she'd not [= 'she hadn't'] and the process can also extend to negative questions such as did you not [= 'didn't you'] and have they not [= 'haven't they'] as in the example below:

0:06:25 can you not sort of speak a bit more proper (Workington)

Some speakers in Cumbria and much of northern England also use a distinctive form of the verb have:

0:26:00 we had a lot of connections with people in Liverpool because I've relatives there (Sedbergh)

1:00:50 I never got married and I've no children (Workington)

Many speakers elsewhere in the UK would insert got here, as in I've got relatives and I've got no children (or even more likely I haven't got any children). Not only do some northerners use have as a finite verb in such cases, they also frequently produce a contracted form (e.g. in the second example I've relatives there is more marked than I've got relatives there or I have relatives there). This tendency to reduce have also produces idiosyncratic forms in northern English when have to is used in the sense of 'must'. A speaker in Sedbergh comments: he'd to walk it in them days (Sedbergh, 1:03:47) which would more commonly be expressed as he had to walk it in the south of England.

Clearly neither the use of a contracted form of have as a full verb nor the preference for auxiliary contraction can in any way be interpreted as 'wrong' so let's start celebrating our dialect grammar as we do our regional vocabulary and accents.

On 29 June 2015 the British Library is hosting English Grammar Day in which leading language authorities will reflect on the state of, and attitudes towards, English grammar and vocabulary. Our new programme for 2015 includes talks by university linguists, Jenny Cheshire and Charlotte Brewer; journalist and author, Harry Ritchie; teachers, Dan Clayton and Amanda Redfearn and dialect curator, Jonnie Robinson and an opportunity to put your questions about English grammar to our panel of experts. A perfect opportunity for us to enjoy those wonderful North West infinitive variants - the 'for to infinitive':

0:46:24 they just let us use whichever hand come natural for to write with (Workington)

and the 'bare infinitive', as demonstrated repeatedly in the excellent sit-com, Car Share, such as in the poignant scene at the end of this week's final episode when John (played by Peter Kay) gave Kayleigh a novelty heart lamp she thought had sold out, proudly telling her 'I managed _ track one down in Preston'.

26 May 2015

The Imitation Archive Part 2: making music from the sounds of the world's first computers

Between January and March 2015, Matt Parker was artist in residence at The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park. The residency, which was supported by the Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Scheme, was an audio archiving project that resulted in the production of 116 unique audio recordings of some of the world’s most historically significant computer technologies. Within the collection are sounds of the world’s oldest original functioning digital computer, the Harwell Dekatron (also known as WITCH), a faithful replica model of the world’s first digital computer, Colossus and a replica model of the electromechanical decryption device the ‘Bombe’, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman. In the first of two posts, Matt wrote about developing The Imitation Archive and his experiences during the residency period. His final post looks at producing a catalogue to accompany the archive and using the raw recordings of historic machines to create musical compositions.

Producing the Archive

Having recorded for many days, fighting against the elements of heavy rain, snow and school trip groups, I set upon the task of cataloguing the material. During the recording period, I was careful to speak into each microphone before recording a particular device, announcing what I was recording. I kept the file names constantly updated with time and date so I would be able to follow what happened, when and where, and I tried to record everything as a 96 kHz 24 bit .wav. I took photos with my smartphone for reference of each item and tried to take higher quality pictures with a camera where possible. A thorough reference of microphone placement and signal path was important to the accuracy of the recordings.

I went through each recording, cropping out the noise of setting up and spending as much attention as possible on listening to the main activity or process that the recording was set up for. I tried to record as cleanly as possible, but in some cases it was necessary to clean up the recordings with a bit of EQ and multiband compression; nothing that would alter the core character of the recording at this stage, just faithful archival replication.

Atvidaberg Facit-Model No. C1-19-Sweden-TNMOC-The Imitation Archive

Atvidaberg Facit-Model No. C1-19 Mechanical Calculator (photo courtesy of Matt Parker)

In some cases, I recorded with a few options, for example a stereo, mono, and transducer setup all in one multitrack recording. I was wary in the recording process to be careful with phase alignment so I was effectively able to fade between different microphones. I think there is an interesting question to be asked with the notion of subjectivity with the recording process here. How important is it to capture the object as one hears it? How clinical should a recording be? Is there any point in capturing recordings of things that can’t really be heard naturally by the human ear? Do we want to shut out the architecture or environment that an object exists within?

In the case of The Imitation Archive, I felt that it was important to capture ambient recordings of the objects within the space they occupy in order to demonstrate their presence within a particular environment. It seemed like a pertinent decision, and one worth making, given that I was to record Colossus which is set up in a room where the machine was actually used during the Second World War. In the studio, it felt like perhaps I could play with these sounds to find the most interesting combinations sonically. 

Heath Robinson

Heath Robinson codebreaking machine (photo courtesy of Matt Parker)

Composing the Archive

As a composer, I wanted to find an interesting way to work with this new ‘sample library’ of material. More than just working with the archive in this way, I wanted to draw on the themes and experiences of the recording process; the museum, the objects, the themes around the very concept of producing The Imitation Archive.

One of the key things that struck me was the constant durational aspect of these machines. Many of them were designed to run 24/7 without fault or interruption, performing repetitive cycles. I felt that this would be an interesting idea to explore so I chose to focus on the machines in operation as much as possible; the work cycle, the operational cycle. I also decided to make the composition seamlessly flow between sections, a never ending cycle of computing.

04-Terminal-The_Imitation_Archive-Matt_Parker

I was also very much drawn into the historical narratives of machines at Bletchley and found myself wanting to reflect the architectural relationship with the sounds as much as possible by playing with impulse responses of the rooms (made using a balloon pop so not an exact science!) and convolving the sounds of the recordings with the space impulse response itself. I used impulse response as a filtering method, locating fundamental frequencies that peaked within the recordings. I would push and emphasise these frequencies to turn the machines into instruments playing their own unique keys. I thought it was an interesting discovery to find how some of the fundamental frequencies tended to harmonise with themselves. Some of the machines such as WITCH, Bombe and Colossus have very distinctive mechanical rhythms, and it seemed to make sense to play with this as much as possible. Their repetitive rhythms would occasionally break from the cycle and create a surprise extra half beat or other micro-beat. Overall, I hope I have given a sense of what it might be like to work with these machines day in day out, in different environments, as well as draw on their relationships with the space in the museum as it is today. Similarities and differences all punctuated through a musical composition. 

07-Bombes_Of_Bletchley-The_Imitation_Archive-Matt_Parker

09-Flowers-The_Imitation_Archive-Matt_Parker

Conclusions and Future Plans

My experience of producing The Imitation Archive has given me a sense that there is much more to explore in the world of computer and technological sounds. I have been working on a further project that is specifically looking at the relationship between modern IT infrastructure, the latest, cutting edge technologies in computing and their architectural habitats.

As I begin to explore the sites of our contemporary internet landscape from a technological infrastructure perspective, new questions are beginning to emerge; how do we reflect the shift from desktop PCs being the locations of our digital content to placing everything in a mobile networked ‘cloud’ system? What are the environmental relationships between these new palaces of a digital world and their local habitat? As computers become increasingly prevalent in our day to day activities, smart devices, the internet of things, connectivity to remote machines, have all changed our relationship with digital technology. Can sound illuminate for us anything about this somewhat abstract and increasingly estranged relationship? My work in this area can be seen on my project website www.thepeoplescloud.org. As I continue to develop this research, I will be starting to produce a PhD at The London College of Communication in September within the Creative Research into Sonic Arts Practice department (CRiSAP).

Working on The Imitation Archive has been a fascinating opportunity for me to consider the historical impact of computing on culture and society. In the future I hope to find out more about the impact of computing on culture and society within the contemporary moment.

The Imitation Archive was supported by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts scheme and is available at the British Library (collection C1679)

 

20 May 2015

£9.5m boost from Heritage Lottery Fund for our Save our Sounds campaign

We are delighted to announce that the British Library has been earmarked funding of over £9.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help save the nation’s sound recordings and open them up online for everyone to hear.

For those of you familiar with our Save our Sounds project, this is very welcome news. According to the predictions of sound archivists the world over, we have fifteen years in which to digitise historic sound recordings before the equipment required to play some formats can no longer be used, and some formats such as wax cylinders and acetate discs start to naturally decay.

Examination of a damaged lacquer disc in our sound labs
Examination of a damaged lacquer disc in our sound labs

This problem doesn’t just apply to the national sound archive of over 6.5m recordings held at the British Library; it applies to collections around the country.

As part of our ongoing UK Sound Directory project, we have identified over 1m sound collections on dozens of different formats across the UK which also risk disappearing, which range from recordings of killer whales made off the coast of Shetland (held by the Centre for Wildlife Conservation, University of Cumbria), to a collection of sounds held in the Canterbury Cathedral archives spanning 50 years of services, choral and opera performances and other recordings, many of which are thought to be unique.

Thanks to the £9.5m funding from the HLF, we will be able to digitise and publish online up to 500,000 rare and unique sounds from the Library’s own collections and those around the UK which are most at risk, including local dialects and accents, oral histories, previously unheard musical performances and plays, and vanishing wildlife sounds.

Some of the many rare recordings in the British Library's sound archive
Some of the many rare recordings in the British Library's sound archive

From 2017-2022, we will work with partner institutions across the UK to develop a national preservation network via ten regional centres. Together we will digitise, preserve and share our unique audio heritage. We will also run a major outreach programme to schools and local communities to celebrate and raise awareness of UK sounds.

Our challenge, as outlined in our Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, is to preserve as many as possible of the nation’s rare and unique sound recordings, and also to protect the future of our audio heritage, by improving the way in which we collect sounds digitally.

We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for answering that urgent need, and enabling us to take this first major step in our plans.

Find out more about our HLF funding on our Press site and join in the conversation on Twitter using #SaveOurSounds

18 May 2015

Finding ways to take Crafts Lives out of the archive

Crafts Lives records in-depth life stories of Britain’s craftspeople for the British Library’s oral history collections, exploring both their personal and their working lives.

Last year Crafts Lives was fortunate enough to receive funding to digitise and put online many of the life story interviews that have been recorded since the project started in 1999. There are now over 80 in-depth interviews with British craftspeople, along with searchable summaries, available to users worldwide on British Library Sounds.

Our next step was to think of ways that we can make them more available to listeners now that they are online. We’ve been following the growing use of QR codes and other smart phone technology in oral history in site-specific audio trails such as the Montgomery Canal trail and in recording memories to form a social history of objects as in the research project Tales of Things.  

Crafts Lives has a wonderful collection of detailed descriptions by makers of making specific pieces and we have long wanted to experiment with marrying these with the objects themselves.  This would allow people to look at a craft object and listen to the maker describe in detail how it was made.

Our opportunity came at this year’s Collect, the International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects put on every year in London by the Crafts Council. Among the makers exhibiting were several of whom we had existing recordings, and they and their galleries kindly agreed to have signs with QR codes and NFC chips next to the maker’s work so that people could access audio clips via their smart phones. We chose short extracts from the interviews, figuring that people wouldn’t want to listen to anything too lengthy in the middle of a busy art fair.

We had an extract from ceramicist Walter Keeler about combining the sculptural and the functional in his work beside some of his fantastical teapots.

Walter Keeler QR code and teapots

Beside sail forms from Peter Layton’s Burano glass series, we had part of his description of the glass blowing and trailing process involved in making them

Peter Layton QR code card and Burano glass series

Kate Malone’s flamboyant pots were accompanied by an extract of Kate talking about the peace of the empty space inside a pot

Kate Malone QR code card and pots

While Rod Kelly's beautifully chased silver charger could be examined whilst listening to Rod explaining the many revisions and stages of preparing to decorate silver

Rod Kelly and QR code card and silver plate

Images courtesy of Elizabeth Wright

We haven’t had feedback yet as to how many people used the QR and NFC codes to access the recordings. When we tried them out ourselves, while looking round the exhibition, we took note of several things that we might improve. For instance, accessing the recording via QR and NFC codes means that the audio clip plays through the phone’s speaker and therefore may be obtrusive. However we hope this is the start of exploring how we can use the recordings outside the archive, in exhibitions and installations, to add an extra dimension to the experience of art and craft.

Frances Cornford and Elizabeth Wright, Project Interviewers for Crafts Lives.

15 May 2015

The Imitation Archive Part 1: recording the sounds of the world's first computers

Between January and March 2015, Matt Parker was artist in residence at The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park. The residency, which was supported by the Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Scheme, was an audio archiving project that resulted in the production of 116 unique audio recordings of some of the world’s most historically significant computer technologies. Within the collection are sounds of the world’s oldest original functioning digital computer, the Harwell Dekatron (also known as WITCH), a faithful replica model of the world’s first digital computer, Colossus and a replica model of the electromechanical decryption device the ‘Bombe’, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman. In the first of two posts, Matt talks about developing The Imitation Archive and his experiences during the residency period.

Project foundation

In August 2014 I produced an audiovisual installation titled The Cloud is more than Air and Water. The installation was concerned with the claustrophobic sound of the IT Data Centre. Through original footage and field recordings, the piece was composed to demonstrate some of the key issues related to the dislocation between user and machine in the ‘Cloud’ age of computing. Having focused my work on the modern environments of computing for almost a year, I began to think increasingly about the historical narrative behind computing; how the environments and relationships between users and computers have shifted over what is a relatively short period of time. This led me to the discovery that there isn’t a comprehensive archive of sounds of computers in existence (at least not in the UK).

It has been argued that perhaps computer sounds are not really that distinct from any other electromechanical machine. There is whirring, clicking, buzzing. Much of the noise is really made by the cooling units rather than the processors themselves. I had begun to wonder myself whether the sounds I was looking for might not really be all that distinct, however when I arrived at Bletchley, the sounds of computing turned out to be wide ranging and unique in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Harwell Dekatron Computer (WITCH)

Harwell Dekatron Computer aka WITCH, manufactured in 1951 (photo courtesy of Matt Parker)

Harwell Dekatron Computer (WITCH) performing a regular addition sequence

Planning the recordings

After having some initial discussions with Stephen Fleming, the PR Manager for the National Museum of Computing and a couple of the museums volunteers, I prepared a list and rough plan for a full week’s worth of recording at the museum, creating slots for each of the major devices and grouped slots for some of the smaller featured devices.

One of the best things about the museum is that there isn’t anything in the public collection that’s there just to be looked at from behind a Perspex screen. It’s one of the really important aspects of the museum’s value as all items are either fully restored or in the process of restoration. Functionality is critically important to the museum; after all why would you just look at a computer (some of the early machines do look phenomenal though)? The very purpose of a computer is that it performs a task, which they all do with accuracy and reliability that makes the reliability of my middle of the road smartphone look pretty embarrassing.

The volunteer pool is large and made up of hardware and software computing engineers, many of which are retired. They are all enthusiasts. They speak in a language that understands computing; they refer to Boolean logic as if it’s common vernacular and discuss the virtues of machine code over software defined interfaces. It’s a fascinating environment where each volunteer contributes their expertise towards the restoration of unique machines. Some are fascinated by the wartime codebreaking machines, the pioneering devices that are said to have reduced the length of the Second World War by six years. Others are absorbed by the mechanics of early era networked systems, giant tape reels and hard drive disks the size of a tractor’s back tyre. Others meanwhile find themselves fascinated by the early PC era, when the initial boom of Silicon Valley hit, when the UK was a powerhouse of the computing industry, battled out between Sinclair, Amstrad, Acorn and their US competitors at Apple and IBM.

Colossus-The Imitation Archive

Working replica model of Colossus, the world's first electronic computer (photo courtesy of The National Museum of Computing) 

Colossus performing series of calculation sequences

The residency recording period

From the first day of arrival, it was clear that my initial schedule was not going to run fully to plan. A challenge with programming this kind of activity is disseminating this information to a broad volunteer group and to gain their understanding about what I would be trying to achieve.

On my first day of recording, I setup extensively within the Tunny Gallery, home to a replica Tunny Machine, a series of analogue radio receivers, teletype machines and the restoration project for a Heath Robinson machine (a precursor to the Colossus). The volunteers were very happy to assist with my recordings, patiently waiting for me to setup various microphone configurations and placements. I’m very happy with what I captured. When a microphone is in a room it picks up sound from all corners. As is often the case with recording in spaces with people in them, it doesn’t occur to mind that perhaps any sound you make, any movement, heavy breath, *whispering*! will be picked up by the microphone! Achieving silence in the space for more than two minutes would be an almost impossible task!

Creed 7B Teleprinter typing out the poem 'The Owl and the Pussycat'

I started to schedule sessions at night, after the museum had closed, which was the only way to have guaranteed quiet! One of the unique intricacies of the museum is the synchronised clock system throughout the building. There are two original Bletchley Park mechanical clocks in the entrance hallway which sound incredible. Their recording makes it into the archive as it is a critical feature of the building. Every 30 seconds, throughout the entire block, a clicking thud occurs, synchronising the clocks around the museum together. Every 30 seconds… a recording is interrupted by synchronising clocks! It became a highly significant aspect to the experience of recording, inescapable and sometimes, when you forget that it happens, late at night in a dark corridor, it was shocking!

I decided to work with recording key features of as many objects as possible. This turned out largely to be demonstrating the boot sequences or the turning on of a device, carrying out a basic task with the device and switching the device off. As was the case with the clocks in the museum, other devices that were not digital computers were also making interesting sounds and so, as it was there, I recorded these as well. This saw a lot of time working with mechanical comptometers and other analogue programmed mechanical calculators.

Grimme, Natalis and Company mechanical calculator

Matt’s next post will discuss cataloguing the Imitation Archive and residency outputs including musical works composed using the raw recordings of Bletchley Park’s historic machines.

The Imitation Archive was supported by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts scheme and is available at the British Library (collection C1679)

12 May 2015

Oh, how we laughed! Early performance recordings from the Bishop Sound collection

A guest post by Rob Smith, post-graduate student in Library and Information Studies at UCL, who has recently been researching the Bishop Sound collection.

Bishop-Sound-Labels

Recent activity in the British Library Sound Archive has involved digitising the Bishop Sound collection - a unique collection of lacquer disc records. The collection contains a broad range of material (some further examples are discussed in this earlier post) but the recorded performances of musical comedy hits from the 1930s and 1940s are of particular interest.

Lacquer disc technology was only introduced into the UK around 1934 and the earliest of these recordings made by the Bishop Sound and Electrical Company comes from 1937. Although no direct evidence exists, there appears to have been a strong working relationship between Jack Bishop of Bishop Sound and Firth Shephard - a popular impresario and theatre producer during that era. Bishop started working with Shephard on an early but hugely successful production called The Frog (1936) and their collaboration continued with productions of Going Greek (1937), Wild Oats (1938), and Running Riot (1938). Recordings for all but The Frog have been identified. 

Unfortunately none of these recorded performances are complete but they do contain excerpts that exemplify the style of popular performance from the time. This is an excerpt from Going Greek starring Leslie Henson - a comedy that follows the trials and tribulations of a group of bandits after they have taken an opera singer hostage. It gives you strong idea of the sort of humour found in these productions.

Listen to an excerpt from Going Greek

Bishop also formed associations with other celebrities of the day such as Ivor Novello. Discovered in the collection were recordings of Novello’s Arc de Triomphe (1943) and Perchance to Dream (1947). Incredibly both of these recordings have survived (mostly intact) and contain rare performances of songs such as 'Paris Reminds Me of You', 'Dark Music', and “We’ll Gather Lilacs'. 

One of the issues that arose out of the digitisation of the discs was identifying and sequencing the recordings. Little information came from the discs themselves so it was necessary to perform an investigation that drew on other significant resources found online and in the British Library. 

After identifying the plays from names or characters mentioned on the recordings, playscripts in the Lord Chamberlain's Plays collection were consulted in order to sequence the transfers, based on the dialogue and songs. 

The Lord Chamberlain’s Office issued the legal license necessary to perform plays in the United Kingdom between 1824 and 1968. To receive a license, a copy of the playscript had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office. The Office was the official censor of all performed material. 

What was also discovered while sequencing the recordings to the playscript was how much the comedians and actors ad-libbed and nuanced their performances. This final excerpt, while brief, was un-scripted and presents a comedic reaction to the regulations that restricted what a performance could present.

Listen to another excerpt from Going Greek

These recent transfers are yet another example of the importance of audio preservation. It gives researchers and enthusiasts alike a deeper understanding of their chosen subject and gives us a unique glimpse into a past that could otherwise be forgotten.

If these issues interest you, please follow the Library's Save our Sounds campaign.

07 May 2015

Lord of the Rings recording engineer David Gleeson receives British Library Edison Fellowship

Current Edison Fellow David Gleeson writes about his work for Decca in London and the major film studios of Hollywood.

Returning to the UK after nearly twenty years abroad, several life events drew me to the British Library’s Oral History of Recorded Sound, which in turn led to applying for an Edison Fellowship.

Straight out of London University in 1984, I went to work as a research assistant for Decca, Belsize Road, where a veteran team of analogue recording pioneers was trying to come to terms with a new generation of digital recording pioneers – just as mono engineers had had to come to terms with stereo engineers in the 1950s – and not without conflict. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was fortunate to be present amongst those who’d invented methods that have remained unchanged through all of the upheaval of the digital era. I then went to work at Abbey Road where the ‘Decca Tree’ and other orchestral recording techniques were an unquestioned given. In 1991, I moved to California and co-ran the scoring stage at Skywalker Sound, where Decca Trees were as much a natural part of the environment as the rolling hills of Lucas Valley Road.

By 2000, I’d set up a post-production facility with Ren Klyce and Malcolm Fife, in which David Fincher’s Fight Club was the first project. On our next Fincher film, Panic Room, I co-produced the score for Howard Shore. Howard subsequently invited me to join his Lord of the Rings films, directed by Peter Jackson. It was a watershed moment in film scoring, just as multitrack digital tape recorders had reached their peak and digital audio workstations were taking over. Much of the preparation work for the extended Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers involved building a team and workflow which allowed orchestral multitrack recordings to be edited during the session, deploying technology that had yet to be tested in such a pressured environment. Needless to say, at the front end of all this new-fangled technology stood a Decca Tree.

LOR 1 Gleeson

Control Room, Studio One, Abbey Road – Peter Jackson and Howard Shore with Oscar statuette – Academy Award, Best Original Score, The Fellowship of the Ring (photo by David Gleeson 2002)

LOR 2 Gleeson

Watford Town Hall – Peter Jackson taking a break with the timps during LPO recordings for The Two Towers, Howard Shore standing by with a spare mallet (photo by David Gleeson 2002)

After two years of production work, I took a step back from the bustle which had involved spending much of the year away from home, 20-hour workdays, frequent all-nighters, and endless travel. A writing sabbatical ultimately led to recording work at The Banff Centre. It was there, high up in the Canadian Rockies, that I met up-and-coming recording engineers who wanted to learn all there was to know about Decca Trees and scoring sessions alike. Fortunately for them, John Dunkerely, former chief engineer at Decca, was there as visiting faculty to impart much wisdom on the subject. 

A point of discussion with John was that we’d recently lost many of the luminaries of what had become known as the Golden Age of Decca. Between 2004 and 2012, engineers, Kenneth Wilkinson, Roy Wallace, Cyril Windebank, Jimmy Lock, and Jack Law had all died, as well as producers, Erik Smith, Ray Minshull, Andrew Raeburn, Christopher Raeburn and Peter Andry.

Unlike conductors and a few of the more successful producers whose lives are pored over in great detail with resulting hagiographies, precious little had been documented on the lives of the engineers. Fortunately for posterity, and the rest of us, the OHRS had recorded interviews with Decca’s Tony Griffiths and Arthur Haddy. Since starting the Edison Fellowship, interviews have been conducted with Michael Gray, Jimmy Brown, and Tony Hawkins. 

The Edison Fellowships are designed to encourage scholarship devoted to the history of recordings of classical music and music in performance through creating the conditions for concentrated use of the Library's collections of recordings.