THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

Introduction

Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

20 December 2018

WordBank Acrostic Challenge: Celebratory Selection Part 2

UOSH Volunteer and poet, Amy Evans Bauer, writes:

Scrabble

As we approach solstice, pantomime horses, the holly and the ivy, and festive schedules in which we often have to be in two places at once, here is the other half of WordBank’s own two-parter…

Part 1 of our celebratory selection contained poetry, comedy and a riddle. Part 2 below features the lists with which it all began, followed by the sophistications of the challenge’s advanced category!

Sonic choreographies come to you from the furthest corner of our challenge in South Africa (hello!), before Yorkshire has the last word with a moving image (blog pun intended) of spoken language—and of our shared acts of listening across silences and other gaps.

As you read, click on the hyperlinks so as to hear the lexical items in WordBank that form the fabric of these archive-led works of slang art.

*

Vajazzle

Oxter

Imshi

Chimbles

Elpit

Bahookie

Anywhen

Nang

Kets       

                —Holly Gilbert @CollectingSound

                 A special thanks to Holly for being the challenge’s first entrant!

Ultimosmic

Oh my days

Sick  

Hella cool

               —Jonnie Robinson @VoicesofEnglish

Wumpert

Overner

ROFL

Deffo too

Brassic for

Argy-bargy and

Nithered

Kerfuffle

               —Amy Evans Bauer @AmyEvansBauer

               See SAMI for wumpert, argy-bargy and kerfuffle

*

Wasted not are you, unwind sweet torment,

Or overner, here, in land of nod.

Rowie thy flavour, bewitching thy scent

Dimpsy or dusk, you and I interlocked.

Bugger, they don’t understand our love!

Ach y fi, laugh I back, yours is the loss.

Now then, mind I not share with them my dove?

Keek  ye may, her round body touch not, pus!

 

Uber-rich am I not, nor cute am I,

Ohrwurm, thy name stuck on my heart’s beat, shy.

Somewhen you’ll grow bored of me, my toffee.

Hey lads hey, hear: I’m soft on my coffee!

               —Patricia Furstenberg @PatFurstenberg

The Dalesman to the Academic 

Well chuffed to blether

On and on for nobbut t'sound o'thysens,

Reight glib an' reckonin' nowt to it,

Durst ever stop to ponder

Bout the weight of air

Around a word—the clemming

Needing filling, that you cram for fear

Knowing what empty means?

 

Us'll teach thee

Only eejits fear the gap;

Sniff out the right word, if tha must, but

Harken—silence ain't a trap.

                        —Clare Mulley @simply_spiffing

                        Yorkshire dialect, based on the way my Grandad used to speak

Trophy
[Boeotian alphabet]

A huge Thank You, THX, ta and cheers to all who took part. If you didn’t have a chance last month but would still like to try your hand at a dialect or slang acrostic, we hope you have a spell-tastic time!

Amy’s at-sea poetry installation SOUND((ING))S is available to hear online or to read in chapbook form as the transcript PASS PORT.

Index

19 December 2018

WordBank Acrostic Challenge: Celebratory Selection Part 1

UOSH Volunteer and poet, Amy Evans Bauer, writes:

Thank you to everyone who got their thinking caps on, filled their boots, threw their hat in the ring, rolled their sleeves up, took up the gauntlet and otherwise accessorised so as to take part in the WordBank Acrostic Challenge call for poems, puzzles and lists!

ScrabbleIn the words of Lead Curator of Spoken English Jonnie Robinson @VoicesofEnglish, we asked people to

                                Unleash

                                Our

                                Slang

                                Hoard

 

Participants chose to spell WORDBANK, VOICEBANK or UOSH. The adventurous tried their hand at an advanced challenge of WORDBANK UOSH. We asked for one line or more to begin with a lexical item from WordBank.

We were delighted to receive entries from all over the world taking part in this celebration of linguistic diversity, informal modes of linguistic inheritance and non-standard spoken English. The acrostically challenged from the UK to South Africa and the US got puzzling.

Our writers have their say through words contributed to the Library by visitors born between 1925 and 2000, and explore place, romance, pain, childhood, nights out, and more. We even had an Anglo-Saxon riddle, appropriately enough given the current exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition, and a re-imagining of the playground chants in the Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs.

I was struck by the agility of each writer-as-listener, without exception. Entries ranged from witty musings on the process, and a-geographical medleys, to fully-fledged dialect poems fluent in Lallans (Lowland Scots) or Yorkshire dialect. We hope you agree that each reads as a wonderful microcosm of the collection!

I also reveled in hearing how much fun was had by all: “Thank you so much!! I loved writing this!!!” and “I had a great time in the WordBank! It’s the language obviously—but also the accents!”

Here’s to our nimble wordsmiths—champion slangsmiths, every one!

Trophy

[Boeotian alphabet]

’Tis the season for two-part creatures (panto, anyone?). In Part 1 of our selection below, you’ll find poetry, comedy and riddling. Part 2 will follow with lively lists and 2 longer poems. 

If you click on the hyperlinks that we have added to each acrostic, you can listen to the recordings that form the fabric of these intricate, archive-led sonic tapestries.

*

We’d run, unleashed from indoors, 

Over soft sand and sturdy blades of marram grass.

Racing, panting, spluttering, swither; down to the water then in,

Dodging jellyfish, splashing, squealing,

Brassic fun. I flap with my arms,

Aeroplane aquatics in a shallow lagoon.

Now sand castles. Dig, deeper, that’s the moat. I

Kneel on something sharp. Blood. ‘Come and have a cwtch’ she says. ‘You’ll mend.’

               —Frances Jones

*

Wheesht!

Whauphill whair I ne'er heard the curlew cry

Only Johnny Robb w' his mismatched een

Rules owre the moonllcht fields ahint the byre

Dealin' oot daith while we keep at hame

Bakin' oor breid but scunnered fo' a' that

As the big yins a' bigg their big hooses

Nae less, nae mair, we maun just haud oor tongues

Kennin' a', not greetin' like twa wee bairns.

               —Robert Hampson

               Lallans (Lowland Scots)

*

Vardos moored in Kent’s fields, chavvies playing 

Opies turned their chanted games to wavs

I hope your chickens turn to emus and kick your shit house down’ 

Curses deftly reference Ozzy outback lavs

Eight, nine, ten’s a clean expletive if you’re Pennsylvanian Polish

Bashert is a stoic, Jewish ‘c’e sera’

Acky, atta, panshite, mumpus, once at risk of fading from us, 

Now are

Kosher, ordered, safe, and catalogued.

               —Anna Savory  @AnnaSavory

               Opie: Opie collection of children’s games and songs

*

Wrong, just wrong

outen as we were, holding battery eggs,

runted chocolate. Both half-grown,

dimpsy and mussed.

Bishy you and me—well—

azizam, I never quite knew me.

Nithered, nesh,

kecks like a shy fey boy.

               —Kirsten Irving  @KofTheTriffids

*

What the

Oy vey

Rat-arsed!

Don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining

Blud.

Awesome

Nerdy

Kecks!

               —Stephen Cleary

*

Wor(l)d-weary,

Or what?!

Reading acrostically is… em

Difficult, deffo, at the… em

Best of times.

And this is not the best of times

Nevertheless, I soldier on—undaunted?!

Keep the faith!

               —Jayne Lal

*

Speech

Word hoard widening,

Oratory turns to paper,

Random chances of locality— 

Drei the wird of word

Branching like yew, elm, oak, ash

Across skins and seas.

No-one can doubt its power,

Knowing it is heard.

               —Clare Mulley  @simply_spiffing

               Play on Anglo Saxon riddle style

If you didn’t have a chance last month but would still like to try your hand at a dialect or slang acrostic, we hope you have a spell-tastic time!

Amy’s at-sea poetry installation SOUND((ING))S is available to hear online or to read in chapbook form as the transcript PASS PORT.

Index

17 December 2018

Recording of the week: Norman Beaton recalls Liverpool in the 60s

Our last Recording of the Week for 2018 comes from Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary & Creative Recordings.

Actor, singer and writer Norman Beaton (1934-1994) recalls his early career steps in Liverpool, and how the production of his first play, the musical Jack of Spades, came about through a chance meeting in the Philharmonic pub.

This is a short excerpt from an interview running for one hour and twenty minutes, which is available to listen to in full at the British Library on request.

The interview was recorded at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London, by the British Library, 22 November 1986, at an event to celebrate the publication of Beaton’s autobiography Beaton But Unbowed

Note: this recording has some technical imperfections.

Norman Beaton (C94/92)

Norman-BeatonNorman Beaton in 1979 (image copyright: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo; used under licence)

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

UOSH_Footer with HLF logo

11 December 2018

The Christmas robin

Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife & Environmental Sounds writes:

There’s no mistaking it; the festive season is well and truly upon us. Christmas trees, laden with baubles and twinkling lights, can be seen popping up in windows all over the country and it won’t be long before we start coming home to find Christmas cards lying on the doormat. Chances are that at least one of these messages from loved ones will have a robin gracing the front cover.

One of the strongest associations between robins and Christmas cards can be traced back to the days of the Victorian postie. For a time,  Royal Mail postmen wore bright red uniforms which soon earned them the nickname 'robins'. As the exchange of Christmas cards grew in popularity, depictions of robins holding cards in their beaks began to appear. A trend was born and, over a century later, robins are still one of the most favoured images on the market.

Robin-postA Christmas card from 1934 (National Museums Liverpool, accession number 1976.561)

As well as adorning our mantelpieces, the robin is also responsible for the snatches of birdsong that can be heard in our parks and gardens at this time of year. Unlike most other songbirds who fall silent after the breeding season has come to an end, the robin continues to make himself heard. His song does change depending on the season; the winter song definitely has a frostier feel than the sweeter tune we hear in the spring. This may have something to do with the changing function of the song. In the spring months, the male robin has love on his mind. He is looking for a mate and, though he still needs to defend his territory against potential rivals, his song has a smoother quality. When winter strikes however, romance goes out of the window. It's all about survival, which leaves no room for any sweet talk.

The following recording is an example of the robin's winter song, recorded in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire by Nigel Tucker. Don't be fooled by the charming melody though - if you were a robin he would try to take you down in a second.

Robin winter song

Follow @CherylTipp for all the latest wildlife news.

10 December 2018

Recording of the week: a whole nother

This week's selection comes from Dr Amy Evans, a recent volunteer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

Whether this phrase amuses or maddens you, it is interesting to consider its provenance. I’m in in the former category, and find this a delicious curiosity of non-standard spoken English! The expression was submitted to the Library’s WordBank by a contributor from the Middle West of the US.  

A whole nother (C1442/4317)

The contributor says:
'OK so in Indiana a very common phrase that we use is a whole nother. You would spell it A space W H O L E space N O T H E R and instead of saying I would like another whole bagel you would say I’d like a whole nother bagel and it’s very commonly used, just about everybody I know in Indiana uses that phrase. It’s very popular'.

A WHOLE NOTHERWe can easily recognise that the word another is a fused form of an other reformulated as one word as a result of changes in spelling conventions. However, we would rarely expect an intrusion between the two parts, let alone an interruption of the first an. So how has a whole nother appeared? One interpretation is that this queue of bagel eaters is, in fact, demonstrating a perfectly natural linguistic process, in which phonetics (speech sounds) rather than morpheme boundaries (the point at which two or more ‘separate’ elements of a word meet) are the guide. English syllabification is based on morphological principles. Nevertheless, instinctively we syllabify the words here as a-nother, with the stress on the consonant <n>. Subconsciously, a re-interpretation of syllabification occurs, and with stress as our guide, we compose a whole nother.

The successive strong stresses of the result (whole no-) serve further to underline the intended point. In the literary language of scansion and poetic metre, we move from an amphibrach (one triple-metre foot of unstressed-stressed-unstressed a-no-ther), to an iamb followed by a trochee (the duple-metre of an unstressed-stressed foot followed by a stressed-unstressed foot a whole and no-ther). In laypersons’ terms, the stresses move from de-DUM-de to de-DUM DUM-de. Those of us who enjoy the phrase make quite a meal out of the inserted WHOLE and the springboard N sound.

You can currently hear this phrase used as an emphatic tool throughout the UK, US and beyond. Whether you decide to deploy it for dietary purposes so as to enjoy seconds today is a whole nother issue. Hungry for more? You could bake your own bagels so as to consider another type of verbal inheritance and its many non-standard written forms, the recipe—in either wheaty or gluten-free version. As a coeliac, I would like to point out that no UOSH volunteers were harmed in the research of this post!

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

06 December 2018

The unseen work of the oral history summariser

Oral History Curator Mary Stewart reflects on the contributions of volunteers to the oral history collections, particularly remembering the sterling work of Audrie Mundy.

Anyone who has ever made use of the oral history collections will have used the interview content summary – the sometimes rather clunky piece of prose that acts as the main search tool to navigate around the (often lengthy) recordings that we make. Who writes these summaries, you might ask? Nowadays it’s standard practice in the oral history team for the interviewer to write up the summary, to allow them to reflect on the content and questions already covered in the interview, and prepare the topic areas to cover in their next visit to the interviewee. In earlier decades this practice was not so carefully enforced, and there was often a heap of cassettes waiting to be summarised. Helping to whittle down this pile, through careful listening and summarising, were several dedicated volunteers – unseen by the eventual researcher – whose efforts are often unsung. Marking International Volunteering Day, it seems apt to highlight some of the volunteers whose efforts have helped develop the Library’s oral history collections.

In the last 18 months we have seen the deaths of two of these stalwart volunteers for the BL oral history team, following the death of fellow longstanding volunteer Brenda Corti in 2010. We still reap the benefits of Katherine Thompson’s time as a volunteer. In addition to summarising many interviews, Katherine worked as an interviewer on City Lives and The Living Memory of the Jewish Community. The recordings Katherine made with scientists Aaron Klug, Max Perutz and Joseph Rotblat laid the foundations for the project An Oral History of British Science two decades later.

Katherine Thompson 2014-07-06 12.17.50_resized

Katherine Thompson, 2014. Courtesy of Jenny Thompson.

When I joined the British Library in 2006 Katherine and Brenda had stopped volunteering, but I did have the absolute pleasure of working alongside Audrie Mundy, who volunteered until 2011, by which time she was in her early nineties.

Audrie recorded a few interviews, but her main task for over a decade was to summarise interviews from across the collections, particularly relishing working on Artists’ Lives, a project that married well with her own interests.

Audrie Mundy on writing summaries of oral history interviews

Although both Anthony Caro and Elsbeth Juda’s interviews are currently closed to public access, clips from Anthony Caro’s interview are accessible in our new Voices of art web resource. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to the long interviews with Anthony Fry, Frank Bowling, Denis Bowen and Paula Rego – then please say a quiet thank you to Audrie as without her excellent content summaries you would be unable to navigate through the mountains of audio. If you’ve sampled interviews from our Food: From Source to Salespoint collection not only did Audrie summarise several interviews, she also invented the project title.

Audrie was never anything less than kind, direct and hardworking each time she trekked into the NLS office – no mean feat by the time I met her as it was quite a lengthy journey from her home in Kew Bridge to St Pancras. Always immaculately turned out, she would quietly put on her headphones and set to work. Our lunches and coffee breaks were many times the highlight of my day. It mattered not the great age difference. Audrie was inquisitive and interested – and through these times together I was privileged to hear snippets of her extraordinary life – her early adoption of yoga in post-war London, her love of languages as she taught herself French and Portuguese, her pride in her family and thoughts on theatre, books and culture.

Audrie Mundy and her art

Audrie visit 04_resized

Audrie Mundy, 2004. Photograph: Ali Musa.

We missed Audrie greatly in recent years when her mobility meant she could no longer come into the office – though she remained the champion proof-reader of our Annual Review – and we all stayed in touch with her, marvelling at her deft and newly acquired email skills.

Audrie Mundy on the wonders of email

Although she played hard to get, in 2012, to our delight, Audrie agreed to record some of her own life story with Cathy Courtney, and we are especially pleased that this is now available online at https://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Oral-historians.

Volunteer effort is still greatly valued by the oral history team and this autumn we have been delighted to welcome the first two curatorial volunteers as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. Anna Savory wrote a fascinating blog on Ghosts in the Collections, and Laurie Green-Eames is hard at work, including some sleuthing for one early 1990s collection attempting to match up pseudonyms used in a book with the recordings we have in the archive. Rest assured, however, we won’t be expecting them to volunteer into their nineties!

This blog is by Mary Stewart, Oral History Curator at the British Library.

05 December 2018

Concert cylinders and the first recording of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra

Label close up

By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music

It was exciting to receive an Edison concert cylinder as a donation recently, but much more so to discover that it is probably the first recording by members of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra.  Cylinder box labels and the cylinders housed within often do not match, so until we were able to play the cylinder, with a special sized mandrel, we did not know if it was what the label declared.  Fortunately, there was an announcement and the strains of Weber’s Invitation to the Waltz were immediately recognizable. 

Pitching the recording and ensuring the correct playback speed was of paramount importance.  Our engineer had found discussion on the internet speculating that the speed should be 120 rpm for concert cylinders.  However, this pitched the music far too high.  The work was written in D flat major and I found in the British Library collections the score and parts of the edition that probably would have been used for this recording published by Boosey and Company in 1889.  Like the original work, the key of this arrangement is D flat major.  The cylinder had to be played at 102 rpm to give a satisfactory performance of the work.  Evidence that it is a copy (by the pantograph process) and not an original can be heard at the end of the recording where three thuds are heard as the master cylinder hits the end of the grooves, but the copy keeps running.  The first few grooves containing the announcement are damaged but once the music begins, the sound is surprisingly good for 116 years ago.

Weber Invitation to the Waltz

Sir-Henry-Wood-with-Promenade-Concert-Performers

Sir Henry Wood with the Queen's Hall Wind Quintet by William Whiteley Ltd  Albumen cabinet card, circa 1897 NPG P1837  © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Queen's Hall orchestra was founded in 1895 to inaugurate the new Promenade Concerts.  It was in 1902 that the Queen’s Hall Wind Quintet was founded. Trained and rehearsed by the orchestra’s conductor Henry Wood, who also played the piano in performances, the group was known as Wood Wind.  Lecture concerts were given in the Small Queen’s Hall in an effort to make works written for wind ensemble known to the general public.  The members were Albert Fransella (flute), Désiré Lalande (oboe), Manuel Gomez (clarinet), Frederick James (bassoon) and Adolphe Borsdorf (horn).  It is highly likely that some or all of these musicians are heard on this recording.  Most were born in the 1860s and Lalande died in 1904 at the age of thirty-eight.  Gomez, born in 1859, was a founding member of the London Symphony Orchestra while Borsdorf, born in 1854, performed in the English premiere of Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel under the baton of the composer in 1896.  The Queen’s Hall was destroyed in 1941 when it was bombed by the Germans.

Live on stage

Concert cylinders were developed to produce a louder sound so that recordings could ‘be clearly and distinctly heard throughout the largest halls, and in the open air.’  They were not commercially successful, no doubt due to the price and cost of playback equipment.  The A1 Concert Grand, which could play both standard size and concert cylinders retailed at £16 and 16 shillings.  

Edison Concert Cylinder player 1-page-001

The recording we have here was made around 1902 being priced at six shillings, equivalent to around £31 in today’s money.  The machines were very expensive with a complete package including horns, twelve cylinders and three blanks costing an amazing £40 in 1902.

The Phonograph and Talking Machine Exchange-page-040EDIT

A list of twenty recordings by the London Regimental Band augmented by members of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra appeared for the 1902 season advertised in the Phonograph and Talking Machine Exchange, so they could have been recorded the previous year.

London Concert Cylinders

Thanks to Jolyon Hudson for the donation of the cylinder and extra information.

 For all the latest news follow @BL_Classical

 

03 December 2018

Recording of the week: Island Grief after Hurricane Ivan

This week's selection comes from Dr Eva del Rey, Curator of Drama and Literature Recordings and Digital Performance.

British-Caribbean poet, artist and theatre maker Malika Booker reads ‘Island Grief after Hurricane Ivan’ from her 2013 collection Pepper Seed.

Recorded at the British Library in May 2013 for the Between Two Worlds: Poetry and Translation project funded by the Arts Council.

Ivan_576 pixelsPhoto credit: SanFranAnnie on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Malika Booker reads 'Island Grief after Hurricane Ivan' (C1340/92)

On 31 August 2004, a large tropical wave crossed the west coast of Africa. By 5 September - about 1150 miles east of the southern Windward Islands - it had turned into a hurricane with winds of 160 mph, reaching category 5 strength up to three times, the strongest category of the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Hurricane Ivan mercilessly wrecked parts of Grenada, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba and Mexico, before reaching the Gulf Shores of Alabama and from there continuing its uncontrollable path through multiple locations in the USA.

It took an estimated total of 123 lives between 2 and 24 September 2004.

Atlantic Ocean storms and hurricanes name lists were first created in 1953 by the US National Hurricane Center, with only female names used until 1979. Prior to 1953 hurricanes in the USA were identified by their latitude-longitude, and in the Caribbean Islands after the saint of the day in which the hurricane occurred (according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar).

The use of names was favoured for communication purposes. There are currently six lists of 21 names each in use. An international committee of the World Meteorological Organization is in charge of updating, maintaining, rotating and recycling the lists every six years. Any name listed can be retired, to never be used again upon request, out of respect for the people who have suffered fatalities and losses. This is what happened with Ivan after 2004, Katrina and Rita in 2005 and several other names since.

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