THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

87 posts categorized "Save our Sounds"

19 August 2019

Recording of the week: securing the right to read

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Josie Wales, Rights Clearance Officer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

Along with many other libraries around the world, the British Library celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride this summer, with staff from St Pancras and Boston Spa joining the parades in York and London.

This Recording of the Week takes us back to 1985, when Pride was a very different kind of event with a much stronger political tone. With around 10,000 people in attendance, the 1985 march was considered to be the biggest to date. In comparison, an estimated 1.5 million people gathered in central London to mark the annual parade this year.

This recording comes from a collection of brief street interviews conducted at the 1985 Pride March, through which we can gain an insight into the atmosphere of the event and the thoughts and preoccupations of those attending. A recurring concern were the raids and seizure of imported books by UK Customs and Excise, which most famously involved independent bookseller Gay’s the Word in Bloomsbury, but also affected other organisations that sold or distributed gay and lesbian reading material. More than one hundred imported titles were deemed ‘indecent or obscene’ under the 1876 Customs Consolidation Act, and confiscated.

Photograph of rows of books in a bookshopPhoto of neatly stacked books placed in front of a wall of bookshelves by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash. Click here to view image credit.

In this short clip, a marcher from the Gay Christian Movement, a charity founded in 1976, describes the impact  of this state censorship and the expensive legal battle against it, and shares their thoughts on our right as people in a free society to read and, most importantly, to choose what we read.

Securing the right to read (C456/121)

Both the Gay Christian Movement and Gay’s the Word faced charges of conspiring to import indecent material, but mounted successful opposition to these acts of repression with the strong support of both authors and publishers and the wider community of readers.

Technology has altered the way in which many of us engage with and access reading material, but the sense of community and solidarity that can be created through literature, particularly for LGBTQ+ and other marginalised populations, remains just as important. This theme will be explored over several events at the British Library in the upcoming season, including Banned Books Week in September, which examines censorship and other barriers to self-expression. More information and tickets can be found on our events page.

Discover more LGBTQ history at the British Library.

This recording belongs to the Hall Carpenter Oral History Archive, which has been digitised as part of the British Library's Unlocking our Sound Heritage project

Follow @BLSoundHeritage, @BL_OralHistory and @soundarchive for all the latest news. 

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)

 

12 August 2019

Recording of the week: women conscientious objectors of WW2

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Vikki Greenwood, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

C880 is a fabulously intriguing collection of interviews, conducted by Rena Feld, of twenty-nine women who either were or are conscientious objectors. Their reasons varied – religious, moral, political – but they held firm in the belief that war, for any reason, was intrinsically wrong.

Before I began listening to this collection, my knowledge of conscientious objectors during the Second World War was limited. I just knew they were men.

Weirdly, the concept of women conscientious objectors never occurred to me, simply for the reason that they were exempt from conscription. What I didn’t know though, was that any single woman between the ages of 20 and 30 could be called upon to report for war work.[1]

British Women's Land Army recruitment posterBritish Women's Land Army recruitment poster, depicting a woman with pitchfork, captioned 'For a healthy, happy job join the Women's Land Army', circa 1940 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Some found that this was in direct opposition to their personal beliefs and refused. The results varied from fines to job loss and for some, like Barbara Roads (C880/02), imprisonment. And then there are others, like Angela Sinclair-Loutit (C880/23) who worked in war hospitals during air raids.

All of the interviews in this collection have some great stories behind them. They really highlight what living and working during WW2 was like, as seen through the eyes of people who just wanted peace. However, I would like to talk about just one of these women.

Enter Diana McClelland (C880/04).

Diana McClelland  (C880/04)

Diana McClelland was a physiotherapist, so exempt from war work summons, who specialised in treating children. From her interview, it’s not clear whether or not she actually managed to register as a conscientious objector, but she definitely wanted to.

During the Battle of Britain, there was a Government supported organisation called the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (C.O.R.B). This group evacuated children to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with the plan that when the war was over they would return home to their families.[2] 

In 1940, in her own words, Diana just wanted a short holiday to Canada. So, she boarded a C.O.R.B ship as a volunteer to accompany the children. Unfortunately, she boarded the SS Volendam and never made it to Canada.[3]

Auxiliary Territorial Services recruitment posterAuxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) recruitment poster (The National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

Spoiler alert: she did make it to Glasgow and none of the kids on board were lost.

The ship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-60, and the passengers and crew had to be evacuated and rescued by the accompanying ships. She gives quite a frank description of the events; the ship listing, waiting for the lifeboats, of the crew shouting in Dutch and the children oblivious to the danger. According to the captain, it was the most orderly evacuation he’d ever overseen, something he attributed to the passengers not knowing Dutch. 

When Diana McClelland returned to Glasgow, holiday attempt foiled, she was asked if she would be willing to try again.

Naturally, she said yes.

The only reason she didn’t was because by the time she was meant to sail, the SS City of Benares had also been attacked, this time with a large number of casualties.[4]

I won't lie, if I’d been on a torpedoed ship I don’t think I’d be willing to run the risk again. No matter how pretty Canada is. Which I suppose means these women were braver than I’ll ever be, and I admire that.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Women of the Second World War https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-women-of-the-second-world-war

[2] National Archives Catalogue https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C493

[3] BBC WW2 People’s Archive newspaper https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/34/a4297034.shtml

[4] “Remembering the SS City of Benares tragedy 70 years on” by Michelle Murphy, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-11332108

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

This recording has been digitised as part of the library's Unlocking our Sound Heritage project.

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)

31 July 2019

Celebrating 100,000 digitised recordings with Nigerian hammer and anvil music

Add comment

Two years into an ambitious, nationwide project, the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage team recently celebrated reaching the milestone of 100,000 digitised sound recordings. Supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a major British Library project focused on identifying, cataloguing and digitally preserving half a million of the nation’s most rare and at-risk sounds.

After establishing a network of ten audio preservation centres across the UK, project staff at the Library and its partner institutions have been digitising thousands of sound items, before they physically degrade or the means for playing them disappear from production. The UK-wide project aims to provide public access to these sounds, through outreach events and a new sounds website launching next year.

Digitising 100,000 items is a fantastic achievement and goes some way to realising the project’s goal of safeguarding the nation’s audio heritage for future generations. As a celebration of the hard work that has gone in to the project so far and the rare sounds discovered along the way, we are sharing a unique recording to mark reaching 100,000 digitised recordings.

This noteworthy recording captures the remarkable hammer and anvil music of the Yoruba blacksmiths of Nigeria. I say ‘played’; ‘spoken’ might be a more fitting word, as the tonality of the hammer and anvil instruments actually resembles patterns of Yoruba speech. Held in the C1074 Peggy Harper Africa Collection, this intriguing recording demonstrates how these unusual instruments are used not only make music, but to speak expressive sentences in the Yoruba language.

Anvil and Hammer Music Extract

Blacksmithing_In_Nigeria3
Photo of a blacksmith from Upo village, Otukpo town in Benue State, Nigeria working with iron. Image courtesy of Chrisnike. Click here to view image license.

Catherine Smith, World and Traditional Music Volunteer for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, has been working closely with the Africa Collection, classifying musical instruments featured in several of the recordings using the Hornbostel–Sachs classification system.

Volunteering with the project has introduced her to a fascinating collection of Nigerian ensembles and traditional music, including music performed with drum and percussive instruments. Catherine was intrigued to discover several unusual objects used to play music while listening to the collection, including the hammers and anvils that she classified as ‘Idiophones – Metal’.

After sharing the recording with the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Team during one of their regular listening sessions, Catherine described what she found fascinating about the music: ‘I enjoyed this use of practical tools to communicate the Yoruba language though music and the way in which it develops into expressive tonal and rhythmic patterns’.

On Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day, a day on which we are encouraged to broaden our ideas of what instruments are, listen to an extract of Peggy Harper’s recording of this fascinating hammer and anvil music and read Catherine’s commentary below:

This is an extract of Peggy Harper’s recording of the anvil and hammer music of the Yoruba blacksmiths in Nigeria. Here the players are giving a demonstration of how the hammer and anvil can 'speak' sentences in Yoruba language. The music is named after ‘Ogun’, ‘the God of Iron’. A man introduces the music with this explanation: 

“Whenever someone is passing near a smithery, the blacksmiths will greet him by beating the anvil and hammer to talk. The tonality of Yoruba language is so great that whenever the anvil and hammer is used to talk, passers-by clearly understand what the anvil and hammer are saying…"

In this recording, the anvil and hammer players perform the music whilst somebody in the group recites in words what the anvil and hammer are saying.

 

Follow Unlocking Our Sound Heritage updates @BLSoundHeritage

Following The British Library’s World and Traditional Music team @BL_WorldTrad

21 July 2019

Recording of the week: Nelson Mandela in the UK

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Adonis Leboho, Communications Intern for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

Last Thursday, people all over the world marked Mandela Day through commemorative events celebrating the legacy of the heroic anti-apartheid revolutionary.

Nelson Mandela fought against institutionalised racial segregation in South Africa for decades, enduring twenty-seven years of imprisonment until the ruling regime finally gave in to domestic and international pressure and released him. Eventually succeeding in the fight against apartheid, Mandela went on to lead South Africa as its president, setting about the difficult task of healing the nation’s deep wounds after years of division.

In a recording digitised through the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, Mandela addresses gathered journalists at a press conference during his visit to the UK following his release, likely at the International Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in 1990.

Photograph of Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela photographed smiling in Johannesburg, Gauteng, May 2008 (courtesy of South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za via Wikimedia Commons)

Still full of energy and resolve, Mandela uses this platform to draw attention to the continuing struggle to dismantle apartheid. In his clear and considered way, Mandela also responds to difficult questions about the state of his political party, the ANC, and the struggle for human rights around the world.

In the clip I have selected, Mandela discusses the role of artists in successfully communicating political messages, especially in ways politicians just aren’t able to manage. Though he admits he didn’t have much time to keep up with the latest musical trends because of the demands on his time and lack of access to music, Mandela talks about how he came to develop an appreciation of the work of musicians, as they used their art to campaign for his freedom.

Nelson Mandela (C1132/148)

Found in the Rob Waldron Radio Broadcasts collection, this recording captures Mandela’s integrity, dedication and compassion right at the moment when he is forging South Africa’s democratic future.

Follow @BLSoundHeritage for regular updates on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)

16 July 2019

Magnetic Tape Alert Project

Add comment

The Magnetic Tape Alert Project is an initiative of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) Working Group on Information Preservation.

News_150719_magnetic_tape
Photo: Bernhard Graf, Vienna Phonogrammarchiv

 

Today’s knowledge of the linguistic and cultural diversity of humanity is widely based on magnetic tape recordings produced over the past 60 years. Magnetic audio and video tape formats are now obsolete, replay equipment in working condition is disappearing rapidly and the supply and service of spare parts is fading. As a result, the routine transfer of magnetic tape recordings is likely to cease around 2025. The only way to preserve these sounds and images in the long term, and to keep them accessible for future generations, is to digitize them and transfer to them to safe digital repositories.

While many professional memory institutions have already secured their audiovisual holdings, or have plans to do so in time, a great number of audio and video recordings are still in their original state, kept in small academic or cultural institutions, or in private hands.

With the Magnetic Tape Alert Project, the Information for All Programme (IFAP) of UNESCO, in cooperation with the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), aims to alert stakeholders to the imminent risk of losing access to their audiovisual documents.

Part of this is to conduct a survey, focusing on unique recordings, to assess the scale of the risk. The information obtained through the survey will serve as a basis for future planning for the safeguarding of these irreplaceable original documents in the long-term. Information gathered will be used to compile a report that will be made publicly available.

For further information and to respond to the questionnaire, please go to the project website.

Deadline for completion: 30 September 2019

The project coordinator, Andrew Pace, can be contacted at: MTAP@iasa-web.org

IFAP logo IASA logo

01 July 2019

Recording of the week: wonderful Weingartner

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Recordings.

This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte and next year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven.  Both men, known the world over by a single name, are joined in history by the fact that Beethoven originally dedicated his Third Symphony to Bonaparte.

In 1806, the score was published under the Italian title Sinfonia Eroica - 'Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.'  Apparently, in order to gain a fee from a nobleman for the composition, Beethoven deleted Bonaparte's name and changed the dedication to Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian Lobkowitz. 

Title page for Beethoven's Symphony in E flat major, Op.55, 'Eroica'Title page for Beethoven's Symphony in E flat major, Op.55, 'Eroica' (via Wikimedia Commons)

Composer and conductor Felix Weingartner (1863-1942), a pupil of Franz Liszt, was the first to record all of Beethoven's symphonies, many more than once.  This recording of the Eroica was made in 1936 with one of the finest orchestras then and now, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Symphony no. 3 op. 55 E flat major (Eroica)

Photograph of Felix WeingartnerFelix Weingartner circa 1890 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Weingartner brings fresh, clean lines, a taught rhythmic vitality and plenty of colour to the performance.  The quiet surfaces of this Columbia recording and the resonance of the Grosser Musikvereinssaal make for an exciting listening experience, particularly the Scherzo (at 29:28) and the Finale (at 33:36).

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

06 May 2019

Recording of the week: Peter Kennedy recording of Sheila Gallagher, Donegal 1953

Add comment

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

Peter Kennedy made this recording of Sheila Gallagher in Middle Dere, Donegal in 1953 - she was 90 years old at the time. She tells of learning songs from her father and his friends, who themselves lived to 100 years of age. The recording provides a window into a world some 200 years or more ago.

Sheila Gallagher, Middle Dere, Donegal, 1953, Tape 1 (C604/523, excerpt)

Three black and white portraits of Sheila Gallagher

More recordings are available online at:

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0523XX-0001V0

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0524XX-0001V0

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0525XX-0001V0

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0526XX-0001V0

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Peter-Kennedy-Collection/025M-C0604X0527XX-0001V0

The full Peter Kennedy Collection is being digitally preserved as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project. You can also find out more about Peter Kennedy and his work at http://www.peterkennedyarchive.org/.

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

22 April 2019

Recording of the week: a lesson in bird song duets and trios

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Greg Green, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

With hundreds of recordings of birds from around East Africa, Myles E. W. North is a name that constantly crops up within the enormous collection of wildlife species reels here at the library. During his time with the Colonial Administrative Service in Kenya, Myles developed a keen interest in ornithology and, combined with his interest in music, this turned into a passion for recording and studying bird song. He had an excellent ear and was able to transcribe and mimic bird song very accurately. He released two highly praised records: ‘Voices of African Birds’ and ‘More Voices of African Birds’.

In this recording of Tropical Boubous - one of many outtakes from his commercial releases - Myles presents a selection of duets from the birds with announcements in between explaining how the duet works. He accurately whistles the part of each bird, and even uses a recorder (an end blown flute, not his EMI reel-to-reel machine) to demonstrate the lower notes that he cannot whistle.

Photograph of a pair of Tropical Boubous in Hwange National Park, ZimbabweTropical Boubous in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (Photo credit: Derek Keats on Visual Hunt / CC BY)

Tropical Boubou duets & trios (BL ref WS2882 C3)

This excerpt features what Myles believes is a trio of boubous all adding their own part to the melody and, without his input, you would be forgiven for believing it was all one bird. Myles’ personality really shines through in this recording, demonstrating his knowledge and experience as he breaks down a complicated ensemble of birdsong with some brilliant mimicry.

Follow @gregegreen, @BLSoundHeritage and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)