A treasure trove of found sound

This week, for my installation at Lost Language  which opens on Friday, I’ve been listening through and editing down about twenty-two hours of audio from found reel-to-reel tapes. Some of the recordings have been phenomenal.

It seems like something that people wouldn’t really do now – to enjoy simply recording your own voice. The excitement I remember as a child making radio shows on my Fisher Price cassette recorder has been superceded by video capability on mobile phones; but as there is no physical object, as such, on which the material is stored, it risks being lost (unless it’s shared on YouTube). The joy of tape is that , fifty years after it’s been recorded, it’s still accessible.

One tape in particular was thrilling to listen to. The audio journal of a military family from 1958 to 1965. We hear about young Stella being sent to the convent school for the first time; Philip being locked in the cupboard for being naughty; and occasionally the whole family break into song.

Singing on tape seems popular. Other recordings, which I date to the 1960s also due to the snippets of radio programmes, feature children singing religious songs. Or the same kids singing very much non-religious songs like “My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling, I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.” 

My particular favourite is a recording of a young man with a pretty good voice mucking around singing Beach Boys and Elvis hits and, later, breaking into a gospel hymn and this rhyme:

One thought on “A treasure trove of found sound

  1. really interesting stuff. I too used to love making tapes when I was a kid, particularly making comedy news broadcasts and stuff with my dad. I really wish I still had the tapes as he’s no longer with us – but they’re lost in the mists of time! Nice one Graham. Take care.

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