Sunday, October 26, 2008

Historical recordings: Audible ghosts


Today's New York Times has an amazing story on the discovery of early musical recordings long thought to have been destroyed in World War II. Classical Ghosts, Audible Once Again, by Daniel J. Wakin, details the careful research done by father-and-son team John A. and John Marsden in tracking down a collection of wax cylinders in a little-known archive in Russia. Musical luminaries of the late 1800s can now be heard, as well as a short recording of Tolstoy reading his own works.

I am always fascinated in the thrill felt when a voice long dead is discovered in an early recording, such as the BBC recordings of great writers and Agatha Christie telling her life story. Astounding how sound recordings have the power to transport us to another time and place. Audiobook listeners often remember the exact stretch of the dog walk where they heard a novel's denouement, or the portion on the daily commute that triggered tears. Perhaps I owe my audiobook addiction to the awe I felt when, as a preschooler, I first heard the Wilcox-Gay Recordio discs recorded by my grandfather. I knew my father as a man whose voice reflected my Mid-Western home. How strange to hear his well-loved tones with the southern twang of his Arkansas roots, preserved on those acetate discs!

Image from http://members.aol.com/webcorinfo/webcor/wilcoxgay.htm

1 comment:

caribookscoops said...

I am new to book blogging and saw your blog over at Mother Reader so I thought I would drop in and say hi.

Thanks for info on historial recordings. I love history and books and I am a big fan of audiobooks. I agree that they have "the power to transport us to another time and place". My grandfather, whose parents are from England couldn't listen to the Harry Potter books because the accents reminded him too much of them. I also use audiobooks as way to motivate me to clean my house. Nothing better than listening to a favorite book to make a mundane task more exciting.