Wednesday’s Wisdom: Sounds We Don’t Hear Anymore

Responding to a Europe-wide trend for “slow” media (including Norwegian public service broadcasters making “slow” TV chronicling long boat rides), BBC Radio 3 launched Slow Radio back in 2017 (the first episode was also a boat journey, this time in Tennessee).  Understandably, while most of these programs highlight the sounds of nature, some of them represent sonic cityscapes.  Some are even more specialist, like Forgotten Sounds, in which a composer makes a radiophonic collage of sounds like typewriters, steam engines and looms (how many of us 30-somethings and older remember the sound of the dial up Internet modem?).  

An article discussing the launch of Slow Radio invites us to consider the lost sounds of the past, whether they are natural or manmade.  Bernie Krause, the wildlife recordist and author of Wild Soundscapes and The Great Animal Orchestra, notes that even in the space of his career, many of the natural soundscapes he has recorded have disappeared.  In a theme mirrored by our post earlier this month, Krause’s catalogue of recorded sounds was lost in a fire in 2017.  Fortunately, his sound archive was backed up elsewhere.  

In Shattered, we hear the sounds of cylinder recordings and Gramophones, which in themselves document the sounds of the past.  Fortunately, there are enough listeners to these historical forms of sound recording to keep these sounds alive, such as the hiss and crackle of discs and the distant speech captured by tinfoil phonographs.  We’ll hear all these things and even some rarer historical sound recording devices in Shattered, so please stay tuned.

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