This past May on Metafilter, we looked at “Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls”, a wildly popular variety show that was broadcast every Wednesday night in the 1930's and 1940's from the state prison in Huntsville, TX. It featured performances by male and female prisoners. No recordings of the show have ever been found. In the early forties, eight inmates of the Goree State Farm prison unit formed one of the first all-female country and western acts in the country and their performances were broadcast on Thirty Minutes. The Goree All Girl String Band captured the hearts of millions of radio listeners but never cut a record or went on tour and have thus been ignored by music historians. When they were paroled, they nearly all vanished forever. [more inside]
Robbie Judkins visits Tanzania to witness first hand the attempt to save a quarter of a century of musical history from oblivion. Listen to an exclusive mix of tracks newly digitized by the Tanzania Heritage Project
Do you like radios? And museums? Then you need the radiomuseum.org gazatteer of museums and historical places around the world where you can look at radios and associated technologies!
Walter Benjamin presented "True Dog Stories" on September 27, 1930, as part of Radio Berlin's youth programming. Thoughtful but sometimes oblique commentaries on human society, Benjamin's radio shows have been called "Enlightenment for Children" and "NPR for weirdos," but an interview with the editor of their recent translations into English gives much greater context. Some essays have been re-recorded in German (including the dog episode, track 16), and Börne's original poodle letter is also online.
Melvyn Bragg's been digging deep for more than 40 years. You may know In Our Time [previously], The South Bank Show [previouslier] or The Adventure of English. If you don't, you probably should. [more inside]
Thomas King wins Governor-General’s Award for fiction In February, King won the British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. On Tuesday, he won the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction for The Back of the Turtle, his first novel in 15 years. [more inside]
In 1924 the BBC transmitted its first live outside broadcast: a duet between cellist Beatrice Harrison and the nightingales nesting in the garden of her Surrey home. Capturing the song of the Nightingale. [more inside]
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
Experience D-Day like your grandparents did, if they weren't in the military on June 6, 1944. Archive.org has the the complete D-Day broadcast from CBS radio.
Long Player is a fortnightly show presented by [British music journalist] Pete Paphides. Conducted in a relaxed setting, these interviews see some of Petes favourite artists revisiting the highs and lows of their careers. Interviewees include Allen Toussaint, Linda Thompson, Neil Finn and Jimmy Webb. [more inside]
Scratchy Grooves For almost twenty years, starting in 1984, Bill Chambless on WVUD-FM at the University of Delaware, explored the pop music of 1900 to 1940 on vintage recordings, "scratches and all." Stream the shows at this website, migrated from the original cassette tapes and maintained by his son.
Can you name a firth in Scotland where the dolphins have individual names? The destination of Haiti's Kita Nago parade? A Sami Village in Lapland where tourists go to see the Northern Lights? A former "city of pirates" on the Adriatic Coast? Every weekday, listeners of PRI's international-news radio show The World are treated to the serendipity of a brief journey to a distant point on the globe. It's part of the daily GeoQuiz, a challenging geographical trivia game enhanced with ambient audio, imagery, mapping, and revealing details of history and landscape. You can play along via Twitter or subscribe to the podcast - either way, this 5 minute vacation will make you a little bit smarter about this incredible planet.
The Value of Culture is a five part BBC radio series by Melvyn Bragg (which can be downloaded as a podcast) which explores the modern concept of 'culture' from its roots in mid-19th Century Britain, specifically Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and Edward Burnett Tylor's Primitive Culture (vol. 2), and exploring the discourse and uses of the concept until the present day. There are five episodes, each a little over forty minutes long, focusing in turn on Arnold and the roots of the concept of culture, Tylor and the anthropological conception of culture, C. P. Snow and the 'Two Cultures' debate, mass culture and culture studies, and then ending with a debate on the value of culture today.
BBC's Letter From America archives replenished by Newquay man. Most not kept by the BBC. Amazing piece of radio in and of itself. [previously].
Hosted by three professors of US history (one a specialist in the 18th Century, one in the 19th, and one in the 20th), each episode of the radio show and podcast Backstory takes a subject from the news and looks at the American history behind it. [more inside]
...this symmetric aperture is called the "fenetre de breeze", roughly translated meaning the "zephyr window".
The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946 [mp3 at bottom] lingers on in the memories of record collectors, radio historians, and a generation of post-war vulgarians from Dr. Demento to Howard Stern. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's vivid recording of the contest (conceived at a company stag party) inspired legions of LP cover artists: an early public airing was encased in a sleeve designed by one of the earliest proponents of the illustrated album cover. Later editions were adorned with shockingly detailed renditions of the Great Contest, created by a variety of anonymous geniuses. (Speaking of art, it was also a rumored favorite of Salvador Dali). Though it has inspired various lurid myths, we've learned a little bit about the deepest roots of the contest right here on Metafilter. [more inside]
Although many fine divas stamped their mark on early recording, it was the tenor voice of Caruso which was the defining voice of the early twentieth century. His reputation was due to the fact that people could not only hear him in their own homes, but that his success could actually be measured in record sales; he was the first global superstar of the gramophone era. Enrico Caruso was the first recording artist with a million-selling record ("Vesti la Giubba," from Pagliacci), and his recordings of 10 songs 'made the gramophone' in 1902. He went on to make about commercial 490 recordings, and there is even more unreleased material. [more inside]
Will Your Favorite Star Survive Color? This article from a 1935 issue of the Hollywood fan magazine Photoplay breathlessly anticipates a new standard of screen beauty due to the spread of Technicolor motion pictures. You can read or download the whole magazine, for free, legally, at the Media History Digital Library. [more inside]
Stetson Kennedy died yesterday at 94. The folklorist and writer was best known for infiltrating and exposing the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, increasing public resistance to the organization and helping lead to the revocation of their national charter. Kennedy revealed details of the KKK to writers of the popular radio show "Superman," giving the Man of Steel a new postwar enemy through 16 episodes of the series "Superman vs. the Klan". [more inside]
Princess Seraphina was an 18th Century cross-dresser who brought a thief to court for stealing her clothes. Her trial provides a brief glimpse into the life of queer men in 18th-Century England.
On the 29th January 1942 the first ever Desert Island Discs was broadcast. Surpassed only by the Grand Ole Opry it is the second longest running radio show in history. Beautiful in its simplicity - each castaway is asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item for their imaginary stay on the desert island. For those who have not come across it before aquaint yourself with its iconic theme tune 'By the Sleepy Lagoon' here. Then for newcomers and old hands aquaint yourself with the wonderful new BBC website with searchable archives of 2852 episodes detailing castaways choices, and now with more than 500 episodes available for free download.
19th-century newspaper ads for patented stomach cures and digestive aids [...] foregrounded mince pie as the K2 of digestive summits. But for every published warning on the dangers of mince, the newspapers published a poem, essay, or editorial praising it as a great symbol of American cultural heritage or a nostalgic reminder of mother love and better times bygone—or even, as the State of Columbia, South Carolina, asserted in 1901, a beneficial Darwinian instrument that had "thinned out the weak ones" among the pioneering generations.So wrote Cliff Doerksen in his wonderful, James Beard award-winning article Mince Pie: The Real American Pie. Doerksen not only gives the history of this once most American of foods, he also makes two mince pies from 19th Century recipes to see if they are indeed all that. This is but one of many great articles Doerksen wrote for The Chicago Reader in recent years (links to a selection below the cut). Sadly, Cliff Doerksen passed at the age of 47 just before Christmas. [more inside]
Keeping Score is designed to give people of all musical backgrounds an opportunity to explore signature works by composers Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, and Dmitri Shostakovich in depth, and at their own pace. The interactive audio and video explores the composers’ scores and pertinent musical techniques as well as the personal and historical back stories. [more inside]
QWERTY keyboard, how do you plead? Gluty! (Stephen) Fry's English Delight tackles the sociotechnical history of the QWERTY keyboard. [more inside]
Uneven Terrain is a series of short documentaries about urban exploration, about 10-15 minutes long each. There are six so far, about monumental ruins in New York, Centralia, the Pennsylvania town where an underground coalseam has been on fire since the 1960s, abandoned missile silos in the US and how they're being turned into homes, oil drilling in Los Angeles, the Teufelberg listening station and the abandoned bunkers under Tempelhof Airport in Berlin and pirate radio in London and on the old Redsand sea forts. Each short doc has a different presenter. All have accompanying photo galleries. [These are produced for the bootmaker Palladium, but it's pretty low-key]
MAN is one of a number of animals that make things, but man is the only one that depends for its very survival on the things he has made. That simple observation is the starting point for an ambitious history programme that the BBC will begin broadcasting on January 18th in which it aims to tell a history of the world through 100 objects in the British Museum (BM). A joint venture four years in the making between the BM and the BBC, the series features 100 15-minute radio broadcasts, a separate 13 episodes in which children visit the museum at night and try to unlock its mysteries, a BBC World Service package of tailored omnibus editions for broadcasting around the world and an interactive digital programme involving 350 museums in Britain which will be available free over the internet. The presenter is Neil MacGregor, the BM’s director, who has moved from the study of art to the contemplation of things. “Objects take you into the thought world of the past,” he says. “When you think about the skills required to make something you begin to think about the brain that made it.” via The Economist [more inside]
Bridge to Somewhere: Lessons from the New Deal, an American RadioWorks documentary, chronicles Roosevelt's recovery-through-work programs (the CCC, the WPA, and the PWA) and their lasting impact on America's infrastructure. Rich with oral histories and actualities.
The Tone Generation is a radio series by Ian Helliwell 'looking at different themes or composers in the era of analogue tape and early synthesizer technology'. The original globe-trotting series: Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, USA, Canada, Rest of World. Bonus programmes: Expo 58, The RCA Synthesizer. All links are to MP3 files, except the first one. Alternatively, you can slurp down the lot in one go by subscribing to the podcast feed.
Voices and Music of World War I and Voices of World War II: Experiences From the Front and at Home both feature spoken word, sheet music and songs galore (all audio RealPlayer). The Great War site has plenty of stuff, but the core is the collection of songs, anti-war, patriotic, France-themed, Kaiser-knocking and so forth. The WWII site also has a whole bunch of music, demonstrating the changing mood of the US, from conflicted feelings about the start of the war to conflicted feelings about the atomic bomb. Among the artists are Nat King Cole, Leadbelly, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. But in addition the wonderful songs there are newscasts, speeches, propaganda and other radio broadcasting of all kinds.
The Early Television Foundation and Museum Website covers the nascent days of the nation's pastime, with interesting items like mechanical TVs and programming schedules from 1939.
Jean Shepherd has been mentioned before but WFMU's Beware of the Blog has finally dug out an mp3 of Shepherd himself telling the story of "I, Libertine" (mp3 link) (wiki). I, Libertine was a literary hoax that began as a practical joke. Shepherd asked his listeners ("the Night People") to go into bookstores and ask for a book that didn't exist. Fueled by bewildered bookstore owners and distributors, I, Libertine eventually did end up as a genuine bestseller, proving his point that the process of choosing bestsellers was flawed.
Phil Schaap has hosted a jazz program for the past twenty-seven years on WKCR, Columbia University’s radio station with unapologetic passion and a depth of familiarity that comes, in part, from the personal relationships he had with the musicians themselves.
Whole Lotta Shakin' - a PRI documentary series on the history of rockabilly, hosted by Rosie Flores.
LA6NCA's WW2 German Radio Collection Pictures and a little history on many WW2 German radios including a cute as a button spy radio and the Lichtsprechgerät 80, an incoherent light audio transceiver. Also featured are a few photo essays of the equipment in use (Enigma, Luftwaffe Signals unit redeploying). [dorian
The Spark Museum John Jenkins' collection of vintage wireless, radio, scientific and electrical equipment, including Crookes and Geissler tubes, Barlow wheels and other early electric motors, loudspeakers and many more oddball electrical devices. [via TeamDroid]
So You Think You Hate Country Music? Then listen to this. The roots of American country music may surprise you. In this series of NPR programs, trace the gradual development of real country music through the first half of the 20th century. Learn how a woman's instrument of the late 1800s, the parlor guitar, became the the central symbol of country and rock; see how African-American musical forms like gospel and blues meshed with the development of country and early rock and influenced the traditional forms in turn; listen to German-Mexican hybrids of accordian style; find out why women had so many honky-tonk torch songs to sing in the late 40s. The series contains hours of content (narrative, interviews, music tracks), and a multitude of excellent links for deeper digging.
The Valve Page Featuring exceedingly old radios, televisions, and other old electronics from the UK.
If anyone wants to help Ron Gerber keep his fantastic radio archive up, go to his site. More info inside.
Alan Cross is a name that is known in Toronto. He's the guy from 102.1 Edge who has the best rock'n'roll show in the business, called The Ongoing History of New Music. His knowledge is so encyclopedic it's creepy. He's personable. He's interesting. He's current. He's uber-cool. And you can either podcast his shows or read them yourself. I'm no rock newbie, but I'm currently enjoying Building A Record Library: Part I. The History of Selling Out is interesting enough to provoke the question, did REM, Husker Du and Sonic Youth really do it for the bling bling? Speaking of Husker Du, are they possibly the fathers of Emo? Do yourself a favour: give him a listen and a read. note: the site's a bit rough on the browser
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Talking History is a radio show where historians talk about their latest work. The archives include MP3 and (sometimes) Realplayer streams, with discussions on topics like the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, George Washington and his slaves, and the history of "Boston Marriages" (today called same sex-unions). Some programs feature interesting archival audio, such as this speech by Elijah Muhammad.
If you're in New York City or LA between now and June 27th, the Museum of Television and Radio is presenting "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That --The History of Gay and Lesbian Images on Television" (via the Queer as Folk section of Showtime's site) (Anyone else remember Robert Reed playing a transsexual on Medical Center?)
The recent post that revived the rude ‘Rainbow’ kids show sketch reminded me of the our (that is, British) obsession with comic double entendre - the ability to accept the filthiest things as long as there is a parallel innocuous interpretation. I think it is something to do our love for wordplay and subtext, our innate hypocrisy and the belief that sex is, in fact, rather naughty. Perhaps the prime example are the Julian and Sandy sketches that ran on the BBC Radio show ‘Beyond Our Ken’ from 1964-69. Over Sunday lunch, millions (there was ONLY the BBC in those days) listened to two very camp characters saying outrageous things in Polari (underground gay slang). A much earlier prime example is the great dirty joke (it’s the one in blue at the bottom of the page) that got comedian Max Miller (died in 1963) banned from the BBC for 5 years. A more recent case of innuendo is, of course, Mrs. Slocombe’s pussy. Of course the double entendre can also be unintentional.
Engines of Our Ingenuity is a web site run by John Lienhard of the University of Houston. The site includes almost 2000 short, three minute talks on the history of science, technology, and engineering. The talks are in the form of RealAudio files, with accompanying transcripts which often give you more links and references. The transcripts themselves are indexed by keywords and are also fully text-searchable. A simple idea but very effective, and kind of addictive. I've been finding out about Jacquard and Babbage, German women astronomers of the seventeenth century, and the deisgn of the zipper. There's also other cool stuff: what did people say about books in 1498?
radiolovers ~ listen to OLD TIME RADIO shows for free, online.
Quanto putas mihi stare hoc conclave ? That's "How many prostitutes does it take to change a lightbulb?" in Latin. No, actually it's "How much do you think I paid for this apartment?". Here's hoping, in the wake of the BBC's superb The Roman Way series, written and presented by David Aaranovich, that good old Latin is on its way back, albeit in an Internet, soundbitey way. Those intending to smuggle some into MetaFilter should definitely start here. The owner, for instance, might find Ne ponatur in mea vicinitate useful - "Not in my backyard". And Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione - "I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult" should prove popular in the God threads. Vale!
Who knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. Radio serials and dramas take me back to driving along with my grandfather, listening to tapes he made of his favorite programs growing up. It's still a nice way to wile away some time.