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Category: Recording

  1. Saving our Sounds

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    the-british-library

    Have you ever wondered what happens to old audio formats? As technology moves forward and changes how we experience our lives spare a thought to technology of yesteryear. I have been lucky to visit the Sound Archives at the British Library and had the pleasure of listening to old radio broadcasts. It was as if I were there living in the memories of another time and place. There are old radio catalogues and equipment dotted around the place as well as the odd royal speech. Set up in 1955 the archive today boasts about 60 thousand hours of audio.

    Delving into the audio past is such a privilege especially as the sound archives are working hard to keep all audio alive for future generations. In a labyrinthine palace, racks filled with white jackets, inside them the hidden treasures from Radio 1. Over there, turning to another shelf, every news script from the BBC. We pulled out an archive and were read an extract of the news a month before the declaration of World War 2. Chilling yet compelling reading of the transcripts of seemingly innocuous everyday news bulletins.

    As we wondered around the shelves, racks and racks of tapes, we were overwhelmed by the size of the collection. Most are on ¼ inch tape as well as BETA Max. The BBC transcripts were originally on hard copy and then began to be put onto microfilm. We padded through the bright white corridors mostly in silence until we couldn’t contain our excitement and effervescently babbled away. Where, what, who, when and how – we wanted to know, everything. We trailed underneath an automated book system that looked like it had come from Heathrow’s terminal 5. Instead of suitcases, books and journals, clattered around our heads rising from the depths to the reading rooms. We delved further into the archives beneath. What would we find and how have they ended up here?

    The early BBC Radio content is contained on acetates and also pressed shellac discs. Down in the sound strong rooms are a lot of audio down there is stored on VHS. By a lot I mean corridors, rooms, floor to ceiling shelves, crates, boxes and enough box sets to keep you busy until….well a rather long time! The VHS tapes all standing to attention patiently waiting to be taken out and played. Anyone else have to scramble to change over the tape while recording?! Thought so! A whole project is underway to get this all digitised, a daunting task but one much needed. Especially since old technology is rapidly giving way to the new. However we walked past many an old technology tape deck. The corridors are littered with machines, patiently awaiting their turn, like a long lost friend, to be turned on again, to hum away happily.

    As we walked down on aisle we found all the entries and audio as well as the entry forms for the Sony Awards from season 2 onwards. And close by The famed AWE Perkins collection. A Vicar whose hobby was to record on a fenograph any and all random audio that he took a fancy to from about 1950/51.

    While tape seemed to have weathered many a storm, many rather well, the acetates are crumbling and cracking steadily. The lacquer is shrinking, pulling the tape away from itself, a confetti of brown in tins. What broadcast beauties would be lost? We may never know!

    What has survived rather well and also stored away neatly are the original metal discs. Heavy plates of solid stuff surviving through decades. A couple of those would need a trolley to wheel them out with! One is held up, almost like an Olympian with a winning discus. It is, the first every original broadcast copy. An amazing sight, the Kings Speech, solid and sturdy. A blast from the past.

    The team that work on maintaining this audio history are working on Save Our Sounds. The aim is to catalogue and digitise culturally interesting audio material. A gargantuan task and if you have any old audio please get in touch with the Sound Archive team at the British Library. They would welcome your audio.

  2. Top 6 UK Audio Dramas to be checked out in 2018

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    UK audio dramas 2018

    In recent years I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more excited by the resurgence of audio dramaI am a voice over artist after all!  Far from old-time radio dramas or those tired story tapes we had as children, this modern, on-the-go entertainment offers well produced, expertly acted, and downright addictive stories from the classic to the contemporary.

    Last year I played the part of Maria Thorpe in Audible Original Drama Northanger Abbey alongside the brilliantly talented Emma Thompson, Lily Cole and Eleanor Tomlinson. It was a wonderfully creative experience putting a new spin on an old classic, and only heightened my excitement for the future of audio dramas.

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    Available to download and listen to almost instantly, audio dramas represent all flavours of fiction. What’s great is the infinite possibilities of the forms stories can take in this medium, particularly as the audio drama movement is only just beginning.

    If you are yet to get stuck into these fiction podcasts, here are a few of the top UK audio dramas I recommend you check out this year.

    1.    Black Eyed Girls—Katie Hims

    Winning BBC’s Best Audio Drama Series 2018, Katie Hims’ audio drama Black Eyed Girls is a beautifully touching, emotional story. This poignant drama follows the lives of separated twins who spend over 60 years searching for each other.  One of radios most cherished writers, Katie Hims has created yet another breath-taking script which has been accompanied with wonderful acting.

     2.    The Sky is Wider—Linda Marshall Griffiths

    Winner of the prestigious Best Single Drama award at the 2017 BBC Audio Drama Awards, The Sky is Wider explores the neurology and ethics surrounding the treatment of a patient with minimal consciousness.  Written by Linda Marshall Griffiths, it was developed in consultation with Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Anil Seth, to create a very current, stimulating and deeply moving radio play.

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     3.    Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures— Andrew Sewell, B7 Media

    If you’re looking for a truly exciting series of sci-fi adventure then you just have to check out the adventures of Dan Dare. Under the expert direction of Andrew Sewell, this audio drama series shapes and transforms the original stories of this heroic action figure by bringing together a sensational script, an all-round electric cast (most notably Ed Stoppard as Dare, Heida Reed as Peabody and Geoff McGivern as Digby) and fabulous music (by Imram Ahmad) to deliver pure audio greatness.

     4.    Neverwhere—Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs

    Ok, so this adaptation may be a few years old now, but if you’re new to audio dramas it is a great story to start you off.  Neverwhere is a six-part dramatisation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, which follows the story of protagonist Richard Mayhew on a journey through ‘London Below’, a bizarre, and much more dangerous version of the real London we all know on the surface. Featuring an all-star cast including James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and Benedict Cumberbatch, this is not to be missed.

     5.    Midnight’s Children—Salman Rushdie, adapted by Ayeesha Menon

    Heralded as ‘radio drama of the year’, this is a fantastic serialisation of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 best-selling novel Midnight’s Children. The story follows the life of Saleem Sinai who was born on the stroke of midnight the day his subcontinent was partitioned by religion into India and Pakistan. Ayeesha Menon has created a dazzling dramatization of this realist masterpiece with a superb cast.

     6.    Life Lines—Al Smith

    This tense drama goes behind the scenes of an ambulance control centre where we’re introduced to ambulance call handler Carrie. Each time the phone rings it’s a matter of life or death. A truly gripping series, Life Lines conveys the story through a magnificent script and a cast that really captures the enormity of each phone call.