18 March 2011
Professor Sean Street presents Radio 4s Archive on 4: Wall of Sound on 26 March 2011.
Bournemouth University’s Professor of Radio Sean Street presents a special edition of Archive on 4 where he explores the forgotten treasures of the British Library’s Sound Conservation Centre.
“The very existence of the Sound Archive recognises that we are at last coming to realise that sound recordings of the past 150 years are every bit as important as historical documents, ancient papyrus manuscripts and other precious artefacts,” said Professor Street.
Although the Sound Archive has existed for many years, the Conservation Centre is a relatively new addition to the British Library and, according to Professor Street, ‘there truly is something for every student, scholar and academic’.
It houses a wide a range of recordings, including popular music, world and traditional music, socio-linguistics, classical music history, natural history, oral history, radio, drama and literature.
Recent users of the facility include the actor Robert Lindsay, famed for his role in ‘My Family’. Robert recorded an audio book of an unpublished manuscript by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He told Professor Street that no one except British Library staff had ever even seen the document that would soon be made available as a commercial recording.
It is this kind of audio gem that demonstrates the true value of the Centre. But when asked which piece of sound he considered the greatest in the collection Professor Street answered: “That’s too big a question! Just listen to the programme, it is so rich and varied.”
He added: “The Radio 4 programme does end on what for me is an unforgettably poignant note... A recording of a bird, the last of its species, made in the Philipines. The bird's mate had been killed in a hurricane shortly before the recording, and here he is, calling out to her, not knowing that he is now completely alone in the world. So when that bird died, there were no more of his species on earth. It's a bit like hearing the call of the Dodo I suppose.”
Archive on 4: Wall of Sound will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 26 March at 8pm. It will be repeated on 28 March.
Another of Professor Street’s programmes from 2009, called "Ludwig Koch and the Music of Nature" will be repeated on Radio 4 on at 11.30am on Thursday 31 March. Ludwig Koch was the father of natural history sound recording, and was responsible for the first known recording of a bird, made in 1896.
About The British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection.
The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.