Olden Days Audio

A few days ago a long-time contributor brought in a small reel of magnetic tape, reel to reel. She was hoping it would be an olden-days oral history interview with her mother. So, the curator, Jim, went into the attic space to resuscitate the Sony reel to reel player, oh yes an antique but a pro quality suitcase-sized mechanism with two detachable speakers and a set of backlit meters.

The tape ended up being a wildly rambunctious exploration of the interesting qualities of static and “clipping”, a phenomenon in sound recording that occurs when the signal far exceeds the tolerances of the recording device. In other words this was a childrens’ singing scream fest replete with off-key caterwauling and ape noises. It was adorable. I might add that as a radio programmer for a campus radio station sound art program this was like gold to me. I made a copy for the donor. I may reserve one for my show…

By Caelan Griffiths

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