Sep 27 2011: Twelve BBC Sound Effect Library Archive Discs (BBC Aberdeen, 1940s/50s)

Earlier this year, in the Jack Goldstein exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, a series of coloured vinyl records containing the sounds of forest fires, barking dogs and ships lost in fog were featured, and in some ways these BBC archive 78s are the source material – indirectly – for those works. Made in the 1940s or 50s, and (judging by the stamps on the labels) once held at a BBC studio in Aberdeen, these 12 discs – some one-sided, others featuring many different variations on their general themes – hold recordings of mainly industrial and man-made rather than natural sounds: power station ambience, the rhythmic clatter of a hand loom, the unruly noise of a boys’ school right out of Lindsay Anderson’s ‘If…’ and that most feared of all noises, the dentists’ drill. Even without listening to the records themselves, it’s possible to imagine almost exactly how they will sound – and allow those sounds to evoke the atmospheres of the places and activities they document in the imagination. Perhaps it’s enough to say that, by and large, these 78s do sound pretty much how their labels would lead you to expect them to sound, though as I’ve no way of recording from the dansette into the hi-tech realm of the mp3, you’ll just have to take my word for that.

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