Saturday, August 1, 2009

Found audio

There are endless records that I'm looking for, but it was always exciting, when walking into a record store, thrift store, or record show, to know that there was a pretty good chance I'd find something great that I never knew existed.

I've always loved homemade recordings. Whether recorded in a drugstore, recording booth, professional studio or at home , these recordings provide an interesting glimpse into others lives, and include everything from families talking and singing,to audio letters, many of which were made by soldiers. They tend to be in poor condition, but are usually worth hearing in spite of that. Some are boring, but many are amusing and touching. There are a few that are extremely sad. The advent of the audio cassette in the 1960's made home recording much easier, and tapes of home recordings sometimes show up in thrift stores.

Some the the most interesting ones I have found are a really decent version of the Hank Penny/ Wynonie Harris song"Bloodshot Eyes', the theme song from a a local 1950's TV show, and a 1948 recording of the reunion of a platoon of World War II veterans talking and singing. I've often wondered how these recordings end up in thrift stores, particularly the ones that are very personal.

Here are a few examples.

"The Audio Kitchen", hosted on WFMU by"the Professor", ran for several years. Many of the episodes are archived online. It featured various types of found audio. Some of my favorites were the long tapes that were aired in segments over several episodes. One particularly charming one was the "Grandma Jones" tape, which consisted of a series of letters written to her grandson. One of the episodes discusses the grandsons upcoming visit to see her in Florida. It begins at 7:15 in the 9/10/03 show, and runs until 17:10. All the episodes of 'The Audio Kitchen" are worth checking out.

The 365 Days Project, which I will write more about, in future posts. archived this homemade recording of "Home Sweet Home" by Henry and Mom. It's really strange and dreary, but ends with laughter and warmth.

Ross Campbell's 21st birthday party

Sweet Thunder is another good site for found audio. Here's are two brief answering machine recordings.

One of the saddest tapes I've ever heard was played on "The Audio Kitchen". I'm revising this a bit, as I located the recording I was talking about, and it's a bit different - and even more interesting - then I thought it was. Most of the tape consists of messages from politicians. business associates, etc. to "John" including one deal that seems really sleazy. There are also messages about a scheduled court appearance. The tone completely changes and it's clear, from listening to John's sons their dad had a suffered a major medical event, and it in intensive care, although it's unclear exactly what happened.

The tape is the "Wealthy John"segment at the end.


  1. i just finished listening to this

    on The Audio Kitchen, and it was great. So ridiculous and fun. Thanks so much for these links!

  2. You are welcome:) - I just listened to this again. Don't think I've heard it since it was originally broadcast. My favorite part is the planet Xertex interview.