Please Respond to My Enquiries, Thank You

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1,000 Postcards is a short radio piece by Rene Gutel, about how her father, a bus driver, finding his job sometimes dull, decided to write her a postcard every day while she was away at college. I like the fact that after a while the whole campus became fascinated by the postcards, and she found herself having to read that day’s instalment to student after envious student. Funny and sweet.

Cornish Sounds

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Back from the West, with some sounds of autumn on the Cornish coast:

Birds on the cliff path above a bay, with the sea below:

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Dry leaves rustling in the breeze:

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And church bells floating from across the river, as three pirates or possibly smugglers trudge up the hill complaining about how Paul broke the dredger:

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Daphne Oram

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Delia Derbyshire has received quite a lot of attention in recent years as a pioneer of electronic music, but Daphne Oram has been unfairly neglected. She was the one who persuaded the BBC to set up the Radiophonic Workshop in the first place – although the direction it took wasn’t cutting edge enough for her, and she eventually resigned to work on her own music in a Kent oasthouse. This included inventing the Oramics machine, a system for converting pictures into sounds.

“To me she was a kindly, rather eccentric aunt. But she had a very clear vision of how the computer would revolutionise electronic music,” said her nephew in the BBC’s obituary in 2003.

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You can listen to some mp3s of her music or buy the CD here, and if you’re in London, the Southbank Centre is paying a long overdue tribute to her next Friday. See you there.

Sounds of Brighton Pier

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The important thing on a Monday morning is to keep an open mind. So when you’ve set off to do some work, and a voice in your head says, “But the sun’s shining. Why not go to Brighton instead?”, maybe you should listen. After all, you can write on a beach just as well as in a library, can’t you? (No.)

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What I like about Brighton pier is that it has its brash sections:

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and it has gentler sections, where people sit each side of the glass partition and gaze out to sea:

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At the very end you have the rides:

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This is the sound of the rollercoaster above. The squeaks you hear are a group of teenage boys, trying to maintain their cool and not quite succeeding:

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Sadly Ivor wasn’t in evidence, but he has an impressive list of corporate clients.

But of course the best sounds are these:

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English Culture Made Clear

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For those who want a more complete picture than that given in this earlier entry, here is the great Stanley Unwin to explain further. (Found via enthusiasm.)

Hope that’s all straight now. On the subject of Stanley Unwin, I never realised that he was the star of a very peculiar Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series, The Secret Service. Apparently every week Father Stanley Unwin foiled someone’s evil plan by talking nonsense, and sometimes taking the form of a puppet.

If I Were a Finch in the Children’s Hospital…

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I came across this little sound piece called IF on the WNYC Radiolab podcast. Australian sound artist Sherre DeLys takes us into the delightful world of Andrew, an imaginative boy at the Westmead Children’s Hospital, as he speculates on scuttlefish, crocodiles and problems with drawing. Like a lot of the work on Radiolab, the result is somewhere between music and speech – and short but extremely sweet.

You can hear more of Sherre DeLys’s work at Ubuweb.

Hum

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Mystery humming noises have plagued the inhabitants of various locations over the years, from Taos, New Mexico, to Largs in Scotland to Bristol. Explanations have varied, often involving the electrical grid, power plants or military experiments.

But in the case of Sausalito, California, where a community living on houseboats was driven mad by a persisent hum for several summers, as described in this great BBC radio series The Sound of Life: The Underwater Chorus, the mystery was finally solved when biologists decided it was caused by a fish. The drone caused by a gathering of male midshipman fish all competing for mates is truly uncanny:

Not only do they hum, but they’re also bioluminescent. You can hear more of their sounds here

Glowworms v Fireflies

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Did you know that glowworms glow green and fireflies glow yellow? And both are beetles. Radio 4 has a fascinating little documentary about bioluminenscence and nature’s “lamp of love” – part of a series called Nature’s Magic, which also covers glowing jellyfish, electric rays and flies’ eyes. Listen again here. Thanks to Speechification for pointing the way to the BBC nature department’s impressive archive.