NPR: Saving the Sounds of America

NPR did an interesting story about the some of the challenges the Library of Congress faces with preserving audio recordings made during the last 125 years.

Surprisingly, the challenges are not only limited to the recordings made in the early days of audio but those made as recently as 10 years ago due to rapid changes in technology and issues related to ownership of the recordings. And while we often make keywords, descriptions and other metadata entries as part of our workflow as photographers, we often neglect that necessary chore as as part of our audio workflow. Take five minutes and listen to the report and see if it gives you any ideas of why you might want to start adding metadata to your audio files.

Sounds of Yesteryear

What I Still Hear  Sounds That Have Disappeared   Krulwich Wonders...   NPR

Click on the image to view test out the sounds.

I grew up with the sounds and smells of a coffee percolator brewing the morning cup of Joe in our household. I hadn’t thought much about it until I stumbled on to this story on NPR’s website about sounds that have all but disappeared.

The idea for the NPR story was inspired by a blog post on Mental Floss titled “11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard.” Remember the rotary phone? Our home number took a particularly long time to dial. It had a 9, a 0, a couple of 7’s. It was a laborious and time-consuming phone call to make by today’s standards (as you can see in the video below).

NPR took this idea a little further and grouped the clips to allow viewers to play these sounds to create some natural sounds music, so to speak. And then they modernized it by finding today’s equivalent sounds and grouped them, as well. Have look – and a listen.  Brooks Institute visual journalism grads Maggie Starbard and Melissa Forsyth helped out with the project.


Composer R. Murray Schafer challenges us to really stop and listen to everyday sounds in this short film created by David New in 2009. “A soundscape is any collection of sounds, almost like a painting is a collection of visual attractions,” says Schafer. “When you listen carefully to the soundscape it becomes quite miraculous.”

This film is one of many showcased on the National Film Board of Canada website.

If you have six minutes to spare, have a look — and a listen.

Listen by David New, National Film Board of Canada