Friday, February 1, 2008

reel-to-real pt. 1

just outside the door to the control room at hollow earth radio, there is this 5' tall, bookshelf full of 5"x5" reel-to-reel boxes (1800ft of tape sized). this bookshelf has maybe six shelves and is about 3' across. looking at this shelf, its a bit daunting to calculate how many hours of listening are sitting there. especially when you realize those shelves are 10" deep. yep, its actually twice as much tape as you can see at once. my (happily chosen) job at the station is to organize, catalog, and digitally archive this tape. or whatever part of it seems of interest. home recordings, live concerts, radio programs, stuff thats not recorded in some other format. those reels that have four of herb alpert's, or nancy sinatra's or bob dylan's albums recorded on them are not that valuable to those of us who are intrigued by original local sound recordings. those boxes marked 'standard school broadcast, 1968' or 'christmas concert 1970,' or 'ron and leslie's wedding' or 'nature lectures on the olympic national forest,' or 'JFK speech--cuban missile crisis' or (im not kidding) 'lt. col. glenn, astronaut, between 4am and 5am on january 27th 1962,' those are the ones that make me want to strap on a good pair of headphones and attach myself, and the reels, to one of the 4 dinosaur reel-to-reel machines strewn about the studio and stay curled up with eyes closed for hours. time traveling. feeling the intervening years impose their crackle and hiss on these transmissions from a time before i was born. a time when everyone's handwriting on the labels was the palmer method--that old-school script with the flowy capital letters--always impeccable, like grandma's. when this kind of magnetic tape was made by companies like scotch, irish, and shamrock. when track listings might have been mimeographed or typewritten and the clear tape that affixed them to the box hadn't yet yellowed and flaked. im excited to bring you along for the ride. this process of discovery fills me with awe, and i hope soon to bring you some jaw-dropping aural experiences, but before that, i want you to taste the pleasure of rummaging thru these forgotten recordings, seeing for yourself what its like to get your hands dusty from these crazy bits of history, these dead ends of technology, these throw-backs to a time before digital media. come with me, this stuff is too good not to share.

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