Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Musical Interlude

During a rather morbid phase in my childhood, I went around recording the voices of relatives that I thought were about die.

I found the cassette recently and listened to the recordings, expecting to find some gems. Sadly, all they did was recapture the sheer tedium of being an only child, surrounded by old people - the passage of time hadn't made my Uncle Jack's allotment anecdotes any more riveting.

But there was one exception: my great-uncle, John Brown. Always immaculately dressed, with an aristocratic mien that belied his humble origins, he was more than happy to perform for the microphone. Here is the result:

14 comments:

Martin H. said...

Sometimes, when I tell people I'm a blogger, I can see their eyelids becoming heavy. A stifled yawn isn't so far away. What they fail to grasp is, occasionally, bloggers are privileged to enjoy a post like this one.

How old was great uncle John, when you made the recording? He has a fine voice for this rendition.

Gardener in the Distance said...

I CANNOT believe, Steerforth, you recorded your relatives, anticipating their demise. How very bright of you. It sounds like, as much as the solitude you faced was daunting, the solitude made you. A beautiful video, by the way.

Steerforth said...

Thank you both. I wasn't sure whether this would be of any interest to anyone, but I think that his voice has a haunting quality that reminds me of Hilaire Belloc's recording of 'Tarantella'.

I'm not sure how old he was when I taped him - in his 70s, I think.

Lucille said...

I found this very touching. He sounded like my father when he sang, which was not very often.

LUCEWOMAN said...

What a constructive way to appease your boredom. Great uncle John's flamboyancy and willingness to 'perform' made for an excellent collaboration. A sadness and longing can be detected in his voice, it's almost as though you were both searching for something elusive. I can imagine the song being used on a 'Boards of Canada' track. They tend to use haunting vocals and mix with electronic sounds to create atmospheric music.
I had a debate yesterday with two 'only children'. They had opposing views on the effect it had on them.

Mrs Trefusis... said...

blimey! that's fabulous. what a wonderful voice, and what a blessing you recorded him x

christinelaennec said...

That sent shivers down my spine! Wonderful. And good for you for being such a prescient child, and for sharing your fieldwork with us.

Little Nell said...

It wasn’t just me then? I have a stock of deceased relatives' voices too. My parents started it with a reel-to-reel, so that my grandparents could send Xmas messages to my great uncle in Australia. Because of this I am eternally grateful that I have a recording of my my much-loved grandparents’ voices from 40 years ago. I have also recorded my own parents (now both 90) reminiscing about their childhoods. I loved this recording of yours; very moving.

JRSM said...

That was rather lovely. And yes, I can totally see Boards of Canada shanghaing it into a piece of music.

Annabel said...

It makes me wish I'd done the same... probably too busy fighting with my brother for it to occur to me. A fabulous clip and intriguing choice of song. However boring the rest of the tapes were, they'll still bring back memories though.

Genius Loci said...

I second what Martin H said, Steerforth. It was a privilege to listen to that. For as long as the internet lasts (assuming it doesn't break) people will be always be able to hear your Great Uncle singing that song. Priceless in it's own way.

Sam Jordison said...

Marvellous. He really does sound like a voice from another age. I wonder when was the last time anyone even listened to that song? How touching.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a co-incidence as I had just done a posting about my own dead rellies. What foresight you had to actually record yours, even if you do find most of it rather dull now. If only I had thought to interview mine!

Shelley said...

Your post reminded me of Horton Foote, the man who changed my life--as a writer, he spent his childhood listening to the stories being told by all his Texas relatives. Throughout his life, his part in conversation was usually to ask people gentle questions about their own lives.