"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

On voices from the past

I think it’s absolutely amazing that we have the voice of someone born in 1800 recorded.
As the article points out, how odd it is to think that our forebears lived in a world where recorded sound (and indeed pictures, moving or otherwise) didn’t exist? They’re so much the norm now that I can’t imagine not knowing what ‘VIPs’ look or sound like. It is such a shame that we’re not lucky enough to have the same recordings for our long-distant ancestors.
Many of my ancestors were musicians and actors – how wonderful it would have been to have recordings of them performing. The nearest I get is lyrics, sheet music and playbills. Quite recently I got most excited to discover a V&A collection of caricatures of performers at the Burslem Hippodrome during the time that my 4x great-grandfather, Matt Hall, was Theatre Manger. Alas neither he nor his performer children were among them.
The other thing is that it is a shame that the recording isn’t of an English person; there would be so much to glean from it about how people spoke. That said, across England the regional variation is so vast – and even more so in the nineteenth century, I’m sure. With most of my ancestors being working class Yorkshire folk, I doubt that some high-ranking general’s speech patterns would be that useful in any case!
But still, language and how we use it is a fascinating topic, and we’re very lucky to have found such a rare thing as this.
L x
Next time:  Time for something a little more practical...

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