Speechification Vol.002

02Feb18

BLOG - Speechification #2

A few years ago there was a corner of the world wide web called Speechification.

According to those behind Speechification, it was “A blog of Radio 4. Not about Radio 4 but of it. We point to the bits we like, the bits you might have missed, the bits that someone might have sneakily recorded. And other bits of speech radio might find their way here too. Of course, one day this might turn into something else… maybe a new way of curating radio, or maybe it won’t.”

As an indicator of what they were pointing people (and in this instance specifically me) towards, a blogpost I wrote in 2008 states that they “have allowed me to pick up on an excellent interview with the Pet Shop Boys from The London Ear on Resonance FM, a half hour guide to Glitch presented by Paul Morley (somewhat incongruously broadcast on Radio 2) and a programme on Erics, the legendary venue in Liverpool (which was still very good despite being presented by Steve Lamacq)”.

Sadly it didn’t become a new way of curating radio as it’s now no longer transmitting.

With that being the case I’m going to try and pay homage to what the Speechification people were doing, and occasionally publish blogposts to remind myself of some of the great radio that I’ve listened to. And at the same time, signpost anyone who finds themselves here to programmes they may have missed. I don’t know how often I’ll publish these posts, that will be somewhat dependent on others, although I will try and persevere with them (this is the second post on the theme, so it might be a while before I celebrate Speechification Vol.100).

So here are three programmes, all from Radio 4 (albeit one via a repeat on Radio 4 Extra), and all I hope, firmly in the spirit of the original site.

The Doppler Effect with Charles Hazlewood
Any radio documentary that includes the use of “a steam train, a brass band and an internationally famous conductor” to recreate an audio experiment from 1845 is alright by me, although it does suggest that the careers advice I received as a young man was of a very poor quality because at no point in time was this kind of activity ever suggested as a way to pay the bills.

The Howling Terror Mystery
Another documentary, and to be specific another documentary on Victorian audio experiments. This time we find Alan Dein investigating the amplification experimentation of a Mr Horace Short out on the South Downs back in July 1900. Alan Dein’s involvement means that this was always going to be worth a listen as he’s responsible for so much great radio – coincidentally it was the original Speechification site that led me to his brilliant Don’t Hang Up programmes (which you really should investigate further if you have the time). And whilst not wholly relevant it’s perhaps worth noting that there currently appears to be no band operating under the name of The Howling Terror Mystery, which seems much remiss.

The Foghorn: A Celebration
And so, to a third piece of radio. A third piece of radio celebrating another Victorian audio invention. This time it’s the foghorn, invented in 1855 by Canadian inventor (albeit a Canadian born in Scotland) Robert Foulis. Quite what he’d have made of Jason Gorski’s (aka The Fogmaster) guerrilla foghorn concerts out in San Francisco Bay is anyone’s guess.

Finally, as you’ve got this far, here’s two additional podcast tips for you.

The first is The Boring Talks over at the BBC (I haven’t worked out whether the programmes are being broadcast on the radio at any point, and I don’t suppose that really matters). Presented by James Ward, the man responsible for the (hugely enjoyable) Boring conferences, the first two episodes see Steve Cross researching the end of the world using The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (it was a Thursday), and Tracy King trying to explain the self-defeating end point of algorithmic book pricing.  Given that both of the first two episodes reprise talks already given at previous Boring conferences there is no doubt plenty of really dull stuff still to come.

The second podcast is 41256 from Russell Davies, one of the original Speechification team – and as it happens the gentleman responsible for the (again hugely enjoyable) Interesting conferences – some days everything’s connected eh? It sells itself as a collection of “fragments of interesting radio/podcasts/sound” and has already proved of great worth in sending me off in unusual directions to investigate the source material further. It also clocks in at just under 4 minutes and 13 seconds, which means that even if you’re not tempted to invest the time to listen to any other of the recommendations you’ve surely got the time for this? 



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