Welcome to World Listening Month 2014, our annual forum on listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18th, 2014.World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, its affects on us [for the full deets, peep our recent post by Eric Leonardson, Executive Director of the World Listening Project].Here is Bismarck’s voice, preserved on a cylinder in 1889. There is the astonishing recuperation of phonautograms – reverberation traced onto soot-blackened paper in the mid-nineteenth century, digitally processed and played back in our own.But as that processing underlines, no sound recording straightforwardly reproduces the real.And not simply a longing to hear, but also to touch, and be moved by, the fact of an absent existence. In October 1918, just before the end of the Great War, William Gaisberg, a sound recordist of the pre-electric era, took recording equipment to the Western Front in order to capture the sound of British artillery shelling German lines with poison gas.Gaisberg died not long after, probably from Spanish flu, although some say he was weakened by gas exposure during the recording.Authenticating detail helped to underpin this sense of an absent real made present.
All this resulted in a double- or triple-layered sonic artifact.
In the popular HMV magazine In the same issue, a Major C. The previous year he had put together a record that set artillery drill commands to popular tunes – the recording was both a propaganda release and an army training tool for new recruits.
With the Gas Shell record, Street knew he wasn’t just selling recorded sound, but also an auratic sense of closeness to an overwhelming reality, the palpable proximity of war and death.
Nonetheless the “Gas Shell Bombardment” record – a 12-inch HMV shellac disc, just over 2 minutes at 78 rpm – was released a few weeks later, just as the war came to an end.
Initially intended to promote War Bonds, ultimately the record was used to raise money for disabled veterans.