In April 2016, my Aunt sent my siblings and me an email asking if one of us would like to take some of my grandfather’s memorabilia off her hands, since her children were not interested. I was the one that accepted and found myself with approximately 250 cassette tapes spread over about 23 binders. They included tapes that Grandpa was surely making when I would visit him as a child. My recollection was of him recording music off the radio, using a reel to reel tape recorder, a cigarette dangling off one corner of his mouth, squinting in the smoke, one eye trained on me, asking what instrument I was planning to become proficient in, as he prepared to verbally annotate the recordings via his microphone. In those days, my grandfather surely saw musical content as free and did not bother to concern himself with any copyright issues associated with what he was doing. As it turned out he was creating an audio library for a friend or colleague named Edward; someone to whom he had actually willed the collection to. Edward never received the collection. I don’t know his last name, or where he might have lived. Maybe it’s all for the better. Despite Grandpa’s meticulous cataloguing of the material, most of it can be found free on the internet today. Much of that is better sound quality than what my grandfather was able to get off the air from Niagara Falls New York, Toronto, Buffalo or other stations he could find. When he died on January 1, 1982, he was still in the process of creating this special musical library for his friend.
I looked at the mound of binders on the floor and calculated how long it might take me to copy all the content from them to my PC. Easily six months I estimated. It took me almost ten. I ended up with 213 hours of classical music, one hour of Grandpa providing commentary, introductions, and unfiltered opinion, and another twenty-three hours of music and radio broadcaster voice fragments. Some of it is ripe for interpretation and experimentation. No sooner had I completed the initial sorting of the material, then I rolled up my sleeves to see what interesting sound pieces I could make to both acknowledge his labour, honour his memory, and have some audio fun.
The piece you can listen to below, I call Greatness and Fame. Evidently, his favourite flutist was Sir James Galway and he devoted a lot of time recording pieces that Galway was featured in. My grandfather seems to idolize and be awe struck by him, asserting him as a powerful, wealthy, and superior craftsman of his art. Grandpa himself was a musician in his youth. He was a member of the Toronto Symphony and the CBC Orchestras in the 1930s. He played a variety of woodwind and brass instruments. He gave it all up, though to go into the retail clothing business. So what happened? What if there was a little frustration and perhaps sour grapes that he, himself, never became world renowned?
For this piece I used some of my grandfather’s tape audio of Galway playing and cut out some parts. I then overlaid audio of my grandfather introducing some of Galway’s performances that he had recorded. Best listened to with headphones.
Equipment and Resources Used: Honestech Audio Recorder
Length: 8m43s 16mb