Thursday, 8 December 2016

BBC Sound Effects Records (early 1970s)

In the early 1970s, the BBC produced numerous sound effects records. Though many were created for educational purposes, such as 'Squeaky Eyeballs' (1973), the public were encouraged to utilise the more practical releases in their daily lives.
Expressing emotion or personal thoughts in both private and public had long been outlawed. Records such as 'British Tutting' (1970) allowed the disgruntled listener to listen to a variety of legally sanctioned tuts as a sort of surrogate expression of displeasure. Equally, 'Inconsolable Weeping in Libraries' was a soothing, lawful substitute for the act itself.
As familial contentment was also prohibited in the 1970s (apart from at Christmas when it was compulsory. See HERE), some families, frightened that their satisfaction might be discovered and reported, opted for albums such as those from the BBC's Divorce Series, which they would play at elevated volumes for the ears of prying neighbours or passing government agents.

Not all deceptions were successful. If a family was arrested they would be taken to their local police station where, while waiting to be interrogated by specialised officers, they might be played an album such as 'Uncomfortable Silences'.


19 comments:

  1. So, how did the Beeb fare in its copyright dispute with John Cage? Some of the tracks on Uncomfortable Silences are pretty clearly derivative of 4'33"

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    1. I hope you're writing this in the knowledge that 4'33" represents 273. -273C is an approximate value of absolute zero, when nothing happens. At. All.

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    2. I think Beeb needs an apology here. I believe Cage has ripped off the Auntie since BBC has been airing unconfortable silences since its inception. Please remember that these LPs are a collection of the sounds already used in the Beeb studios for a long time and finally being published to the public.

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    3. 4'33" is a piece composed for performance on any instrument or combination of instruments: the work allows for performers and audience to focus on the ambient sounds around them during the duration of the performance, and is therefore not a piece about 'silence'.
      With the 'Uncomfortable Silences' albums, the onus is completely upon functional silence; the spontaneous generation or enhancement of discomfort and silence anywhere and at any time. It's a different kettle of fish entirely.
      I seem to recall that the BBC did feature a performance of 4'33" as part of a collection of 'Smug Silences' in 1974.

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  2. I love listening to Uncomfortable Silences No 3, Side A, Track 4 "Just told a wildly inappropriate blue joke in the playground you heard one of your father's friends tell your father in front of you, even though you didn't really understand it."

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  3. any chance of digitally cleaning these up for a remastered digital release? you know, with bonus tracks and the whole lot.

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    1. You might be a fan of Radio 4 silences: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4726499/Thrill-to-the-sounds-of-silence.html

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  4. Best record i've not heard in years.

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  5. I hope some of these tracks find their way onto youtube in the near future.

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  6. Apparently you can buy the BBC's "Essential Death and Horror" on itunes now.

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  7. I got carried away listening to these with the volume turned up to "11" and the neighbours didn't bang on the wall.

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  8. British Tutting inspired my Aunt Linseed to send Uncle Jim to an early grave. He was an ardent vinyl collector that paid more heed to his collection than his wife. She on the other hand was an obsessive knitter whose clicking of knitting needles gradually sent him to despair when she thought a c60 of her needle clicks would make an ideal companion to British Tutting. His insistency of ignoring the cassette as it was not on vinyl or of great sound quality forced her to take extreme measures by scratching I HATE YOU AND YOUR RECORDS into his pristine vinyl collection with her number 10s one morning during the bad winter of 1979. Jim, returning from the record store clutching a copy of BBC Test Card Pitch Vol.7 promptly keeled over and died at the tender age of 54 as he saw all his LPS laid out in the snow laden garden destroyed and unplayable. She had the local council take the lot to the tip when the snow cleared and poor old Jim too, but not before mummifying him in the cassette tape of needle clicks she had so delicately prepared. She was a bitter and twisted woman.

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    1. Ooh! Wasn't she the other one in the Audition for the Shackleton's high seat chair advert. If I remember rightly she lost to Vera Dugg and was never the same!

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  9. What if blinking is actually your eyes clapping?

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  10. Ooh I've got all of these and more! One of my favorites is "Neighbours conversations heard through a glass pressed against the wall." Another one is "Burning garden refuse." I like that one.

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  11. Sir Herbert Chaffinch6 January 2017 at 14:11

    My favourite record was actually one released under the auspices of Songs of Praise, "Clatter of Kneelers in an Empty Church". They followed it up a year or so later with an offering for Catholics, "Expectant Silence from the Other Side of the Confessional Grille", before they released the final and most famous record, "Peal of Bells Unrung", recorded at York Minster.

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