One of the loveliest things I’ve heard was a talk by Ian Rawes (London Sound Survey) in which he let us hear examples of his vast collection of audio recordings, stretching back over a century (some originally recorded on wax cylinders) while he told us their story. It was absolutely magical to hear street callers hawking their wares, and young children from fifty or sixty years ago singing playground songs. We also heard, from 1888, a very wobbly recording of a massive 4,000-strong choir singing Handel’s Messiah in London.
Most of the people in the recordings are dead but their voices live on. I don’t have any recording of my parents speaking (beyond the ridiculous clip below of my dad sounding like a chipmunk thanks to a buffering error on Skype) and, obviously, I wish I did…
More cheerfully, my friend Andy Mabbett (pigsonthewing on Twitter) has been encouraging people who have a Wikipedia page to record a short open-licensed* clip saying who they are and what they do – this is the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project or #WikiVIP. This clip can easily be uploaded to Wikipedia and then added to their page – so anyone visiting it can click on the audio track to hear them say, in their very own voice, their name and a tiny bit about them. I think it’s a great idea.
(*”In the spirit of Wikipedia, all such recordings would be open-licensed, to allow others to use them, freely.”)
Here are a couple of examples –
Emma Freud’s Wikipedia page with a screenshot showing the audio clip.
Similarly, Stephen Fry’s Wikipedia page has audio and a copy of his signature.
There is now a database on Wikimedia Commons of notable people (people sufficiently well-known to have a Wikipedia page) who have made recordings themselves, or got someone else to record it. Here’s page one of English-speaking people. You can also hear from people speaking in their native language, here are people from the Netherlands.
Recording a short voice clip is very easy, on a computer or smartphone or any recording device that lets you export a file. If Andy asks you to make a recording, please consider it 🙂
He’s written more about the project, including extensive information about how to make and share a recording with Wikipedia.
I’m not remotely notable so no Wikipedia page for me but I had a go at making a recording using the free online Vocaroo tool.