I recall, as a teenager, recording plays and other things onto cassette tape. I also recollect that sinking feeling when the cassette tape became horribly tangled (those c120 tapes where amongst the worst offenders, at least in my memory).
Besides recording, I also built up (and still retain) a large library of spoken word cassettes, ranging from Stevenson’s Kidnapped through to The Turn of the Screw and When Eight Bells Toll.
Despite my memories of cassettes becoming mangled, I still have great affection for the technology, which perhaps explains why I still retain those spoken word cassettes from my childhood and teenage years.
I therefore confess to having given in to a certain amount of nostalgia as I listened to an item on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row about the rise and fall of the cassette tape, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000sz98. The item is about 10 minutes in length and can be found at the start of the podcast.
I grew up listening to books, recorded by professional actors and actresses on cassette tape, (does anyone remember cassettes by the way?!). My listening ranged from Brontae’s Wuthering Heights through to Dick Francis’s High Stakes. I still own a huge library of spoken word cassettes which fill several shelves of a bookcase in my living room. Many of the recordings have warped with age. However, as with books I am reluctant to throw them away.
Today cassettes have been replaced by audio downloads from sites such as audible.co.uk/audible.com. CDS retain a foothold but it is digital downloads where the future lies.
Being blind, talking books are a wonderful way for me to enjoy a good story. The text to speech facility on my Kindle is wonderful. However the Kindle’s speech is robotic and can not compete with the quality of a well produced audio file.
I have been thinking for some time now about producing audio versions of some of my books. It would be wonderful to give my readers the choice of an ebook or audio version of my stories. However the costs of producing high quality audio appear, from my preliminary investigations to be prohibitively expensive, (professional actors do not come cheap nor do recording studios). I think that the idea of producing audio downloads needs to remain on the back burner unless I can sweep away an actor with my charm and get them to record my works at a huge discount. Is that my phone I hear ringing …!
My collection of short stories, The Suspect And Other Tales is currently free in the Kindle Store (the free promotion being scheduled to end later today (Saturday 29 November). My anthology, An Act Of Mercy also remains free in the Kindle Store until Monday 1 December.
The real melts away like summer snow to be replaced by the insubstancial, that which we can not grasp.
From a very young age my grandfather and others bought me spoken word cassettes. These ranged from Stevenson’s Treasure Island to Brontae’s Wuthering Heights. I still possess most of them. They stand neatly stacked on a bookcase in my living room.
As a child I remember marvelling at the fact that a strip of thin magnetic tape could contain famous actors reading the classics of English literature. Later I wondered how CDs could hold on their round plastic surfaces the classics of world literature.
In retrospect both cassettes and CDs can be seen as a move from the substancial to the virtual. Granted the words of readers where contained on tape or disk, however language remained encased within plastic, one could take down from one’s CD rack Oliver Twist, look at the picture on the box, remove the disks, place them in a CD player and watch the small round disk move as words poured forth from the speakers. Now this is being replaced by virtual readings provided by companies such as audible.com which can be listened to on a variety of devices ranging from PCs to I-pods. Language is still contained within a flat cigarette lighter shaped I-pod but it somehow seems less real than holding a cassette tape or a CD.
I’ve recently started to record some of my poetry on Youtube which means that it is potentially available to people anywhere in the world unless you are unlucky enough to live in North Korea where access to the internet is confined to the security services and other top officials in the regime. Gone are the days when one had to pop into W H Smiths to buy a cassette or CD. Now all that is needed is a connection to the internet and bob’s your uncle, you can hear me reading (or attempting to read)! My work.
Everything that is solid melts and vanishes to be replaced by the virtual. Perhaps we are going full circle by returning to an earlier pre-print age where people told each other stories while huddled around the camp fire. The most important thing is that literature survives whether virtually or encased within the pages of books. In fact I hope (and I believe) that the virtual will never wholly replace the real, but it is, in the final analysis the survival of literature and art which matters rather than how that manifests itself.
On 15 June I published my collection of short stories, Sting In The Tail And Other Stories, on Amazon (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sting-tail-other-stories-ebook/dp/B00DFK6R54). I thought it would be interesting for me (possibly painful for my listeners) where I to make a recording of a chapter from Sting In The Tail and place it on this blog. With the help of a sighted friend I may even record a video. I’m planning to make the recording in the next week or so, you have been warned …!