Songs and sounds: be sure to add them to your oral history.

May 1, 2019

I can remember using a singsong voice, eyebrows raised, and smiling: "you're in my spooooooOOoot."


Not like the physicist character in that sitcom, though.  Soft, silly, loving, singing, usually laughing.  But I don't remember why. Or with whom.


It could have been an old beau, my current partner when we were younger and kidless.  Was it with the kids? Was I singing to cats?


In one of my early oral history projects we had a grandmother sing "Happy Birthday" to her grandchild so they would have it forever. But I knew that it was her last living daughter who wanted, nay needed, that song. (This photo is my family trying to extinguish our trick candles.)


In another, my client has poetry memorized -- so much so that it rolls off the tongue in conversation to explain a family story, or to capture his feelings.


Now in a wheelchair, my subject has mischievous eyes: "I remember learning to square dance in grandma's back yard like it was yesterday. I even remember the calls..." and sings them out.


Oral recordings afford us a special kind of information from our loved ones and from the past -- clearly the lyrics and musical notes that make up "Happy Birthday" can't hold a candle to grandma crooning along (see what I did there?).  


I always tell folks that oral history is our most urgent task in keeping our histories. If you'd like to have a free chat about doing an oral history project together, schedule HERE.

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