July 24, 2011

Every great city has its sound - New York has it's in spades.

During the early days of the Tape Recorder (yes, those bulky reel to reel machines) it almost seemed a national pastime that hobbyists sprung up all over the country recording, in addition to family get-togethers, every possible sound of nature, city, and industry. Entire albums were released featuring sounds of Coney Island, sounds of rainstorms complete with thunder and sounds of race tracks (both horse and car). Some people found it to be the perfect medium for documentaries. And so the concept of "A document for Ear" was launched. CBS Radio was at the forefront of this new medium for on-the-spot recording going back to the late 1940's.

In the mid-1950's, one of the last of the "experimental" network programs was introduced. The CBS Radio Workshop went by the credo "dedicated to man's imagination - the Theater of the Mind". It offered a vast array of documentaries and new concepts for the medium. One of those programs introduced audiences to a documentary sound maker, Tony Schwartz, whose audio montages became something of a benchmark for the new genre.

One of his most popular was a program called "The Voice Of New York", which was broadcast on March 2, 1956. It was an audio portrait of a city, a sonic tapestry of the sounds and voices that made up New York on the average day. It was subsequently reissued on lp and re-broadcast over the years. Tonight it's the first broadcast as it was originally aired in 1956.

New York sound a whole lot different now, maybe unrecognizable from this recording. But this was what the city sounded like almost 60 years ago as it was picked up by Tony Schwartz and his tape recorder.

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