Archive for the ‘Latest recordings’ category

New LibriVox recording: Underground Man

February 5, 2014

Underground Man by Gabriel Tarde (1843 – 1904), translated from the French Fragment d’histoire future, 1904, by Cloudesley Brereton (1863 – 1937).

It is the end of the 20th century; the sun suddenly starts to die and it’s… well, it’s a little chilly! In fact, earth is plunged overnight into an ice age, and life, including most of mankind, is virtually wiped out. A tiny number of the young, strong and intelligent find a way to survive – beneath the surface of the earth (or young and beautiful, in the case of women – the criteria for survival are hilarious).

In this new and strange world, where there are no countries, no nature, no sea and no sky, they must build a new civilisation. With commendable foresight, they have managed to preserve masterpieces from the major libraries, museums and galleries and transport them to their new home. Far-fetched, of course, but bear with me.

This is the story of how they build their new civilisation based on love and beauty, the fine arts and pure science. Tarde was a sociologist, criminologist and social psychologist, and this novella, his only venture into fiction, is replete with philosophical, scientific, sociological and political concepts, including a method of restricting population which has echoes of eugenics.

At one point Tarde refers to the sun being seen as blue in 1883 – this is based on fact, and happened after the eruption of Krakatoa.

Interestingly, shortly after I started recording this, I read an article on the BBC Science website about the sun’s current state of inactivity: “The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.” It sent rather a chill down the spine.

Nevertheless, I loved this little book – I hope you do too.

Here it is: http://librivox.org/underground-man-by-gabriel-tarde/

Centenary of the First World War

January 18, 2014

2014 is, of course, the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. I am currently co-ordinating a collection of short works at LibriVox on this theme, which will be catalogued in time for the 28th July. It is to be a multi-lingual collection, and I hope to have contributions from many parts of the world relating to all sides of the conflict. It will consist not only of poetry from the trenches but many other aspects of the war, from both military and civilian viewpoints.

Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen entered the public domain in the UK on the 1st January this year, and I shall be recording it for the collection.

In my little part of the world, so close to the coast of mainland Europe, the First World War had a devastating effect in many ways. Aside from the loss of life from air raids in the latter stages of the war, Folkestone was the main port of embarkation for soldiers and a major location for the sick and wounded on their return. There were also many Canadian forces stationed in the vicinity of Hythe and Folkestone, and many refugees from Belgium found safety on our shores. I shall be recording an excerpt on some of these subjects from Folkestone During the War.

In the meantime, I should like to draw your attention to a video made by Robbie Ellis to commemorate the centenary. It is a powerful piece, and you should be warned that some of the footage is (unsurprisingly) distressing. Robbie asked me last year to narrate two poems for his video, Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, and his own poem The Window, which I found most moving.

You can find the video, The Great War – Centenary, on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqzDclCZv0U

Apologies and new recordings

January 17, 2014

I have been appallingly remiss at posting on my blog during the past year. I shall now make amends and get up to date. I shall start with the audiobooks I have completed since my last post.

More short(ish) Dickens

In January 2013 I completed another of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas” books, following The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth in previous years. This year’s was The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

More longish Cleek – hurray!

This was followed in March by my eventual completion of Cleek of Scotland Yard. This is more or less a sequel to the first Cleek book Cleek: The Man of the Forty Faces, unlike The Riddle of the Purple Emperor and the Riddle of the Frozen Flame, full-length stories which were each about one case, and both of which I found frankly a bit disappointing. Both of the latter were authored by both Thomas and Mary Hanshew, and just not up to the standard of the books written by Thomas alone, in my opinion. Anyway, if you enjoy a good unlikely detective romp, I’d recommend listening to The Man of the Forty Faces first, and then Cleek of Scotland Yard.

A difficult Saki

I then made what is probably a bad decision. I chose to record The Westminster Alice by Saki, a parody of Alice in Wonderland set around 1900 in Westminster, the seat of British politics. Now, Saki is generally very, very funny… but this book relies so heavily on topical humour relating to the politics of the day that much of its charm has evaporated like the morning dew. So much so that I found myself spending hour upon hour researching turn-of-the-century politics, war, religion and public figures to find out what on earth it was all about.

I ended up by recording and uploading to the Internet Archive the notes that I’d made, but in all honesty it didn’t really rescue what was a bad choice for a LibriVox recording. The upside is that I learned a lot about politics and the South African (2nd Boer) War in the process.

An alternative history

I had never heard of Aristopia: A Romance-History of the New World, but was introduced to it as an interesting recording possibility. It is an alternative history of the United States, documenting what might have happened if one of Captain John Smith’s Jamestown colonists had discovered an immense reef of gold, and used his vast wealth to benefit the poor and disenfranchised of Europe by providing them with immigrant transport to his new ‘Commonwealth’ in the New World.

It can’t be described as great literature, certainly. The characters (of whom there are few) don’t come to life at all. It draws heavily on More’s Utopia and Captain Smith’s diary. However, as the first novel-length example of the alternative history genre, it is interesting and was worth recording.

Did I mention More’s Utopia?

As I hadn’t ever read Utopia, it occurred to me that I should record that too. There was already a recording of the 17th century Burnet translation in the LibriVox catalogue, so I thought I would go back to the original 16th century translation by Ralph Robinson, and chose the version which William Morris printed at his celebrated Kelmscott Press, with his own introduction. It wasn’t very easy to read! However I did enjoy it, and feel that I am slightly less ignorant now.

stars

I have many other things to tell you all, but those for another day. I promise it will be soon.

I note that WordPress tells me that occasionally some of my visitors may see an advertisement here. Please ignore it if you do, especially if it says DOWNLOAD in big red letters. It is nothing to do with me (except that I haven’t paid WordPress any money to prevent it happening).

The World’s Lumber Room by Selina Gaye

October 2, 2012

As the author, Selina Gaye (1840 – 1914), writes in her preface: “The object of this volume is to give, in popular form, an account of some of the many ways in which refuse is made and disposed of, first and chiefly by Nature, and secondly by Man.” So, yes, it is nine hours of rubbish. ;)

This recording is a little out of the ordinary for me, but I found the book enthralling, and having recorded it, I do indeed look at dust and rubbish with new eyes, though it doesn’t in truth make housework any more pleasurable.

In the midst of this recording, I wasn’t very well for some time and couldn’t do much, so I spent many hours in front of the television. I discovered many interesting programmes that dealt with the natural world, in particular geologist Prof. Iain Stewart’s excellent documentaries Earth: The Power of the Planet and How Earth Made Us.

To my surprise, there seems to be little in Selina Gaye’s book that has actually been disproved more than a century later. She admits herself that the science of the day did not yet provide the answers to some questions (the cause of earthquakes, for instance), but this is unsurprising as plate tectonics had not even been thought of when the book was written in 1885.

Miss Gaye clearly consulted many scientific authorities of the day, using as her sources works such as Elements of Chemical and Physical Geology by Gustav Bischof, Darwin’s Journal of Researches, Coral Reefs and Vegetable Mould and Earthworms, Dana’s Coral Reefs and Islands, Maury’s The Physical Geography of the Sea, and the Earl of Dunraven’s The Great Divide among many other books and scientific journals.

I really enjoyed recording this. I learned a lot, and it made me much more curious about the natural world than I had ever been before. I do hope you find the same.

Here it is: http://librivox.org/the-worlds-lumber-room-by-selina-gaye/

New LibriVox recording: The Human Machine

September 28, 2012

After a long hiatus owing to poor health I am back, and have at last released my latest LibriVox recording. This time it is The Human Machine, another shortish work by Arnold Bennett (1867-1931).

In this Olympic year in particular, much has been made about the benefits of physical excellence. Nobody has mentioned the importance of mental excellence, and indeed the ability even to use one’s brain seems to be sadly neglected in this brave new world of ours.

Those of us whose bodies are not capable of athletic prowess (and in my current state, I certainly include myself in that), can still improve our lives by training and controlling our own ‘human machine’. However frustrating we find aspects of our lives, all is not lost. ;)

Bennett speaks to me. I hope that he speaks to you, and that the listener too, as Bennett wrote, “will be surprised at the miracles which lie between his collar and his hat, in that queer box that he calls his head.”

And, as always, Bennett writes so beautifully, so mellifluously.

Here it is:
http://librivox.org/the-human-machine-by-arnold-bennett/

You may also be interested in my earlier Arnold Bennett recordings:

Mental Efficiency
The Feast of St. Friend
Self and Self-management: Essays about Existing

Soon to come: 310 pages, or nearly 10 hours, of… rubbish. You will be enthralled. :D

LibriVox: East by West Vol. 2

March 28, 2012

I have finally, after many delays, completed Volume 2 of East by West, A Journey in the Recess, by Henry W. Lucy.

http://librivox.org/east-by-west-a-journey-in-the-recess-vol-ii-by-henry-w-lucy/

This account, in two volumes, of Henry Lucy’s round-the-world journey on a break from his usual occupation of parliamentary correspondent, is an extraordinary picture of an Englishman’s travels abroad.

Within two to three decades of the American Civil War, the Indian Mutiny and the end of Japan’s isolation from the western world, the sheer logistics of the trip must have been a triumph of organisation. Starting at Liverpool with the crossing of the Atlantic by steamer, Lucy traversed the entire United States, then took a steamer across the Pacific to Japan, and thence to Hong Kong, Malaya, Ceylon and India, finally returning home via the Middle East and the Suez Canal, itself less than 15 years old.

He had entrees into many high circles (presumably through his contacts with the British diplomatic network), to which most people would not have had access. But he was not only interested in the great and the powerful, but was fascinated too by the ordinary people of the countries he visited, as well as their work, their customs, their religion, their history, the architecture, art, landscape and wildlife… and all with Lucy’s customary eye for detail, and sense of humour.

What an intriguing account this is. Of course, it is written from the point of view of an Englishman accustomed to British dominance throughout the Empire, but, though he may have had little sympathy for the workshy or greedy, Lucy was no arrogant xenophobe, and his sympathy for the old or needy, of whatever race, shines through the narrative.

Note: In Chapter 6, Lucy understandably, to a readership wholly unfamiliar with Japan, includes lengthy statistics about Japan’s systems and economy. While the reader of the book can glance at such tables and move swiftly on, this is not possible in an audiobook. Accordingly, I have made two versions of Chapter 6. The first version is completely unabridged. In the alternative file, 6a, I have excised the longest statistical tables.

Volume 1 is also available at:

http://librivox.org/east-by-west-vol-i-by-henry-w-lucy/

LibriVox recording: The Speaking Voice

February 16, 2012

Well, this was a challenge: take a book by an extremely successful dramatic reader in the early 1900s, and follow her training programme on the speaking voice and the vocal interpretation of various literary genres.

This is not a book designed for the professional reader’s training. It is meant for anyone who wants to get the best out of their voice in ordinary life. Watch out, though – if you are in the habit of wearing tight corsets, she has some severe words for you! :lol:

The first two parts of the book deal with vocal production and techniques such as change of pitch, inflection and tone colour, then the eight chapters of the third part offer studies on various genres such as the essay, the short story, several types of poetry, ending with dramatic monologues and plays.

Actually, by the time I reached the last few chapters, she had more or less given up trying to teach me anything, because she said I was supposed to know it all by then, so those chapters comprise mostly complete poems for one’s own personal study.

I did find it interesting. I think I found it useful. I hope that others may also find it so. Never having been a devotee of the great English poets Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson – indeed, to be honest, never having been a great devotee of any poetry at all – I was surprised, and really rather pleased to be forced to study some of their poems. And even more pleased to find that I could appreciate them.

Here it is:
http://librivox.org/the-speaking-voice-by-katherine-jewell-everts/

Section 11 includes a detailed study of Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark and, in the order they appear, the complete poems:
The Lesser Children, or A Threnody at the Hunting Season by Ridgley Torrence
Hunting Song by Sir Walter Scott
It was a Lover and his Lass by William Shakespeare
Pack, Clouds, Away and Welcome Day by Thomas Heywood
Memory and Enamoured Architect of Airy Rhyme by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Love in the Winds by Richard Hovey
Candlemas by Alice Brown
She Was a Phantom of Delight by William Wordsworth
Nonsense Lyrics Topsy-turvy World and I Saw a New World by William Brighty Rands
Hymn Before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Juan’s Song from The Spanish Gypsy by George Eliot
Pablo’s Song from The Spanish Gypsy by George Eliot
My Star by Robert Browning
Cavalier Tunes Marching Along by Robert Browning
Garden Fancies The Flower’s Name by Robert Browning.

Section 12 has a study of part of Rabbi Ben Ezra by Robert Browning, and the complete poems:
Each and All by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Forbearance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Section 13 comprises mostly just the complete short story The Revolt of ‘Mother’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.

Section 14 has a study of a cutting of Gareth and Lynette from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.

Section 15 has the complete poems:

A Tale (epilogue to Two Poets of Croisic) by Robert Browning
Incident of the French Camp
My Last Duchess

New LibriVox recording: The Cricket on the Hearth

December 31, 2011

Well, I didn’t quite make it by Christmas, but I have managed to get it finished before the old year dies.

Last year, I recorded Dickens’ second short Christmas book, The Chimes, and this year I have recorded his third, The Cricket on the Hearth.

http://librivox.org/the-cricket-on-the-hearth-by-charles-dickens-2/

This little book sat on the family bookshelf when I was a child, and it always looked a very strange title to me.

It is a very sentimental story, but not without flashes of Dickensian humour, and is the tale of John Peerybingle, the good-hearted carrier, and his young wife Mary (‘Dot’), interwoven with the story of poor toymaker Caleb Plummer, his beloved blind daughter Bertha, and the harsh old toy merchant Tackleton, who is due to marry May Fielding, a childhood friend of Dot. Comic relief is provided by Tilly Slowboy, the disaster-prone nursemaid of John and Dot’s baby, and Boxer, the family dog.

The cricket who chirps on the family hearth assumes fairy form to save the day when disaster looms in the form of a mysterious stranger.

The novella is subdivided into chapters called ‘Chirps’, similar to the ‘Quarters’ of The Chimes or the ‘Staves’ of A Christmas Carol.

I wish all my listeners a very happy and peaceful New Year.

LibriVox Christmas Collections

December 20, 2011

2011 Christmas Short Works Collection
2011 Christmas Carol Collection

The festive season looms again, and once more we invite you to sample the fare of our Christmas collections at LibriVox. As usual, they are a mixture of the traditional and the unfamiliar. Every year we discover absolute gems from the dusty basements of the Internet Archive.

This time, I found a delightful poem called Santa Claus in a 1907 book imaginatively titled Christmas.

Or, how about a real tear-jerker of a short story by Bret Harte: Santa Claus at Simpson’s Bar, wonderfully read by Don Jenkins?

And how can you possibly resist David Wales reading Julius Adolphus Jenkins’s Christmas Alligator?

These and many more are included in the 2011 Christmas Short Works Collection. It’s a feast – don’t miss it!

http://librivox.org/christmas-short-works-2011-by-various/

The 2011 Christmas Carol Collection is equally varied: fancy a rock version of We Three Kings? We have it. 8th century Latin words set to music by Gustav Holst? We have that too. An old version of Twelve Days of Christmas sung by LOTS of LibriVoxateers… my own contributions of some wonderful folk carols rescued from oblivion by Cecil Sharp in the early 1900s… a very professional performance of Gesù Bambino by Susan K. Hawthorne… and much more.

http://librivox.org/christmas-carol-collection-2011-by-various/

Much fun had by all. :) Happy Christmas, everybody!

At last! New free LibriVox recording: The Riddle Ring

December 16, 2011

Much delayed owing to horrible computer problems, today sees the release of my latest LibriVox recording: not, I am sure, one you will have heard of before, and perhaps a rather unusual choice for me, but well-written and with some intriguing characters.

The Riddle Ring, by Justin McCarthy, is a romantic mystery – or mysterious romance – and tells the tale of jilted lover, Jim Conrad, who discovers an unusual gold ring while on a visit to Paris. What is the story of the ring? Why is Clelia Vine so sad? Who is the nameless ‘chief’? And how is a dour English barber in a Parisian salon mixed up in all this?

Justin McCarthy was an Irish nationalist, Liberal historian, novelist and politician.

This is in the public domain everywhere in the world. I hope you enjoy it.

http://librivox.org/the-riddle-ring-by-justin-mccarthy/

Also in progress: another of Dicken’s Christmas stories. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to record for over a month, and it will be a miracle if this is finished before Christmas.

After that, I will be completing Volume 2 of Henry Lucy’s East by West, and returning to my old favourite Cleek for more adventures with Dollops and Inspector Narkom of the Yard. Lots of fun to come.


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