Wednesday, 28 September 2016




Hello fellow Musers! For my inaugural post in the "Greatest Hits" column I want to talk about Madeline Smolarz's discovery of the Museum of Endangered Sounds.

It's quite telling that the website chose the word museum to define and describe its collection of nostalgic technological sounds. It implies that a lot of care and specific planning went into the selection of these retro sound bites. As Madeline highlights in her incredibly fun blog entry, the creator Brendan Chilcutt justifies the existence of the website in a clever and intentionally dramatic blurb that pokes fun at our post-modern obsession with nostalgia while also embracing it.

So why do we find nostalgia so enticing? And why is the Museum so much fun to visit and write about? 

I think a partial answer to my latter question lies in the novelty of sound-based media. We are so often bombarded with visual nostalgia. Auditory nostalgia? Not so much. Even modernized or repurposed retro objects still usually have the insides of contemporary technology. I could go out and buy a beautifully designed modern radio that looks exactly like one made in 1942, but it wouldn't be the same. I wouldn't want to sacrifice things like modern sound quality, or wifi capabilities. Even if I could somehow program this radio to sound retro when I wanted it to, it still wouldn't be the same. And it really shouldn't be. A reproduction can enhance but not replace a real artifact.

What makes the Museum such an interesting little detour is its simplicity. It's fun to reminisce and take stock of where we once were. Michael Enright's CBC podcast "Rewind" does this as well, and audio is once again front and centre because the CBC archives are the source material. But as with any podcast there is a time commitment and there are underlying themes in play. With the Museum of Endangered Sounds, you can pop in and out of the past at your leisure. You can combine random sounds from different generations, or listen to your favourite sound over and over, just because.

Familiar sounds and smells can trigger strong emotional responses. Sometimes we just want to go home again. And sometimes, however briefly, we can. Do you agree?

No comments:

Post a Comment