Hi Lou:

I actually think there is much more value to the amateur approach. For instance, I did a large 
project for the state of New Mexico. At one time, the state would pay $10 to anyone who dropped off 
an oral history recording at a public library and filled out some documentation (metadata). What a 
great program! Can you imagine that today, when it's as easy as pointing a smartphone at someone and 
hitting record to capture an oral history? Anyway, because many of these recordings were done by 
relatives, usually college-aged children and grandchildren, or neighbors, the subjects felt very 
comfortable and opened up widely about both their personal histories and their personal feelings and 
philosophies. Because this program took place at a time (late 1960s through mid 1980s) when many 
original non-native settlers were still living (apparently, much of NM was settled by migrants from 
Texas, in the early 1900's), there was a lot of first-hand history captured of how settlements 
happened and grew into the modern places of NM. The personal stories and remembrances of 
already-passed relatives and neighbors formed very rich historical grist. I don't think many of 
these old people would have opened up so much to a professional engineer obsessed about mic 
placement and levels, and perhaps not trained in interviewing or aware of what to ask. Another large 
number of the tapes were made by a handful of professional history-collectors from Eastern New 
Mexico University, and these usually were of higher audio quality. Many more were made by the widow 
of a former governor, who was a story-collecting force in and of herself. She usually did a good to 
excellent job, although sometimes she'd put her tape recorder too close to an air conditioner or 
fridge. Her magic was her ability to make the old-timers (as she called them) feel at ease and open 
up about their lives. Net-net, I think that is the key skill for collecting oral histories, not 
audio engineering. I'd rather do my work to make a great interview highly audible by notching it 
down to about AM radio or telephone-line frequencies than to have no work to do with an 
information-free, uncomfortable interview which has no historic value. I know both are extremes, and 
it's not either-or in real-world conditions.

For what it's worth, I love doing oral-history transfers, because first of all I believe that 
everyone has a story to tell and second I am always curious about the deep history of specific 
places. There's the official history, which is a timeline of actions and milestones, and then 
there's the personal history of the old-time families and neighborhoods, the stuff that doesn't get 
officially recorded into the timelines.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lou Judson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 8:49 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Cassttes - Re: [ARSCLIST] One more sticky-shed data point - Richardson 
treated tape

Ah, I see, and the term is accurate. The ones I work with were recorded in studios, usually 

I wish people would hire engineers to record oral histories!

Lou Judson
Intuitive Audio

On Jan 20, 2016, at 5:18 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Lou:
> By "surface resonances" I meant table tops, fridge tops, floors, whatever the cheapo cassette 
> recorder with the built-in mic was sitting on. These resonances and combing effects plague many 
> oral history recordings I've worked with. The best of these kinds of recordings I've heard go back 
> to mics with plug-in cables, and someone knowing where to put the mic so it predominantly captures 
> the voice of the person being interviewed. Even better when there are two mics, one for each 
> person, and they are placed near each person and not handled during recording. Those kinds of 
> high-fidelity interviews are rare.
> -- Tom Fine