This Month’s Third Light Home finds Ian Preece all misty eyed whilst thumbing through his featured book of antique music-related photographs.
I can definitely remember the point, some time in my late twenties/early thirties, when looking back at old family photos suddenly became really sad. Rainy days in Lincolnshire; caravans and bungalows on the east coast; a day-long game of beach cricket; the wind so strong your nana is sitting in a deckchair wearing a headscarf – even if sunshine is forecast for tomorrow . . . life is all ahead, as opposed to heading downhill . . . These days I even find myself welling up over other people’s old photographs, as evidenced by this month’s featured book: I Listen to the Wind That Obliterates My Traces – Music in Vernacular Photographs 1880-1955, a terrific collection of mildewed and torn black & white and sepia photographs, bookended by two cds of crackly 78s picked up a yard sales over the years and put together by Steve Roden, a visual and sound artist from Los Angeles, and published by the ever-reliable Dust to Digital label. In amongst the lonesome hill-billy blues, mournful tales of loss and yearning, of roving gamblers, unfaithful good for nuthin drunks, lost wives and travelling salesmen, peace and freedom at last – after a life of toil – beyond the golden river, Roden has interspersed some fantastic interludes from sound effects of albums of the 1930s.
The programme kicks off with a recording of wind howling across a prarie somewhere from a HMV weather effects album, and closes with footsteps walking on snow and ‘thin underbrush’ from 1936. In between I’ve tried to mix earthy new sounds from today’s folky explorers (Meg Baird; Siskyiou; Peter Broderik) with gnarly old dons (Tom Waits; Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) and beautiful crumbly ambience (Colophon/Jefre Cantu Ledesma; Charlatan). As Steve Roden writes in his introduction to I Listen to the Wind . . . who has not ‘at one time or another sat in the throes of loneliness, melancholy or suffering and held a communion of sorts with a record or two . . . as a group of favourite sounds enter us they move quickly to our souls and our insides are mended a little . . . even if it is only for an evening.’
But it’s not all a haze of sepia tinged gloom, We’ve got a mash-up from Australia and a nod to the dancefloor from Burkina Faso in the mid-seventies . . . Sadly I couldn’t get it all in: the recording of Canadian geese and rain and thunder (‘thunder not from life’) didn’t quite make the final cut; nor Frank Ferrara’s Hawaiians – Pinin Hawaii for you a track which has somehow cemented itself in my head…