Tuesday, January 12, 2021

from the original tape

A couple months ago, B. was cleaning out some of her stuff and handed me a couple of thin square boxes. They contained the recording of her senior recital when she was a voice student in college. It had been preserved on a pair of reel-to-reel tapes, but who has a reel-to-reel tape recorder? In over 40 years, B. had never heard herself do this. Could I see about getting these transferred?

I thought I could. I found a small local firm that does audio transfers and has a good rating, and filled out my order online for a CD transfer. It said at that point it would probably take about 4 weeks, which would make it just in time for a Christmas present. It was pretty expensive, but I knew it'd be worth it.

Then I had to label the tapes and take them to the firm's office, which was tucked away close to the morticians' office that handled my mother's funeral, about 15 miles from here, and handed them over in a proper socially distanced manner that had been outlined on the web site.

It was when I got the invoice by e-mail that I found the formal ETA was seven weeks - I guess they were busy - so without saying what it was I told B. at Christmas that the arrival of her present had been delayed.

So I got the notification a couple days early that it was ready, went and picked it up, and played it in my car's CD player on the way home and then out later, taking notes of the time stamps when the pieces started. There had been copies of the program with the tapes, but the audio people of course didn't know what would be on the tapes; they just made one CD track for each tape. Then I typed up an insert with all the program info and the time stamps, and put it in the case, wrapped up the result, and gave it to B. after dinner.

She was thrilled and listened to the whole thing. The transfer was excellent and the sound quality turned out to be good. (I had suspected noise reduction wouldn't be necessary, and am now glad I opted to omit it.) B. sang a large chunk of a Bach cantata,* song sequences by Mussorgsky (in English) and Poulenc (in French), and as a final treat a French opera aria which you may have heard: it's this one. The program was interesting to hear: I thought she did very well for a student, though this was about a decade before we met, and her voice had matured in tone quality a lot before I heard her sing. Anyway, now B. has heard herself, and we have it in a nice little accessible form.

*Well, not quite. B.'s teacher chose this piece because it's one of the two times Bach set lyrics in Italian, only it turns out he didn't. It's misattributed and is actually by G.P. Telemann. (The other one is also misattributed.) By the way, nobody has told Wikipedia about the authorship problem, but I'm sure not going to.

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