Hunting Sounds: The Development of Sound Recording Hobbyist Culture in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s



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Jean-Baptiste Masson is a composer and PhD Researcher at the University of York, part of the Electronic Soundscapes Network funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Hunting Sounds: The Development of Sound Recording Hobbyist Culture in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s



In 1964, Ray Stanton King, a salesman, won the seventh edition of the British Amateur Tape Recording Contest and, a few weeks later, the Grand Prix of the twelfth edition of the Concours International du Meilleur Enregistrement Sonore (CIMES, International Contest for Best Sound Recording) held in Lausanne. Besides a cash prize, tapes and a cup from the British contest, the CIMES prize also earned him a return trip to New York plus four weeks all-expenses-paid across the United States. These two prizes also brought him TV appearances, broadcasts and newspaper interviews. All this happened thanks to sink noise recordings: the winning tape was an editing of “seven good and contrasting examples of the most fruity sinks in south-west England”, accompanied by a commentary (King 491).1

Ray S. King was part of a new hobby that became popular in Britain during the fifties and sixties: sound-hunting (see fig. 1). The term refers to the activity of recording and collecting all kind of sounds – natural or human made – with recordings being made outside a recording studio. Its modern synonym is field recording. Sound hunters soon gathered themselves in clubs and societies, with training courses organised at the national level, alongside contests for the best recordings. An international contest appeared as early as 1952. In Britain, sound hunting was popularized in three different magazines dedicated to tape recording, published between the end of the fifties and the beginning of the seventies, and through a specialized programme aired on the BBC between 1959 and 1964.2 The popularity of using tapes to record was a product of technological changes, with portable tape recorders widely available at affordable prices. The device fostered a curiosity and an interest toward everyday life sounds and situations, that became recordable. Sound hunting was both an amateur and a professional practice: the BBC had a unit dedicated to the building of sound effects libraries, the Library Production Unit. For this paper, I am interested in amateurs only. I define them as people who used their own equipment and whose activities were directed toward private use or by not-for-profit social networks.

3 - sound hunting ad
Fig. 1: Clarion Transitape advertisement, Amateur Tape Recording, September 1959, back cover.

There are only a few studies dealing with sound hunting at the moment: Karin Bijsterveld and Annelies Jacob (2004) have looked into the Dutch sound hunting society; David Morton and Pascal Massinon (2016) have written about tape recorders’ enthusiasts in the United States; and Tomotaro Kaneko has studied the Japanese movement (2016). This article documents this practice further by focusing on how amateurs developed a culture of sound recording in Britain from the end of the 1950s. A special focus is made on the fundamental link between the practice of field recording and technology.

My claim is that the portable battery-powered tape recorder fostered an interest in sound and its recording, which was popularized by the formation of a community of sound hunters that developed a specific culture around the technology. My approach will be user centred, using social construction of technology (SCOT) and cultural and media theories to explore how sound hunters constructed their identity through technology. I will also use the concept of listening habitus from Judith Becker: “Habitus is an embodied pattern of action and reaction, in which we are not fully conscious of why we do what we do; not totally determined but a tendency to behave in a certain way” (130).3 This notion helps to understand how sound hunters developed a specific culture of sound and what was their originality and importance. Another idea will be central to my argument: that technology acts as a translator. Its mediation creates a layer between the listener and what is received: while the ear is able to discriminate and focus on specific details, and to jump between different scales – from global to detailed – within a sound environment, the microphone receives every sound without discrimination, or more precisely, with a discrimination determined beforehand by technical characteristics such as frequency response or directivity. Therefore, while being close, the sonic representation is different, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when microphones, tape recorders and speakers had limited bandwidth and dynamics. Moreover, this mediation, because of this additional level, helps to decontextualize and to create a detachment toward what is perceived, inducing a renewed perception of the environment. I will argue that this process of translating ambient sounds has been central to exploring and establishing the listening habitus of sound hunters. Through this, they learned to find the beauty in the banal, and even to translate the mundane into the sublime, what Martine Leroux has called the Sharawadji effect (Leroux 126-8). Furthermore, I will argue that sound hunting shares essential issues about sound and listening with musique concrète, which was developing at the same time.

The first section will present the development of sound hunting in Britain with the apparition of tape recording clubs, specialized magazines and of a dedicated BBC radio programme. Then, I will argue that a specific shared culture was produced by the establishment of these clubs, magazines and radio programme, with a set of aims and specific ways to listen to the sound environment which can be descried as a new listening habitus. Finally, this paper will question how technological devices have brought new ways of engaging with ambient sounds and have helped to translate them into aesthetical objects. In the process, I will show that amateur sound hunters shared, and enacted, some of the core ideas of contemporary music that was developing in parallel: a focus on sound, a blurring between the concepts of noise, sound and music, and the development of an art of hearing.

I - Sound hunting in Britain: clubs, press, radio

      A – Tape recording clubs and specialised magazines

The organisation of sound hunting as a community pursuit arguably started due to a programme on French radio, produced by Jean Thévenot from 1948.4 Soon after, in 1950, a similar programme appeared in Switzerland, produced by René Monnat. The two shows attracted amateurs, prompting Thévenot and Monnat to create the CIMES, Concours International du Meilleur Enregistrement Sonore (International Contest for the Best Sound Recording) in 1952. During the following years, sound hunting clubs were created in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark and an international federation, the Fédération Internationale des Chasseurs de Son (FICS)5 was formed in 1956 to organise their network. In the United Kingdom, the first club to appear was the Amateur Tape Recording Society, in 1955. It was mainly a ‘tapespondence’ club, a club where members were corresponding by recording themselves on tape.6 The club was renamed the British Amateur Tape Recording Society the year after and remained the only club until September 1957 when two other clubs were established in Edinburgh and Middlesbrough. From the late 1950s, the number of clubs rapidly grew to 145 (see fig. 2), with 10 to 100 members each, the average being 25 (Nurse 17). This number would remain stable during the sixties, according to data in the trade press catering to this new hobby. It becomes much more difficult to estimate participation rates after the end of the 1960s as details in the trade press became scantier at this point7 and as it is difficult to reconstruct the pursuit retrospectively using oral histories, since amateurs were active fifty to seventy years ago, and since much of the material they created has been lost or thrown away.

2 - Masson_image 2_ATR_1962-01_map of the BTR clubs.jpg
Fig. 2: Map of the 145 British tape recording clubs in 1962, Amateur Tape Recording, January 1962, p.23.

Stimulated by the burgeoning sound hunting movement, a specialised press appeared by the end of the fifties. Tape Recording and Reproduction Magazine was the first to appear in 1957, followed two years after by The Tape Recorder. Amateur Tape Recording, the official magazine of the British Tape Recording Club,8 followed a few months after in August 1959. These three magazines were similar in scope. One of their important functions was to create a link between their readerships and the clubs. Special pages were devoted to these each month, with descriptions of the activities, pictures, information about membership and spotlight on specific members. Across the body of articles as a whole, all aspects of sound recording were covered, from creating sound effects to mastering recording with a parabolic dish to microphone placement when recording a play, or special tips when chasing birdsongs. Another important function of the magazines was to review new equipment, ranging from tape recorders to microphones and headphones. Series like “Electronics Without Tears” was proposed by Amateur Tape Recording, to explain the inner operation of a tape recorder. Magazines also regularly offered more in-depth series of articles intended for tinkerers. These provided information on building an amplifier or microphone from scratch, or turning a tape recorder into a radio receiver.9 Less specialised advices on the maintenance of the equipment was also a regular feature. Finally, the magazines were a showcase for manufacturers: between a third and a half of the content were advertisements for tape recorders and tape makers, the manufacturers using pictures of contest winners to promote their equipment.10

Sales numbers were sometimes given within these magazines which gives an idea of the size of their readership. The first print run of Tape Recorder was 10,000, which sold in five days (Henslow 51) while in 1962, the aggregate readership with his sister magazine Hifi News was 52,000 (Henslow 151). The print-run of Amateur Tape Recording rose in its first year from 25,000 copies to 60,000 copies (Lane 3). These publications catered to a niche market, part of the burgeoning hobbyist press that appeared at the end of the 1950s and developed during the 1960s (Holmes and Nice 16-7).11 The readership numbers are more important than the number of memberships in clubs, accounting for a diverse audience and probably for a number of isolated individuals practicing for themselves without affiliation to a particular club. For instance, Ray S. King (see introduction), was a reader of Tape Recording without being affiliated to a club. This latter point was especially true for wildlife recorders, as noted by Joeri Bruyninckx (Bruyninckx, S205). Women are present in all three magazines as tape recordists in their own right, and several had a regular column. However, pictures of clubs show a majority of men.

Motivated by the wide spread of tape recorders, the BBC also started “a programme for the enthusiast in radio, recording and their allied subjects”.12 Sound was broadcast on Network Three between 1959 and 1965 (with a one year interruption during the 1963-64 season), and was a mix of talks, technical presentations and recording or service tips, with only a few contributions from the amateurs (mostly after contests, national and international). After the programme’s demise, the BBC would still show support to the sound hunting community through the organisation of contests and workshops, with Timothy Eckersley, assistant Head of Central Programme Operations stating “My view […] is that tape recording as a creative spare-time activity should be encouraged so that it can stand on an equal foot with, say, amateur photography”.13 During its existence, Sound shared strong links with the press, as the regular compere of the programme, Douglas Brown, was also the editor of Tape Recording.

II – Sound hunting and the creation of a shared culture of sound

Tape recording was a hobby that required a high degree of expertise, from the holding and positioning of the microphone to the monitoring of recording level and the necessary editing techniques afterwards. Throughout the years, because of the improvement of sound quality, problems occurring during recording were made more evident, requiring even more training to learn how to properly use the equipment, how to detect potential problems during the recording, how to perceive defaults when listening to the recording, how to resolve these problems and how to improve editing techniques.

Amateur clubs provided a means for members to share expertise, via their weekly or monthly meetings. Tutorials were presented in the magazines, on a wide range of subjects. For example, the September 1959 issue of Tape Recorder explained how to record aircrafts and atmosphere sounds (Read 338-9), while the August 1957 issue of Tape Recording presented an article about insect sounds (Leston 14-5). These tutorials also went beyond recording techniques, such as in the September 1964 issue of Amateur Tape Recording where a tutorial explained how to build a recording studio (Thompson 23-4), or the May 1969 issue of Tape Recording, where an article detailed specific ways of listening. Remarkably, this last article suggested ways of listening that would be at the core of the yet to come spectral music, pointing to spectrum analysis of sound, time, perception, timbre and sound stream questions (Clouts 162+). Sound also offered during the 1960-61 season an educational programme. The object of the series was “to break down the technical information into language which the layman can understand and to warn against the various pitfalls” of recording (Jarman 1). In this series, a teacher, I.W. Jarman – instructor of BBC editing engineers – taught a pupil, Angela Jeffreys – a teacher in a school for deaf children – to operate a tape recorder, to record correctly, to edit, to identify common problems and solve them. “At the end of this series, [Jeffreys] subsequently entered the British Amateur Tape Recording Contest and her entry was ‘Highly Commended’” (Cutforth 1). Similar training was also given through national courses that were advertised and reported by the magazines.14 They were opportunities to exchange knowledge between the amateurs and professionals. The BBC was present in these workshops, through I.W. Jarman and personnel from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (including Daphne Oram and Desmond Briscoe). Through these trainings and activities, listening techniques and ways of using the audio equipment were taught.

The availability of affordable portable battery-powered tape recorders opened up the practice of recording to more people, and the presence of clubs, spread across all major cities in the country (see fig. 2). The rise of a specialised press allowed these new-comers to learn specific ways to approach the sound environment through recording. As shown by the letters-to-the-editor in the magazines, or by reading the correspondence to the BBC, tape recorder buyers appreciated the opportunity to learn how to use their new equipment.15 A similar shared set of aims was also organised for wildlife recordings, through competitions16 and workshops organised directly by the BBC, and through the establishment of the Wildlife Sound Recording Society in 1968. The Society had a close relationship with the BBC,17 whose Vice-Chairman, Richard Margoschis, had a monthly column in Tape Recording (1968-71) about nature recording.18 Through this organisation, the BBC was able to sustain a network of recording suppliers working on its technical standards (Bruyninckx S205-6).

This development of the ear fostered an interest in sound which took several forms. This went from sound for its own sake – to translate ambient sounds in an aesthetic way – as shown by one of the runners-up of the first British Amateur Tape Recording Contest in 1957: “An ambitious range of material, most of it well done. […] His interest in sound for its own exciting sake was present all the time, particularly in the sequence which compared the song of the lark with the scream of jet aircraft” (Gibson 21). But this interest for ambient sounds was also directed toward their preservation: for example, the work of Peter Handford to conserve the sounds of British steam trains,19 or the sound survey of Derbyshire villages organised in 1959 by tape recordists enthusiasts, to save the sound life of the villages for future generations. The final result was several hours long and accompanied by more than one hundred pictures per village, with field recordings from inns, churches or local industries, plus interviews with people (Chandler 23). Such a project is reminiscent of Raymond Murray Schafer and the World Soundscape Project (1977). However, unfortunately, the recordings haven’t been located, so caution should be taken with such a tempting comparison. Moreover, and in a general way, sound hunting appears void of any ecological motivations in the sources. Still, this example, together with the Sink Symphony and the other ones in this article, show that sound hunting brought a new curiosity toward sound and ambient sounds. Even the mundane ones became worth, firstly to be listened to, and secondly, to be recorded and thus preserved. The sound hunters’ community was able to sustain a listening education, teaching ways of using the recording equipment, and beyond, ways of interacting with the sound environment through the recording equipment. Sound hunting was not “just a matter of simply waving the microphone around willy nilly. On the contrary, a fully trained sound scout will be a professional listener” (Harris 13). Sound hunting was an ‘ear school’, where amateurs learnt to open their listening to the sound environment. With different words but with the same tools – and through them – sound hunters too were consciously developing the art of hearing that Pierre Schaeffer advocated through musique concrète: “[The listener’s] consciousness changes. One becomes aware of oneself. The new art that appears, maybe even rarer and more difficult than making music, it is the art of hearing” (Schaeffer and Pierret 60).

III – Sound hunting: listening to the world through a microphone

      A – A new listening habitus

Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld have pioneered new approaches to the interaction between music and technology, observing breaches and boundaries within musical culture, and ways to understand the impact of new machines. “Reactions to new technologies could provide a fertile research site for investigating how technologies in general are embedded within conventional normative frameworks. […] Breaches of convention reveal underlying norms and values” (Pinch and Bijsterveld 538). I want to propose that the tape recorder, and more specifically the portable battery-powered tape recorder, has brought such a breach in the listening habitus, and that the sound hunter community helped to spread it. If Judith Becker has defined the listening habitus in relation to music, I propose that this concept is also relevant for the way we engage with the sound environment: “We listen in a particular way without thinking about it, and without realizing that it even is a particular way of listening. Most of our styles of listening have been learned through unconscious imitation of those who surround us and with whom we continually interact” (Becker 130). This point is very close to Ian Biddle’s question: “What kinds of listening do our own historical locations and scholarly traditions make audible, and by implication, what kinds of listening do they silence?” (Biddle 66). Sound hunters’ work gives avenues to provide answers: the sound pictures of English villages, the lark and jet aircraft composition of W.P. Copinger, the Sink Symphony of Ray S. King, all illustrate an attraction to the ambient sounds within which we are immersed but that go unnoticed, and are thus silenced by ignorance. Sound hunters translated these sounds into objects of interest, to the point where edited sink recordings could be recognised as a high-quality work deserving a national and an international prize, and its composer granted TV appearances and interviews. Sound hunting represents a call to a sonic curiosity, and an opening toward the sound environment.

But beyond this curiosity, these examples also illustrate what have been the breach in the listening habitus that I identify with the microphone and tape recorder and which was enacted by the sound hunting community. The underlying norms and values that were reassessed are the definitions of what was accepted as noise, as sound, as music. Their moving definitions were exposed through an interest in sound for its own sake, notably everyday life sounds that can bear a cultural significance. Sound hunters have worked for a new listening habitus: “A habitus of listening suggests not a necessity nor a rule, but an inclination, a disposition to listen with a particular kind of focus” (Becker 130). Sound hunters – as did simultaneously, musique concrète and electronic music composers – moved their listening focus to new domains. They too worked for an art of hearing, which, as mentioned by Schaeffer, is not candid: “The art of hearing implies a transformation of the listener” (Schaeffer and Pierret 174). This also, is a transformation of the listening habitus.

B – Technology as a translator

What sounds like an insignificant noise to the human ear is not necessarily so to the sensitive microphone. Equally important is that what may sound like a jungle of noise at the time can, at a later date, be atmospheric. An ordinary street scene is not so cosmopolitan as it may seem to be at first. What applies to the camera also applies to the tape recorder. It is not always the pretty picture that sends friends in ecstasy: it is not always the unusual sound that pricks the ear. During one holiday I stood in one of the streets of Salzburg – away from the tourists’ attractions, the castle, the Platz, away from the narrow streets with wrought iron shop signs. I was in the centre of a crossroads – dull perhaps, but precarious. I fired the camera and detonated the tape recorder for no other reasons than that scene with its mass of sound was what I saw and heard at that time (Harris 12-3).

The blurring between sound, noise and music was not a new phenomenon. It has been at the heart of twentieth century Western compositional practice, including Edgard Varèse, Luigi Russolo and the Futurists, Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage and Helmuth Lachenmann. Sound hunting reveals that sound, noise and music blur from a different viewpoint: the one of amateurs, that were not necessarily musicians, but who touched and experienced, through the microphone and the portable tape recorder, the same questioning. For both professional composers and amateur sound hunters, this developed through technological means, via microphone, through cables, tape, and speakers. The mediation of these elements allowed a detachment from the sound source, which became the basis for its renewed perception. Thanks to this detachment and to the repeated listening and transformation allowed by recording, even the most common sounds reveal themselves ‘unheard’ as they are translated in a new way. Microphones can access sounds that the ear cannot, amplifiers can render the most discrete sounds hearable. The ‘unheard’ becomes accessible, when unknown aspects of the sound environment are translated into an audible range. The type of translation depends on the equipment. Different microphones and amplifiers will receive and transmit different vibrations; for example, a contact microphone receives vibrations non-accessible to a cardioid microphone. The apparatus is a mediator – an interface between the listener and the sound environment, which acts as a translator able to break into thoughts and listening habits – as a means to break into the listening habitus.

The above experience described by the tape recordist Harris, exemplifies several of our claims. Firstly the transformation of the listening habitus, where one can be interested to stay at a crossroad with no other reason than to listen and record the ambiance produced by all the cars, buses and people buzzing around. Secondly, the place of technology as a translator able to reveal things hidden to the ear, from the “insignificant noise” to something “atmospheric”. The translation brings ambient sounds into the aesthetic domain, which becomes enjoyable for its specific sonic qualities. Listening technologies help to decontextualize sounds from their meanings, allowing them to be heard with a new perspective, a perspective that grants them a new status.20 And thirdly, this experience recalls what Martine Leroux has called “the Sharawadji effect” to describe the sensation of awe suddenly produced by a soundscape. This effect, always circumstantial, is especially linked to everyday life and is a decontextualization of what is not, a priori, beauty: the banal suddenly appears beautiful (126-8). The education of the ear given by tape recording clubs, workshops, magazines and Sound, made the microphone and the tape recorder tools of awareness toward the sound environment, and tools adapted to explore its sonic potential – for itself, for preservation, or for use within a soundtrack or an electroacoustic music piece.


Sound hunters are an interesting case study to investigate the moving limits between noise, sound and music as demonstrated by their breach of the listening habitus. These were amateurs and not necessarily trained composers, and yet they were operating in the same domain as well-known 20th century composers. It is true that press offered series on electronic music and musique concrète, and that members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop were teaching apprentice sound hunters during national courses; regardless, it seems that most of them were following their own path in parallel. By researching sound hunters light is shed on a forgotten part of field recording history, and the meaning and place of sound hunting and field recording within the broader musical and cultural landscape of the 20th century: sound hunting, and its contemporaneous twin, field recording, are based on listening, which is an opening toward what lies around us — the ambiances. They are practices that give a voice to this ‘around’, by letting it sound in order to listen to it, to record it, and to translate it into documents, as object of study and contemplation.

Sound hunters reveal also the importance of both technology and a community gathered around it21 to spread ideas and practices that went beyond habitus, revealing modes of listening that were absent, silenced or ignored. Sound hunting and field recording teach us to have the ear on alert, with a constant curiosity toward the sound environment. This curiosity is the key to translate mundane sounds and noises into valuable information: “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating” (Cage 3). Sound hunting documents this transformation of listening and the development of an art of hearing by amateurs through the development of a hobby of listening and recording.

Works Cited

Primary sources are from the BBC Written Archive Centre (BBC WAC): Cutforth, Marguerite. “Report from Marguerite Cutforth on Sound, to Janet Quigley, Assistant Head of Talks.” 31 July 1962. BBC WAC, R51/981/1. Jarman I.W.. “Report of I.W. Jarman concerning the lessons series.” 1 June 1961. BBC WAC, R51/981/1.


Cage, John. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press, 1961.

Holmes, Tim, and Nice, Liz. Magazine Journalism. Sage, 2012.

Morton, David L.. Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America. Rutgers University Press, 1999.

Schaeffer Pierre. Treatise on Musical Objects. An Essay Across Disciplines. University of California Press, 2017 [1966].

Schaeffer, Pierre and Pierret Marc. Entretiens. Pierre Belfond, 1969.

Schafer, Raymond Murray. Five Villages Soundscapes. A.R.C. Publications, 1977.

Book chapters:

Becker, Judith. “Exploring the Habitus of Listening. Anthropological Perspectives.” Handbook of Music an Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications, edited by Patrick N. Juslin and John Sloboda, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp.84-107.

Biddle, Ian. “Listening, Consciousness, and the Charm of the Universal.” Music and Consciousness. Philosophical, Psychological an Cultural Perspectives, edited by David Clarke and Eric Clarke, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp.65-77.

Bijsterveld, Karin, and Jacobs, Annelies. “Storing Sound-Souvenirs: The Multi-Sited Domestication of the Tape Recorder.” Sound Souvenirs. Audio Technologies, Memory and Cultural Practices, edited by Karin Bijsterveld and José van Dijck, Amsterdam University Press, 2013, pp.25-42.

Leroux, Martine. “Sharawadji.” À l’écoute de l’environnement. Répertoire des effets sonores, edited by Jean-François Augoyard and Henry Torgue, Éditions Paranthèses, 1995, pp.126-8.

Articles from journals:

Bijsterveld, Karin. “What do I do with my tape recorder…?: Sound hunting and the sounds of everyday Dutch life in the 1950s and 1960s.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, vol.24 n°4, 2004, pp.613-34.

Bruyninckx, Joeri. “For Science, Broadcasting, and Conservation: Wildlife Recording, the BBC, and the Consolidation of a British Library of Wildlife Sounds.” Technology and Culture, vol.60 n° 2 Supplement, April 2019, pp.S188-215.

Kaneko, Tomotaro. “Namaroku Culture in 1970s Japan: The Techniques and Joy of Sound Recording.” Kallista, Association for Aesthetic and Art Theory, vol.23, 2016, pp.84-107.

Pinch, Trevor, and Bijsterveld, Karin. ““Should One Applaud?” Breaches and Boundaries in the Reception of New Technology in Music.” Technology and Culture, vol.44 n°3, July 2003, pp.536-59.

Articles from magazines:

Chandler, Fred. “Sound Pictures of English Villages.” Tape Recording, 2 Dec. 1959, p.23. Clouts Cyril. “Project Alpha.” Tape Recording, May 1969, pp.162+.

Gibson, Tony. “Tony Gibson’s comments on one of the winning entries of the first British Amateur Tape Recording Contest.” Tape Recording, Dec. 1957, p.21.

Harris, Graham. “A Touch of Old Safari.” Amateur Tape Recording, Aug. 1967, pp.12+.

Henslow, Mike, “Editorial.” Tape Recorder, Mar. 1959, p.51.

— “Editorial.” Tape Recorder, May 1962, p.151.

King, Ray Stanton. “Boredom Led to the Production of Sink Symphony.” Tape Recording, Dec. 1964, p.491.

Lane, C.A.. “Our First Birthday.” Amateur Tape Recording, Feb. 1960, pp.3-5. Leston, Dennis. “How to Record Insect Sounds.” Tape Recording, Aug. 1957, pp.14-5.

Nurse, Terry. “This Tape Club Giant.” Amateur Tape Recording, Jan. 1962, pp.17-9. Read, B.W.., “Build a Library of Sound Effects.” Tape Recorder, Sep. 1959, pp.338-9. Thompson, Ken. “Building a Studio.” Amateur Tape Recording, Sep. 1964, pp.23-4.

The magazines are freely available on American Radio History website: Tape Recording, Tape Recorder and Amateur Tape Recording.

PhD thesis

Massinon, Pascal. Active Listening: The Cultural Politics of Magnetic Recording Technologies in North America, 1945-1993. 2016. University of Michigan, PhD dissertation.


  1. The first master was an editing of thirty-five sinks. Besides editing, recordings were unprocessed. The piece can be listened here: (accessed 4 April 2020).↩︎

  2. The programme was not broadcast during the 1962-63 season.↩︎

  3. Stressing in original text. The concept of habitus used by J. Becker is taken from Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press, 1977, p.72.↩︎

  4. The programme was called On grave à domicile (Home Engraving), and changed name to Aux quatre vents (To the Four Winds) in 1950, and to Chasseurs de son (Sound Hunters) in 1976.↩︎

  5. Translation: International Federation of Sound Hunters↩︎

  6. The practice had existed in the beginning of the twentieth century, with specific phonographs, discs and companies (like the Pathépost phonograph or the Société Anonyme des Phonocartes in France (Public Limited Company of Phonocard) but was short-lived. It reappeared with the tape recorder in the fifties. The first and biggest tapespondence organisation was then the World Tape Pals, formed in 1952 in Dallas.↩︎

  7. The ‘News Club’ page disappeared from Tape Recording in October 1966, and Amateur Tape Recording would transform into Hifi Sound in October 1967.↩︎

  8. The British Tape Recording Club appeared in January 1959 and rapidly expanded, absorbing the British Tape Recording Society in September of that year.↩︎

  9. For example, how to turn a tape recorder into a radio receiver, Tape Recording, vol.3 n°14, 2 December 1959; how to build a high-fidelity power amplifier, Amateur Tape Recording, February 1963; or a capacitor microphone, Tape Recorder, November 1969. [between November 1959 and December 1961, Tape Recording was published fortnightly, hence the additional precision]↩︎

  10. For example, Brenell used a picture and a comment of Robert Margoschis, documentary section winner of the British Amateur Tape Recording Contest, and runner-up of the International Tape Recording Contest (CIMES) in the same category (Tape Recording, vol.3 n°15, 15 December 1959).↩︎

  11. The falling costs for paper and printing met the decline in the power of the craft unions, an increasing emphasis on individual identity and subcultural tribalisation, and an increase in specialist consumption.↩︎

  12. Minutes of the meeting to set up Sound, with Head Central Programme (chair), Assistant Head Central Programme (Operations), Assistant Head Central Programme (Recording), Chief Assistant Talks (M. Newby), Chief Assistant Talk (Miss Quigley), ASESB Studios, Org. Studio Operations, Mr. Brown, Mrs. Cutforth (Talks), 28 October 1958. BBC WAC R51/981/1.↩︎

  13. Note from Timothy Eckersley, Assistant Head of Central Programme Operations (Recording), to Director Sound Broadcasting, 9 February 1965. BBC WAC R46/88/1.↩︎

  14. For example, the Third National Course organised by the Rose Bruford Training College (a private non-profit making educational establishment recognised by the Ministry of Education), in April 1960, advertised in Tape Recording, December 1959, 31. The event was followed by Amateur Tape Recording who published a report in their June 1960 issue.↩︎

  15. See Amateur Tape Recording, August 1959, 8-9, or ‘OK for Sound’, Radio Times, 30 January 1959, for example.↩︎

  16. The competitions had several categories: bird, mammal, insect, amphibian and atmosphere (sounds of the atmosphere, like rain, storm or wind).↩︎

  17. Desmond Hawkins, controller of the BBC South and West Region was the Honorary Secretary of the Society.↩︎

  18. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic I have not been able to access any issue of Sound and Picture Tape Recording Magazine, the new name of Tape Recording from April 1971. Therefore, at the time of writing, I cannot confirm the presence of R. Margoschis in the renewed team of the magazine.↩︎

  19. This was published through his Transacord label (later Argo Transacord) which counts more than 150 entries.↩︎

  20. We could say that listening technologies helped to realise the reduced listening of Schaeffer (Schaeffer 212-4).↩︎

  21. Pictures of the clubs within the magazines are especially illuminating, with the tape recorder occupying the central place.↩︎