Voices of Yesteryear

June 11, 2020

Three vinyl records came into my studio the other day. These weren’t the commercially made rock or pop albums most of us grew up with. These were homemade disks recorded at 78 rpm that were made over 75 years ago. I know this because it was written on the label.

In the 1940s, there were dozens of “Voice-O-Graph” machines sprinkled up and down the Coney Island boardwalk. They looked like telephone booths and by inserting 25 cents, you could actually record your voice and have it scratched into the grooves of your own personal record for all of posterity.

The three records I received and transferred to digital audio files for their preservation had my client’s father crooning familiar standards and pop favorites in the style of Bing Crosby. What a wonderful treasure for the family to have. Sure, there are scratches and pops throughout the recording but that only adds to the charm of being able to hear voices from the past, recorded as they lived through what for them was their present. All three records were dated June, 1944… shortly after the D-Day invasion. The songs were upbeat, filled with hope and promise, with just a tinge of melancholy. I’d say it was a perfect capsulation of the mood of that time. I am honored to have been a part of preserving this personally impactful and historic moment.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Music To My Ears

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Usually, when I am transferring a homemade audio tape of a musician or band, I don’t pay much attention to the sounds coming from the speakers. No offense intended but the quality of self-recorded performances from garage bands or shower singers typically leave more than a little something to be desired. It is usually better to listen from afar… like in another room. Such is not the case these days.  Because it’s not every day a world class pianist walks into the studio.

Tzimon Barto is something of a Renaissance man. He speaks seven languages, is a published novelist, reads ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin, studies philosophy, writes poetry, and, oh yes… he plays the beauty of Schubert and Chopin while possessing the physique of Schwarzenegger or Stallone.

Born Johnny Barto Smith Jr. in Eustis FL, he was given the name Tzimon by famed Julliard instructor Adele Marcus with whom he studied. She later claimed she was joking about the name change in response to his concern that Johnny Smith might be too plain a name for a classical pianist.  But the name stuck and is now known around the world.

He first started studying the piano at the age of 5 under the instruction of his grandmother. His studies continued at Rollins College, the Brevard Music Center and, as stated earlier, Julliard. Since then, he has performed with nearly every major international orchestra including the New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo.

If you’re unable to stop by the studio to hear some of this brilliant artist which will be our background music during the next few days while I transfer his tapes, here’s a video of him performing Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A major with the SWR Symphonieorchester.

 


Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

When Histories Intersect

 

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Before I got into the business of digital archiving, I admit I was one of those who compartmentalized history into two groups: There was the history we learned in school – famous names, dates, important battles – and then there was your personal history – where you came from, who your ancestors were, what you ate for lunch last week…

But soon after I began working with people’s personal histories, it immediately became apparent that there is no divide. All history is personal.

Today, a client hired me to digitize a dozen audio cassettes. They all contain the interviews she had with her mother, a Hungarian immigrant. Hours upon hours of personal recollection recorded on audio tape of what her life was like. And the client put a bit of a rush on it because she is soon flying off to meet with the offspring of the people that saved her mother and entire family from the Holocaust. The audio tapes contain a first hand narrative from someone who was there. And she thought the family who saved her family might like to hear it.

Personal History and World History cross paths. And they do so more often than we recognize.

Never discount the experiences you have lived through. They may be the history tomorrow’s children study.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Word of the Day: Cacophony

 

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It may come as no surprise to find that our business is not one that allows us to do one thing at a time. We have multiple machines in our studio and usually multiple jobs are running on each of those machines simultaneously. And each one emits sound.

I like to think of it as the soundtrack of your lives. That’s not to say that it is always harmonious. Just this week I was transferring a video of a Mexican wedding to DVD while the machine next to it was transferring a series of karate demonstrations. In the adjacent room was a vinyl record of a school band in concert playing patriotic songs that was being saved to a CD. Orchestral arrangements, strenuous grunts, and marriage vows spoken in Spanish are not often heard at the same time. For us, it was just another day at the office.

The word cacophony is defined as a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds. If you think about it, that kind of describes life itself. Which is why, when you drop by our studio, you may be greeted with any number of noises from the past. If you are lucky, it will be the sound of laughing children. But there’s no guarantee. It may also be the bone-jarring rumbling of an ATV slogging through the mud.

What we must remember is that all those sounds represent someone’s past experience and should be respected and honored as such. When heard together, it may be a raucous noise… but it is also a joyful one.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Countdown to Christmas II

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#It’s just eleven days till Christmas… I hope my true love gives to me…

Voices from the past.#

We have all gotten a bit teary going through old photo albums and coming across faces or images that have been etched into our minds from days gone by. But hearing a voice again… one that has been silenced for a decade or more… can be an emotional gut punch that we often don’t see coming.

We have the ability to work with audio cassettes, reel to reel audio tapes, and vinyl records all which could contain priceless snippets of the sounds of our childhoods. I’ve had the honor of delivering to people their parents’ voices from old answering machine tapes, wartime audio letters exchanged between soldiers stationed abroad and their families, grandparents singing old family favorites to their grandchildren recorded some fifty years ago, and so much more.

A sound can be a trigger to memories just as potent as a picture or video.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

Name That Format

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Every now and again a client will bring in something and not even know what it is, let alone know what’s on it. Most of the time it’s something I’ve seen or worked on before. But not always.

Technology sometimes can seem to us to advance in giant leaps. First there was film, then videotape, then digital files… But as the industry went from one media type to another, a lot of products were rolled out by companies trying to capture the market’s attention. Some were successful, others not so much. As a result there are a lot of unfamiliar items, now obsolete, collecting dust in people’s drawers and closets.

The pictured item is a mini-Disc (MD) that was first produced by Sony. It was a precursor to the CD (compact disc) designed to hold data or 74 minutes of audio (later 80 minutes). Introduced in 1992, it reached its height of popularity in Japan but never found much traction in the United States where manufacturers seemed more interested in pursuing a competing format called Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) that was created by Philips and Matsushita.

Both eventually gave way to the widespread appeal of the compact disc (CD) and MP3 players.  The MD largely faded from view in the early 2000s and Sony eventually ceased its production line of MD players in 2013.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories and yes, we can transfer the memories from MD tapes and store them on CDs or as MP3 files. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Voices from the past

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The littlest things can often produce the biggest emotional responses.

One of the jobs I completed today contained a audio micro-cassette. The owner of the cassette said that he hoped it was a recording from an analog answering machine containing an outgoing message from his mother who had passed on many years earlier. Just the possibility of being able to hear his mother’s voice again made this tape, which, in its day, was probably rather innocuous, one of his most precious possessions.

I was reading a post on a Facebook page from my alma mater. Someone had found an old vinyl record from our school and had it digitalized. It was of our school choir singing at an assembly which began, as our assemblies always did, with the familiar chiming from our school bell tower. Just that sound, the ringing from our bell tower which has not been heard in over 30 years, immediately brought tears to the eyes of the one who had played it.

The past has a way of creeping up on you and delivering an emotional impact that surprises even you.  It could be a voice, or a song, or a sound that reminds you of another place and time. Whatever it may be, it is an experience I wish upon all of you.

As for the customer with the micro-cassette, he’s going to get a little more than he thought. His mother’s voice does appear on an 10 second clip she recorded for an answering machine… on Side A.  Side B of the tape has a bonus recording waiting for him to discover. And it is something I am sure will spur even more happy memories for him.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. Audio recordings, whether they are cassette tapes, reel to reel tapes, or vinyl records, can be transferred to a digital medium for continual playback and enjoyment. For more info, call 352-735-8550 or http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd