Saturday, March 24, 2012

The other Charlie Parker

I'm listening to a wonderful radio program on BBC radio right now. "Singing the Fishing", its called. Actually,it is one of a series of "radio ballads" developed by folklorist & songwriter Ewan MacColl, musician Peggy Seeger, and producer Charles Parker between 1958 and 1963. BBC radio 4 extra will be playing the entire series during coming weeks, but you can also get these on CD if you miss the broadcasts.

What makes the radio ballad series special is that it mixes interview material and audio documentation with newly composed music. Not particularly eyebrow raising today, but think about how OTHER programs were being made in the late 50's and early 60's. This series became a breakthrough for the idea that using portable recording technology, the public could be empowered to speak for themselves instead of having a narrator say what they "actually" meant.

Charles Parker had a powerful impact on the buildup of oral history projects in the UK. His own personal collection was donated to the City of Birmingham after his death in 1980.

This year, Charles Parker day will be commemorated with a conference on the development of radio documentary at the University of Westminster in London on Friday 30th March 2012.

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