But how does this all relate to Digital Humanities?
Since this practicum was placed in the week of “Digital Audio: Oral History and Sound Studies,” I wanted to see how extensive a collection there was for Oral Historians. Upon searching “Oral History,” the two most followed groups (on March 16, 2018) were Busselton Oral History Group of Busselton, Australia and the Southern Oral History Program of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Both had close to 200 followers (now including me!) and 2,170 and 812 audio clips, respectively (again, on March 16, 2018). Other results showed college or local history collectives trying to preserve the memories of their community members; however, these did not have as many followers or sound bites as the top two mentioned.
I next wondered about the specific content of Oral Historians. I immediately searched for Studs Terkel, an American Historian who recorded the words of Unionizers and Laborers throughout the last half of the twentieth century. I was happy to find that SoundCloud housed a “Studs Terkel Radio Archive.” This page had 622 followers and 368 tracks, as of March 16, 2018. There were also additional links provided that could bring you to more extensive digital libraries or historical sites in general. I found this to be true of other pages from “Oral History Jukebox,” which is sponsored by the American Historical Association and the “LBJ Presidential Library.” I tried searching for famous speeches as well, such as FDR’s “Fireside Chats” from WWII but there seemed to be limited uploaded files. This is not to say that these files are not accessible to the public; a quick search for “FDR’s Fireside Chats Audio Files,” will bring you to FDR’s Presidential Library and Museum website to hear his compliments of the New Deal program. Overall though, it seemed that SoundCloud is not the premiere way of sharing interviews, speeches, or any other sounds of the past.
However, SoundCloud does offer a platform for interesting ways to interpret audio from history. Since the site as well as the app (SoundCloud Pulse) allows users to download and upload their own content, users can interact with pre-existing files. In “The Dream That Came True [MLK “I Have A Dream” Speech],” DAH Trump sets MLK’s speech to background beats/music. This reinterpretation allowed not only DAH Trump but all who listen to the file to interact with history in a new way. SoundCloud lets other users comment on sections of the sound they like and overall feedback for further collaboration. At 35 seconds of this particular track, ML Ruubz stated, “Great concept, Darrick! Nice inspiration beat. Definitely sounds like the intro for something bigger!” while caseybxl thought at the 6th second, “I love almost every single one of this man’s speaches…so powerful. gives me so many chills. I have been to the mountaintop.” All of these people were moved by MLK’s dream in addition to this new spin on one of the most iconic speeches. As seen by their comments, a conversation was started that could lead to larger discussions of historical analysis without users of SoundCloud even knowing it!
I’d love to hear your opinions of SoundCloud! Has anyone used SoundCloud for historical research? In what ways? Have you uploaded any of your own files? Let’s keep the conversation going!