Week 10 Practicum: SoundCloud

SoundCloud allows users to upload original music, sound, or any other form of audio to the internet. A more in depth explanation from the “Terms of Use” page states that the collaborate site, “grants you a limited, personal, non-exclusive, revocable, non-assignable and non-transferable right and license to use the Platform in order to view Content uploaded and posted to the Website, to listen to audio Content streamed from the Platform or offline and to share and download audio Content,” to name a few of its features. As long as the file is uploaded as an AIFF, WAVE (WAV), FLAC, ALAC, OGG, MP2, MP3, AAC, AMR, or WMA and it’s 5GB or less, you are good to share! The main page offers three sections for surfing the audio database: Stream, Charts, and Discover. Discover allows you to search through categories of sounds, from “chill” to “party.” Charts creates a list of the top 50 most played tracks of the week or what the site deems “new and hot.” Stream is your own personal collection of the people/groups you are following.

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!

4 Replies to “Week 10 Practicum: SoundCloud”

  1. I do use Sound Cloud for research, although not historical. L.A. Theater Works publishes plays on their station. They do a bit of everything, from Shakespeare and Moliere to Miller and more recent and acclaimed works. It helps me catch up on a lot pieces without having to get a hold of the script or see a production, while also allowing me to hone in on the writing without getting distracted by the visuals. Like any platform, the value of Sound Cloud really depends on what’s being put on it. There’s a lot of potential here for historians sharing anything audio – plays for one, or oral history. Sound Cloud is still a bit unpolished on mobile devices. As far as I can tell there is no way to download files for listening without an internet or network connection. Navigating through files can sometimes be imprecise as well.

    1. I thought navigating was a bit hard too, especially with the labeling of tracks. This concept was brought up in the Clement reading and I think SoundCloud really exemplifies these issues. However, I think I saw more files than I would’ve related to famous content because of the poor labeling. Pros and cons, I guess!

  2. I’ve never even thought of soundcloud as a historical platform before, and it sounds ridiculous now that I say that! As someone familiar with oral histories and audacity, my attention always turned to podcasts and youtube and I never realized there were such well established communities that help share historical content. I think Kevin brings up a good point about soundcloud’s accessibility: you can download a podcast for offline listening, but you need to have a fast enough internet connection to listen to the content directly on soundclouds website. As public historians this could be a potential problem when we think about making our research accessible to people from all walks of life, including those who may need to utilize a library to download content that they are interested in taking home and listening too.

    1. The full version of SoundCloud is also $9.99 per month, which is another accessibility barrier. Since I just made an account for free, I’m not really sure what the full version offers. Would our work as historians be accessible without this monthly fee?

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