For immediate release
January 15, 1999

The Century's Lost & Found Sounds
Heard on NPR

Beginning Friday, January 29, and continuing on Fridays through January 2000, NPR's All Things Considered presents "Lost & Found Sound," a series of stories and sonic snapshots that capture American 20th century life through recorded sound. Additional special features will air on NPR’s new weekly program Anthem. [Please contact your local NPR station for broadcast times.]

A collection of richly layered stories, "Lost & Found Sound" explores the ways recorded sound captured and changed the course of history, and how the sound of daily life has changed over the last hundred years. The series includes:

  • a look at how the spirit, the inventions and the recordings of the near-deaf inventor Thomas Alva Edison continue to permeate our culture;

  • a profile of Tony Schwartz, an innovative and inspired sound gatherer, recording the sounds of America since 1945. A man who will venture no further than his postal zone, Mr. Schwartz has made more than 30,000 home recordings in the streets, delis, cabs, playgrounds and stoops of his New York neighborhood;

  • the story of Amelia Earhart’s final flight and radio transmission;

  • Armed Forces Network broadcasts of WWII soldiers’ requests for sounds from home-sizzling steak, the fog horns of San Francisco’s harbor and Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell;

  • audio chronicles of life in Memphis. Before Elvis, before Sun Studios, Sam Phillips and his Memphis Recording Service recorded weddings, funerals, proms and cotton carnivals. Across town, R.A. Coleman, a black photographer, moonlighted recording weddings and church services in his community;

  • recorded conversations from space to earth;

  • and a "Quest for Sound." Listeners will be asked to dig into their closets, attics and personal archives to search for their family audio history. Radio stories will be created with their findings and broadcast over the coming months.

"Lost & Found Sound" features endangered sounds, vanishing voices, the merging of languages, stories of people possessed by sound and music, and the soundtrack of the streets of the future. The series examines what we Americans choose to capture in our radio broadcasts, home recordings and sonic obsessions, and how this reveals what we value, notice and preserve. Stories provide glimpses of the century caught in the sounds and personal reflections of everyday life, and great moments in history.

"Lost & Found Sound" is a collaboration of NPR, America’s finest independent radio producers, creative artists, individual stations and listeners. The project is led by Executive Producers Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva (The Kitchen Sisters) and Jay Allison, and NPR’s Art Silverman. Funding for "Lost & Found Sound" is provided by The National Endowment for the Arts and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

NPR, a membership organization of 607 public radio stations nationwide, is radio’s leading provider of high-quality news, information, and cultural programming worldwide. NPR produces and/or distributes the award-winning programs Morning Edition, NPR’s Performance Today, Jazz Profiles and Car Talk.