JULY/AUGUST 2008

A SECRET HISTORY OF PHONOGRAPHY

A Consideration of a Field Recording of a Dog Pound

The Center for Animal Care and Control, New York City

On June 21, 1996, Claude Matthews smuggled his microphones into the Center for Animal Care and Control in Manhattan and captured the harrowing music of doomed dogs. You hear peals of yapping and barking, then a strange, sudden pause; a tiny, crouched snippet of contented oohs flow from a distant radio. A heavy door rolls open. A dog howls again, begging for freedom (or at least attention), and the chorus of barking resumes. The resulting album, DogPoundFoundSound(Bad Radio Dog Massacre,[1] might be the most brutal yet profoundly moving sound recording you will ever hear.

Matthews’s recording also marks a rebellious milestone in the history of field recording, a practice that began with Thomas Edison. In 1877, after several attempts by other inventors, Edison perfected the phonograph, thus christened by combining the Greek words for sound or voice and writer. Emile Berliner patented the turntable gramophone in 1887, and soon thereafter, ethnographers traveled the world, recording the music and language of “primitive” peoples.

  1. The lack of closing parenthesis is part of the official album title.

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—Christopher DeLaurenti