Star Wars sound designer is, indeed, a radio enthusiast

StarWars-LogoSWLing Post readers may remember a post I recently published in which I believed I’d identified a familiar shortwave time signal station in the Battle of Hoth scene from The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t read this post, feel free to do so and listen to the embedded video/audio clips.

Upon hearing this, I went so far as to muse that the Star Wars sound designer might be a radio listener. I asked our readers if anyone could confirm this–?

Well, we’ve got our answer!  I’m truly indebted to an SWLing Post reader who passed my post along to his friend, Ben, who could provide this definitive response:

“This is Ben Burtt, sound designer of the Star Wars films. A friend sent me a link to this blog thinking I would like to comment.

Ben and old recorders

Ben Burtt with his recording gear, circa 1980. The mike on the stand at Ben’s feet is one from his grandfather’s ham radio station in the 1950s, or possibly earlier.

“The answer is yes, I have always been a ham radio enthusiast.”

 

“My grandfather, Harold Burtt, operated W8CD out of his home in Columbus, Ohio 1930s-1960s. I was enthralled as a kid listening to the sounds on his receiver. I heard alien worlds and cosmic ‘voices.’

Harold Burtt, (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear approximately 1935

Harold Burtt, W8CD. (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear,  approximately 1935

“So not only did I record his radio, but continued to do so on the Star Wars series and Star Trek as well.

My memory of the Hoth transmission was that it was WWV but it could have been CHU since I was recording all that interested me on the dial.”

Terrific! Thank you, Ben, for taking the time to respond. As I said, you’ve certainly started off this radio enthusiast’s year on the right wavelength…no doubt some of our readers will agree.

Indeed, the powerful sonic experience of the Star Wars and Star Trek films has, in my estimation, helped shape many of us into the radio/sound enthusiasts we’ve become–myself certainly included. Thank you, Ben, for this!  You’ve sharpened my ear to a greater appreciation of sound, especially filmic sound, and your work in particular.    

For readers who are less familiar with Ben Burtt’s work, check out his Wikipedia page and IMDB profile–you’ll find he’s been the sound designer on numerous influential films including the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A special thanks to Ben Burtt for sharing these wonderful photos and kindly giving me permission to use them here on the SWLing Post.  I must say, considering my love of radio in the thirties, I especially like that photo of Harold Burtt (W8CD) in his shack.

UNT Archives publish Willis Conover interview with Louis Armstrong

(Photo source: Inside VOA)

(Photo source: Inside VOA)

Thanks to the endeavors of Maristella Feustle at the UNT Music Library, five hours of recently-restored Louis Armstrong interviews with Willis Conover are now online and free to download/listen.

Kudos to the UNT archives for making these amazing recordings so accessible! What a treasure trove.

Click here to view links to all five hours of recordings at the UNT Archives’ website.

Jack Barsky: KGB spy who relied on numbers stations

JckBarsky

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Anthony, for forwarding this CBS/60 Minutes video: an interview with former KGB spy, Jack Barsky. During the interview, Barsky mentions that he received encrypted KGB “radiograms” via a numbers station he believed to be in Cuba. He admitted that the messages could take an hour to copy, then an additional three hours to decode. This is a fascinating story–well worth watching.

Here is the intro via 60 Minutes:

“Tonight, we’re going to tell you a story you’ve probably never heard before because only a few people outside the FBI know anything about it. It’s a spy story unlike any other and if you think your life is complicated, wait till you hear about Jack Barsky’s, who led three of them simultaneously. One as a husband and father, two as a computer programmer and administrator at some top American corporations and three as a KGB agent spying on America during the last decade of the Cold War.

The FBI did finally apprehend him in Pennsylvania but it was long after the Soviet Union had crumbled. What makes Jack Barsky’s story even more remarkable is he’s never spent a night in jail, the Russians declared him dead a long time ago, he’s living a quiet life in upstate New York and has worked in important and sensitive jobs. He’s now free to tell his story…as honestly as a former spy ever can.”

Click here to view the video via CBS online, or you can simply watch via the the embedded players below:

Part 1

Part 2

Wojtek Gwiazda retires from RCI

Wojtek’s final appearance on the Link in RCI’s remaining studio, with Lynn and Marc on Friday May 1, 2015 © Leo G- RCI (Source: RCI)

Wojtek’s final appearance on the Link in RCI’s remaining studio, with Lynn and Marc on Friday May 1, 2015 © Leo G- RCI (Source: RCI)

My friend, Wojtek Gwiazda, who has been a host and journalist for Radio Canada International–and an integral part of the RCI Action Committee–has retired.

Click here to listen to an exit interview with Wojtek on RCI’s The Link.

Also, check out this page and audio from the RCI website.

Wojtek: here’s wishing you the best in your retirement!

Richard’s CBC Radio-Canada QSL and interview with RCI

radio_canada1

Many thanks to SWLing Post and SRAA contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

“[C]oncerning the RCI anniversary, attached are scans of a QSL card from the CBC International Service for reception on 20 April 1964 when I was in high school. That was on the Knight-Kit Span Master regenerative receiver I had built the previous Christmas.”

radio_canada2 (1)

“About 50 years later (in 2012, actually), I did an interview with RCI’s Victor Nerenberg on GPS and the ionosphere, which appeared on the RCI program “The Link.”

It’s still on their website:
http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/program/the-link/home/date/27-01-2012/
(about 15 minutes in)
and
http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/program/the-link/archives/episode/09-10_2012-01-30-the-link-friday-january-27-2012/

The RCI site also is featuring some information related to the 70th anniversary:
www.rcinet.ca/rci70-en/

And, lastly, there’s also some interesting stuff in the CBC’s Digital Archives under
http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/arts-entertainment/media/radio-canada-international-canadas-voice-to-the-world/broadcasting-to-the-world.html
There was also an episode of the CBC Rewind archives program on RCI:
http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Rewind/2011/ID/2167995222/

Many thanks, Richard! I wish I understood the ionosphere as well as you do–that was a fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Gorgeous QSL card, by the way!

Medium Wave DXer, Johnny Bråtveit, interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting

SX-99-DialCheck out this excellent in-depth interview with medium wave DXer, Johnny Bråtveit, via Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPD):

“About a month ago, our station received a fascinating email. It came from a Norwegian man named Tore Johnny Braatveit. He wrote: “I am one of those people who still really enjoys hunting for long-distance radio signals on the AM band. I am glad to tell you that I was able to pick up the AM signals of KOAC in arctic Norway.”

Braatveit sent us a recording of what he heard, and there’s no mistaking our litany of OPB stations beamed more than four thousand miles away.

Braatveit, who said we can call him TJ, says the serendipity of the search is what makes collecting radio signals appealing. “It’s the same as for a hunter or a fisher,” said Braatveit, “They know what they want, but they don’t know what they will get.”

Braatveit has been DXing – a hobby to receive, record and identify faraway broadcasts – since the early 1980’s. DX-ers use receivers along with computer software to collect the signals before reaching out to the stations with “reception reports” to verify what they picked up, hence the email he sent us.”

Listen to the full interview via OPB’s SoundCloud:

Tore Johnny Bråtveit also maintains a blog where you can listen to many of his medium wave audio samples. Click here to visit his site.

Jonathan’s interviews with Gerry Wells

sup-obsessionGerald Wells, the Curator of the British Vintage Wireless & Television Museum passed away on December 22nd, 2014. In our previous post about his passing, I pointed to a brilliant BBC radio documentary which featured Mr. Wells.

Last week, Jonathan Marks posted his own tribute to Gerry Wells on Critical Distance. Jonathan’s post includes two half-hour interviews with Mr. Wells from 1986/1987.

Jonathan has kindly allowed me to embed an excerpt from his post, below, along with his interviews.

Jonathan writes:

“Sad to note that the Curator of the British Vintage Wireless & Television Museum, Gerald Wells, passed away on December 22 2014.

At the end of the 1960’s Gerry gave up his job as an electrical contractor. He could see wireless sets being discarded and felt there was a need for a “Vintage Wireless Museum”. The Museum for Vintage Wireless came into existence in 1974 and was later expanded to include Television.

I made a couple of half hour documentaries with Gerry in 1986/1987, hearing the stories of how radios were built and got their names. Other documentaries focused on his life as a lifelong radio engineer.

I remember visiting the UK’s Vintage Radio Wireless Museum in Dulwich, South London as though it were yesterday. It’s just an ordinary terraced house from the outside, but inside its a celebration of the tube (Valve) radio, especially in the era 1920-1950. What’s more, Gerald Wells, was one of the world’s experts on valves – and had a flood of stories about the famous names I heard second-hand as a child. Did you know that Vidor Batteries were named after the manufacturers two daughters? And what were the better brands of radios.

Enthusiasts in the UK have since made a DVD about Gerald which I can recommend. Part Two of this programme was made in Dulwich one year later is also here on this blogpost. I am sure you could visit Gerald 1000 times and still take away new and different stories about this era of broadcasting. Anyone restoring early iPods? Thought not.”

I encourage you to check out Jonathan’s full post on Critical Distance. I’m always amazed at the number of topics Jonathan has covered in his radio career and, especially, his tenure at Media Networks. You’ll find hundreds of recordings like the ones above at the Media Network Vintage Vault