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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Behind the Parabolic Microphone with Emory Cook

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Photograph by Walter D. Bursten, circa 1954 [?]
In this photograph from the Cook Labs Records in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, audio pioneer Emory Cook sets up a parabolic microphone on Mount Washington in western Massachusetts. This most likely homemade reflector would be used to record the thunderstorms frequenting the area. According to an October 1954 article in High Fidelity, a thunderbolt missed Cook by 50 feet during this excursion, a small price to pay to record "...special Emory Cook thunder, as heard by eagles, complete with high-frequency sizzle..."  If you needs any more convincing as to why you should listen to Cook's album Voice of the Storm, it comes with a warning to "lash down all small children and objets d'art." 

You can read the full High Fidelity article here.

-Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

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