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It's scratchy and muffled and sounds like some goofy character from a children's TV show, but it's actually the oldest playable recording of an American voice and the first-ever capturing of a musical performance, restored about as well as it can be; you can (barely) listen to it here. As described in this Associated Press article, the recording was made on a sheet of tinfoil in St. Louis in 1878, begins with a little cornet solo that sounds more like somebody humming through a comb kazoo. After this, a man presumed to be Thomas Mason, a St. Louis newspaper political writer who also went by the pen name I.X. Peck, recites fragments of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Old Mother Hubbard," with some phony-sounding stage chuckling in between, and in the end gets the "Mother Hubbard" words wrong and laughs at his own mistake. It's probably that blooper that saved the recording; Mason, I'd guess, didn't care to play it for his friends (the Edison recording device was more suited to parlor tricks than documenting anything serious), and so it didn't self-destruct after a couple of playbacks, as did almost every other tinfoil recording (it was played with a needle, and you know what that can do to flimsy material like this).

Although Carl Haber and a team at his Berkeley lab went to heroic lengths to use optical scanning technology to make the recording playable, it's still barely listenable. And even if it were crystal-clear, I wonder what it would tell us about how people like Mason and his fellow St. Louis residents really sounded in 1878. Obviously, the fellow is speaking slowly and broadly for the benefit of a primitive recording device, almost as if he's reading the nursery rhymes to an infant (which, essentially, he was). He probably didn't speak quite like this among his friends. Yet we know from better-preserved recordings from the next few decades that the diction, pronunciation and cadence of public orators in the late 19th/early 20th centuries was quite different from what it is now. When you have time, go snooping around the Internet for audio snippets of Teddy Roosevelt, from the era of addressing crowds from platforms in a public square, then compare that to the fireside chats of TR's fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from the era of newsreels, microphones and electrical recording. Even FDR sounds mannered compared to any of our modern presidents. And perhaps you've noticed that Barack Obama will alter his diction and vocabulary choice depending on his audience and surroundings; public address is not a static thing, even for a single individual.

And in case you're wondering, no, none of us here at Arizona Public Media converse in quite the same voices we use on air. But nobody around here sounds like tinfoil man Thomas Mason.



The Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recently announced its annual Emmy® Award nominations and once again Arizona Public Media (AZPM) has garnered 10 nominations, more than any other television station in Southern Arizona, and the second highest among public TV stations in the Rocky Mountain chapter. We believe that the nominations demonstrate the quality and creativity of AZPM’s local productions. We will let you know who the winners are after the awards ceremony takes places early this month.

Last month, PBS 6 wrapped up its first television membership drive of the fiscal year, “That’s Entertainment.” The successful campaign raised $207,000, exceeding our goal of $200,000. Our next big push begins on October 12th with the launch of the NPR 89.1 and Classical 90.5 pledge drives. Please remember that your member dollars are an investment that makes possible our local productions and our local and national news coverage throughout the year. Thank you for your continued support.

NPR 89.1 will broadcast several special programs during the month of October. The specials will air on Sundays at 2 p.m. and will pre-empt To the Best of Our Knowledge. Here’s the lineup:

October 7th - State of the Re:Union: Fresh Stories on Building and Rebuilding Communities. Tucson sits in the borderlands, the desert landscape where America and Mexico meet. The program tells stories about what happens when people cross the U.S./Mexico border. October 14th - BURN: An Energy Journal: Election Special, Part 1: “The Power of One Election and America's Energy Future.” October 21st - BURN: An Energy Journal: Election Special, Part 2: “The Power and Politics of New Energy Frontiers.”

With the 2012 elections looming next month, AZPM’s Your Vote 2012 campaign continues to provide in-depth election news coverage and voter resources on PBS 6, NPR 89.1, and online at Several Arizona Illustrated candidate forums have been scheduled:

Wednesday, October 10th - The CD3 Forum at 6 p.m. AZPM’s Christopher Conover hosts the forum with all three candidates for office at Pima Community College West.

Tuesday, October 23rd - The CD2 Forum at 6 p.m. Live from the UA campus, the forum will be moderated by AZPM’s Christopher Conover and Andrea Kelly, Arizona Illustrated Political Roundtable host and Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray.

Wednesday, October 24th - The CD1 Forum at 6 p.m. The forum will be moderated by AZPM’s Christopher Conover and Andrea Kelly.

Don’t miss FRONTLINE: “The Choice” on October 9th at 9 p.m. on PBS 6. This special election program documents the places, people, and decisive moments that made the men who are competing for the presidency.

This month two national NPR and PBS personalities will visit Tucson. AZPM, in collaboration with the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the UA Hispanic Alumni Association, will present Maria Hinojosa, anchor and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA and PBS’s Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One. Ms. Hinojosa will host a special screening of “America By The Numbers” on Monday, October 8th at the Center for Creative Photography at 5:30 p.m. A town hall style discussion on immigration, “the new mainstream,” and what it means to be a citizen will follow. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available here. On October 15th, Ken Rudin, NPR’s ‘Political Junkie,’ will lead a panel discussion entitled “Campaign Voices,” at the UA’s Centennial Hall at 7 p.m. The event, presented by The UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is free, but tickets are required. Visit here for ticket information.

Elections aside, AZPM offers as always an outstanding schedule of entertaining programs. October will bring several program premieres to PBS 6 including Call the Midwife, MASTERPIECE Classic: Upstairs, Downstairs – Season 2,” as well as an encore presentation of the first season of MASTERPIECE Classic: Downton Abbey (gearing up for the premiere of its third season in January). Check TV schedules here. In addition,Hollywood at Home, PBS 6’s weekly film series, presents another month of blockbuster feature films including “Dark Victory” with Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis on the 6th, “The Unforgiven” on the 13th, “Rainman” on the 20th, and “Diner” on the 27th. If you miss the 9 p.m. Saturday broadcast of Hollywood at Home, you can catch the encore matinee the following Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Visit here for complete Hollywood at Home schedules.

Thank you again for your exceptional support for Arizona Public Media. It makes what we do possible.


Jack Gibson


Three congressional candidates in Southern Arizona are getting noticed by the national parties in Washington.

Congressional District 1Republican Jonathan Paton and Congressional District 2Republican Martha McSally have both been named “Young Guns” by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

That designation means that both Paton and McSally have reached certain benchmarks set out by the NRCC. Those goals include fundraising.

Meanwhile Congressional District 1 Democrat Ron Barber has been named a “Frontline” candidate by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That group is actively fundraising for Barber on its web site.

The CD 1 and CD 2 races in Southern Arizona are both garnering plenty of national attention with both major parties spending money for advertising in the districts.

Your Vote 2012: The AZPM Election Center


Political and civic leaders are predicting a record Latino voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election. Will it be enough to make a difference in Arizona or in swing states?

The quick answer: probably not.

The predicted record turnout, according to several studies and sources, likely will be just more than half the eligible Latino voters. The Center for Immigration Studies predicts it will be 52.7 percent nationally. That's up from 49.9 percent in 2008 and continued an upward trend.

By comparison, 66.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites voted nationally in 2008, and 65.2 percent of African Americans voted, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

In Arizona, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts a 23.2 percent increase in the number of Latino voters going to the polls in November, or about 359,000. That's out of more than 700,000 Arizona Latino adults who are citizens and thus eligible to vote if they register. Another nearly 500,000 Latino adults in Arizona are ineligible to vote because they aren't citizens.

President Barack Obama's campaign and that of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona are counting on the Latino vote to boost them both in Arizona. The projected numbers make it seem a long shot.


Our station manager forwards this item from the Radio and Internet Newsletter, which I post here without much comment other than that it seems that when you strongly dislike a particular sort of music (harpsichord, vocal, organ, bagpipes), any amount of it can seem excessive:

KING FM (Seattle 98.1) listener Evan Muehlhausen doesn't care for harpsicords. But "over the past few years, I've noticed that when I tune to the station, I always seem to hear the plinky sound of a harpsicord," he writes. He was going to complain to the station, but before he did, he "wanted to investigate whether my ears were deceiving me."

Muehlhausen collected and analyzed 30 days of playlist data (around 3,000 "playlist items") posted online by KING FM, assigning composer era information to the songs played. The result? "The data shows that KING FM is innocent of the charge of favoring Baroque music [harpiscord's "heyday"] over other eras. Indeed, they play less Baroque than anything else... Looks like my own bias against harpsicord has affected my statistical judgment. Good thing I actually checked before blaming the station."

So the next time a listener calls to complain, why not point them to Muehlhausen's blog post here? He helpfully explains in detail how he collected and analyzed the playlist data. Surely, any radio listener who cares enough to call or write would go through the same trouble Muehlhausen did.



AZPM’s new programming initiatives continue to build audience. July television ratings indicate that our full day viewership for PBS 6 increased by 7% from last year, and grew 25% in primetime. The number one show during this rating period was “A Capitol Fourth” that aired on July 4th. Sunday night continues to be the top night with Masterpiece at 8:00 p.m. as the peak performer. Monday night’s Antiques Roadshow broadcast remains the number three program on PBS 6.1

The new ReadyTV channel continues to grow as well. ReadyTV ‘s audience reach increased 25% for the full day and by 200% in primetime. Viewership increased by 7% in full day and 125% in primetime.1

On the radio side, NPR 89.1 maintains its top rank among other news/talk stations in the Tucson market in the Spring Arbitron ratings report. NPR 89.1 also set a new record for cumulative audience in the region that includes Pima, Pinal, Cochise, and Santa Cruz counties. In its target 50+ demographic (as designated by the Strategic Plan), NPR 89.1’s Tucson metro listeners grew by 4.8% over the number for the previous Spring. Classical 90.5’s Tucson metro listeners increased by 5.7% during the same period.2

The Your Vote 2012 campaign continues with broad coverage of all local, state and regional political news. Tune in to Arizona Illustrated, Arizona Week, and AZ Illustrated Political Roundtable on PBS 6, listen to NPR 89.1, and visit online at for the latest candidate interviews, political forums, interactive district maps, and ballot initiatives.

I am sure you will find the Fall TV line-up on PBS 6 truly entertaining. The September membership drive on PBS 6, “That’s Entertainment,” includes special programs; “Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2”, “Tony Bennett’s Duets II,” “Big Band Vocalists,” “Great Performances at the Met: Wagner’s Ring Cycle,” and much more.

Your support each year helps AZPM provide the engaging, entertaining, and educational programs you have grown to love. September also brings new premieres and specials, including: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood - Premieres on September 3rd and airs weekdays on PBS 6 at 10 a.m., and PBS Kids at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. A new generation of preschool “neighbors” will get to experience the ‘Neighborhood of Make-Believe’ with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, the first TV series inspired by the iconic, award-winning Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“Broadway or Bust” - Premieres on Sunday, September 16th on PBS 6 at 6 p.m. PBS is bound for Broadway with a three-hour primetime documentary series that tracks the real life stories of America’s top high school musical performers, vying in the ultimate competition to find the nation’s best young theater stars.

MASTERPIECE Mystery! “Wallender III” – Also premiering on Sundays in September on PBS 6, are three gripping new episodes of Wallender. Kenneth Branagh returns to his Emmy-nominated role as the soul-searching Swedish detective created by best-selling novelist Henning Mankell. Episodes one and two, “An Event in Autumn” and “The Dogs of Riga” debut on Sunday, the 16th at 8 and 9 p.m. The third episode, “Before the Frost,” airs at 8 p.m. on Sunday the 23rd.

American Experience: “Death & The Civil War” – From the acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns, this special two-hour documentary airs on Tuesday the 18th at 8 p.m., and charts the political and social changes wrought by the pervasive fear of death during the Civil War.

Doc Martin – The Southern Arizona premiere of the first season of this BBC hit series starts Thursdays, September 20th at 9 p.m. on PBS 6. This British TV comedy drama stars Martin Clunes as Dr. Martin Ellingham, whose truculence and tactless manner causes mayhem in a small Cornish community.

Your support is our largest source of funding, and it’s an investment that benefits everyone in the community. Thank you sincerely for your commitment to Arizona Public Media.

Jack Gibson

1. Nielsen Station Index and TRAC Media Services 2. Arbitron, Inc. from Radio Research Consortium, Inc., Spring 2011, Spring 2012, TSA Cume, Metro AQH share, 12+, 50+.

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