Saving Language.

I may have mentioned before that one of my favorite radio programs is To the Best of Our Knowledge, which consistently features the most interesting and thought-provoking interviews around; almost every time I listen (it’s on Saturday mornings from 6 to 8 on our local PBS station) I learn new things or new ways of looking at things. This morning when I staggered into the living room, my wife (who gets up earlier than I do) said “You’re just in time, they’re going to do an hour on languages!” And so they did; the show, “Saving Language,” is available here, and I particularly recommend the first two segments, David Harrison on documenting endangered languages and Danna Harman on the Yung Yiddish library in Tel Aviv.

Related: Pablo Helguera’s Conservatory of Dead Languages (“In building his Conservatory of Dead Languages, Helguera has created a kind of symbolic museum of dying languages by recording them on wax cylinders, using the method invented by Thomas Edison in 1877”). Thanks, Trevor!


  1. ” Helguera’s incised wax cylinders, exhibited in vitrines or on shelves behind glass, function as markers of loss as well as of memory, and they point to the fragility of both the work’s subject and material. “The wax cylinders, which are on their way to extinction,” writes Helguera, “are time capsules containing endangered voices.” Visually, the cylinders’ minimalist and homogenous form, which disguises the uniqueness of their content, suggest a critique of processes of linguistic and cultural homogenization.”

    Modern digital recordings are too banal, even though they would serve the project much better.

    Pseud’s Corner lives …

  2. Probably they were made from digital recordings in the first place. I doubt he carried wax cylinders all that way.

  3. Yeah, I’m pretty sure no digital recordings were harmed in the making of these (admittedly pretentious) cylinders.

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