RECORDINGS OF LIFE
JOHN PATRICK CLEARY
Ever since I was a boy, I have loved to tape things on a tape recorder. Since 1970 or so I have been recording people’s voices. Unbeknownst to them, I would record conversations with siblings, children, people at family gatherings, strangers and friends and also natural sounds such as thunderstorms, insects (crickets) and birds.
Years later, I have sent recordings I have saved to people, and many have been astonished to hear how they sounded then. Part of my rationale for sending old recordings to people (of themselves) is to “perform” how we understand our memories in time and our relationship/interpretation of it. When one is reminded of themselves in time (by listening to a recording of their voices), I think it may problematize how they once thought of themselves in relationship to their present life.
Recently, I have sent recordings of my father, who died in 2001, to my family. I also had the opportunity to record my brother’s father-in-law in Alaska (I have sent the recording to my brother). This person has lived in Alaska since the 1950s, and I thought it intriguing to record him in order to capture his personality and the manner in which his storytelling tells us something about his values and perspectives.