This is the perfect product for a sound byte nation, of which I am a happy citizen. Rhino Records, which never ceases to amaze, has put together a 3 CD collection of the 20th Centuries greatest moments complete with a 101 page read along mini book in a letter size, spiral bound in a nifty notebook with the CDs. The great thing about this is that while you may come for the sound bytes, you will stay to hear the whole speech it came from.
Case in point, we’ve all heard the Martin Luther King byte about the mountain, but who has heard the whole speech. Hardly anybody, Discovery Channel alumni exempt. Part of the reason is that there is no place convenient to get the speech and listen to it. The same goes for Thomas Edison’s announcement of the beginning of the age of electricity, Woodrow Wilson’s speech for a living wage, broadcasts of Hanoi Hanna, or John Lennon’s speech upon receiving US citizenship. Well now all you have to do to get this and more is mosey on down to your local CD shop and get a copy of GREAT MOMENTS for yourself.
The CDs are broken up into three blocks: 1901-1953, The New Century, The World Wars & Fragile Peace; 1953-1969, The Atomic Era, The Cold War & The ’60’s; and 1970-1999, Equal Rights, Watergate & Glasnost. While looking through the read along, which is full of Time Life quality pictures from each, and listening, I was struck by several things. First of all, a whole lot of living has been done over the last hundred years. Secondly, speech giving has become a lost art. And finally, news coverage has taken a definite downturn. While I don’t argue that sound is better than print, I must say that a set like this listened to serially, will educate the listener about the changes over the last hundred years in culture and politics better than the longest book by James Mitchner.
The TV generation, myself included, is hard pressed to keep up with all the information that has come about in the past century and it’s only going to get harder. This collection is not only informative, but it is, at turns, heart wrenching and humorous. The announcement that America has dropped a bomb on Hiroshima is enough to take your breath away, especially since we’re living in the generation of the bomb. Before World War II there was no force that could destroy the entire world to be dealt with by the people. Likewise, the announcement of the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building is riveting. The most damaging terrorist attack on American soil made all the more interesting because the announcer didn’t know that it had been committed by an American. Then there is the comedy, which in its own way is sad. President Clinton’s denial of his “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky is a good example of this.
While a great writer can produce images in our heads, the images are still our own to manipulate. The voices of those living inside of an event, without benefit of hindsight, are raw and real and it’s easy to become caught up in their emotions which in turn helps us understand the times better than the written word. The saying goes that if you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it. Every time Oliver Stone makes a film, history becomes a little more muddled with fiction. Here are the voices of the generations past speaking about their tragedies, triumphs and daily lives. Listen.