Great Lives – Ludwig Koch | BBC Radio 4 29th August 2023

Musician and sound recordist Chris Watson nominates his hero, the broadcaster, ornithologist and first person ever to record birdsong, Ludwig Koch

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The award-winning Sound Recordist and Musician, Chris Watson nominates his hero, Ludwig Koch. In 1889, German-born Koch was the first person ever to record birdsong (at the age of 8) onto a wax cylinder recorder, given to him by his father as a toy. Despite a promising baritone voice and being a very good violinist, the first world war put paid to Ludwig Koch’s career as a musician and he began working for the German branch of EMI recording cityscapes, before going on to invent the ‘sound book’, a nascent sort of multimedia that became very popular in Germany before the second world war. As a Jew and an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, Koch fled Germany in 1936 for England, sadly leaving his many recordings behind. But his theatrical delivery, unique voice and the fact that, as Chris Watson notes, “He was not shy about his achievements”, soon made him a household name in broadcasting here in the UK. Chris Watson is joined by emeritus professor Sean Street. Together and with the aid of archive, they marvel over the great lengths Koch went to capture his ‘performers’.

Produced in Bristol by Ellie Richold