Making a recording self-explanatory

I’ve been finalizing an Audio CD of a 1980-era recording that my Mom gave to me. (For her birthday). I’m making copies for her and for a brothers and a coupla cousins that will be at a family gathering. The “think long term” mindset has dug in and changed the way I mark CDs and my other “metadata” (data about the data) that I’m including with the CD. The recording came to me with some gaps in info, a generation and family branch removed, so I’m learning by doing and trying to create as dense a nugget of info to pass on to others with the CD as I can.

I was amused by a little in-situ metadata that was part of the recording itself, identifying who the main speakers are. The original recording was made by my grandfather’s cousin, Bud or George (I hafta ask my Mom again. I wasn’t there, I don’t know. Have never met either.) It opens with my grandpa telling a story. At the end, the narrator’s voice comes on and says, “That was Bruce B[ family name].” My great uncle, his brother, also told a story. The narrator identified him, too. It’s obvious he made this recording for his side of the family, and identified the speakers on the other side—that would be my side. I, of course recognize the voices that he identified, and am frustrated by not knowing the identities of the other speakers, who were, of course, obviously known to the maker of the tape.

I edited the audio in Audacity, using the labels (markers around a specific region of audio) to divide the recording into tracks. Each track for a topic or subject matter. I tried to name them meaningfully. (and I numbered the labels at the outset by number) Audacity has a feature to export multiple audio files. You can by labels and title the files by the label name. Or give the labels consecutive numbers. I put numbers at the beginning of label name, such as “01 The story of the 7 sons” and “02 Granddad parsimony, fish, butter”. The number helps to keep the multiple recordings in order, and the phrase helps identify what the track is about. Then I exported the recording to WAV files, using the label names.


I opened iTunes, created a new playlist for Fox Family Reunion. Then I imported the tracks into iTunes (this is worthy of an entire article just for how to set preferences to create audio CDs: I set iTunes preferences to import as WAV file—not compressed) into that playlist, and then burned an audio CD—no gaps between tracks). MacOS allows you to create some CD jewelbox label art, so I took a scanned photo—taken in about 1902—and after tweaking in Photoshop and identifying who’s who in the photo, I made a side column explaining what the CD is about. Basic what where when who and how. That went on one side, songlist on the back flap. I printed the back side of the pages with a longer song list that’d supply all 42 track names. So that’s my printed metadata.

How’d I mark the disks themselves? I burned Audio CDs on MAM-A gold CDs. I thought about what essential info would need to be on this disk in case it got separted from the case and insert.

  • May 1980
  • Fox Family Reunion
  • Audio CD
  • This CD Created 15 July 2007
  • Stories and songs by the grandchildren of James Fox on the morning after his son Frank’s 100th Bday party

Oh, and I didn’t use Sharpie pens. I used a Staedtler Lumocolor pen made for CD and DVDs. So if someone comes across this disk years from now, they know how old the media is (2007), and that it’s an Audio CD (not data CD), What it is, and a description.

There’s more I could do—create a larger CD insert that includes more pictures (but I gotta get my hands on pictures of the other side of family) and a family tree of how these people are all related (but I gotta find out the names of the siblings of George and Bud) so that children of the next generation can figure out how they’re related to the people in the picture and how they’re related to each other. Oh, and I’d like to include more explanation of the process I used, and how the disk is marked and stuff. But The Perfect is the Enemy of Done and that’d mean desktop publishign a whole insert rather than using iTunes print album art (iTunes allows me one image). Still, though, I’m happy. I’ve put in more info than I knew at the outset of receiving this tape, and the image is quite elegant (photo to come eventually)

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 18, 2007 in • AfterwardsAudioAudio: SoftwareDo it: YourselfLongevity
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