Record Machine: Auscultation of The Heart by J.B. Barlow and W.A. Pocock

Released in 1966 to assist students in the Medical School Program of Warner-Chilcott Laboratories, Auscultation of The Heart has to be the most unusual record in my collection. With auscultation defined as “the act of listening to sounds arising within organs (as the lungs) as an aid to diagnosis and treatment” by Merriam-Webster, this album is literally the sound of heartbeats paired with medical commentary.

Auscultation of The Heart by J.B. Barlow and W.A. Pocock

I stumbled across this record in a used bin, priced at $6. I loved the cover and the diagrams on the back — complete with notation from its previous owner — and curiosity got the best of me. I was already blowing a bunch of cash on The Jam and Joy Division, so why not see what this sounded like?

By some miracle, one person has bothered to upload the beginning of the record, which saved me the trouble of figuring out how to do it myself.

Apart from a few years of biology and physiology classes, I have no medical background, so it’s not as though I have expert knowledge on heart conditions. Still, the different sounds are interesting and are ripe for a remix. The commentary, provided by Stephen O’Reilly, sounds like every stuffy British narrator whose reel-to-reel science films you slept through in middle school. It’s somewhat hypnotic and meditative.

Plus, it’s given me another great fake band name — Pathological Hearts. Totally calling dibs.

Auscultation of The Heart by J.B. Barlow and W.A. Pocock - FFRR sleeve

Released by London Records, the recording features “full frequency range recording,” a method developed by Decca (London’s parent company) that is supposed to provide more realistic sound — obviously a plus when listening for faint heart arrhythmia. The method was first used to detect different types of German submarines during World War II, and since then, the “ffrr” became the industry standard in what were later referred to as high fidelity records.

Because some of these heartbeat samples come from children, I wonder, how many of these people are still alive today?

Auscultation of The Heart by J.B. Barlow and W.A. Pocock - back cover

If you are curious about how the “track” listing goes, recordings dated between 1913 to 1960, here is how it is listed. Enlarge the above photo for a more detailed view.

Side One

The First Heart Sound
The Second Heart Sound
The Third Heart Sound
The Fourth Heart Sound

Side B

Systolic Clicks
Systolic Murmurs
Opening Snap and Diastolic Murmurs
Continuous Murmurs

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By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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