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Phil Nohl: What Are You Listening To?

Phil Nohl with some albums from his collection.
Phil Nohl with some albums from his collection.

Each month, All Things Considered asks listeners to share the music they listen to. Sometimes we find out about the latest indie rock album. On other occasions, it's a classical symphony. This week, we talk to Phil Nohl from Sheboygan, Wisconsin about his unusual collection of homemade recordings from the 1940s.

Nohl owns about 2,000 albums of music and spoken word recorded by various strangers. A popular device called the recordio, which first appeared in the 1940s, allowed people to record themselves in their own homes singing, playing instruments, performing skits, or simply talking. The albums they created now offer a tiny glimpse into past lives and American culture.

Nohl's collection is expansive and encompasses songs, drunken celebrations, and even arguments. Most of them have little or no information about who made them or why. "These recordings are like pages of a history book," Nohl says. "The more pages you have, the more opportunity you have to string the story together."

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