Come blow the horn

In 1929, Roger Denman commissioned a loudspeaker to be built. Nothing so amazing in that except that the loudspeaker was to be 27 feet long, 7ft at the big end and just over 1″ at the little end. And it looked a lot like this:


Roger worked at the Science Museum as the Curator of Telecommunications and he had it built in order to establish a benchmark in audio quality. You can just imagine what the visitors back in 1929 felt when he unveiled it. Astonished? Amazed? Whatever they felt could have been nothing compared to how they reacted to the sound.

The photo above is a recreation of the original Exponential Horn and it is on display in the Science Museum until the end of July. I saw (and heard) it at lunchtime today. I have to say, it is pretty amazing. My only complaint would have to be that they should be playing some Pink Floyd through it.

Sadly, the original Exponential Horn was lost in an accident back in 1949. (Maybe a tone deaf neighbour?) Apparently it’s been a dream of John Liffen (the current Curator of Telecommunications) and he’s overjoyed with the new one.

It took eight months to be built in the museum workshops and is made of fibreglass apart from one small section of the original horn which is made of a heavier metal alloy. It looks like it would have been a bit tricky getting the new version in place but I have no idea how they’d have managed to install something that must have been ridiculously heavy, 50 odd years ago.

But the sound. The sound produced through this great mammoth of a loudspeaker, is almost perfect. The classical music playing while I sat and admired, was almost as if a real orchestra was playing somewhere behind a wall. I sat and the music flooded the room, filling me with peace. Exquisite. And nicely ironic when, musically, we’re trying to make speakers as small as possible while aiming for excellent sound.

Needless to say (given what I’ve just said) I didn’t go to the V&A this week but, given I was on the second floor of the Science Museum, I managed to catch a glimpse of the works. And so, for Karen, I include this through a window photo of what’s happening with the new Exhibition Road entrance for the V&A.


There were a few cement mixers outside, waiting this morning so things are moving on a bit now. Not that it looks like it from street level. Those hoardings are very effective. Such a pity they don’t have little peep holes for the public to have a sticky.

Which reminds me…at dinner the other night with Nicktor I was telling him about Dave next door’s extension and I said that we went in for a ‘sticky’. He interrupted me by asking what in heaven’s name that was? I said, what? He said, a sticky what? He’d never heard the expression. Sometimes I’m amazed that Australian slang isn’t more widely used in the English speaking world.

According to an online dictionary I referred to, the full word, ‘stickybeak’ may have started in the 1920’s. However, I have found an instance of it in the Sydney Evening News of 17 October 1914. It occurs in a latter stanza of a poem called ‘The Lust of Blood, Transformation of Mr Lath.

I was just going to add a few stanzas but, it’s such a clever poem, I’ve decided to include it all. It is signed ‘J.N.’ and I have found nothing out about it. It’s possibly political or satirical or…well, judge for yourself. It sounds good if you imagine it read in an Aussie drawl.

The Lust of Blood.
Transformation of Mr Lath

A man of piety was Lath –
A timid, gentle soul:
He walked the straight and narrow path
To a celestial goal.

His garb was sober, even sad,
In keeping with his face,
For from the time he was a lad,
He’d never ‘gone the pace!’

A quiet suburb held the nest,
Of Lath and wife and child.
The three were called the very best
Within that district mild.

To church on Sundays would they go,
And join in prayer and praise.
They deemed all dancing very low,
And shunned the Ragtime craze.

Alack the day the war broke out
The loud alarums rang;
“Arm! Arm!” uprose the loyal shout,
Lath heard it with a pang.

“Oh! Why should men,” He asked in grief,
“Their brothers seek to slay?
I hope it will be very brief –
The Lord their hands will stay.”

With pain the truth must now be told,
A sticky-beak he grew,
Wherever war editions sold,
There Lath would coppers strew.

The cables from the front he’d scan
In feverish, guilty haste,
And gloat, poor wicked sinful man
On tales of towns laid waste.

Atrocities of hideous kind –
On woman, girl or boy,
Were balm to his unsanguined mind,
And brought him fearful joy.

Of blood he talked, of blood he dreamed –
Of thousands done to death:
And waking, oft for blood he screamed
With all his power of breath.

For weeks he revelled in this bath
Of mind-enveloped gore;
The neighbours said “Poor Mister Lath,
How he does feel the war!”

By what it feeds upon, it’s said,
The appetite will grow,
And, presently, when news he read
He voted it, dashed slow!

“There’s nothing in the beastly rags!”
He scorned in bitter flood.
“The battle much too slowly drags,
Why isn’t there more blood!”

“I want Germania’s pride laid low,
And carnage on her coasts.
I want to see the rivers flow
With blood of Teuton hosts.”

“I want -” But ere his tale was told,
There came two coppers, stark.
And in a taxi he was bowled,
Right out to Callan Park.

And there he sits, from morn till eve
And soldiers makes of mud.
His fall from grace we deeply grieve
Peace to the man of blood.

And we all know about Callan Park! Well, if we’re Australian and from Sydney…

I should add, that the word is still currently used even if it’s been shortened to ‘sticky’ by most of us ‘youngsters’.

This entry was posted in Gary's Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Come blow the horn

  1. Mirinda says:

    My dad would call this a proper poem – string rhythm and rhyme

  2. hat says:

    I agree with him we loved it,although I didn’t have much of a Australian drawl. I still say Sticky-beak (as in having a sticky-beak at Mrs next door).
    Love mum and dad xx


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.