Robert Frost enthusiasts are familiar with the poet’s written work, and perhaps some recordings of his performances, but now they can hear previously unreleased recordings on PennSound, the free, web-based archive offered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing.
The recordings, made in 1933 and 1934, were discovered by Penn Ph.D. student Chris Mustazza while working on his dissertation about the history of the practice of recording poets and the birth of the poetry audio archive.
In 2014, Mustazza learned about the Frost recordings in Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
“It had just been lying dormant in the archives, totally un-digitized, unbeknownst to most people,” says Mustazza, who’s also PennSound’s associate director and the IT director for Social Sciences Computing and Natural Sciences Computing in the School of Arts & Sciences.
The 22 Frost recordings on PennSound include his 1937 Pulitzer Prize Dinner speech and his readings of “The Road Not Taken,” “Birches” and “Mending Wall.”
“As he is speaking the parts of different characters in ‘Mending Wall,’ he’s actually mimicking the dialect of the different characters speaking,” says Mustazza. “You don’t get that from the printed page.”