Monday, April 5, 2021

Ludwig Paul Koch

Ludwig Paul Koch MBE (1881, Frankfurt am Main –1974, Harrow, London) was a broadcaster and sound recordist.

An expert on recording animal sounds, he played a significant part in increasing the British public's appreciation of wildlife.

Koch was born into a music-loving Jewish family as Paul Ludwig , and as a boy violinist, he was admitted to Clara Schumann's music circle. Later, he studied singing, and had a short but successful career as a concert singer. This was ended by the outbreak of World War I.

As a child, he had been given an early phonograph and had recorded several animals, including the first-known recording of bird song, made in 1889.

Because he spoke fluent French, he joined military intelligence. After the Armistice in 1918, he became chief delegate for repatriation for the French-occupied zone of Germany. In 1928, he was commissioned by the German subsidiary of Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) to start a cultural branch of the gramophone industry; this coincided with a revival of his childhood interest in animals. 

From 1929, he began recording of animal sounds again using up-to-date equipment. He invented the sound-book: attaching gramophone records to an illustrated book. Nowadays we call this multimedia.

In 1936 Koch fled to Great Britain. Early in World War II, Koch was introduced to the BBC, and his distinctive voice accompanying his sound recordings soon became familiar to listeners. He never lost his strong German accent. His work was parodied by Peter Sellers.

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