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Guide to the Richard Finnie Collection ARS.0117
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Source
  • Sponsor
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Related Materials
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Richard Finnie Collection
    Dates: 1951-1980
    Collection number: ARS.0117
    Collection size: 8 boxes : 315 open reel tapes (64 3-5" reels ; 251 7" reels) ; 2 small boxes of slides
    Repository: Archive of Recorded Sound
    Abstract: Open reel tapes recorded by Richard Finnie, including Bechtel Corporation film soundtrack material featuring traditional music and sound effects from Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, and broadcasts and live performances of classical music, jazz, folk, and other types of music.
    Language of Material: Multiple languages


    Open for research; material must be requested at least two business days in advance of intended use. Contact the Archive for assistance.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with repository. Publication and reproduction rights reside with the creators or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Head Librarian of the Archive of Recorded Sound.

    Preferred Citation

    Richard Finnie Collection, ARS-0117. Courtesy of the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    The Richard Finnie Collection was donated to the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound by Anne Ackerman Finnie in 1987.


    This finding aid was produced with generous financial support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Scope and Contents

    The Richard Finnie Collection consists of a variety of open reel tape recordings made by documentary filmmaker, photographer, ethnographer and historian Richard Sterling Finnie (1906-1987), largely in the 1950s and 60s. Finnie worked for the international engineering company Bechtel Corporation for twenty-five years, and as a producer for their industrial film division he recorded music from around the world, as well as sounds related to Bechtel's oil pipeline and refinery projects. This material was used in soundtracks for Bechtel films such as Oil Across Sumatra, Petrole de Zarzaitine, Exploring Libya, and Bechtel in Europe.
    Finnie, who had extensive prior experience documenting his travels in Northern Canada, made on-location recordings of traditional music from such countries as Korea, Libya, Tunisia, Sumatra, South Africa, Lebanon, Cambodia and Venezuela, utilizing the talents of local musicians and songwriters. Rights contracts are enclosed with a few tapes; in fact Libyan composer Mohammed Murshan was hired to write a special Petroleum Song for Bechtel. Additionally, environmental sounds, such as street noise, a call to prayer, "mule cart sounds," "crowd noises at Tripoli race track," and an "overloaded radio," were recorded for sound effects and beds. Some of these field tapes also include Bechtel business matters (i.e. meetings, phone calls, and speech rehearsals).
    In addition to his work with Bechtel (which ended with his retirement in 1968), Finnie captured copious amounts of radio broadcasts on tape, particularly from Pacifica station KPFA, but also from programs on KDFC, KCBS, KEAR, and KKHI. These include Phil Elwood's jazz shows, New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony performances, rebroadcasts from classical music festivals such as Salzburg, Warsaw, Carmel Bach, Edinburgh, and Vienna, and a multitude of other programs. Finnie's radio tapes are a testament to the richness of Northern California radio offered during that time.
    Finnie, who lived in Belvedere, California, was also a jazz fan, and the collection contains some remarkable artifacts, such as original Earl Hines and Muggsy Spanier Club Hangover recordings (recorded off-air with Robert L. Ingram), informal jam sessions with local traditional jazz musicians, Turk Murphy at Grace Cathedral (from a KMPX broadcast hosted by Phil Elwood), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Marin Junior College in 1975, and the audio portion of a Coleman Hawkins memorial television program from 1969.
    The vast majority of recordings were made by Finnie himself, although there is not always attribution present. There are a few copies of commercially-released recordings, some of which were shellac discs borrowed from the Indonesian consulate. Most tapes contain inserted material such as notes, photographs, newspaper clippings, review logs, Bechtel contracts, and correspondence.


    Tapes have been organized in the following general series: 1. Bechtel-related recordings (non-ethnic) ; 2. classical music broadcasts ; 3. ethnic/field recordings and broadcasts (many of which were for Bechtel) ; 4. jazz recordings and broadcasts ; 5. miscellaneous. Please note that many tapes contain multiple recordings and are grouped alphabetically according to the first words of the first recording listed on the tape box. Some tapes are edited transfers of other tapes in the collection, and may be listed elsewhere.

    Related Materials

    The Archive of Recorded Sound separately houses approximately sixty instantaneous discs recorded by Finnie, some of which are the original sources for tapes in this collection. Stanford University Special Collections holds the Richard Sterling Finnie Papers, 1945-1967 (M0694), which is focused primarily on Bechtel and also contains a variety of audiovisual media. The National Archives of Canada holds the Richard Sterling Finnie Fonds, 1890-1987.

    Indexing Terms

    Finnie, Richard Sterling
    Bechtel Corporation.