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Cover page of Framing the Moment: An Oral History with Santa Cruz Photojournalist Shmuel Thaler

Framing the Moment: An Oral History with Santa Cruz Photojournalist Shmuel Thaler


For over thirty years, Santa Cruz County residents have opened up their copy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel each morning and seen their lives reflected in Shmuel Thaler’s photographs. From triathlons to earthquakes, from clam chowder cook-offs to murder trials, from burning brush to breaching humpback whales—Thaler’s images record the dynamic nature of this unique Central California coastal community that we call home. His photographs fuse a recognizable artistic, graphical aesthetic with a driving documentary impulse. This oral history photobook based on interviews conducted by the Regional History Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz Library captures the trajectory and philosophy of Shmuel Thaler’s photographic career. See the supplemental material link here for the unedited transcript of this oral history.

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Cover page of Congressmember Sam Farr: Five Decades of Public Service

Congressmember Sam Farr: Five Decades of Public Service


Congressmember Sam Farr (born July 4, 1941) represented California’s Central Coast in the United States House of Representatives for twenty-three years until his retirement from office in 2016.  Farr also served six years as a member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and twelve years in the California State Assembly. This oral history, a transcript of twenty-five hours of interviews conducted by Irene Reti, director of the UCSC Library’s Regional History Project, during the period immediately before and after Farr’s retirement from Congress, covers Farr’s political career and much of his personal history.


Sam Farr was born into a family that extends back five generations in California. His father’s grandfather was the brother of Senator William Sharon, who arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. On his mother’s (Janet Haskins) side, Farr also has deep California roots; his mother’s father, Sam Haskins, was a regent for the University of California and a prominent liberal lawyer in Los Angeles. Sam’s father, Fred Farr, was an attorney and served as a California state senator from Carmel from 1955 to 1966. He was the first Democrat in forty-three years elected to represent the Central Coast. Senator Fred Farr was a pioneer in both social justice and environmental protection and well-known on the national political scene.


While Farr was inspired by both of his parents, he had no early aspirations for a career in legislative politics like his father. He was mostly raised in Carmel, California (after the family spent some time on the East Coast and in Puerto Rico) before it became an expensive tourist town. The young Sam Farr discovered a love for the natural environment while roaming through the hills and along the beaches of the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Valley. His mother gave him a love for the outdoors and for gardening. At Carmel High School, he found a mentor in his biology teacher, Enid Larson. His life plan at that time was to study biology in college and return to Carmel to teach high school. Farr struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia during his youth and later became a passionate advocate for people with this then-unrecognized disability. He graduated from Carmel High School in 1959 and journeyed north to earn his BA in biology at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.


After graduation, Farr served in the Peace Corps in Medellín, Colombia in 1964, where he honed community development skills, in an experience that was to be one of the most formative of his life. But it was also while he was in the Peace Corps that Farr’s life was forever altered by two terrible tragedies that afflicted his family. The first was the unexpected death of his mother from cancer; the second was a horrendous horseback riding accident that killed his sister, Nancy, while the family was visiting Sam in Colombia. In this oral history, Farr speaks with candor and remarkable emotional courage about the effect these two events had on his trajectory. This was the point where he had an epiphany and decided to dedicate himself to fighting the war on poverty through a career in public service, a path that eventually led him to a career as a U.S. congressmember.


After a brief stint in law school at Santa Clara University, Farr worked as professional staff in the California Assembly for the next decade. He served under the longtime legislative analyst Alan Post, helping write cost-effectiveness studies of categorical education programs. Later he became staff to the Constitutional Revision Commission. While he was a staffer, in 1972 Farr helped organize a groundbreaking and now legendary coastal bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego, to raise awareness and support for Proposition 20, the Coastal Zone Conservation Act, which resulted in the California Coastal Commission.


Farr was developing valuable experience as a staffer in the California State Legislature, but he yearned to return to Carmel and serve in local politics. That opportunity presented itself in 1975, when there was a sudden vacancy on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors which needed to be filled by an appointment from then-governor Jerry Brown. With humor and love, Sam tells the story of how he ended up (successfully) vying with his father for that appointment. The next year (1976) he ran for official election to secure that office. Farr served as a Monterey County Supervisor, representing District 5 from 1975 to 1980. As a supervisor, he helped accomplished many things, including writing the Master Plan for Big Sur; developing the Carmel Highlands Master Plan; the Pebble Beach Master Plan; and the Master Plan for the Carmel Valley. Farr also chaired the Monterey Bay regional planning body, LAFCO [Local Agency Formation Commission] and spearheaded the creation of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, leading a historic breakthrough in the regionalization of water management in California. During this period, Farr formed a powerful organizational alliance across the bay with Santa Cruz activists, including Santa Cruz County Supervisor Gary Patton, to stop oil drilling on the Central Coast. This alliance later blossomed into the groundbreaking effort to create the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.


In 1980, another chapter began when Farr was elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 27th Assembly District. While in the assembly, Farr authored the 1990 California Organic Standards Act (COFA), which established standards for organic food production and sales in California. This groundbreaking legislation became one of the models for the National Organic Program’s federal organic standards and is one of the reasons why the international organic farming movement considers Sam Farr one of its heroes. While in the assembly, Farr also wrote one of the country’s strictest oil spill liability laws and the California Ocean Resources Management Act (CORMA).


Both the Humane Society and PETA have honored Farr for his lifelong work on behalf of animal rights; while in the assembly he worked on a bill banning certain types of steel-jawed animal traps; a bill increasing state regulations on the transportation of horses to slaughterhouses; and a bill banning the purchase of dogs in California from puppy mills. During Farr’s period in the California State Assembly he also worked on issues such as banning corporal punishment in public schools; requiring the labeling of all agricultural products sold in California by their country of origin; and authorizing the installation of ignition interlock (“Breathalyzer”) devices in automobiles operated by drivers with DUI convictions. In this section of the oral history, Farr also reflects on changes during that period of California electoral politics and shares his firsthand impressions of Governors Jerry Brown, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson, as well as Speaker of the House Willie Brown.


An unexpected opportunity arose in 1993 when Congressmember Leon Panetta, who was representing Farr’s district in the U.S. House of Representatives, was tapped by the incoming Clinton administration to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. After days of deliberation, Farr decided to run in the special election. As state assemblymember, Farr was already deeply involved in the Fort Ord Resuse Authority (FORA), which had been targeted for closure by the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission in 1991. Part of Farr’s motivation for running for Congress was that he believed that as a U.S. congressmember he would be better able to help secure a university on the site of Fort Ord. Farr would indeed be successful in this endeavor; in 1994 California State University, Monterey Bay opened on the site, an institution that is near and dear to him today.  He had other visions for Fort Ord as well, some of which were realized and some of which were not, and discusses Fort Ord extensively in this narrative.


This oral history provides a colorful, up-close, and sometimes painful view of the myriad of complex issues Congress engaged with during the twelve terms Farr served, including (but certainly not restricted to) the North American Free Trade Agreement, gay marriage, the terrorist acts of 9/11; the war in Iraq, the passage of Obamacare, immigration rights, organic farming standards, the U.S. relationship with Cuba, ongoing controversies over gun control, and ocean and land conservation.


One of Farr’s most lasting legacies will be his leadership in the area of ocean conservation. He authored many bills on behalf of ocean health, including the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (“OCEANS 21”) which recommended having a national policy on the oceans similar to the national policies set forth in the Clean Air Act. He shares his fond recollections of the groundbreaking White House Conference on the Oceans which took place in Monterey, California on the steps of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Farr authored the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act, to establish a program of research and other activities to aid the recovery of the southern sea otter. Through his sponsorship of the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012, Farr created a NOAA program that uses innovative solutions to protect marine ecosystems and coastal communities from the hazards of marine debris. He introduced the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2015, to establish an Ocean Acidification Advisory Board of diverse experts to analyze and help guide policy on this important ocean issue. Farr was also a founding member and chair of the House Oceans Caucus. Both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center have honored Farr’s lifelong contributions to ocean conservation.


On shore, Farr leaves quite an extensive legacy of parks he helped establish on the Central Coast, including Pinnacles National Park, created from the former Pinnacles National Monument by legislation introduced by Farr into Congress in 2012, and signed into law by President Barack Obama in January of 2013. Someone once asked Farr what he wanted to be remembered for and he replied, “I guess, if you look at all the parks I created as a supervisor, parks I created as a state legislator, and parks I created, including a national park, as a congressman—I’m the parks guy. The John Muir of the Central Coast.”


  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of John C. Daly: A Life of Public Service in a Changing Santa Cruz, 1953-2013

John C. Daly: A Life of Public Service in a Changing Santa Cruz, 1953-2013


John C. Daly is a sixty-one year citizen of Santa Cruz, and as a doctor, a family man and a former mayor he has had a central vantage point on the process of evolution and change Santa Cruz has gone through. This oral history hinges on his perspective on and involvement in the development of Santa Cruz from the small, tight-knit city he moved to in ’53 to the college town it is today, where there is a city population of ca. sixty thousand and a student population that exceeds seventeen thousand. However, the scope of the sessions  go beyond his public involvement in Santa Cruz to give a broader context of his life, including his childhood, his family, and his service in World War II.

Early in his career he took an opportunity to buy an existing practice in Santa Cruz, a quiet town centered on summer beach tourism. It essentially shut down for the rest of the year, leaving rents low and the businesses small. Variety came with its popularity as a convention locale, and the Miss California Pageant at the start of the summer. Daly relates the slow progress his business had in this context, which gave him time to get involved with public service organizations like the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Salvation Army. A few years later, at the urging of local businessmen, he ran for the city council. A newspaper advertisement for his campaign advertised his priorities as establishing a “wider tax base,” supporting “residents with fixed incomes,” working on “governmental agency cooperation,” an “improved storm drain system,” and “municipal wharf modernization.” He was elected and served one term as a councilman from ’59 to ’63, including a stint as mayor from ’61-’62.

           During those four years Daly helped support and initiate a series of key growth projects. In the late fifties and early sixties, Santa Cruz acquired the Sky Park Airport, constructed the yacht harbor, built the Loch Lomond Reservoir, oversaw downtown redevelopment, worked with a developer on a major international complex, and competed with San Jose for a University of California campus. The goal of all of this, Daly relates, was to make Santa Cruz into a “very desirable upper-middle class community with a great university,” characterized by a thriving business and convention culture. The international complex, for instance, was designed by the lead disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright and featured a glass pyramid hotel, a series of ‘courts’ showcasing the goods and products of foreign countries, and a concert hall that would show primarily non-domestic acts, speakers and films. The plans were put on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The developer estimated it would grow to have two million visitors a year. Just up the hill, the proposed UC campus was to grow to twenty seven thousand, five hundred students by 1990. Daly thought it was perfect. The town was busy in the summer, when many students were away, and then during the off-seasons there would be a robust student presence to fill the town and fuel business.

While the Court never came into being due to funding issues, during John’s tenure as mayor the UC Regents unexpectedly settled on Santa Cruz as the site for their new campus. It was the culmination of protracted outreach efforts by the city, spearheaded by public officials like Daly. He was thrilled, expecting a wave of well-funded young people in sun tan pants and plaid skirts and bobby socks, like he and his fellow students dressed during his time at Berkeley. However, in the long run the university proved to not conform to these expectations. In these interviews he relates how the students increasingly became politically radicalized in the late sixties and seventies, and began to dress more casually and messily. To compound this trend, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age to eighteen in ’71, and Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that made it easier for students to register to vote in their adopted college communities.

The political landscape of the town gradually shifted under these factors. The professional, business culture dominant in the city in the fifties and early sixties was challenged by what Daly terms “no-growthers:” people who were (and are) consistently opposed to development on personal, environmental and political grounds. During Daly’s time on the council issues like building the Loch Lomond Reservoir were matter of course, and did not face significant opposition. During the seventies, however an attempt to build another dam, the Zayante Dam, was killed. A second effort to build a convention center at Lighthouse Point, where the Court of the Seven Seas was to have stood, was defeated by popular vote and a major public campaign. Since the sixties and seventies there have been almost no new hotels, and convention business has become marginal. In the eighties the Miss California Pageant relocated after years of protest, and the city council has become the site of increased political conflict. Today Daly feels that the town has been held back in significant and damaging ways by this shift towards a “no-growth” attitude.

On personal and professional notes, Daly reflects at length about other challenges he and the city have faced, including the Flood of ’55 and the Quake of ’89. He discusses the damage, and how the town recovered from those two disasters. More intimately, he reflects on how Santa Cruz has been as a place to raise a family, and for his practice. He discusses the pros and cons of having the UC, including the prestige it has brought the town, and closes with a retrospective and prospective on his own life. He talks about what has been meaningful to him, and returns to dwell on the transformative power education has had for him and his family.

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Cover page of Neal Coonerty and Bookshop Santa Cruz: Forty-Six Years of Independent Bookselling

Neal Coonerty and Bookshop Santa Cruz: Forty-Six Years of Independent Bookselling


In this oral history interview, Neal Coonerty, Bookshop Santa Cruz’s owner, tells a tale of creativity, resilience, humor, and persistence, a tale of how one independent bookstore has survived competition from superstores, online booksellers, e-books, a devastating natural disaster, and personal tragedy, to thrive as a nationally recognized and vibrant community business and institution.

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Cover page of Ocean Odysseys: Jack O'Neill, Dan Haifley, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Ocean Odysseys: Jack O'Neill, Dan Haifley, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary


Each year schoolchildren experience a unique adventure with O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a free, hands-on oceanography and ecology program offered aboard a sixty-five foot catamaran sailing the Monterey Bay. How did a decades-long battle against offshore oil drilling in California lead to this living classroom in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary? This oral history volume tells an inspring story of environmental heroism and imagination through two interconnected oral histories conducted by the UC Santa Cruz Library’s Regional History Project. Iconic wetsuit innovator and surfer Jack O’Neill and his daughter Bridget discuss their thriving program. And Dan Haifley, now the executive director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey, tells the story of how he and a team of environmental activists won a victory against Big Oil and spearheaded the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, protecting one of the world’s most diverse marine ecoystems.

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Cover page of Henry J. Mello: A Life in California Politics

Henry J. Mello: A Life in California Politics


In an article summarizing his career, one newspaper characterized him as the "great graying grizzly bear of California politics," an old-style moderate Democrat whose career was animated by his dedication to his local district and his tireless efforts in behalf of its economic welfare. GOP legislator Bill Campbell once described Mello as "the only Democrat in the Senate with any experience as an entrepreneur," and one of the last of a dying breed of citizen legislators. Mello claims his approach to politics was derived partly from his mother--an openhearted, socially liberal Democrat, and partly from his father--a fiscally conservative Republican.

The volume is divided into four sections, including Mello's early family life; his experiences in local politics as a member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors; his election to the State Assembly; and his tenure as state senator from the 15th District.

He begins the narration with anecdotes about the local Portuguese community in Watsonville, his high school years, and work in his family's apple-farming and cold-storage business. His initial foray into politics began in 1950 when he was a Democratic volunteer during the senate campaign between Richard M. Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas. His local public service career began when he served as a member of the California Agricultural Advisory Board and as a fire commissioner.

His discussion of his early political career covers his tenure on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the issues that faced that body, including the preservation of agricultural land and related environmental issues; the founding of the UC Santa Cruz campus; town-gown relations; and his relationship with UCSC's founding Chancellor Dean E. McHenry.

Mello's progressive agenda has included such issues as land preservation, gay rights, an assault-weapons ban, senior citizens rights, and the environment. His reputation for "bringing home the bacon" to his district has engendered both praise and condemnation; notwithstanding the criticism, he discusses how he paid scrupulous attention to his constituents' needs, never took anything (or any election) for granted, and in a Republican district, never faced a serious election challenge.

Mello served two terms in the State Assembly, where he began his long involvement in senior issues as chairman of the standing Committee on Aging and also became an influential member of the Ways and Means Committee. During his tenure as state senator, Mello had a distinctive legislative record, frequently having more bills signed into law than any other senator. His legislative legacy includes a remarkable record of initiating senior citizen programs. He authored over 120 bills dealing with seniors, including the establishment of the California Senior Legislature; the first programs focusing on Alzheimer's, including respite care, adult day health care, and multipurpose senior service programs; important changes in laws affecting conservatorship and elder abuse; funding for senior meals programs; and nursing-home reform. Seniors throughout the state hold him in high regard for his work in their behalf.

He describes his role in obtaining assistance for his district after the l989 Loma Prieta earthquake, in creating a visionary plan for the conversion of Fort Ord, and his efforts in behalf of UCSC--all of which demonstrate his consensus-building skills and his great imagination in crafting bills. During his tenure, Mello carried 727 bills and resolutions, 456 of which the governor signed; many of the others were integrated into other bills.

The volume also includes Mello's thoughts on the legislative process; the role of lobbyists; the use of media in campaigns; the culture of the State Senate; and his reflections on the governors with whom he worked, from Edmund G. Brown to Pete Wilson. Mello also discusses his relationship with United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, Chavez's historical legacy, and his own views on relations between growers and migrant farmworkers.

Cover page of Ernest T. Kretschmer: Reflections on Santa Cruz Musical Life, Volume II

Ernest T. Kretschmer: Reflections on Santa Cruz Musical Life, Volume II


his volume was the Project's second publication on Kretschmer, a notable presence in Santa Cruz musical life for more than 30 years. In this volume, Kretschmer reflected on the significant local cultural developments of the last decade and his role in those events. He described the coming-of-age of the Santa Cruz County Symphony under maestro Larry Granger, the need of the symphony and other musical organizations for a performing arts concert hall in north county, and recent efforts to establish such a facility.

Kretschmer also discussed the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts, the premiere cultural venue in south Santa Cruz County, which Kretschmer was instrumental in founding.

Kretschmer discusses the world-renowned Cabrillo Music Festival, which he participated in since its inception. He recalls the festival's acclaimed 1999 production of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," and the innovative tenure of the festival's Music Director/Conductor, Marin Alsop. He also gave a lively history of Santa Cruz's New Music Works, directed by Phil Collins, which has highlighted the work of local composers, including Lou Harrison.

Kretschmer's philanthropy over the years included the donation of concert grand pianos to local venues, the establishment of music scholarships for UCSC students, the support of UCSC's resident student ensemble program, and, most recently, the establishment of a permanent endowment to enrich musical archives in the University Library's Special Collections.

Krestchmer's memoir demonstrated the importance of dedicated volunteers in local cultural organizations and how their contributions have created in our small community unusually diverse and thriving performing arts and musical organizations.

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Cover page of Ciel Benedetto: A History of the Santa Cruz Women's Health Center

Ciel Benedetto: A History of the Santa Cruz Women's Health Center


Santa Cruz Women's Health Center (SCWHC) director Benedetto traced the evolution of this unique community institution, celebrating its 25th anniversary at the time of this interview in the year 2000. Founded in 1974 as a pioneering, feminist health collective, SCWHC is now a thriving health organization operating in today's complex managed care environment. Benedetto guided the center through this transition, maintaining its feminist perspective while overseeing an annual budget of more than $1 million.

SCWHC is one of the country's few remaining women's health centers, providing more than 8,000 patient visits annually in general medicine, gynecology, prenatal care, family planning, and pediatrics. The agency also offered information and referral services, low-cost acupuncture, free mental health and nutritional counseling, and health and HIV education.

Benedetto began her commentary with a discussion of the agency's socialist-feminist political origins as a collective and its commitment to consensus decision making. This phase eventually gave way to a more traditional organizational structure as the agency matured.

Benedetto detailed the agency's myriad activities, including its highly developed volunteer training program, which produced a remarkable number of alumni over the years who became agents of change as physicians, health care providers, and women's rights advocates.

Among the other activities of the center were the production of its internationally distributed newsletter and health education materials; the provision of new contraceptive methods such as the cervical cap; and its participation in breast cancer research studies. SCWHC maintained its commitment to diversity in its staff and patient population over the years and a singular reputation among international health agencies for women and children.

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Cover page of Ernest T. Kretschmer: Reflections on Santa Cruz Musical Life, Volume I

Ernest T. Kretschmer: Reflections on Santa Cruz Musical Life, Volume I


Volume I supplements the personal archive donated by Kretschmer to the University Library. It documented his remarkable contributions to the cultural life of Santa Cruz since he settled here in 1962. His thirty years as a board member of the Cabrillo Music Festival and his long-standing association with the Santa Cruz Symphony gave him a unique perspective on the evolution of these two cultural institutions. As a connoisseur of great music and an engaged generous patron, Kretschmer contributed imagination, energy, and financial support in his unstinting devotion to Santa Cruz musical life.

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Cover page of George Barati:  A Life in Music

George Barati: A Life in Music


George Barati was a distinguished cellist, conductor, and composer. Born in Gyor, Hungary, Barati lived in the United States from 1938 until his death in 1996. His recollections include highlights of his international career as cellist, conductor, and composer spanning some 60 years, and reflections on the state of the musical arts in the United States since the end of World War II.

Barati graduated from the Franz Liszt Conservatory of Music in Budapest in 1935. During the 1930s he was a member of the Budapest Concert Orchestra, where he played under the most celebrated conductors of his era. He was a founding member of the Pro Ideale Quartet and studied or performed with Bartok, Dohnanyi, and other eminent faculty members at the Liszt Conservatory. While still a student he became first cellist with the Budapest Symphony and the Municipal Opera. Barati settled in the United States in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938. There he taught cello at Princeton University and studied composition with Roger Sessions from 1938 to 1943.

In 1946 Barati moved to San Francisco, where he was a member of the San Francisco Symphony during the tenure of Pierre Monteux. He was also a member of the California String Quartet and founding conductor of the Barati Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco from 1948 to 1952. Barati also began to achieve recognition for his own compositions at this time.

From 1950 to 1968 Barati was music director of the Honolulu Symphony and Opera. During this period he also began an extensive international conducting career that included guest and visiting conducting appearances with some 85 orchestras on five continents, including Japan, Europe, and Latin America.

In 1968 Barati returned to the mainland and became executive director of the Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts and conductor of the Villa Montalvo Chamber Orchestra in Saratoga, California. From 1971 to 1980 he was music director of the Santa Cruz County Symphony.

In addition to his conducting career, he was a juror for the Mitropoulos Competition for Conductors from 1957 to 1970, and participated as a juror for both the Metropolitan and San Francisco Opera Competitions. His honors and awards include the doctor of music, Honoris Causa, from the University of Hawaii in 1955, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1965-66, the Ditson Award in 1962, and the Naumberg Award for Composition in 1959.

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  • 20 supplemental audio files