Monday, May 22, 2006

Recording waxes online

This morning I found a nice item in the framework of cultural heritage in de European Digital Journalism Digest, which pointed at The Telegraph newspaper as source:

An archive of antique recordings made on wax cylinders has become the latest internet music sensation. The Cylinder Preservation and Digitisation Project at the University of California in Santa Barbara put its collection
of tracks on-line in November, expecting them to be of interest mainly to academics. But the site became extraordinarily popular, with more than a million files downloaded over the past six months.

After Thomas Edison patented the tin-foil phonograph in 1877, cylinder recordings were the dominant musical medium until the 1920s. However, most early recordings have been either lost or hidden away in archives. Those transferred to computer need painstaking work to clean up the sound and repair any damage to the cylinder.

The catalogue, at, now has 6,269 items. It represents an insight into the tastes of public at the time, with vaudeville and ragtime tracks mingling with speeches by politicians such as William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, and celebrities such as the actress Sarah Bernhardt and the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. For those without the time to delve into the archive, its curators have produced an eight-hour 'best-of' radio show, in addition to more specific compilations of vaudeville, ragtime, opera and German comic songs that had been lost to history.


Blog Poster Number: 384

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