10,000 Cylinder Recordings From 1800s On Archived Online

See what the kids were listening to way back      18/03/18

10,000 Cylinder Recordings From 1800s On Archived Online


The wax cylinder is the earliest form of mass produced recording mediums, one of Edison's inventions from the 1870's which greatly affected the consumption and distribution of music. Previously it was primarily sheet music and live performance that enabled people to hear the latest popular hits.

Many recordings were made  - "waxing a hottie", a phrase which I'm personally fond of grew out of the recording process for wax cylinder recording. BTW, we don't recommend searching for that term - there's a lot of ulterior meanings for that!

USCB (University of Santa Barbara) have been working on a pretty astonishing archive of wax cylinder recordings, dating back to the 1890s, there are over 10,000 files. You can search and listen to any of them. They range from crackly homespun roots, to full orchestral crackly recordings, with plenty in between.

Its a fascinating insight into popular musical culture, though we couldn't find any early electronic musical instrument recordings - been hoping to hear a Telharmonium for some time.

Also if you want to get involved, some cylinders have not yet been digitized, and so with a donation you can adopt a cylinder to help it get into the archive  - it costs $60 to get a cylinder digitized.

So how about this from 1899 (119 years ago) of Professor Henry J Meyer playing Sylvia Ballad on his $10k Zither - that's some mighty expensive hardware. Current value being around $286,545.68, in case you wondered.

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