Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cylinder Recordings

Want to hear something to cool for school?

The University of California, Santa Barbara(UCSB) has undertaken the task of converting 100 year old cylinder recordings to a digital format. They have something in the neighborhood of 7200 cylinder recordings and having been working to transfer them from analog to digital since 2002.

Back then music and voice were recorded on everthing from wax to tinfoil. Thomas Edison and his contemporaries spent years designing newer and better recording mediums. Here's what UCSB has to say about the history of cylinder recordings:

"From the first recordings made on tinfoil in 1877 to the last produced on celluloid in 1929, cylinders spanned a half-century of technological development in sound recording. As documents of American cultural history and musical style, cylinders serve as an audible witness to the sounds and songs through which typical audiences first encountered the recorded human voice. And for those living at the turn of the 20th century, the most likely source of recorded sound on cylinders would have been Thomas Alva Edison's crowning achievement, the phonograph. Edison wasn't the only one in the sound recording business in the first decades of the 20th century; several companies with a great number of recording artists, in addition to the purveyors of the burgeoning disc format, all competed in the nascent musical marketplace. Still, more than any other figure of his time, Edison and the phonograph became synonymous with the cylinder medium."

Here's a small sample of this great collection.

Want to hear Teddy Roosevelt give a speech? Click on Spanish-American War. There are some really funny songs about prohibition that you shouldn't miss. UCSB has made it possible to listen to history.

I really tried to embed some of these but for some reason I just couldn't get it to work. So you'll have to go to the site to listen to them. It is well worth your time.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.



  1. Oooo, I'm loving how these sound! I'm going to be listening all morning. I'm on Prohibition right now. Cool! Thank you!

  2. They were talking about this on the radio this morning. They were playing naughty songs from the early 1900's. I almost drove off the road I was laughing so hard.

  3. Oh, Michele - this is SO cool! Coming to your blog is always such an education!

  4. How cool is that?! I'm gonna make sure my father listens to this. He loves this kind of thing!

  5. I wonder if they have a recording of wax being rubbed on tin foil?! That would be exciting.

  6. I am Impressed! This is really neat! Thank you so very much for sharing with all of us!


  7. Wow, those are really cool! You have a knack for finding the coolest stuff, how do you do it?

  8. I'm there.

    My neice is applying to graduate programs in library sciences..

  9. Very cool.

    It's great that they are putting the history in a more accessible format.

  10. OMG, they even have a recording of a guy WHISTLING La Boheme. Tew kewl!