UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive
Here’s something really cool that I heard about on the radio when I was getting wifey from the train this evening. University of California, Santa Barbara is digitizing old wax cylinders with music recorded onto them. These cylinders could only be played up to a dozen times before they wore out and were unreadable again. The recordings are from around 1877 to 1929. Some are voice – like a message from Thomas Edison. Others are music that was recorded at the time. UCSB is making the digital recordings freely available for streaming and download. They’ve already built a library of around 10,000 recordings and just added 150 more. The recordings are generally between 2-4 mins in duration. They have around 3,000 more left.
- UCSB: Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project
- Engadget: A university is digitizing thousands of wax cylinder records
Here’s the project’s playlist page. There are currently 16 genres grouped together such as Early Hillbilly & Old Time Music, Central European Mix Tape, Tahitian Field Recordings, Squeezebox: The Accordion on Cylinders, American Vaudeville, Early Black Artists and Composers and more.
This is the Wiki page about phonograph cylinders, which is what this technology was called. The common name for them was records – which we think of today as the flat, vinyl discs, which were apparently a competing technology which one out.