Three minutes with the minstrels / Arthur Collins, S. H. Dudley
& Ancient City. Edison Record. 1899.
Long before vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and MP3s came along,
people first experienced audio recordings through another medium -
through cylinders made of tin foil, wax and plastic. In recent years,
we';ve featured cylinder recordings from the 19th century that
allow you to hear the voices of Leo Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Walt
Whitman, Otto von Bismarck and other historic figures. Those recordings
were originally recorded and played on a cylinder phonograph invented
by Thomas Edison in 1877. But those were obviously just a handful of
the cylinder recordings produced at the beginning of the recorded sound
Thanks to the University of California-Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio
Archive, you can now download or stream a digital collection of more
than 10,000 cylinder recordings. "This searchable database," says UCSB,
"features all types of recordings made from the late 1800s to early
1900s, including popular songs, vaudeville acts, classical and operatic
music, comedic monologues, ethnic and foreign recordings, speeches and
readings." You can also find in the archive a number of "personal
recordings," or "home wax recordings," made by everyday people at home
(as opposed to by record companies).
If you go to this page, the recordings are neatly categorized by genre,
instrument, subject/theme and ethnicity/nation of origin. You can
listen, for example, to recordings of Jazz, Hawaiian Music, Operas,
and Fiddle Tunes. Or hear recordings featuring
the Mandolin, Guitar, Bagpipes and Banjo. Plus there are
thematically-arranged playlists here.
Hosted by University of California-Santa Barbara, the archive is
supported by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services,
the Grammy Foundation, and other donors.
Above, hear a recording called "Three minutes with the minstrels," by
Arthur Collins, released in 1899. Below that is "Alexander';s ragtime
band medley," featuring the banjo playing of Fred Van Eps, released in
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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.
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--- No one is perfect, but some of us are closer than others.