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The first ever field recording.
June 26, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Nearly 122 years ago, The first field recording was made. In the Crystal Palace, London, 4000 voices were recorded singing Handel's Israel In Egypt.

Direct links to the recordings:

cylinder 1

cylinder 2

cylinder 3
posted by idiopath (44 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
With these I can hone my old timey accents.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:24 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


What's your order?
Can I supersize that?
Please bring your car around.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:40 PM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Boy, did Handel get it wrong, amirite?
posted by nevercalm at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2010


(hello mefi world! long-time reader, first-time commenter...)

It's a shame people tend to only know Messiah - Israel in Egypt has some of the best music Handel ever wrote for an oratorio...these choruses are all worth a listen on a modern recording - it's also easier to hear the music in the cylinders if you've heard it once without the obfuscation of the scratching.

Mr. Goddard goes into great detail on the site, but in brief the choruses covered in the cylinders are: Moses and the Children of Israel, I will sing unto the Lord, Thy right hand O Lord, and Sing ye to the Lord.

Great find!
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Remember: Wax cylinders are incredibly fragile.
posted by griphus at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Not another I/P thread!

sorry
posted by WPW at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those recordings are just about halfway between Handel and us. Also, they sound like something grabbed from the distant past by the skin of it's teeth - a signal caught at the very edge of audibility on a shortwave band.

Literally, marvellous. Thank you.
posted by Devonian at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Not another I/P thread!

Come on, I'm pretty sure both Handel and any 100+ year old recordings are in the public domain by now. I don't think the RIAA or ASCAP can go after this.
posted by kmz at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


(By it's, I mean its. Carried away, I was)
posted by Devonian at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2010


Also, they sound like something grabbed from the distant past by the skin of it's teeth - a signal caught at the very edge of audibility on a shortwave band.

There's a definite aether-like beauty to analog sound from the far reaches. Like the way you used to tune a car radio between the stations during a long night drive, catching faint wisps from stations far, far, away. These Handel recording put me in the same frame of mind as you...ghostly imprints from far away, fortuitously caught.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Direct links to the recordings:

You're sure these are off-copyright?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:32 PM on June 26, 2010


Please bring your car around.

Ah, double cheeseburger, onion rings, and a large orange drink, please.
posted by zippy at 2:38 PM on June 26, 2010


Not just the first field recording, but -- according to the BBC -- probably the first musical recording of all.
posted by verstegan at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a shame people tend to only know Messiah - Israel in Egypt has some of the best music Handel ever wrote for an oratorio...

You may be a lurker-newb, Mr. Thomas Tallis, but you are so right. Is there anything sweeter than "he led them forth like sheep"? I'm always telling Jewish people they ought to adopt "I in E" for Passover the way that Christians have adopted The Messiah for Christmas and hold performances every year. One prominent Jewish musician shook his head and said, "Handel? No, not him ... not him ... "
posted by Faze at 2:47 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wonderful! My favorite of the early spoken word recordings is Arthur Sullivan's after dinner toast to Edison (1888):

"For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening's experiment -- astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever..."
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:56 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Remember: Wax cylinders are incredibly fragile.

I know I shouldn't, but I totally laughed out loud at that. I like the part where he goes "Oh, ffff....shit!"
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:57 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


We're mere weeks too late to hear the Manhattan Choral Ensemble perform it.
posted by hermitosis at 3:11 PM on June 26, 2010


verstegan: "probably the first musical recording of all."

Nope, 28 years prior, people were recording sound well before it was possible to play it back again.
posted by idiopath at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


The DRM must a been insane.
posted by grubi at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2010


This is just too awesome for words. Every week I play golf with an 88 year old guy who landed in St. Mere Eglise as a member of A Rather Famous Company of the 101st Airborne - and I think that's a link with the past. A couple of years ago we had film posted here from the turn of the 20th Century and I thought that was awesome, but 1888 and now 1860? That's haunting man.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2010


I hear dead people.
posted by kozad at 3:47 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thirding the love for Israel in Egypt.

For one thing, it contains one of the more fun things Handel wrote for alto:
Their land brought forth frogs. Notice how both the accompaniment and the vocal ornamentations have these frog-like hopping dotted rhythms. Also, notice how major-key glee the part about pestilence is. I have never heard the words "blotches and blains" sung with more enjoyment.

Three more choruses describing the Plagues here. Handel had fun with these! The first is the plague of flies, with some lovely "buzzing" effects by the strings and high voices. Then there's a very satisfying hailstorm, and then the last one: "He sent a thick darkness over the land, even darkness which might be felt."

How do you illustrate darkness in music? The choir start off singing together, and gradually the voices each wander off and lose their way. The music loses its direction too, so that the chorus doesn't end-- it just stops midway through and winds down into recitative.

This sort of experimentation with form is light-years beyond anything Handel did in Messiah, and proves (I think) that Israel in Egypt deserves more love. Also, someone needs to hire me to sing that "Frogs" solo. Just sayin'.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:13 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it was hard enough for them to record it that it makes me wonder why they bothered to do it on a train.
posted by crunchland at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Come on, I'm pretty sure both Handel and any 100+ year old recordings are in the public domain by now. I don't think the RIAA or ASCAP can go after this.

I know you were probably joking, but, in fact, no sound recordings, even those from over 100 years ago, are in the public domain in the US. See quote from Wikipedia below:

Before 1972, sound recordings were not subject to federal copyright, but copying was nonetheless regulated under various state torts and statutes, some of which had no duration limit. The Sound Recording Amendment of 1971 extended federal copyright to recordings fixed on or after February 15, 1972 (the effective date of the act), and declared that recordings fixed before that date would remain subject to state or common law copyright. The Copyright Act of 1976 maintained this until February 15, 2047, which was subsequently extended by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to the same date in 2067.[26] As a result, no sound recording can reliably be considered in the public domain in the United States before that date, even if the recording was in existence before 1923 and even if it originated in another country where it has entered the public domain. Wikipedia link
posted by Awkward Philip at 4:30 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


in brief the choruses covered in the cylinders are: Moses and the Children of Israel, I will sing unto the Lord, Thy right hand O Lord, and Sing ye to the Lord.

Funny--I heard it as:

Never shall I give thee up

Never shall I let thee down

Never shall I run around and desert thee
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:41 PM on June 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


Embroider that on a pillow and you've got $100K in the bank.
posted by hermitosis at 6:04 PM on June 26, 2010


I'm actually surprised it wasn't porn.
posted by e.e. coli at 6:31 PM on June 26, 2010


When I first taped my voice aged 5, the playback confused me mightily. For a long time I was convinced a whole new world was being created in the little black cassette player, with a little tiny bonaldi reading from a script.

I'm listening to these on an iPad, and the notes are sending vibrations through the case. It brings that cassette back to mind, like I'm holding ghosts in my hands.
posted by bonaldi at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I made a recording on Edison's original phonograph recorder at Henry Ford Museum some years ago.



True story.
posted by Doohickie at 8:39 PM on June 26, 2010


bonaldi: "holding ghosts in my hands"

This. I collect 78rpm records; every time I touch one it's like bringing a little piece of the performer back to life. One of the first collections I bought back in middle school was Columbia Records presents Songs of the Red Army. It was recorded in 1937 at the Paris World Fair, and you can't help but think that some of the choir's 300 men had been in Petrograd two decades prior, or wonder how many died in Stalingrad five years later. This is the only recording I could find on the internet-- just one of the six sides, all of which were fantastic.
posted by The White Hat at 8:51 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is great and ghostly. Thank you for this post!

For that matter, Arthur Sullivan's after dinner toast to Edison gave me chills. This is a person, well over a hundred years ago, speaking very much the way we still speak today.

I love the pauses in that speech. People being allowed to digest an idea for just a moment longer than they would be today. No rush. No worries that people will start to turn to their iphone, or something. Pauses that mean: I respect that your listening, and you respect that I'm speaking. Incredible. Both for the fact that it isn't all that different and for the ways in which it is.
posted by marimeko at 9:15 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was so excited when I read this FPP, because I was thrilled to be able to hear the acoustics in the Crystal Palace, and the majesty of 4000 voices. The whole concept of it being over a century ago and recorded on wax cylinder completely escaped me until I started listening, and my heart was broken. So this is very cool, but...sigh.
posted by davejay at 9:57 PM on June 26, 2010


I found it largely incomprehensible and ghostly. Very creepy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:23 AM on June 27, 2010


For more "old" field recordings, a generous collection of links is available at Root Hog or Die.

My favorites are Le Fonds Brailoiu (in French, with a huge selection of searchable recordings) and June Berry 78s (78s!), both which probably deserve a front page post.
posted by iamck at 2:03 AM on June 27, 2010


A couple of years ago we had film posted here from the turn of the 20th Century and I thought that was awesome, but 1888 and now 1860? That's haunting man.

Nick...If you want to complete your haunting, try the first photograph. 1826.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:04 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boy, it's so dark in 1826. It's a wonder they got anything done.
posted by crunchland at 5:34 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy,

Based on your username alone, I would like to ask for your hand in marriage.
posted by LMGM at 9:21 AM on June 27, 2010


Best of the web. Thanks.
posted by ageispolis at 10:52 AM on June 27, 2010


The Abe Lincoln tapes, alas, appear to be a fantasy, goldarnit.

And let's not even get started with the ancient pottery rolls....
posted by IndigoJones at 6:14 PM on June 27, 2010


Nick...If you want to complete your haunting, try the first photograph. 1826.

And to think, when that photograph was taken, Thomas Jefferson still lived and breathed. Amazing.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:27 AM on June 28, 2010


And to think, when that photograph was taken....

So also Beethoven.

Which is why it's so damned annoying that the photographer wasted the plate on a goddamn roof.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:22 PM on July 3, 2010


Collection of "first" images, including first color image (1861), first picture of a human face (1839), First photograph of a human (c. 1838), etc.
posted by crunchland at 5:01 PM on July 3, 2010


Thank you crunchland, the Cornelius portrait is haunting. The color image baffled me- google eventually claims that it's a tartan ribbon.

I can see it.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2010


And thank you! I couldn't figure out what that image was either, but didn't take the time to investigate it.
posted by crunchland at 3:02 PM on July 8, 2010


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