Towards the end of the 1800s, there were three primary American groups competing to invent technology to record and play back audio. Alexander Graham Bell worked with with Charles Sumner Tainter and Chichester Bell in at their Volta Laboratory in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., while Thomas A. Edison worked from his Menlo Park facilities, and Emile Berliner worked in his independent laboratory in his home. To secure the rights to their inventions, the three groups sent samples of their work to the Smithsonian. These recordings became part of the permanent collections, now consisting of 400 of the earliest audio recordings ever made. But knowledge of their contents was limited to old, short descriptions, as the rubber, beeswax, glass, tin foil and brass recording media are fragile, and playback devices might damage the recordings, if such working devices are even available. That is, until a collaborative project with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory came together to make 2D and 3D optical scanners, capable of visually recording the patterns marked on discs and cylinders, respectively. [more inside]
A decade after the death of renowned folklorist Alan Lomax, his vision of a "global jukebox" is being realized: his vast archive — some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts, much of it tucked away in forgotten or inaccessible corners — is being digitized so that the collection can be accessed online. About 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February. NYT article here.
The Phonograph Doll was the first attempt at making a talking doll, invented by Thomas Edison. The doll utilized a miniature phonograph to talk, and was possibly the first audio recordings for commercial purposes. An example of the (now 123 year-old) talking doll was found in 1967 in Edison's New Jersey workshop, which is now a National Historic Park and museum. Recently, the warped metal cylinder was optically scanned and re-created, providing a 12-second clip of the oldest known recording of a woman's voice. [more inside]
"You want how to make a million in the studio business? Start with two million." Abbey Road is safe, but with Olympic, Townhouse, The Hit Factory and Eden all overtaken in recent years by the developments in digital recording, what's to be done with all that history?"A museum? A doctor's surgery? A Wedding venue? Flats? Or chop them into little pieces and sell them to your fans? (video in Spanish, scroll down for English text)
The first known recording of a digital computer playing music, recorded by the BBC in 1951. The music played on a Ferantti Mark 1, one of the first commercial general-use computers, and was entered via punchtape and played on a speaker usually used for making clicks and tones to indicate program progress.
Ron Murphy cut records, but not just any records. Responsible for cutting the actual vinyl master plates of much of the now revered Detroit Techno including Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Underground Resistance's seminal Knights of the Jaguar, and much more - he demonstrated impeccable craftsmanship and skill in both mastering records for sound and aesthetics at company known as Sound Enterprises source link AKA National Sound Corporation. Schooled in Motown, dubplates and jukeboxes, he is the bespoke-crafted, analog link between the digital future and analog past that is the roots of Techno music and modern techno DJ culture. [more inside]
Buying Rare Race Records in the South. Music That Americans Loved 100 Years Ago. The Cheney Talking Machine. Just three among dozens of amazing articles about early recording machines and American popular music at the astonishingly detailed site of Tim Gracyk, author of Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925. Scroll down for bios of forgotten stars, including Nora Bayes - who performed in the Follies of 1907, before Flo Ziegfeld's name became part of the title, George W. Johnson - "the most important African-American recording artist of the 1890s," and piano player Zez Confrey, whose sheet music for the 1921 hit "Kitten on the Keys" sold over a million copies and became "the third most-frequently recorded rag in history."
Meeksville centers around Joe Meek, Britain's first independent record producer, whose DIY engineering wizardry would transform record-making during the Sixties. Five years after an international #1 hit in the Tornadoes' space-age Telstar (Windows Media or RealPlayer), he would self-destruct, in an end not without tragedy or speculation. His works--along with his trademarked name--live on.