The Belfer collection of old cylinder records
April 1, 2009 6:58 PM   Subscribe

The Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection is a collection of old cylinder records at Syracuse University. The library has started to digitize them, both in mp3 and wav format. They have only 293 online yet but aim to have 6000 cylinders digitized by the end of next year. It can be searched either by genre, keyword or Here are a few that I really like: Bedtime at the Zoo, That Syncopated Boogie-boo, Mary, You're a Little Bit Old Fashioned, Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, Phoebe Brown, Was zu Gott ist zu Gott und was zu leute ist zu leute, Aberystwyth, Glada na lusch, I Love a Lassie and Pussy's in the Well.
posted by Kattullus (22 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet damn, I will be using these in a Call of Cthulhu campaign. This is awesome!
posted by adipocere at 7:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow... that is the single geekiest possible use of this archive I can think of.
posted by Kattullus at 7:25 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

That Syncopated Boogie-boo is pretty funny.

Thanks for the post!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:25 PM on April 1, 2009

Nice find Kattullus. I see they have Stop yer ticklin Jock which reminds me of The Laughing Policeman post.
posted by tellurian at 7:27 PM on April 1, 2009

Oh My God, my Blog is called 50,000,000 Sparber Fans Can't Be Wrong. I'm totally fucking with that song.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:46 PM on April 1, 2009

Magnificent! I love the interface too--clean and intuitive and searchable in various ways.

They should offer some podcasts of this stuff!
posted by LarryC at 8:12 PM on April 1, 2009

For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result
of this evening's experiments: 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.

- Arthur Sullivan to Thomas Edison, 1888 (after the invention of the cylinder recorder)

Some quotes are ageless.

Those cylinders are very fragile.
posted by eye of newt at 8:15 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

See also, previously, The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at UCSB. 8,000 of them! My university wins!
posted by dreamyshade at 8:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nice to see they were put up as wav files instead of just mp3s or... *shudder*... I won't even say it.

The Caretaker's gonna be kept busy for a while.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:35 PM on April 1, 2009

I've been searching around and found some very early recordings, including a recording of the quote I used above by Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan).
posted by eye of newt at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2009

I wish that they had pictures of the cylinders.. Great resource and a priceless investment in archiving the earliest known recordings for the ages.. but come on, pictures!
posted by mediocre at 9:17 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

...but come on, pictures!

With cylinders, though, it's kind of a "seen one you seen 'em all" type of thing, far as I can tell. The cylinders themselves are not especially interesting to look at, since, unlike later 78's and then LPs and 7" and so forth, they had no labels. And the outer packaging seems to have been 99% standardized Edison or Columbia cans like you see on this page. Unlike the record albums that followed, each with its own unique jacket design, the cylinder package was generic.

Here's a gallery of cylinders that contains probably everything there is to see about these things.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:31 AM on April 2, 2009

Yay! Belfer Archives repreSENT!

(seriously, as a recent alumnae, I am very proud to see this supa-neat collection getting recognition on the blue)
posted by Knicke at 3:01 AM on April 2, 2009

This is wonderful. And considering that we're setting our next production in/around 1913, the timing is perfect.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:13 AM on April 2, 2009

Katullus - you are my hero. I am knitting you a fancy cape and neat-o big K to wear on your shirt as we speak.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:29 AM on April 2, 2009

You can't go wrong with a bit of Russian melancholy. Or maybe something a bit happier.
posted by Harry at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2009

This makes me so happy. I inherited a bunch of cylinders a couple of years ago, along with an Edison Standard Phonograph. It was my great-great uncle's, who passed it on to my grandmother in 1920. My grandmother would pull it out of the attic about once a summer, and we'd sit at the dining room table and listen. She got a kick out it. So did I.

I pull it out every now and then and listen to a cylinder or two, but not often enough to have heard all of the records. I get worried I'll ruin the cylinders since the needle is pretty dull after 100 years--but I so want to know what Uncle Jim listened to. Thanks, Kattullus. This is a good start.

By the way, the Belfer about page led me to the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at UC Santa Barbara. They say they have digitized roughly 8,000 cylinders. It was there that I was able to find one of Uncle Jim's records I hadn't heard yet, and it might be my new favorite song: "Under the Anheuser Bush", (1904).

Also, how about all songs go back to starting this way: "Hells Bells...sung by A-Cee D-Cee...Edi-SON REH-Cords."
posted by kortez at 2:14 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Right, dreamyshade already mentioned the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. It's worth a look.
posted by kortez at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2009

Theres some great stuff buried in here - thanks for the post
posted by Lanark at 3:21 PM on April 2, 2009

Did Bedtime at the zoo remind anyone else of this?
posted by squalor at 6:36 PM on April 2, 2009

Am I an idiot, or is there no way to actually download the WAV files? On firefox, all I can do is play them...
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 6:44 PM on April 2, 2009

If you have QuickTime pro you can simply "save as source." If you don't you'll have to look at the source, find the .wav file location and open it up in a new tab and download it that way.
posted by Kattullus at 8:59 PM on April 2, 2009

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