UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive
About UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive
jason on 04/21/2011 at 07:00AM
Cylinder recordings are some of the earliest artifacts from the dawn of recorded sound.
After the heyday of cylinder recordings this sonic window into the past was largely closed, and only small numbers of collectors and archivists struggling to preserve these fragile artifacts for future generations could hear or study these recordings.
Based out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project began in 2003 to address this very issue. In the past 8 years the CPDP has managed to catalog, digitize, and upload nearly 10,000 cylinder recordings to its freely accessible website. Thousands more await digitization in UCSB's state of the art preservation and digitization facility.
Berto Solis, the UCSB digitization lab's team leader, and David Seubert, the director of the project, will be uploading to the FMA a weekly sampling of some of the best and most interesting examples of the recordings being digitized.
For the first installment, here's a small cross section of material spanning several genres and highlighting the audio fidelity achieved solely by acoustical recording technology. Yes, you read that right, no electricity was involved in making these original cylinder recordings! So sit back, relax, and get ready for a sonic snapshot a hundred years into the past.
Gondolier/Temptation rag. Fred Van Eps and Albert Benzler. U.S. Everlasting Record: 1260. 
Banjo recording by Fred Van Eps recorded for the US Everlasting Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The second half of the cylinder is Temptation Rag, a great ragtime banjo recording with stunning audio quality that is proof that acoustical recordings can sound magnificent.
Pescatori di Perle. [Pêcheurs de perles. Je crois entendre encore] / Georges Bizet. Aristodemo Giorgini. Edison Amberol: 30032. 
An aria from Bizet's Pearl Fishers sung by Italian tenor Aristodemo Giorgini. Early recordings provide a valuable link to 19th century performance styles that would otherwise be lost. This recording is an Edison Amberol, the most fragile of all of the common types of cylinders. These cylinders have become so brittle over time that it sometimes seems that they can shatter if you look at them funny.
What a time. Polk Miller and his Old South Quartette. Edison Amberol 391. 
Polk Miller was born in 1844 and was in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. His group, the Old South Quartette, was integrated and included four black musicians. They were very popular 100 years ago and the songs they recorded still hold up well for modern listeners.
A live interview with Berto and David will air on WFMU on 04/21/11 at 11am.