Archival Sound Roundup for Aug. 20, 2013


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Today we start a new feature on Listen Closely Productions. The Archival Sound Roundup scours the Web for the best old-time tracks from the early years of recorded audio, or more contemporary tracks that nonetheless have a historical significance to them now. All of these sites are amazing. Check them out!

An interview with Harvey Milk / interviewed by Greg Gordon. (1978)

This interview is part of the Pacifica Radio Archives on It’s an amazing treasure for any justice-loving person or student of LGBT history. Gordon interviewed Milk in his San Francisco camera shop during the year he was a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors. He speaks of the state of gay Democratic clubs at the time of his election (hint: they didn’t support him) and why he was “a candidate who is gay, not a gay candidate.” Much of his advice to the LGBT equality movement rings true 35 years later.

Papa’s Birthday | Random Tape

David Weinberg, the producer of Random Tapes from various sources throughout the country and plays the most interesting/compelling parts. Often they really are old-school cassette tapes. This tape is someone’s letter to relatives about traveling to see their father for his birthday. I believe the narrator of the tape dates the tape sometime in the 1990s. (Which would make sense for her using cassette tape.) It’s a little bit like finding a cache of letters or a journal and not knowing the owner. Of course you’re going to find out what’s there …

Theo Wangemann’s 1889-1890 European recordings | Thomas Edison National Historic Park

For more than a year, inventor Thomas Edison’s assistant, Theo Wangemann, tramped through Europe, showing of the newly invented phonograph and recording historically and culturally significant things along the way. This page contains many of the surviving recordings.

A word of warning – the cylinders were in poor condition when found and many questions exist on original playback speed. It’s often hard to hear much over the roar of the scratches. However, none of that matters when one considers that these recordings are nearly 125 years old and some of the oldest in existence. If you want to hear what the dawn of the age of recorded sound was like – this is it.

Thomas Edison’s Attic | WFMU

If you enjoyed the previous links from the beginning of the sound era, you can follow Edison’s history with sound through this radio show, which ran for a number of years in the 2000’s on WFMU. As the site explains, “The audio curator at Edison National Historic Site rummages through the archives of the legendary Edison Laboratory of West Orange, New Jersey. Tune in for Edison cylinder and disc record rarities, many not heard since “the old man” himself stashed them away, featuring: Tin Pan Alley pop songs, ragtime, vaudeville comedy sketches, flapper dance bands, old-time country tunes, historic classical music, laboratory experiments and other artifacts – all dating from 1888 through 1929.”

You need Real Audio to listen to the shows. Playlists of music is included for nearly all shows.

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