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University of California, Santa Barbara Digitizes Over 5,000 Cylinders

I have just been made aware of an amazing collection of 1890-1930 cylinders -- the old circular vinyl tubes that predate 78 rpm discs -- that UCSB has put on-line. Dubbed the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, its goal is to "make UCSB's collection available and a wide range of music from this era accessible to researchers and the public."

It is an impressive collection, and although I have only listened to a handful of cylinders, they are of remarkable quality. For an example of truly dated "humor," check out "I'm a Yiddish Cowboy," recorded in 1908 by Edward Meeker. Aside from oddities like the aforementioned, there appears to be a range of recordings, from opera to pop to waltzes.

Enjoy them. Treasure them.

It is a surreal experience to listen to a recording made 100 years ago on technology that was barely a dream when these recordings were made. Moreover, this is but one example of how the world can benefit from this non-commercial technological distribution of sound recordings that would otherwise sit underutilized and largely unknown in libraries and attics. The fortune of their survival these many years is only eclipsed by the fact that we now have the technology to save them and share them -- again -- with the world.

Bravo UCSB!

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