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UC Santa Barbara Opens 1905 Music Library to Public

Cylinder Recordings from Lousiana, Starting Around 1905, Available for Streaming and Download.

Cylinder recordings, the first commercially produced sound recordings, are a snapshot of musical and popular culture in the decades around the turn of the 20th century. They have long held the fascination of collectors and have presented challenges for playback and preservation by archives and collectors alike.

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the UCSB Libraries have created a digital collection of over 10,000 cylinder recordings held by the Department of Special Collections. In an effort to bring these recordings to a wider audience, they can be freely downloaded or streamed online.

On this site you will have the opportunity to find out more about the cylinder format, listen to thousands of musical and spoken selections from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and discover a little-known era of recorded sound. If you know what you are looking for click the search button to begin, or you can browse by genre or sample some of our favorite selections in the featured cylinder section or by listening to online streaming radio.

From the first recordings made on tinfoil in 1877 to the last produced on celluloid in 1929, cylinders spanned a half-century of technological development in sound recording. As documents of American cultural history and musical style, cylinders serve as an audible witness to the sounds and songs through which typical audiences first encountered the recorded human voice. And for those living at the turn of the 20th century, the most likely source of recorded sound on cylinders would have been Thomas Alva Edison's crowning achievement, the phonograph. Edison wasn't the only one in the sound recording business in the first decades of the 20th century; several companies with a great number of recording artists, in addition to the purveyors of the burgeoning disc format, all competed in the nascent musical marketplace. Still, more than any other figure of his time, Edison and the phonograph became synonymous with the cylinder medium. Because of the overwhelming preponderance of cylinder recordings bearing his name in UCSB's collection, the following history is, we admit, Edison-centric. Nonetheless, Edison's story is heavily dependent on the stories of numerous musical figures and sound recording technological developments emblematic of the period, and it is our hope that we have fairly represented them here. Herein, a humble primer. 
Early Cylinder Recordings--The Beginnnings of Recorded Sound
Precursors to Edison's Phonograph
Tinfoil Recordings
The Earliest Wax Cylinders
Brown Wax Cylinders
Lioret Cylinders
Brown Wax Concert Cylinders
Cylinders in the New Century--Edison Phonograph Cylinders
Edison Gold-Moulded Cylinders 
Edison Amberol Cylinders
Edison Grand Opera Cylinders
Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders
Edison Foreign Releases--Cylindres Edison Moulés Sur Or and Edison Goldguss Walze
Edison Chinese Cylinders
Edison's Competitors
Columbia Cylinders
Busy Bee Cylinders
Indestructible Cylinders
U.S. Everlasting Cylinders
Lambert Cylinders
Pathé Cylinders
Edison Bell Cylinders
Sterling Cylinders

-- University of California, Santa Barbara

More information available here.

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