How long has there been recorded music? We know there are wax roll recordings that date back to the late 1800s as we have records of them still either in their original forms or transformed over to vinyl in attempts to preserve them. The majority of our knowledge of early recordings comes from music that was recorded to be played on the old wind-up machines.
I'm sure most of you have seen at least a picture of those old gramophones, or Victrola as they were called, with the huge speaker trumpets that looked like a cornucopia horn. I remember being amazed at how heavy the tone arm on one of those things was, and that the weight of it, combined with a diamond needle, didn't dig holes in the records. If you've ever held one of those old 78 rpm records, you'd know they were built for punishment: thick circles of vinyl that could be used as throwing weapons if you really wanted.
In their day, the 78 — and the equipment used to make them — was as much a technological breakthrough as the CD burning process is for us today. While computer technology has allowed anyone who wants to turn their home computer into a recording studio, the 78 equipment not only allowed people to record, it also made music available to the general public on wide scale for the first time. Not many people would have owned a wax tube player, but a gramophone was another matter.
Rob Mills and Jeffery Taylor are the Seattle Washington based experimental music group Climax Golden Twins. In the past they have composed music for gallery and museum installations, film soundtracks, worked on documentary films, and contributed soundscapes to NPR radio shows. Their latest project, Victrola Favorites: Artifacts From Bygone Days, available on the aptly named Dust To Digital label, is a multi-media project that celebrates the diversity of music recorded for playback on the Victrola.
The two CD set comes in a 144-page, 6" X 9" hardcover, cloth bound book. It is crammed full of pictures and memorabilia of old 78 records. Photos of old record labels are blown up to fill a whole page, while old full-page newspaper advertisements have been reduced in size to easily fit the confines of the page. It's like some sort of strange pressed flower arrangement where the act of preserving the material changes the original image to suit the needs of its medium.