Old records and older phonographs

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By Simon Greenhill and Casey Miller, Counselors-in-Training

Students from the Year 1 and 2 programs visited Stanford’s Archive of Recorded Sound Tuesday. As the crackliest of crackly old records—a men’s choir performing in the 1910s—played on an antique phonograph, students learned the history and development of music recording since the late 1800s.

The Archive of Recorded Sound was founded in 1958 and contains over 400,000 recordings, many of which are rare or unique. Guided by sound archives librarian Jonathan Manton, students saw some of the earliest sound recordings, as well as artifacts such as antique music boxes and jukebox players.

“We were one of the first places to collect sound recordings the way people collected paper recordings,” Manton said.

One of the Archive’s main purposes is to preserve and digitize rare recordings in order to make them available to researchers. However, copyright law prohibits the unauthorized distribution of the digitized material, inhibiting its availability to a wider population.

“I had never seen any of the things [Manton] showed us,” Year 2 student Parankush Bhardwaj said. “Those large music boxes, and even the small ones that were considered portable back then and are now obsolete and absolutely horrible—but still incredible.”

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