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About This Collection

Dear friends and gentle hearts,

Language speaks to the mind, but music speaks straight to the soul. Yet music, like other arts, is subject to the arbitrary tyrannies of fashion. Much that is thrilling and beautiful has been utterly forgotten. But it lives on in these recordings, which sit neglected in flea markets and junk shops until someone comes along and says, “I’ll give you five dollars for that whole box.”

“The lateral cut” is the method of inscribing sound vibrations in these records. The earliest recordings were made with a vertical or “hill-and-dale” cut, in which the needle vibrates up and down in the groove. But Mr. Emile Berliner invented a “lateral-cut” system in which the needle vibrated side to side, and that system eventually became the standard for phonograph records. There is no guarantee that absolutely no vertical-cut recordings will ever appear on this site, in spite of its name, but almost all the records here will be lateral-cut records.

A Word About Copyright.

I’ve taken some considerable trouble to be sure that making these recordings available here does not interfere with anyone’s reasonable property rights. They’re almost all unavailable from commercial sources, and most of them are quite rare now, though some were very popular in their time.

In the United States, it is literally impossible to comply with copyright law to the letter, because the law makes a rather clumsy exception in the case of sound recordings. For every other kind of work, there are clear and relatively simple rules, but copyright in sound recordings is left up to the individual states and common law.

So instead of trying to figure out what even lawyers admit is impossible, I make this simple offer: if there is a legitimate copyright owner who objects to the availability of any particular recording on this site, not only will I remove the link to that recording, but I will replace it immediately with a link to a site where it can be purchased. Leave a comment on the article in question to reach me.

In the European Union and many other areas, copyright in sound recordings lasts for fifty years. All these recordings are in the public domain by that standard.

I make no claim to ownership of these digital transfers. As far as I’m concerned, you can do anything at all with them, as long as you don’t break the law where you live. If you do break the law, I don’t want to know about it, and it isn’t my fault. The text on this site is released into the public domain, so it may be reproduced without restriction. Naturally, this release applies only to the text hosted on this site, not to anything on any linked sites.

About the Music Files.

Almost all these recordings come from my own accumulation of miscellaneous old records. The equipment I have for transferring them is cheap and barely adequate, but better than nothing at all. After the transfer, I use some form of electronic noise reduction to take out the worst of the noise, but I prefer to apply it lightly. The best audio restoration software I know is from Diamond Cut Productions; it requires Windows, which may be a disadvantage, and it costs money, but the most reasonably priced version will do all you need for old records. For Linux, Audacity has many of the same functions, and the Gnome Wave Cleaner is also useful. I use the Linux programs when I can get away with it, to avoid booting up the Windows computer.

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2 Comments
  1. “Language speaks to the mind, but music speaks straight to the soul.”

    Echoes of your Johnnie thesis?

  2. Larry permalink

    Harry Bradshaw, who works at the Traditional Music Archive in Dublin as an employee of RTE, developed a system for getting the most remaining fidelity out of old 78 rpm records –

    As a 78 (or 45 or 33) rpm record plays, the needle, as it skates along the groove, puts more pressure on the outside wall of the groove than on the inside. This is what propels the needle and arm inward as the recording plays. The outside groove thus gets more wear with repeated plays.

    Harry rigged up an old 78 player to play backwards. I think he simply reversed the polarity of the motor that spins the turntable. The needle starts in the center of the record and works its way outward, with more pressure on the better preserved inner wall of the groove.

    He captures the signal on an old monoaural tape recorder, then simply plays the tape backward to reproduce the original sound. With this method, he has produced several compilations of famous older players for whom we are fortunate enough to have a recorded output.

    His other assignment, for which he has been assigned space at the Archive, has been to remaster to digital and catalog all the old acetate archive tapes of RTE traditional music broadcasts from the 50s through the 70s. They will be available for research use at the Archive. There were some 30,000 numbers to remaster at the start of his project, some 10-15 years ago, but he may be done with that project now. Haven’t talked to him in some 7-8 years.

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