They were far more “sharey” in the 90’s. That’s the 1890’s, of course.
We stumbled across this photo the other day but we don’t know much about it. It’s apparently a group of listeners trying out the new fangled phonograph on headphones, treating it like a sort of communal ipod. We think this was probably a way of promoting the new invention to a wider audience but we are not sure. So please, if you know anything more about these people and what they are up to please get in touch.
The 1930 machine is another one of the many gramophones in the EMI Archive Trust’s collection. they describe it thus:
“This is a Excelda portable gramophone which was marketed as a ‘pocket’ version. It was similar to folding cameras available at the time, and was often referred to as a ‘Cameraphone’. The case is tin with a brown paint crackle glaze finish. the mechanism could all be broken down into a slim case for transportation and could even play 12 inch records.”
(Fred is in St Petersburg recording local artists……)
On April 9th 1900, Fred Gaisberg returned to his hotel after watching the performance of Demon and flirting with Rodina to find a message asking him to “prepare to give a recording exhibition before the Czar’s secretary that evening”. This was news he had been hoping for. After “considerable bustle” he made his exhibition to “his High Excellence” Secretary Tanieff and entourage who all spoke good english. The exhibition consisted of a demonstration of the new-fangled recording technology and Fred played back some recordings from his trip, made a record of Secretary Tanieff playing one of his own compositions and then he and his colleague Darby sang a duet or two to round off proceedings. Gaisberg thought the evening had gone well (“they expressed themselves highly delighted”) and believed that it would lead to him having the chance to record the Czar’s voice for a charity release in Russia. This had been one of Fred’s great ambitions for this field recording trip to Russia. Darby and Gaisberg celebrated with a roister-doistering late supper and turned in after 2am convinced that they would be recording the Czar.
” My father, Alexander Sergievitch Tanieff, during most of his life, was a functionary of the Russian Court, Secretary of State, and Director of the Private Chancellerie of the Emperor, an office held before him by his father and his grandfather. My mother was a daughter of General Tolstoy, aide-de-camp of Alexander 11. One of my immediate ancestors was Field Marshal Koutousoff, famous in the Napoleonic Wars. Another, on my mother’s side, was Count Kontaisoff, an intimate friend of the eccentric Tsar Paul, son of the great Catherine.”
Tanieff himself is clearly a good connection for Gaisberg and also personally very musical:
“My father, aside from his official duties, had no Interests apart from his home and his music, for he was a composer and a pianist of more than national fame. My earliest memories are of home evenings, my brother Serge and my sister Alya (Alexandra) studying their lessons under the shaded lamp, my dear mother sitting near with her needlework, and my
father at the piano working out one of his compositions, striking the keys softly and noting down his harmonies.”]
The St Petersburg part of the Russian trip begin to unwind at this point. One day of recording was expensively lost when the band failed to turn up and Gaisberg was left kicking his heels in a hired hall. When the band did arrive the following day, Friedman, the director of the band, refused to play the songs that Gaisberg had requested and proved generally unhelpful to the recording process. This proved to the team’s last day in St Petersburg and on April 13th Gaisberg travelled by train to Moscow for Easter weekend hoping to meet the Czar.
Although he waited around for the opportunity, the Tanieff connection did not lead to an introduction to the Czar; Gaisberg’s luck was out. He did in fact get to see the Czar in Moscow but sadly only as one of thousands of people watching the parade of the Csar arriving at the palace in a convoy of twenty carraiges. Gaisberg got no closer to the Czar and after a couple of days of sight seeing at the Kremin and strolling around the bazaars he left on a late train to Warsaw arriving on Easter Monday 16th April 1900.
This little beauty from the EMI Archive Trust collection is an Oratiograph Phonograph which was made by John Schoenner in Germany in 1902
Its described by the Trust as:
“…a is a fascinating small machine about which not much is known. They were made in Germany by the John Schoenner Factory in the early years of the 20th Century. The Oratiograph outfit comprises of a box containing the mechanism, a box containing the cylinders, and a collapseable paper horn. Once set-up, unlike other phonographs, the reproducer and horn remain static, as it is the madrel which moves beneath it. The cylinders were wax on a tin core and came in a red box with decorative lid.”
If you are as interested in the history of recording as we are then we’d recommend that you head over to the CHARM (Centre For the History and Analysis of Recorded Music) website for a rootle around. They’ve got a great potted history of recorded music, as you’d rather hope(!), here and some great photo’s like this one.
If you can remember from our last visit to his diaries of exactly 110 years ago, roving proto-field recordist Fred Gaisberg and sidekick William Sinkler Darby were in pre-revolutionary Russia in 1900 buying bear skin coats to ward off the harsh St Petersburg weather. (If you can’t remember you can read about it here.)
On April 3rd 1900 Fred & William were invited to “exhibit a Gramo” to a Russian princess which would likely have involved spinning some tunes for her majesty and making a recording for her amusement. This would proably have been the first time the royal lady would have ever have heard a recorded voice. Looking back from our perspective it is easy to forget what a revolutionary pastime Fred was engaged in. He was spreading the experience of recorded music into new pockets of the world as he toured them searching for musical talent. This was futuristic bleeding edge technology that Fred was working with and showing off!
Fred was no mug. It had been suggested to him by a Russian colleague called Raphoff that this exhibit may lead to an opportunity to record the Czar himself so Gaisberg was playing the angles hoping to engineer what would have been a significant early recording. Tune in to next week’s extract from Fred’s diaries to find out if he was successful pursuing this man.
The rest of Gaisberg’s week was spent watching a performance of Carmen (written only 35 years previously), following the Boer War in the old English newspapers in the lobby of a local hotel (Russians overwhelmingly supported the Boers, Fred overwhelmingly keen to point out to the he was American not English!) and recording and flirting with a beautiful young soprano called Radina.
On April 8th he wrote in his diary “We attended an afternoon performance of …Demon by Rubinstein. Radina was our prima donna ….Between the acts we would present ourselves at the dressing-room of our beautiful prima donna and congratulate her on her performance of the foregoing act…I told her I wished I was the Devil in the last act, when he was embracing her….” The rogue!
This is a seriously cute piece; it’s another Phonograph called ” Le Mervilleux” (Meaning = “Wonderful”) and was made by Henri Lioret around 1894.
Our friends at EMI Archive Trust, who own it, describe it thus:
“Henri Lioret was a respected clockmaker before turning his attention to phonographs. This unusual phonograph was made from around 1894, and based on the same mechanism that Lioret used in his Bebe Jumeau talking doll. The mechanism itself is mounted inside a pasteboard box and finished with a simulated leather covering. A side flap opens to allow access to the cylinders, and a top flap opens to reveal the integral-horn. This machine played only the smallest of Lioret cylinders, lasting a mere 30 seconds. Despite its simplicity and fragility, the Merveilleux plays extremely well for such an early phonograph. Their fragility too, makes them a relatively rare machine. It was also the first entirly Lioret machine to be sold, with a price tag of 16 francs.”
Lioret’s first commercial idea for playing back recordings was the talking and singing Bebe Jumeau doll mentioned above which had in effect a phonograph as innards. It looks like something from an episode of Doctor Who.
This strange looking toy, which was very successful in France, represented a step forward in recording technology as it was the first non-tin foil cylinder made in France. It contained improvements upon Edison’s original design including the fact that the cylinders were made out of celluloid and were the first unbreakable cylinders ever made. You can see more Lioret stuff, here.
This is the first of a series of early playback devices that are owned by the EMI Archive Trust. Its actually not a gramophone; its a phonograph. An Excelsior Pearl phonograph which was made in Cologne, Germany, in 1904
This is how the Trust describes the piece “Excelsior phonographs were produced by the Excelsiorwerk of Cologne at the begining of the 20th Century.They were mainly of the Type Q Graphophone family with a cover-plate round the motor. Some however, like the Pearl, were made with a cast-iron bedplate and a motor concealed in a case below. Decoratively, the Pearl shares the common Excelsior finish of black with a red lining. This Pearl also carries its name and a landscape / floral motif on the oak case. Originally cost 32/6.”
You can see how it would have played back sound in this video of a reproduced phonograph:
You have got to love Shorpy’s Vintage Photograph’s. Its a simple but effective formula for a website. They publish one interesting historical picture per day in high resolution with an explanation of the photo’s origin and if you like the photo you can buy a print of it. As they say on their banner, there is “always something interesting” to look at. This is a vision of the hifi future taken in 1954. You can read more about it here. Love that valve amp, daddio!
I’ve been meaning to post a link to an interview with Abbey Road’s Peter Cobbin and Lester Smith on Absolute Radio. Pete recorded the soundtrack and used the EMI Archive Trust microphones to do so. Lester is guardian of the microphones at Abbey Road and looks after the Trust mics as well.