A while ago I happened across a great site, the University of California’s (Santa Barbara) Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. Here you can have a listen to any one of a vast array of mp3 recordings lifted from the university’s collection of almost 8,000 wax cylinders.
Wax cylinders, you may well know, were the earliest versions of commercial recordings, or “records”, available. The wax cylinder recording technique (patented 1878) was one of Thomas Edison’s many strokes of genius. Edison wax rolls or “cylinders” are still around by the thousands – and, obviously, great documents of recorded history.
I found this 1913 recording of “The Highlanders Bagpipe Band”
fascinating. Here we have march, strathspey and reel playing at its most primal: a cacophony of bagpipe and drum pitch and rope drum beatings all flailing away with impunity. The “79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar” – a strathspey I can’t place at the moment – and “The Piper of Drummond” never sounded so, um, enthusiastic.
Pipe bands have come a long way in less than 100 years [“Wow, Mike, such insight!”]. This recording might be fodder for another subject, another day, but today, have a listen and marvel at the music, listen to the good intentions of the “Highlanders Bagpipe Band” of 1913.
It’s pretty OK.
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