Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958)
Nelson Eddy (1901-1967)
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975)
Frank Loesser (1910-1969)
Bernard Hermann (1911-1975)
Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996)
James Dick (1940)
Joelle Wallach (1946)
"Little Eva" Boyd 1945-2003)
Anne-Sophie Mutter (1963)


Antoine de Saint Exupéry (1900-1944)
James K. Baxter (1926-1972)
Oriana Fallaci (1929-2006)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1888 that a snippet of George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt" was recorded on a wax cylinder. It is one of the earliest surviving recordings of music.

In December of 1877, Thomas Edison (books by this author) filed for a patent for his phonograph, a device to record and play back sound. It all started with a little toy he made — when you spoke into a funnel, the vibrations it made on a diaphragm engaged a ratchet wheel and made a little figure of a man saw wood. He wrote later: "I reached the conclusion that if I could record the movements of the diaphragm properly, I could cause such record to reproduce the original movements imparted to the diaphragm by the voice, and thus succeed in recording and reproducing the human voice." And he did just that.

In 1888, the Handel Festival was held at the Crystal Palace in London, a royal tradition that was celebrated regularly since 1784. The performance of his oratorio "Israel in Egypt" took place on Friday at 2 p.m., with doors opening at 11 and a cost between 7 and 25 shillings. Almost 24,000 people attended the show.

Thomas Edison had an agent named Colonel George Gouraud who sold phonographs to the European market and lived in South London. For the "Israel in Egypt" concert, Gouraud got permission to put the phonograph in the theater's press gallery. There was an orchestra of about 500, and a choir of at least 3,000 people. The recording is scratchy and the music is indistinct not only because the technology was so new, but also because there were so many voices and the phonograph was too far away. But it is still recognizable as choral music, and it is the earliest live concert that survives.

A year later, the Columbia Phonograph Company started up and sold gramophones for peoples' homes. In 1890, they produced the first record catalog, which was a one-page list of wax cylinders; two years later Emile Berliner offered discs in place of cylinders. Over the next few years, the recording industry took off, and many homes had some sort of phonograph in them.

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