Author Archives: Peter Nagy

Recording of the Month – Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman (1912)

Lucy Isabelle Marsh

Lucy Isabelle Marsh

Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman (Jacques Offenbach).
Performed by Lucy Isabelle Marsh & Marguerite Dunlap.
Victor 60096. Recorded in 1912.

Lucy Isabelle Marsh Society on Facebook.


Published: October 4, 2011

Recording of the Month – Goldies Syncopator’s – Wedding Bells (1929)

Goldies Syncopator’s
Wedding Bells (are breaking up that old gang of mine)
Microphone 22411 (1929)


Published: January 10, 2009

How Edison Got his Groove Back

What can be done when a one of a kind recording on cylinder or disc is in such a fragile state that the touch of a stylus could destroy the audio you are trying to preserve for posterity? What if the record can be played but is so worn out that the sounds are barely audible? What if you could take a photograph of the recording and play it back while omitting all the damage in the groove walls? IRENE can do just that. Developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, IRENE offers hope to archives around the world for recovering sounds from fragile and deteriorating media.

How Edison Got his Groove Back ? KQED.


Published: January 3, 2009

Voices of Christmas Past

I released VOCP 10 years ago and each year as we get closer to the Christmas holidays I get overwhelmed with requests for it. The disc is out of print and I have no copies left so I’ve uploaded the files for all to enjoy. Just scroll past the liner notes to get to the music player.

From the original liner notes: Of all things Christmas nothing is more traditional than the singing of carols and songs. Songs that capture in lyrics and in music the many traditions that we have at Christmas – the birth of the Christ child, the Christmas tree, the opening of gifts and even sleigh rides. Any well dressed sleigh ride featured those cheery sounding bells attached to the horse’s harness. In fact one of the most beloved Christmas songs ever, “Jingle Bells” celebrates this sound and the spirit of a country sleigh ride. On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording “Jingle Bells”, the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this record survive one of the earliest vocal examples of “Jingle Bells” does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, “Sleigh Ride Party”. It was made a decade later and was reissued for the first time on this CD (now out of print). This collection of carols, songs and monologues from the original vintage recordings capture the essence of the Christmas spirit as it was in the opening two decades of the 20th Century. So gather up the family, wind up the phonograph and take a trip back in time to the early 1900’s and celebrate the holidays with the “Voices of Christmas Past”.

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

1. Santa Claus Hides in the Phonograph (Ernest Hare, recorded 1922)
2. On A Christmas Morning (Prince’s Orchestra, recorded 1911)
3. Sleigh Ride Party / Jingle Bells (Edison Male Quartette, recorded 1898)
4. Messiah – And the Glory of the Lord (Victor Mixed Chorus, recorded 1915)
5. Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Henry Burr, recorded 1907)
6. Silent Night, Hallowed Night (Haydn Quartet, recorded 1905)
7. Christmas Time at Pumpkin’ Center (Cal Stewart, recorded 1905)
8. Christmas Hymns (Francis J. Lapitino, recorded 1917)
9. When the Christmas Chimes Are Ringing (Lewis James, recorded 1922)
10. The Star of Bethlehem (Harry MacDonough, recorded 1909)
11. Come and Spend Christmas With Me (Byron G. Harlan, recorded 1909)
12. Christmas Morning at Clancey’s (Steve Porter, recorded 1922)
13. Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem (Trinity Choir, Recorded 1916)
14. Adeste Fideles (John McCormack and William Reitz, recorded 1915)
15. Night Before Christmas (Ernest Hare, recorded 1920)
16. Nutcracker Ballet: Chinese Dance/Dance of the Mirilitons (Victor Herbert’s Orchestra, recorded 1913)
17. On A Good Old Time Sleigh Ride (Peerless Quartet, recorded 1913)
18. Angels from the Realms of Glory (Trinity Choir, recorded 1916)
19. While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night / Christians Awake (Trinity Quartet, recorded 1921)
20. Uncle Josh Plays Santa Claus (Cal Stewart, recorded 1907)
21. Christmas in Camp (Anonymous, recorded ca. 1917)
22. Noel (Holy Night) (Venetian Trio, recorded 1916)
23. Auld Lang Syne (Navada Van der Veer, recorded 1921)


Published: December 2, 2008

Recording of the Month – The White Swan (March 1905)

The White Swan – Played by the Edison Symphony Orchestra
Edison Gold Mould wax cylinder 8934
Relesed in March of 1905


Published: November 23, 2008

Ma Rainey – Mother of the Blues

Ma RaineyMa Rainey – Mother of the Blues is definitely a title that no fan of vintage blues should be without. The ledgendary Rainey recorded over 100 songs between 1923 to 1928 for Paramount, a company notorious for using very poor recording techniques.? In addition to the low quality materials used in the pressings, playback devices of the era wore out the discs quickly. Today it’s almost impossible to find a Rainey record that is in playable condition, and no metal masters survive. This release by JSP records pulls together Rainey’s entire cataloge (including alternates) from the best surviving pressings they could find. The restorations are quite good considering the source material and although some hiss and surface noise remains, I can appreciate the hard work that went into making these records listenable.

Some Ma Rainey from…


Published: November 15, 2008

World’s earliest recorded sounds recovered

The invention of sound recording has always been credited to Edison but inventer Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville beat Edison to it by a few decades; well sort of. Scott de Martinville found a way to record sound onto a lampblack-coated cylinder with his invention the Phonautograph. The intent was to capture a visual representation of sound for study but never to play it back. Reserchers David Giovannoni, Patrick Feaster, Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have located some of the phonautograms and with the aid of modern technology have sucessfuly recoverd some of the earliest examples of recorded sound.


Edouard-Leon Scott de MartinvilleScott de Martinville’s earliest attempts sound like squeaks but by 1860 he has improved his recording technique as can be heard in this fragment of a female voice singing Au Clair de la Lune, a french folk song. Although it’s very crude sounding it’s a major discovery in audio archeology of what is most likely the ealiest known recording of a human voice! (Recording courtesy First Sounds.)

For more information visit First Sounds.

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville at Wikipedia



Published: March 30, 2008

The Jazz Singer (1927) DVD Review (Three-Disc Box set)

Jazz_Singer_JolsonWarner Home Video is leading the way in film restoration and preservation. Their latest effort brings you the special edition box set of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer (1927) in stunning visual and audio quality.

Although often regarded as the first talking picture, which it is not, it is the first sound film to make such an impact with film audiences that it ushered in the sound era literally overnight! The Jazz singer is really a silent film with a synchronized music score and synchronized sound sequences featuring Jolson performing some of his signature songs. As the film transitions from silence to sound you see and hear why they called Jolson the “World’s Greatest Entertainer”. He is simply hypnotizing and he certainly knows how to handle the new sound technology that ended so many silent actors’ careers. The story comes off as dull and sappy but it’s worth watching for Jolson’s performances and also for its importance in film history.

Also on this disc are some Jolson short subjects including the recently recovered “Plantation Act”, Jolson’s first sound film. The digital restoration work is first rate with picture elements looking as if they were shot yesterday. The remastered soundtrack restored from the best surviving Vitaphone discs sounds excellent and is free of any distracting noise.

Disc 2 contains the documentary “The Dawn of Sound: How movies learned to talk”. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the coming of sound films and the technical obstacles that stood in the way. Also included on this disc and not to be missed are two surviving excerpts from the second ever all-talking film shot in Technicolor, “Gold Diggers of Broadway” from 1929. For some reason the first clip “Tip Toe through the Tulips” is missing from my copy and in its place appears a ballet sequence beautifully shot in two-colour Technicolor, probably from the missing 1930 film “Rouge Song”. I still would like to see Tulips and hope that Warner makes available a disc with the missing number.

What excites me most about this set is the treasure trove of restored Vitaphone shorts on disc three. Here you’ll see (and hear) familiar names like Burns & Allen but you’ll also see forgotten vaudevillians in what may be the only surviving examples of their work! These shorts seen here for the first time since their original release have also received extensive restoration work and they look and sound great.

If you like early sound films this is a must have for your DVD collection!


Published: January 1, 2008

Dawn of Sound Podcast #2 – The Christmas Show

Voices of Christmas Past

Santa Claus hides in the phonograph, Cal Stewart falls down the chimney! The Peerless Quartet on an old fashioned sleigh ride, classic Christmas carols and the first ever recording of Jingle Bells! I hope you enjoy this trip back in time to a 1900’s Christmas.

Show Notes:

Hosted by Peter Nagy
Sound recording: Ameene Shishakly
Transfer & restoration: Peter Nagy
The Night Before Christmas
Ernest Hare
Brunswick 5032 (1920)

Sleigh Ride Party/Jingle Bells
Edison Male Quartette
Edison Cylinder 2218 (1898)

On A Good Old Time Sleigh Ride
Peerless Quartet
Victor 17482 (1913)

On A Christmas Morning
Prince’s Orchestra
Columbia A1078 (1811)

Hark The Herald Angels Sing
Henry Burr (Harry McClaskey)
Columbia A264 (1907)

Come and Spend Christmas With Me
Byron G. Harlan
Columbia a761 (1909)

Santa Claus Hides in the Phonograph
Santa Claus Himself! (Ernest Hare)
Brunswick 2333 (1922)

Uncle Josh Plays Santa Claus
Cal Stewart
Columbia 3738 (1907)

The Star of Bethlehem
Harry MacDonough
Victor 35055 (1909)

Noel (Holy NIght)
Venetian Trio
HMV 17842 (1916)

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
Trinity Choir
Victor 35594 (1916)

Nutcraker Ballet: Chinese Dance / Dance of the Mirilitons
Victor Herbert’s Orchestra
Victor 45053 (1913)


Published: December 23, 2007

Dawn of Sound Netcast Episode 1

Billy Murray fixes up his automobile, Esther Walker belts it out slow and easy, Salt & Pepper has them crazy blues and who is Zina Brozia?

Join Adrian Shuman and I as we take a trip back to the days of Cylinders & 78s in our very first netcast! To listen click on the play button. To download the netcast right click on the download button and select “save link as” or “save target as”.

Dawn of Sound Episode 1

Show notes
Recorded March 18th, 2007
With Peter Nagy & Adrian Shuman
Studio Producer Ameene Shishakly
Audio Transfer & Restoration: Peter Nagy

He’d have to get under, get out and get under to fix up his automobile.
Billy Murray
Victor 17491 Released 1913

Slow and Easy
Esther Walker
Victor 18680
May 14, 1929

O Promise Me
Harry Macdonough
Victor 1212
Released 1902

I’m Tying the Leaves so they Won’t Fall down
Bryon G. Harlan
Victor 16122
Released 1907

Crazy Blues
Salt & Pepper
Cameo 583
Recorded July 14th, 1924

Jewel Song – Faust
Zina Brozia
Columbia A1242
Released 1912

By the light of the Silvery Moon (Take 2)
Ada Jones & Male Quartette
Edison Blue Amberol Cylinder Record 1512

Life Will Be a Bed of Roses
Hollywood Dance Orchestra
Banner 1837
Recorded August 16, 1926


Published: March 20, 2007