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Image from page 635 of "Modern mechanism, exhibiting the latest progress in machines, motors, and the transmission of power, being a supplementary volume to Appletons' cyclopaedia of applied mechanics" (1892)

A month ago I went to a rather magical event which involved hearing some very old audio recordings made in London. We were played a selection of sound clips that stretched back in time from the 1950s, gradually going back, further and further, until we were listening to a recording made in the 1888 of people singing Handel’s Messiah.

Of course the technologies change over time and we went backwards from magnetic tape and vinyl back through metal tape discs to Edison phonographs. It was wonderful and I wrote about it here: London’s Lost World of Sounds w @LondonSounds – a magical evening at The Social, of early London sound recordings (30 August 2014).

Image from page 831 of "Christian herald and signs of our times" (1896)

The picture above shows the Berlin Gram-o-phone with extra hearing tubes for multiple listeners (7½ cents extra, each) as advertised in the Christian Herald in November 1896.

Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey put the clips in context and it was a nice mixture of oral history and sound-recording history, in a cosy bar which was atmospherically lit with candles on the table.

If I wasn’t doing something else this Friday I’d be heading off to Brighton for the evening because he’s giving the talk there and I’d love to hear it again. Highly recommended.

London’s Lost Worlds of Sound
Friday 7 November, 8pm (£6/5), Marlborough Pub & Theatre, 4 Princes St, Brighton
http://www.drinkinbrighton.co.uk/events/marlborough/londons-lost-worlds-of-sound-2014-11-07 [there’s a link to tickets but if you’re local you can pick them up in person with no booking fee, cash only]
In this spellbinding show, hear rare recordings of London life, from the 1950s right back to the 1880s. These sounds, captured by broadcasters and amateurs alike, bring to life a rowdy, vocal London filled with vigour and eccentricity. Lavender sellers and fortune tellers, the vanished songs of schoolchildren, fire stations and sewer workers, the propaganda and reality of the Blitz – all feature in this unmissable night for anyone into the history of sound recording, radio or cities. Presented by Ian Rawes, a former British Library sound archivist, whose world renowned London Sound Survey contains over 1500 recordings of London life.