Wax Cylinder Recordings – The original Steampunk Music

Woman at home with Phonographic Cylinder player in the backgroundIn our time, with digital downloads in various formats being readily available, one sometimes forgets or even does not know that it was not always thus. The older ones among us will still remember the days of the cassette player and the old vinyl records. The latter enjoying something of a renaissance right now.

But long before the days of DVD, CD, Blue Ray and MP4, there was the wax cylinder. Far less known than the beloved gramophone, it was the first working technology for recording speech and music. A few post earlier, I featured a kickstarter project for just such a recording project. I think it is well worth supporting, which I did. In any case, I guess the team will have better technology at hand and thus produce a superior quality version of a wax cylinder recording.

The thing is, with the relatively “primitive” technology available in the actual historic period (ca. late 1880’s+), the sound quality was not all that great as the following recording shows:

OK, the lyrics are German, so you may have some difficulties anyway, here are the lyrics:

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin,
Ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt,
Im Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar,
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewalt’ge Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen Kahne,
Ergreift’s mit wildem Weh;
Er sieht nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.
Ich glaube die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende noch Schiffer und Kahn,
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,
Die Lorelei getan.

I did not deliberately go for German lyrics. This is actually the first Youtube video that came up in the search. And in case you wonder: The Lorelei is both the name of a rock formation on the banks of the Rhine and of a (relatively modern) nixie, who sits on this rock and lures fishermen and sailors on the Rhine below to their death.