Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Otto von Bismarck's voice among restored Edison recordings


Otto von Bismarck brought back to life thanks to Thomas Edison recording 

A fantastic rare find in America here of a previously-lost recording of 19th Century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.  One of those "unlabelled box" discoveries that so often yield amazing items, other cylinders contain music by Chopin and various German and Hungarian performers of the time - a veritable treasure trove of sound recordings from 1889 allowing us to hear for the first time the voices of people from over 100 years ago.

Otto von Bismarck voice recording released

Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke, also recorded
Quite surprisingly the existence of the box was known as long ago as 1957, but the contents had remained unknown until now.  The huge cultural importance of early Edison cylinders has just been given another boost by this find - the then new-fangled technology of sound recording meant that so much speech and music was documented for posterity and I have no doubt that there are other such cylinders and early recordings still waiting to be found to give us further insight into the 19th and early 20th Century.  What else lays undiscovered in the Thomas Edison National Park, I wonder?

Bismarck’s Voice Among Restored Edison Recordings

German historians are naturally elated by this unearthing, as well they should be, but it is a remarkable event for historians everywhere.  The great thing about it is that as sound recordings they can no doubt be digitised, stored and disseminated the world over thanks to modern technology.  One wonders if our own audio formats will last as long, and whether they will be found and listened to in the 22nd Century, and be of as much interest?

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