The Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment have teamed up to make more than 10,000 rare sound recordings available on-line. The jukebox offers free access to music and spoken-word recordings produced in the United States between 1901 and 1925.
“This amazing collection is a chance to hear history,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
“This collection includes popular music, dance music, opera, early jazz, famous speeches, poetry and humor. It is what our grandparents and great-grandparents listened to, danced to, sang along with. This brings online one of the most explosively creative periods in American culture and music and one of the finest additions to the Library’s American Memory materials.”
Here are more details from the Library of Congress:
At launch, the National Jukebox will feature recordings exclusively from Sony Music’s Victor Talking Machine Co. catalog, and include songs and other materials such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band performing “Livery Stable Blues”—considered the first jazz recording ever released—Lena Wilson singing “T’aint Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” (1923), and the famed Ziegfeld Follies star Fannie Brice singing “My Man.”
In addition, the collection will include early jazz, many blues songs and novelty songs meant to evoke laughter (such as the 1908 “Cat Duet” that simulated the sounds of cats yowling in the night), and recordings made for distinct ethnic groups, such as Irish songs or home-nation music beloved by immigrants to the U.S.
Not just limited to music, users also can access political speeches by Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft, recitings of famous popular poems such as “Casey at the Bat” and “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” readings from the Bible and early sound-effects records such as a collection of snores and sneezes.
The website will showcase special interactive features as well, including a digital facsimile of the 1919 edition of the famous opera guide “Victrola Book of the Opera,” which describes more than 110 operas, including illustrations, plot synopses and lists of recordings offered in that year. Features include the book’s original text, a comparison of the different interpretations of the most popular arias of the period, and streamed recordings of nearly every opera referenced in the book.
The National Jukebox additionally will include playlists annotated by Library staff, focusing on different genres, time periods, themes and artists. Users also will be able to create their own playlists to post on their own webpages and social networking sites or submit them to the Library for posting on the National Jukebox site.
Other features include pages of background information on both the creation of the National Jukebox and audio-preservation practices.
The recordings featured in the National Jukebox were made using what is known as the acoustical process, which predates the use of microphones. Speakers spoke into, or singers sang into, cones which vibrated an attached diaphragm and stylus, etching sound waves onto a rotating wax disc. These original discs later could be converted into masters used to mold the records sold for home use.