Archival 78-era MP3

Some music is electronic by intent; other music accrues the association over time. The Internet Archive, at, has much intentional electronic music on it: among other places, in the Other Minds archive, which has been featured often in the Disquiet Downstream, and the general live archive, which sneaks in some work by DJs and techno acts amid the overwhelming amount of roots rock. Then there’s the “78 RPMs” section (link), 798 tracks in total as of this writing. The whole batch is defined by its technological moment, bearing the scar of thick surface noise that is, depending on your mood, either a palimpsest of recording history or a premonition of tinnitus. Buried deep in the 78 RPMs section are many key items, long in the public domain, that define audio history, notably songs by Enrico Caruso and Bing Crosby, artists who early on learned to use the studio to their advantage. (There’s nothing, unfortunately, by Les Paul, who turned 90 earlier this month.) If you wander through the stacks, you’ll come upon material that is so entranced with the idea of recording sound that it dispenses with song almost entirely, in favor of effects. A case in point is “The 11 69 Express” (MP3), dated 1911, 3:12 in length and credited to Fred Duprez, reportedly a monologuist and character from Edison’s recording company. After an orchestral opening, Duprez tells his tale accompanied by staccato strings, bells, train sounds, whistles and more, including a clucking-like noise, around the 3:06 point, that eerily suggests the scratching of vinyl many decades ahead of its scheduled arrival.

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