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Gramophones and Grooves
A series devoted to recordings from the 19th century
Programme Details
3.45-4.00pm Monday-Friday 13 - 17 September
David Owen Norris
Pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris is the proud possessor of an ancient wind-up gramophone -which receives far more use than his CD-player.
Programme One: 

In the 1890s, wax cylinders (for the phonograph) and shellac discs (for the gramophone) were competing technologies in the world of sound recordings. Listeners can hear the voices of Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph and Emil Berliner, creator of the disc. 

David Owen Norris examines how successful music recordings on both media were dependent on the particular sound of the instruments concerned. There are examples of some of the best sounds - high-pitched xylophone, cornet and the human whistle, not forgetting bands. The greatest of them all - Sousa's Band - receives special attention. 

David Owen Norris looks at the beginning of the indigenous British recording industry by descending into the basement of a pub near Covent Garden - this is where the legendary record producer Fred Gaisberg set up his first studio. His first artistes were found at a nearby restaurant and hotel. 

Interviewees: Cylinder collector Dominic Combe. Peter Martland of Cambridge University . Sam Brylawski, head of recorded sound at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.
Programme Two: 

American Civil War hero Colonel George Gouraud was the first roving sound reporter in history. As Thomas Edison's agent in the UK , he beguiled all manner of famous names to record into his phonograph for publicity purposes. In this programme listeners can hear PT Barnum, William Ewart Gladstone, Florence Nightingale, Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Duke of Cambridge (the first royal to be recorded), Prince Napoleon and Henry Morton Stanley, who famously uttered the line 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?' 

David Owen Norris also describes how Goraud made a present of a phonograph to Stanley, who then made his own recordings. Examples here include explorers Sir George Grey and Sven Anders von Hedin, and actors Coquelin (the first Cyrano de Bergerac) and Irving . 

Interviewees: Actor and Gouraud expert Richard Bebb. Collector and dealer Howard Hope.
Programme Three: 

Here, Gramophones and Grooves examines the curiosity corners of early recordings, from duck impressions and political addresses, to adverts and comedy routines. Listeners can hear Buffalo Bill urging Americans to support President McKinley over the Spanish-American War of 1898. George Graham spouts an advert for 'Plants Cream of Tartar Baking Powder'. The famous alleged recording of Queen Victoria puts in an appearance, as does the only known wildlife recording made in the 19 th century. To cap it all, there is the earliest known recording of all - Frank Lambert reading a version of the Speaking Clock in 1878. 

Interviewees: Collector and Dealer Howard Hope. Sam Brylawski, head of recorded sound at the Library of Congress in Washington DC . Richard Ranft of the British Library Sound Archive.
Programme Four: 

Folk and native musics were collected in the 1890s both by commercial recording companies and by researchers working in the field. The programme features folk music from various parts of Europe recorded by Fred Gaisberg of the Gramophone Company of London . David Owen Norris then taps into the British Library's collection of cylinders recorded in the late 1890s by a group of Cambridge academics in the Far East . Along the way David Owen Norris records his own voice on an 1890s phonograph cylinder to test the technology. 

Next comes the work of Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, whose astonishingly vivid recordings of Omaha Indian rituals conjure up fascinating images of the past. The programme closes with Thai theatre music as performed in Berlin 's Zoological Gardens as entertainment. 

Interviewees: Collector and dealer Howard Hope. Janet Topp Fargion of the British Library Sound Archive. John McBride of the University of Southampton . Sam Brylawski, head of recorded sound at the Library of Congress in Washington DC . Collector Dominic Combe.
Programme Five: 

Why did classical music fare so badly in terms of quantity in the 1890s? David Norris examines the issue by assessing how star names viewed the new recording media - and how much they were offered to record. There are examples of lesser lights who stepped into the breach - among them violinist Jacques Jacobs, solo violinist of the Trocadero Grill, who found himself recording the famous Mendelssohn Violin Concerto for the Gramophone Company of London. Listeners can nonetheless hear the piano playing of Brahms, and the speaking voices of Sir Arthur Sullivan and Tchaikovsky. There is also what is probably the first musical recording of all - of voices at a Crystal Palace Handel Festival in 1888. 

The programme (and the series) ends with the sounds of the first truly great artist to record - Enrico Caruso. 

Interviewees: Peter Martland of Cambridge University . Sam Brylawski, head of recorded sound at the Library of Congress in Washington DC . Record producer Eric Wen. Collector Dominic Combe.
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