Past events

RAI Research Seminar: Adrian Poole
Wednesday 15 June 2016, 05:30pm - 07:30pm
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Ethnographic Wax Cylinder Recordings, Technology and Archival Issues

Dr Adrian Poole, University College London

Wednesday 15 June at 5.30 pm

Phonographic wax cylinder equipment was the principal means by which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century anthropologists, comparative musicologists and linguistics recorded and played back the sounds that they encountered in the field. This technology had a profound effect on the development of these disciplines, with many comparative musicologists using recordings to conduct detailed rhythmic, pitch and temporal analyses, and using the findings to make comparative judgements of distinct musical cultures.

This paper examines the technology, recordings and archival issues surrounding the use and preservation of phonographic recording equipment and early ethnographic wax cylinder recordings. Drawing on a range of source material including published texts and numerous unique recordings made by several prominent comparative musicologists (now stored at the British Library Sound Archive), this paper focuses one methodological issue: accurately determining the playback speed that most appropriately matches that used at the time of the original field recording.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to

Location 3