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Pop before it popped


The New York Times shows how to download up to 6,000 of the earliest recorded pop-music songs, from 1890-1920, free of charge:

several thousand cylinders, the first commercially available recordings ever produced, that have recently become available free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection and some spare bandwidth. Last November, the Donald C. Davidson Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara, introduced the Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project Web site (cylinders.library.ucsb.edu), a collection of more than 6,000 cylinders converted to downloadable MP3’s, WAV files and streaming audio. It’s an astonishing trove of sounds: opera arias, comic monologues, marching bands, gospel quartets. Above all, there are the pop tunes churned out by Tin Pan Alley at the turn of the century: ragtime ditties, novelty songs, sentimental ballads and a dizzying range of dialect numbers performed by vaudeville’s blackface comedians and other “ethnic impersonators.”

Sample clips include “I’m Looking for Something to Eat” by Stella Mayhew “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” by Billy Murray “Yes, We Have No Bananas” by Green Bros Novelty Band. The origins of modern pop music – and a lot of fun.

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