rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

I Can Hardly Believe that MMV is Almost Half Gone!

What to do on a night when the house refuses to cool off? I let my slow dial-up connection download some big files while I stayed outdoors where it was cool. I discovered the Internet Archive's collection of 78RPM records. There are several hundred recordings, mostly from before 1923, uploaded by IA users as MP3s (and some as .ogg files) which can be either saved or streamed.

Naturally, I couldn't snag very many with a download speed that averaged about 5K, but I've got about a dozen of them. The collection includes a lot of stuff by artists whose names remain familiar to many, such as Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Paul Whiteman, Eddy Cantor, and Caruso (goatloads of stuff by Caruso.) But there are hundreds of recordings by people I've never heard of. I've been sticking mostly to the well-known stuff so far, but I did take a chance on a Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, as I was familiar with the song Crazy Blues, which I have on a CD of music from piano rolls recorded by Eubie Blake. It paid off. It turns out that Mamie was a hot blues singer.

I have found that some of the links lead to pages that merely list songs, but have no means of downloading or streaming them, and sometimes there will be an error message, so you can't get everything that's on the Big List. Still, most of the links are live, so it's always worth checking if there's something that looks interesting.

I've been playing the downloads in Winamp, and it's very odd to think that I'm using a computer to fetch and listen to songs originally recorded non-electrically on 78RPM records that my grandparent might have heard on an unamplified gramophone, eighty or ninety years ago. Right now, I'm playing violinist Fritz Kreisler's 1917 recording of the popular ballad of that distant era, Poor Butterfly. In 1917, my dad was eight years old, running barefoot over the sand hills of the small town of Manhattan Beach, some sixteen or so miles southeast (across mostly open space) of Los Angeles. The thought makes me very aware of how much has changed in what is really a very brief time.

There is also a lot of music besides the 78RPM record collection at the Internet Archive, much of it recent stuff that is under copyright, but which the copyright holders permit to be distributed non-commercially. It's a trove!

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