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Waxing on: a fond return to recording technology’s origins

test 12 May 2009

UK: The Back to Wax Revue is providing an opportunity to look back at the earliest days of sound recording, reports David Davies. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Rodwell and ukulele/banjo maestro Madame Pamita are among the musicians set to participate in two live recording sessions at London venues on May 20 and 24.

The performers will record directly onto wax cylinder, which was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 and constitutes the original manifestation of the desire to capture and retain musical performances. The vintage equipment will be operated by Sheffield-based Vulcan Cylinder Record Co, which is run by Duncan Miller and remains the only authentic cylinder record label/studio in the world using the original techniques pioneered by Edison.

According to Rodwell (pictured here recording with Vulcan), the Back to Wax Revue "offers a glimpse at the moment when music-making was changed by the recording medium itself. It shows how songs, styles and techniques stopped being localised and became standardised – ready to ship across the world to another front room somewhere."

The first event will be held at The George Tavern, 373 Commercial Road, Stepney, London E1 0LA. Start time is 8pm and entrance is _6 on the door, _4 concessions.

The second event will be staged at The Luminaire, 311 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JT. Start time is 7.30pm and tickets cost _10 on the door, or _8 advance from

Live recordings are expected to be made available immediately after the concerts, and Rodwell is hopeful that further live sessions will follow in the future. "We would love to tour it more extensively," he tells PSN-e. "We have had expressions of interest from university departments, music colleges, clubs, schools, engineering museums and academic ‘art-science encounter’ networks in the UK, Norway and the USA. Watch this space."

Look out for a in-depth feature on the people keeping wax cylinder technology alive in the June 2009 print issue of Pro Sound News Europe.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Gillett


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