On the evening of Tuesday 24 January the British Library hosted the final sell-out Sound (re)discovery event. The evening was a showcase of live music and a demonstration of early sound recording with 40 tickets available – and all were sold out before the day. We were joined by members of the Orchestra of the City who performed the last movement of Quartet No.16 in E flat, K.428 and the slow movement of Quartet No.19 in C major, K.465. Both of these Mozart manuscripts are part of the British Library collection and have been published on Europeana through the Europeana Sounds project.
While the quartet performed these pieces, Aleks Kolkowski demonstrated early sound recording on both wax cylinder and vinyl disc. Aleks Kolkowski is a musician and composer whose work focusses on historical sound recording and throughout 2016, he was Composer in Residence at the British Library. To begin Aleks recorded the lead violinist on his own acoustic instrument on wax cylinder and then the same piece of music was played again, but on a Stroh violin. The Stroh is a phono instrument which was developed to enhance recordings in the early twentieth century. Upon playback of the wax cylinder, it was clear what a difference the phono instrument made, and how much clearer the recording was. A demonstration of vinyl recording then took place, with playback of the disc presented to the audience.
After the performance there was an opportunity for a question and answer session which the audience enthusiastically took part in. The event was an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the wonderful music we have been able to aggregate during the project and learn a little more about the historic sound recording machines which have also been a project highlight.
by Laura Miles, The British Library.