The Sultan's 78 RPM Record Collection

Probably longer ago than when you were born, sometime between when Edison invented the light bulb and Elvis (Presley, that is, not Costello) became a household name, mankind entertained itself with amazingly crudely reproduced analog audio signals. It seems a large paper cone, to which a needle was attached, would inscribe tracks in wax platters. These tracks, when rotated at constant speed matching their turning speed during the recording phase, would cause the needle and paper cone to generate sound waves amazingly like the originals. Sorry, folks, I haven't any of those pure acoustics, but this collection comes close to that day.

When vacuum tubes were invented (the pre-cursors of transistors, which appear by the million in your Intel CPU chip) the quivering needle could be more precisely controlled. Moreover, if you filled up the grooves with hot metal, you could stamp the audio tracks anew in molten vinyl with the metal die, and the copy (we would say data replication today) would play just as nicely as the original. Still, vinyl/wax/shellac, whatever, wears out quickly. That's why you now have audio CDs recorded as laser-pips on an aluminum contact, no wear. And it's all digital, so there is no signal loss, although those of us who grew up with vinyl records still think the darn CDs sound tinney and metallic.

Here, on this web page, the old meets the new. We cross the decades. Through the magic of the digital PC sound card, you can of course fill your disk up with .WAV files made simply by playing the records into the MIC input. But the WAV files are so darn large nobody would ever stand by that long to download them. And there is the problem of hiss, scratches, and general noise. Here, I have cured the "fat" problem by encoding the records in RealAudio format. If you are using Netscape or Internet Explorer, you've already got the smarts to play these excerpts.

To solve the noise problem, I used CoolEdit95, a nice WAV editor that has a noise-reducer. The results of de-noising and RealAudio compression result in files that contain about 3 minutes of music in about 500K. The sound is, I hate to admit, far short of what you would expect from an AM radio today. However, you might be pleasantly surprised how much music survives!

This disk contains Debussy's Nocturnes, about seventeen minutes of music that takes six full sides to play at 78 RPM.
Click here to download the first half of the third movement, Sirenes
Click here to download the second half of Sirenes

The first part of Poulenc's Aubade, featuring Francis Poulenc himself at the keyboard
Click here to download the introduction

And purely for fun, a really hot Gypsy piece (from an LP vinyl) and a Bennie Bell Yiddish Comedy skit (from a 1946 78 RPM) featuring some tremendous Klezmer