There are multiple ways to digest music in the digital era. For those who are selective and desire portability, iTunes and Rhapsody fit the bill. For vintage junkies there’s vinyl. And for more tactile audiences there are CDs. But despite the availability of multiple music delivery systems, there were still the untouchables. Those tunes that were unavailable for 100 plus years. These recordings belong to a time before electric-recordings were the status quo. These recordings were created by using horns and cones to capture sound rather than microphones. Recordings were made by having a singer vocalize into a cone, the vibrations from the singing would cause a stylus to etch sound waves onto a rotating disc. This disc would be used as a sonic road map for recordings. Despite the availability of millions of tunes through CD, vinyl, and digital download, horn and cone recordings were the elusive set-unavailable for purchase or download.

But as of yesterday, these archived recordings are available to the public for FREE through the Library of Congress’ National Jukebox. The catalog includes everything from the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s imprint of the first ever jazz recording to the works of celebrated classic musicians such as Enrico Caruso and Fritz Kiesler. Also available are political speeches, poetry, and other spoken word recordings. In total there are over 10,000 recordings available for streaming. This is no small feat: a significant chunk of these songs have been unavailable for decades and some for centuries thanks to complex laws controlling ownership of recordings. The National Jukebox is possible thanks to a significant partnership with Sony, a music industry label that controls a lion’s share of historical recordings such as those made via the Victor Talking Machine Company (acquired by RCA in 1929, which later became RCA Records, a Sony label).

As our nation’s sound history enters the public domain, academics and music fans alike are eagerly awaiting more innovative ways to tell old stories and hear old songs. Luckily, they won’t have to wait too long. The next phase of the project will release early recordings made for Columbia records, which Sony controls.

To scroll through these valuable vintage archives click here.

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