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Analog sound recordings

finding, using, preserving musical recordings captured before the digital age

Research Services Librarian

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Jacey Kepich

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This is a guide to the use of pre-digital (analog) recordings in music research, such as cylinders, 78s, 45s, 33s. It will not cover CDs or downloads except as carriers for material originally captured in one of the formats above.

Early recordings are germane to several fields of study:

1. Performance practice. The early 20th century is the first period for which we can hear what music actually sounded like. While the technical limitations of early recordings somewhat compromises the information, still we can hear that the assumptions of musicians in 1910 were not necessarily those of modern performers.

2. Ethnomusicology. Collectors like Percy Grainger, Bela Bartok and Alan Lomax recorded folk music while it was still orally-transmitted, without the influence of recordings, radio, and print. Early recording companies knew there was money to be made in the ethnic market, but had no clear idea what they wanted, so they'd record a little of everything and see how it sold.

3. Social studies: sociology, politics, religion, etc.  Recorded music, particularly popular music, gives us a window on history and attitudes.


Updated 6-4-21

CWRU Libraries Discovery

How to Search

Physical holdings of the Kulas Music Collection at Kelvin Smith Library include CDs and a limited number of LPs. Use the advanced search option at to limit your search to 'music recording' under the material type menu. Enter your search terms (composer, title, or subject) as you would for any other search, keeping in mind that the catalog will retrieve results held in Kulas and the Robinson Music Library at the Cleveland Institute of Music, unless you limit location to 'Kulas Music Library.'

How to Get Access

Kulas sound recordings are located on the first floor of Kelvin Smith Library in locked cabinets. A staff member at the service desk can retrieve an item for you if you provide a call number. CD call numbers use the ANSCR classification system, and LPs use a similar alpha-numeric structure.