Since the early 2000s, I have made phonographic recordings on cylinders of traditional musics at music festivals, artistic residencies and for public demonstrations of acoustic sound recording. Musicians from Spain, Senegal, Nigeria and South Korea, among other countries, have played and sung into my recording horn and their recordings reproduced to them mechanically on an ‘Edison’ phonograph. Their responses may arguably be compared to those experienced by the earliest phonographic recording subjects over one hundred years earlier – the awe of hearing a sound recording reproduced for the first time is replaced in this instance by feelings of curiosity, delight and amazement in the process of acoustic sound recording.

In the manner of early ethnographic practices, the recordings were all made ‘in the field’, often in difficult-to-record locations such as in the open air. Similarly, the recording apparatus used included a domestic Edison phonograph, such as those employed by ethnographers in the early 1900s, along with recorders and recording horns based on original examples. In this way, the entire recording set-up or dispositif, may be seen as a media-archaeological reenactment of past ethnographical recording practices. The results were likewise documented and archived as well as being disseminated through digital channels.

My presentation will focus on phonographic recordings on cylinders and documentation made at the annual Sinsal SON music festival on the island of San Simón in Galicia where since 2018, I have contributed to an ever-expanding archive of cylinder recordings that includes a variety of traditional musics from five continents.