Recording Music On 100 Year Old Equipment From The Late 1800s

Musician’s Record On 100+ Year Old Equipment

Rob Scallon is a well-known guitarist on YouTube. He’s known for some admittedly rather unique performances. None are weirder or more fun, though, than when he recorded himself, his friends and a metal band on a hundred-year-old wax phonograph cylinder.

The cylinder came from the New York studio of none other than Thomas Edison himself. It was manufactured in the early 1900s and was one of the first sound recording devices to become commercially available. It records sound in a similar way to vinyl records by engraving the surface of a wax cylinder. The cylinder is made from aluminium which is made into a kind of waxy soap. Don’t worry, though, it’s not the sort that lathers up and we won’t see it in our local pharmacy.

It does, however, illustrate the skill and ingenuity of inventors like Thomas Edison. After all, who would take aluminium and think, “You know what? I’m going to try and make this into waxy soap and try to record sound on it.” It certainly was a very ingenious design, but it was a different kind of innovative thinking that must have inspired Rob Scallon to attempt to record on this device all these decades later.

The video begins with Rob and his friends carrying in the phonograph, and it is a sight to behold. The horn the music is funnelled through is at least 5 feet long, and the device comes with its original plaque. Shawn Borri, who provided the phonograph, comes along to act as the 1800s sound engineer. As there can’t be many people who know how to operate this incredible device, that’s undoubtedly a good thing. Admittedly for Shawn, though, it’s probably not a skill he employs very often.

The first recording is one of Rob’s own compositions: a beautiful acoustic fingerstyle piece called Short Song. Rob is accompanied by his friend, fellow guitarist Jeff Linville. It’s a truly beautiful piece, and as the wax cylinders can only record for about two minutes, it’s a suitable length.

The video then takes a weirder turn as a man in a flat cap, and an epic fake beard arrives to join Rob and Jeff. He plays guitar and sings a song called My Uncle the Philanthropist. To round off the experiment, Rob brings in a metal band and records one final number in the deathcore style. Rob explains for the benefit of his viewers that he thought that because it’s slower, it would record better.

Once all the performances are finished, Shawn plays back the recordings. While they are certainly not up to today’s standard, they really are amazing, considering the medium used to record them. Shawn explains earlier in the video that it’s aluminium made into a type of soap!

Whether you’re a fan of Rob Scallon, or metal music, or not, this really is a performance everyone should watch. Seeing such an old and complicated piece of equipment work so perfectly is amazing. If you want to see more from this talented musician subscribe to Rob’s YouTube channel or follow him on Facebook.