Thursday, 18 March 2010

CHARM sound archive goes online

Send the family on holiday, clear your diary, farm out the pets, buy in plenty of tins and put the phone on divert: you will spend the next two weeks on your own, in the dark, happily hunting and listening to a treasure trove of long-forgotten goodies from the wonderful to the weird.

More than 5,000 historical recordings (each one, a side of a 10- or 12-inch coarse-groove disc), dating from about 1915 to 1952, have just been made available online for anyone to stream or download, free, anywhere in the world.

The CHARM online sound archive combines transfers made under the auspices of two academic projects: CHARM itself, the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, which ran from 2004 to 2009; and 'Musicians of Britain and Ireland, 1900-1950', brainchild of Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson of the Music Department, King's College, London, one of the Associate Directors of CHARM. Daniel brilliantly secured funding from the UK's JISC and so more than doubled the number of transfers funded under CHARM.

The transfer engineers were Andrew Hallifax, who has worked with many classical artists and companies as well as making recodings for his own record label, Big Ears; and Martin Haskell, who has worked for Decca, ASV and other companies and engineered many, many reissues of historical recordings.

The project would not have been possible without the amazing discographical research done over many decades by the likes of Frank Andrews, Michael Smith, Ernie & Ernest Bayly and Bill Dean-Myatt, all published by the CLPGS, and by Alan Kelly of Sheffield.

I must declare an interest: I ended up being the main selector of recordings to be transferred by the two projects, though others, inside CHARM and out, were also free to make suggestions; and our warmest thanks must go to the doyen of British critics of singing, John Steane, for kindly and freely giving of his fabled expertise in that domain.

You will find all the information you need about the two projects and the CHARM archive, about searching, file formats and players and so on, on the site. So:

Get searching and enjoy!