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It's snowing and raining outside, but inside the premises of the Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound in Stavanger you get the Christmas feeling. We have decorated for Christmas by exhibiting the recordings belonging to this season. And according to our special tradition, we will present to our web audience a Christmas Calendar filled with historical recordings from our collections.
Our musical advent calendar has become a Christmas tradition as good as any, this year with a slightly different twist than our earlier calendars. The last years, we have presented Christmas music, with both Norwegian and international artists. This year we have chosen to present Norwegian singers, but the music is not related to Christmas, in fact, this has been one of the criteria for the selections we have made. Every day though, you will find a link to the previous year's calendars, so you can enjoy music for Christmas anyway.
During December you will be presented to a selection of Norwegian vocal art through recordings made in Norway and abroad, but only with Norwegian singers. Some singers had an international career, others performed mainly in Norway. The link between them all is a genuine interpretation of the music. The recordings were made at a time when it was not so easy to hear other performances through recording as it is today. The singers could not listen to a record, they had to travel to where the music was performed to listen and learn from the performing artists. Nowadays Spotify reality is miles away from the world of sound recording at the time when our recordings were made. The importance of the important music cities in Europe as places to study music was high. But eventually, the quality of the recordings improved and the availability increased. Yet one may reflect upon that some of the distinctive characteristics of performers from way back then have been lost along the way.
It was Thomas Alva Edison who in 1877 presented the first phonograph, an apparatus able to record sound as well as to reproduce it, originally from tin foil rolls, later on wax cylinders. In 1898, Emile Berliner presented the gramophone with flat discs as we know them today, with grooves where the sound waves were engraved. The discs were made by shellac, thus easy to crack. From the beginning, sound was recorded acoustically, which means that the sound waves were captured directly through a funnel where a membrane attached to a needle caught the sound waves, which was then engraved into a revolving disc.
From 1925, electrical recordings became standard. By using a microphone, was possible to record a fuller range of sound waves than before. The frequency range of the sound recordings became larger. This paved the way to recording longer works, and the sound of a symphony orchestra in the (almost) full width. Stereo recording was first released by Decca in 1958, but this is after the time period we cover in our musical advent calendar.
We have records dating back to 1906, and the newest were made in the early 1950's.
The Christmas calendar will include a number of well-known arias from the world of opera, Norwegian folk music, and last but not least, romances for voice and piano, the hits in the romantic era. Without giving too much away, we can promise that it will be a bit of everything for everyone.
Sit back and adjust your ears so you can listen through the hiss, crackle and noise on the old records. Be entranced by the music and performances made by singers from a long bygone era. Get ready for a journey back to the first half of the 1900s.
Have a peaceful Advent!
The records are professionally cleaned and digitized but we present them in urestored editions, complete with hissing and crackling, perfect for creating the atmosphere of a good old Christmas. The Institute holds a conservation audio file in wave format, but the files that are presented here on the website are mp3 compressions of the original files.
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