Melting Crayons to Make Records
May 1, 2004 12:00 PM, Compiled by Sarah Benzuly
Since the age of 10, Shawn Borri has tried to duplicate the wax recording techniques used by the North American Phonograph Co. founded by Thomas Alva Edison in 1888, beginning with melting crayons around a roll of toilet paper. Fast-forward 15 years: Sound engineer Borri has reopened the North American Phonograph Co. (Freehold, N.Y.; http://members.tripod.com/**Edison_1/) as a wax cylinder recording studio.
Using 1880s technology (recording horns and spring motors; no microphones or electricity), tracks are recorded on wax and digitally transferred using an Archeophone, a state-of-the-art digital cylinder player designed by Henri Chamoux. The company also re-issues classic cylinders, some recorded a century or more ago, in their original cylinder form for $25 each.
Borri's recordings also appear under his Borri Records label, which includes .moe's Wormwood and Al Duvall's Hey Rube. Album proceeds are donated to the Save our Sounds Project, which preserves original wax cylinder recordings in the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institute and others.
“Acoustic sound recording on the phonograph gives a presence to the recording that no other method can duplicate,” says Borri. “We invite any recording artist to our studio for a free trial of this method to discover the possibilities and potential.”
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