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Die Wachszylinder des Berliner Phonogramm-Archivs.

Die Wachszylinder des Berliner Phonogramm-Archivs. Von Susanne Ziegler. Berlin: Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2006. (Veroffentlichungen des Ethnologischen Museums Berlin NF 74; Abt. Musikethnologe, Medien-Technik und Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv; 12) [512 pp. ISBN 3-88609-527-4. 34.90 [euro]]

The Phonogramm-Archiv (Phonogramme Archive) was established in Berlin in 1900 by Carl Stumpf (1848-1936) who, as a psychologist, took a strong interest in sound recording. This was in line with the international development--almost at the same time similar institutions were founded in Vienna and St. Petersburg. From 1905 to 1933, when he was forced to leave by the Nazis, Erich M. von Hornbostel (1877-1935) headed the Archive, and he probably left the strongest mark on it, being also one of the fathers of modern ethnomusicology. From 1900 to 1922 the institute was affiliated with the Psychological Institute of Berlin University, then till 1933 with the Berlin State College of Music, and as of 1934 became a section within the Ethnological Museum (at that time: Museum fur Volkerkunde). The Archive profited from explorers, travellers and residents in foreign countries, who were willing to cooperate; some of them were trained at the institute in recording sounds before they started working. Others, like ethnologists, were sometimes already familiar with the technique. Quite a number of recordings were given as donations, sometimes by other institutions, sometimes by the collectors or their heirs.

Over the years the number of wax cylinders grew to about 30,000 with recordings from all over the world, mostly music but also human voice. The latter, by the way, became a specialty of another institution, the Lautabteilung (Sound Department) of the Prussian State Library, which was later transferred to the Psychological Institute of the University.

World War II left its mark on the collection but the majority of the cylinders survived, most of them in East Berlin. The German unification led also to a unification of the cylinder collection in 1991.

The present catalogue is the first comprehensive key to the collection. It gives a short history of the Archive and informs about the program to restore the wax cylinders and digitize the recordings. A number of items were included in publications and are thus easily and generally available, e.g. Japanese recordings. (1)

The bulk of the book consists of the catalogue of the recordings themselves. The listing is alphabetical, e.g. "Koppers Indien", meaning 29 cylinders with traditional music of the Bhil in India, recorded by the Vienna ethnologist Wilhelm Koppers (1886-1961) in Rambhapur in 1939. There are three items collected by the eminent ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst (1891-1960): "Kunst Bali" (1925, 15 items), "Kunst Indonesien" (327 items) and "Kunst Java" (18 gamelan recordings, 1922-1923). The catalogue is derived from an in-house database and follows a practical format: collector, place of recording, year, area, ethnic group, contents of recordings, number of cylinders, losses, documentation available (yes/no), bibliographic references, editor's notes. The catalogue is well illustrated, both by photographs and specimens of notation (from secondary literature).

An ideal supplement to the catalogue is a chapter "Short biographies of collectors" as some of them are hardly known today, like Adolf Dirr (1867-1930), a major expert on Caucasian languages, who earned his living as a teacher in the Caucasus and later worked as an interpreter and staff member of the Munich Ethnological Museum, and Marie Du Bois-Reymond (1864-?), wife of Claude du Bois-Reymond, professor at the German Medical School in Shanghai. The collectors are by no means all German--there are Finns, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Dutchmen, Americans, Australians, and even an Icelander! This chapter is also well illustrated.

The appendix gives an extensive bibliography of references and secondary literature, a list of Phonogramm-Archiv recordings on records and CDs, Internet addresses, photo credits, notation credits, and several indices: a numerical listing of the collections, an index of ethnic names, an index of personal and institutional names, a geographcal index and a subject index. The introduction to the book as well as chapter introductions are also given in English and make the book useful on a truly international level. There are also several colour plates which give an idea of the objects in question.

Last but not least the CD-ROM must be mentioned, which comprises the contents of the catalogue but also gives examples of the original documentation (partly with original scripts, e.g., Chinese characters) and, above all, sound examples. Whoever worked with pristine wax cylinder recordings will not expect wonders, and so one is very pleased to get an idea of the respective items by means of the samples. Actually, the technique of preserving and restoring these recordings is rather sophisticated, and in addition "galvanos" were prepared of many of the originals early on for better preservation. And, indeed, many of the originals are not extant any more!

While quite a number of the recordings are from Asia, the majority are from other parts of the world, e.g., Africa and the Pacific; there we notice an influence from the former German colonies but also the interests of Felix von Luschan (2) (Africa) who was a strong supporter of the Archives. Nevertheless, the Asian collections are noteworthy: Recordings from India, Japan and Indonesia were already mentioned; one might add those made by Berthold Laufer (1874-1934) in China (3). The index has 21 references in the case of China alone.

In short, here we have an excellent reference tool for early (mostly music) recordings, going back up to 100 years. The data, the biographies, the documentation, and the sound examples provide a comprehensive overwiew of this unique collection.

(1.) Walzenaufnamen japanischer Musik (1901-1913). Kommentar: Ingrid Fritsch. Berlin: Phonogramm-Archiv 2003. CD + 96 pp. Among the recordings are those from the performances of the Kawakami Otojiro / Sada Yacco troupe that recently was brought to the attention of the scholarly world again: Japanischer Theaterhimmel uber Europas Buhnen: Kawakami Otojiro, Sadayakko und ihre Truppe auf Tournee durch Mittel- und Osteuropa 1901/1902. Herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Peter Pantzer. Munchen: Iudicium, 2005. lxxxiv + 1092 pp. ISBN 978-3-89129-920-3.

(2.) 1854-1924; he became director of the Africa / Oceania dept. of the Berlin Ethnological Museum in 1910.

(3.) Erich Fischer already dealt with some of these recordings in Beitrage zur Erforschung der chinesischen Musik (1910/1911). See also Hartmut Wal ravens, 'Popular Chinese Music a Century Ago: The Legacy of Berthold Laufer', Fontes artis musicae 47.2000,345-352.

Hartmut Walravens

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Author:Walravens, Hartmut
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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