Wax Poetic! Live Cylinder Phonograph Recordings

Wax Poetic Live Cylinder Phonograph Recordings

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A rare opportunity to witness an historic form of sound recording

Poets Caroline Bird, kitt price, Hannah Silva and Andra Simons will be recorded live onto wax cylinders by British Library composer-in-residence Aleks Kolkowski using an original Edison phonograph. The cylinder phonograph was the first means to record and archive the reading of poetry from the late nineteenth century.

Aided by a giant recording horn, the acoustic power of each poet’s voice will etch a spiral groove containing sound indentations onto the cylinder surface, no electricity is used in the recording process. The results will be played back to the public through a second horn and via especially reconstructed listening tubes that will re-enact the phonographic listening experience during the wax cylinder era of the 1890s.

This event offers the public a rare opportunity to witness an historic form of sound recording and to hear new poetry become transported back to the time of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Walt Whitman - the first poets to record their own works for posterity.

Caroline Bird has four poetry collections published by Carcanet, most recently The Hat-Stand Union. She won a major Eric Gregory Award in 2002, she was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and 2010 for her second and third collections, Trouble Came To The Turnip, and Watering Can, and was the youngest writer on the list both times. Watering Can also achieved a ‘Poetry Book Society Recommendation.' She was one of the five official poets for the London Olympics. She is also a playwright; her original play Chamber Piece was a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and she is currently writing the book and lyrics for Dennis the Menace the Musical for The Old Vic. 

kitt price uses found text to inhabit technology as process and material histories of sound. Her work includes Babble Machine and Hello Test with Aleksander Kolkowski (London Science Museum and Resonance FM, 2012 & 2014), Under the Yoke with Tom Hall (SuperCollider Symposium 2010, Berlin) and ‘Bookmachine’ with Andrew Nightingale (Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2010). kitt also teaches in the Department of English, Queen Mary University of London, and is writing a cultural history of precognitive dreams.

Hannah Silva is a poet and playwright currently touring a solo show Schlock! She is a collaborative doctoral award holder with the British Library and Stirling University. Her debut poetry collection Forms of Protest is published by Penned in the Margins.

Andra Simons is a Bermudian writer and performer living in London. He published his debut collection The Joshua Tales (Treehouse Press) in 2009 and in numerous publications both in the UK and internationally. Andra was a Creative Writing Visiting Lecturer at the University of Greenwich from 2009-2015 and is presently editing his next collection of poetry Turtlemen.

Aleksander Kolkowski is a composer, violinist and researcher who uses historical sound recording and reproduction apparatus and obsolete media to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music. His work invites us to listen to the present through the audio technologies of the past, through recordings, installations and live historical re-enactments. His numerous international projects in this field have combined wax cylinder phonographs, wind-up gramophones and antique disc recording machines together with live musicians and even singing canaries. His residency at the British Library Sound Archive is made possible by the Sound and Music Embedded composer scheme.

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Name: Wax Poetic! Live Cylinder Phonograph Recordings
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546