Skip to Content

[X] CLOSEmobile menu trigger MENU

IRENE Seeing Sound Blog

Wax Cylinders from Middlebury College

Now that the IRENE system has been assembled at NEDCC, we begin the pilot phase of the project by reformatting a collection of wax cylinders from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection from Middlebury College in Vermont, a collection of field recordings of folk music in New England from the 1930's through the 1950's.

The following sound clip was recorded in the NEDCC Audio Lab using the IRENE3D camera which created a high-resolution digital 'map' of the cylinder without touching the object's surface, and processed the images into digital sound files within minutes.

"Up and Down the Grade" performed by
 Girard Lucien, Burlington, Vermont - Circa 1931


The wax cylinders from Middlebury are the "Dictaphone" type as shown here.


Here's the "Seeing Sound" part - the IRENE software shows the sound clip as condensed vertically in the top panel, as the natural dimensions of the grooves at the right, and as a graph of the cross section of the grooves in the bottom panel.

About the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection

One of the nation's great archival collections of New England folksong, folklore, and balladry, the Flanders Ballad Collection was the lifework of Helen Hartness Flanders (1890-1972), of Springfield, Vermont.

In 1930, Mrs. Flanders, daughter of a former Governor of Vermont, wife of Ralph Flanders, Republican Senator from Vermont from 1946-1959, and a trained musician, was appointed by the Committee on Traditions and Ideals of the Vermont Commission on Country Life to spearhead a project to document the traditional music of Vermont.

Over the course of thirty years, and with the assistance of Marguerite Olney, Flanders gathered and preserved more than 4,800 field recordings of New England folksongs and ballads as sung by native Vermonters and other New Englanders.



Helen Hartness Flanders with 'Aunt Olive May.'

Photos and sound courtesy of
Middlebury College Special Collections.

(LEARN MORE about NEDCC's IMLS grant to devlop IRENE to serve America's cultural institutions.)