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IRENE Seeing Sound Blog

Reaching the 100th Flanders Cylinder

The IRENE Lab reached the 100th cylinder from the Helen Hartness Flanders collection at Middlebury College Special Collections this week.

One of the key goals of the grant project is to develop workflow protocols, estimating models, proposal templates, and deliverable specifications, so it has been great to have this large (and fascinating!) collection of cylinders to use in the pilot phase.

                                  dictaphone animation

                                                       IRENE/3D AT WORK!

The 100th cylinder in the Flanders collection is a recording of Mabel Wilson Tatro of Springfield, VT, made in appx. 1930, singing "Two Little Kittens."

LEARN MORE about how Helen Hartness Flanders  was able to collect the unique collection of New England folksongs and tales:

"In 1931 the collection of songs based on the previous year's efforts of Helen Flanders and George Brown, sponsored by the Vermont Commission, was published by the Stephen Daye Press. This volume, Vermont Folk-Songs and Ballads, included both texts and musical transcriptions of songs, although many of the transcriptions were based not on dictaphone recordings, but on songs taken down in musical notation by Brown during his early weeks of collecting in southern Vermont. Cylinder BoxesFlanders was responsible for notes and the general organization of the materials, while Brown, Elizabeth Flanders Ballard (Flanders' daughter) and George Brown’s mother, Alice Brown did the musical transcription.

During the summer and early fall of 1930, Alice Brown also did some field collecting. Her contributions to the archive are found in early publications. Some of the songs Alice Brown notated by hand from the singing of Mrs. George Tatro in July 1930, Flanders recorded on dictaphone in November of that year." - from the "Index to the Field Recordings in the Flanders Ballad Collection at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont."

VIEW AN EXAMPLE of the handwritten notations by Helen Hartness Flanders and others as they documented song lyrics. (Courtesy of Middlebury College Special Collections)



We Have Sound!

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.)