Kickstarting It Old School

6/8/2011 4:57:00 PM
By Steve Harvey

Chicago-based musician, writer and art historian Thomas Negovan is taking old school analog recording to the absolute extreme with his next project, recording to wax cylinders.

Negovan has launched a campaign to fund the release of four songs that he recently tracked to an original Thomas Edison wax cylinder recorder, manufactured circa 1894, at audio scientist and educator Shawn Borri’s studio in Rantoul, IL. Inside the recesses of Borri Audio Laboratories, he records using the inventor’s hand-cranked machines and wax cylinders that he manufactures and also sells.

According to Negovan, who plays an early 20th century harp guitar, the recording session—which utilized a horn reportedly from Edison's original studio—was quite a challenge. “I can't stress enough how impossibly cerebral the recording process was: Any microphone technique was useless—the physical force of the wind from my voice and guitar needed to physically force the sapphire to cut IN to the wax, and any dynamics would simply cause the sapphire to not incise the surface. It was a magnificent challenge: creating emotion and the illusion of dynamics without any variation in volume, playing and singing as hard as physically possible,” he wrote on his Kickstarter page.

Negovan is currently trying to raise the money to pay to transfer the masters to analog tape through a rare early model tube compressor for duplication to vinyl by United Record Pressing in Nashville. He also plans to release a single on wax cylinder, which, according to Negovan, will make this the first project to be recorded and released on wax cylinder since 1924. He has so far raised just over $2,500 of his $3,000 target, with less than three weeks remaining on the Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing fundraising method; if the target is not met then no money will change hands, and the project will not be able to move forward.

Negovan has posted a short extract from the recording:

Keeping the entire project decidedly old school, Negovan also made the six-hour drive to Ohio to visit photographer Greg Martin, who used a Victorian-era camera and a lens from the 1850s to capture the artist using the wet plate collodion process.

You can read more about the project and pledge funds at

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