Christmas, Family, Media, and Music: 2012 and 1904

Just a quick interlude on this Christmas night. I hope that all of you have had a couple of nice days with your families (whether or not you celebrate the religious aspects of the day). We had a touch of snow last night on our way into Mass that made the evening as picturesque as could be.  Today was quiet, spent with family and friends.

Apparently, Netflix was down last night and this morning. As they put it at PhysOrg,

Families across the United States will have to rely on other sources of entertainment after Netflix’s video streaming service was hit by a Christmas Eve outage.

Rebecca Greenfield at  The Atlantic likely echoed the sentiment of many people when she wrote:

The service went down…during arguably one of the worst possible times ever, when many people stuck at home with their families would hope to seek a little refuge in some streaming movies.

So, wait, families don’t want to talk to one another?

At this juncture, it would be so easy to write the “things were so much better when I was a kid, before all these internets” lament. Instead, let me call your attention to something cooler than that–and you’ll have to use the internet to check it out.

Workers at the Museum of London have successfully restored 24 of 26 wax cylinders used by a man in the early 1900’s to record family get-togethers and private holidays. The recordings are believed to be the oldest ever found to have captured audio of Christmas and other holiday celebrations. The recordings were made by Cromwell Wall, a civil engineer living in a London suburb and captured events during the period 1902 to 1917.

PhysOrg has more info as well as two of the best recordings. The most interesting one is a Christmas greeting from 1904, complete with a hearty “hip-hip-hooray” of thanks to his parents-in-law for hosting the celebration. One hundred and eight years ago, people echoing the same sentiments that we do today. Not much has changed.

One thing has changed a lot, though. Most of the recordings are of members of Wall’s family singing and playing the piano. Entertaining themselves. The recordings are scratchy and some are hard to make out. It is truly remarkable that the recordings survived. We are so used to media, though, that’s sort of lost on us. More remarkable to us, perhaps, is that people could make their own music and would bother without the world as a stage.

Assignment for Christmas break: over this holiday (if you are lucky enough to get a few days off), do something to entertain yourself and those around you that doesn’t require electronics. Enjoy one another face to face.

(The press release from the Museum of London has more info. The 22 other recordings can be found on the Museum of London site and are in Flash format.)

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