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early musical recordings
Image Credit : williamcho

Listen to century-old recordings anytime, thanks to the The Library Of Congress. An organization dedicated to preserving American and global culture lives up to it’s mandate with the National Jukebox, a collection of early commercial musical recordings which anyone can access online.

There was recorded music before the 1950’s, but you wouldn’t think it based on what’s reflected in popular culture. Sure, the occasional movie will take place in the 1930’s and feature a brass band, but for the most part any music made before the early days of rock and roll is rarely heard.

Interested in what early popular music sounded like? You’re in luck. America’s National Jukebox is a great place to browse for music from the early 1900’s all the way to the late 1920’s. Whether you’re into classical recordings or ragtime, you’ll find something to listen to here. The quality is, as should be expected, not exactly Dolby surround. Recording technology at the turn of the century was primitive to put it best. Still, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value here.

What It Is

Every recording found on this site was, previously, not found anywhere online. Employees at the Library of Congress spent a great deal of time taking old records and digitizing them. You can see a slideshow outlining the undertaking, if you’re interested.

It seems that none of the recordings can be downloaded, but they can all be streamed for free.

Finding Recordings

Head on over to the National Jukebox and you can start browsing. There’s a search bar of course, and a browsing feature that allows you to look for music by category.

early musical recordings

Find music you want to listen to and you can do so. Playing an individual track is simple:

vintage music

Or if you prefer, you can add tracks to a playlist and have them play in any succession you prefer. All you need to do is click the “Add To Playlist” button seen beside every track listing; a new window will pop up, and every track you add will be queued here.

early musical recordings

There are a few pre-set playlists, of course. The Victor Book Of The Opera is a good one for opera buffs to check out and is supplemented with an interactive book. There’s also a collection of other playlists to browse. Highlights include:


Blogger and columnist Chris Weigant argued that the national jukebox is a good example of tax dollars spent well. I’m inclined to agree; sharing our cultural legacy with the world is a good idea all around.

What do you think? Is this endeavor a cool one, or a waste of resources? Let us know in the comments below, or just complain about how modern music is better than century-old stuff. Whatever you think is constructive.

Looking for music that’s a touch more contemporary? You can always listen to music on Grooveshark Listen to Your Favorite Music Online for Free With Grooveshark Listen to Your Favorite Music Online for Free With Grooveshark Read More , or check out our many Sound Sunday posts to download lots of free music.

Image Credit : williamcho

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  1. Cosborne07
    May 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

     It's interesting to note how much of popular music in the 1940s and 1950s was based on artists and musical styles preserved in these early recordings.  Rock and Roll was definitely influenced by the blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s while both country music and bluegrass were strongly influenced by Appalachian artists (particularly the Carter Family) from those old recordings.