Sunday, January 19, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #142, First Recording Studio, Thomas Edison Laboratory, West Orange, New Jersey, September 2013

In an earlier Photo-of-the-Week I featured a photo of the Thomas A. Edison Laboratory where, not only did the great inventor create most of his world changing inventions, but where my father also worked from the late 1950's until his death in the beginning of 1967. As I drove through West Orange, New Jersey by a GPS serendipity, I came upon what is left of the huge many block manufacturing complex that was Edison industries. The storage battery plant is now a derelict factory building covering an entire square city block 46 years later. The rest of the huge complex has been demolished and returned to other uses. However, the small, red, three story building that was Thomas Edison's personal laboratory and that housed his personal library and where most of his inventions were created (along with about four other smaller buildings) has been preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Park site.

Of the many wonders I discovered as I went through the laboratory building was what may be the first actual recording studio. This studio was where some of the earliest music recordings were recorded, most likely purely for experimental and demonstration purposes. This photo is that room inside the Edison Laboratory building. It doesn't remotely resemble a modern recording studio . . . because, back at this time of pioneering a new medium and industry, no one actually knew how a recording studio should be designed or look to carefully control sound for the best sonic fidelity. 

Of course, since I have been actively involved in the recording industry since 1963 when some of the early technology pioneered by Edison was still being used, this room was of particular interest to me. I sincerely doubt that the air conditioning duct, at the top of the wall in the photo, existed when this room was being used for its stated purpose. The room also wasn't designated as a recording studio, but as a recording laboratory, since in those days, everything was experimental.

I don't know if the piano in the room is original or there for the purpose of recreating the atmosphere. And, certainly, all of the gramophones on display were not likely there when it was being used for experimental recordings. I can't honestly say if this room existed in this condition when I visited the building when my father worked in it. I don't remember seeing it and I hadn't become involved in the recording industry, yet, so it wouldn't necessarily have caught my attention then.

But, here it is. Behold! One of the magical wonders to be found in a building where, perhaps, more world changing technological inventions and advances were dreamt by one of the most creative minds of modern time and turned into reality, touching the lives of every human being on this planet directly or indirectly to this day. My father touched these hallowed floors and walls and I made a career of an industry spawned here. 

No comments: