Education · Merchant's House · Movies and Videos

Capturing The Sounds of The Past

Capturing the sounds of the past seems almost impossible, yet these “authentic sounds,” when available, can connect us to another time in an almost magical way.
In the front parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum in New York City there is a pianoforte that dates to the 1840s and remarkably retains all of its original parts. It has been been reconditioned, using these parts, and is now in playable condition. A concealed speaker softly plays a looped recording of tunes from a music lesson book bearing the name of the oldest daughter of the family who lived in the house. Stand in that parlor furnished with the family’s furniture; see what they saw, and hear what they heard. You’ll never come closer to the 19th century.


Engaging Places

Soundworks documents the creation of “authentic sound” for Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln.  The sound designer discusses his efforts to collect sounds at historic sites and in museum collections, such as the clocks and doors at the White House and a pocket watch at the Kentucky Historical Society.

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2 thoughts on “Capturing The Sounds of The Past

  1. I found that so fascinating! The sound of our world is very different from the sound of Lincoln’s world. What a wonderful sound designer to make the effort to find all those sounds! Wow. It gives me tingles just thinking about it. Just like smell and touch and taste can transport you, almost like magic, to another time and place, so too can sound. Oh. So very cool.

    Would love to hear that piano in the Merchant’s House Museum live. I’d love to sing with it! Maybe someday?



  2. And don’t forget to attend one of the performances by the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society in the selfsame parlor. Live lieder and art songs from the 19th Century sung in an authentic 19th Century space. Next performance – – THIS THURSDAY (Valentine’s Day) February 14th.


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