A £100,000 grant from JISC extended the CHARM transfer project, enabling the team to include another 2,000 sides from 78 rpm discs in the King's Sound Archive. The discs were selected to showcase British and Irish performers recorded between 1900 and 1950, especially artists neglected by the newly-formed EMI after the merger of the Gramophone Co and Columbia in 1931. The transfers are available through the CHARM Find Sound Files page, giving access with one search to the complete output of both projects.

Historical context

David Patmore’s research for CHARM showed that after the merger of the Gramophone Co. and the Columbia Graphophone Co. to form EMI in 1931 a radical rethinking of artists and repertoire led to a change of emphasis away from using local musicians towards the promotion of a smaller number of international stars. Those new stars are the conductors and soloists we know today and who still form the backbone of the historical reissue business. MBI aimed to explore some of the musicians, once well-known, who were dropped from the catalogues after 1931 and whose work has since been largely forgotten. Our hope is that users exploring the MBI transfers will find a large number of fine performances by unfamiliar artists whom they are happy to rediscover. We hope that through MBI they will become better-known once again, more widely studied and more often reissued.


In selecting recordings to digitise for MBI we focussed on musicians who were British or Irish by birth or whose recording careers were largely based in London. We aimed to avoid items already easily available in CD or online reissue, and recordings of compositions that were themselves still in copyright (with some exceptions for which clearance was obtained).


Each file transfers one side of a 78rpm disc: sides are not edited together. The transfers available for download include appropriate equalisation and light noise reduction, leaving the musical signal intact. (Raw ('flat') transfers, and other formats, may be purchased on request from charm@kcl.ac.uk.) A detailed description of the procedures used is provided by the CHARM transfer engineer, Andrew Hallifax. The sound files use the lossless FLAC format, which can be played with Winamp, Songbird and numerous other media players. Click here to find out more about FLAC files.


MBI employed Martin Haskell as a transfer engineer at King's College London for one year from 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2009, and Andrew Hallifax who joined him from the CHARM transfer project from 1 April to 30 September 2009. It also funded a half-time specialist in the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, responsible for the web implementation. The repertoire selection was made by Nick Morgan in consultation with John Steane. The Management Committee was chaired by Timothy Day. The Project Director was Daniel Leech-Wilkinson.

In sum

MBI aimed to enable a revaluation of pre-War British and Irish musicianship among both the research community and the general listening public, and to raise awareness of the extent to which record company policies shape public perceptions of musical excellence and the reputation of artistic communities.