Gabriel Gössel was a significant collector of gramophone discs and an expert in the beginnings of the Czech sound industry. He was born in 1943. In the late 1960’s, Gössel pursued higher education studying chemical-engineering. During this time he worked in a paper production factory. Due to complications with the state secret police (státní bezpečnosti), he did not complete his studies. He worked as a technician until the early 1980’s and afterwards worked as a freelancer and professionally translated technical texts. Later he also translated fiction (beletrii). Some of his translated texts include the works of Stephen King, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, as well as Orwell’s Animal Farm and Tribute to Catalonia. He published his translation of Orwell’s Animal Farm following the Prague Spring takeover of August 1968.
Also in August 1968, Gössel demonstrated great courage and bravery when he defended against injustice in defense of the building which housed Czechoslovakian Radio. In later years he became involved in samizdat activities and worked with a social circle surrounding Václav Havel. Here, he also participated in publishing the samizdat edition of Expedition. After Havel’s arrest and imprisonment in the late 1970s, Jan Lopatka and Ivan Havel became the chief editors. The editorial circle also included Zdeněk Urbánek, Martin Palouš, Josef Danisz and Gabriel Gössel. As a result of his prior employment in a paper mill, Gabriel was also in charge of binding the publications.
He began collecting records, turntables, and phonographs as early as the 1970s. Later in his collection of records he specialized mainly in Czech repertoire and the history of the domestic sound industry. Thanks to this lifelong interest, he collected an extensive collection of shellac records with historically significant recordings. He did not want to keep his knowledge to himself. That is why he devoted himself to educational and publishing activities, cooperating with Czech museums and other interest groups.
He published educational texts on the history of sound recording in Czech lands that have been found in domestic and foreign professional journals such as Radio, Audio-Video, Generation, Vlasta, Fox on 78, Munich, Der Schalltrichter, Stuttgart, and For the Record, and he contributed to various discographies (Rainer Lotz Verlag, Bonn).
Between 1999 and 2006, Czech Radio 2 broadcast a regular weekly Fonogram GG program, featuring sound portraits of performers from popular music of the past. He prepared a series of multi-part musical profiles of Czech composers and performers of popular music of the past for Czech Radio Prague and Czech Radio Brno. The musical profiles included the works of Karel Hašler, Jindřich Mošna, František Kmoch, Oldřich Nový, Kamil Běhounek, Jára Pospišil, Alfons Jindra, Eduard Ingriš, R.A. Dvorský, Jaroslav Ježek, and Marie Zieglerová.
He also handled transcriptions of old audio recordings to modern media. In the Fonogram Edition, which he prepared for Fr. Rychtařík and Radioservis, he released about fifty CDs dedicated to recordings of forgotten Czech and foreign stars of popular music of the past. He also prepared a series of compact discs for the Jewish Museum in Prague, Supraphon, Jan Kubelík Society, and Antonín Dvořák Memorial (samples here).
Gabriel Gössel was the author of the exhibition When the Comet Flips Us, organized at the turn of 2003-2004 by Gallery in the Mánes Hall in Prague. He presented historical phonographs, turntables, and other items from his collections on the background of contemporary art objects related to the lifestyle change caused by the ability to record and reproduce sound.
Since 2012 he was a producer of the historical series Written By Shellac, which he prepared for the e-shop of the music publishing company Supraphon, www.supraphonline.cz.
In 2013 he began cooperating with Filip Šír, as mentor to an aspiring collector. They began on the first comprehensive mapping of the first purely Czech, i.e. Czechoslovak gramophone publishing house ESTA. A book was published in 2014 under the title Czech Catalog of Recordings by Esta 1930-1946 and offers a complete discographical list of all commercially released Czech recordings of ESTA as well as graphic works in the form of labels, posters or portraits of authors. This work is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic.
The following year he cooperated with a group of experts on the text Draft Concept for the Preservation, Digitization and Accessibility of Audio Recordings in the Czech Republic, which became an important document for the implementation of state cultural policy (available online). He also participated in the creation of promotional presentations for Czech libraries, where he also personally lectured on the history of sound and Czech labels.
A year later, he wrote an English-language book Recorded Sound in Czech Lands, 1900–1946 with Filip Šír. It is the first comprehensive contribution to mapping the history of the sound industry in the Czech lands, respectively of the Czechoslovak Republic. Proof of the quality of this work is evidenced by its being awarded the significant “2017 Certificate of Merit Award of Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research” by the American Association of Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), in the category of General Recording Topics.
Under the National Museum, he published the book Grammar of Labels for Gramophone Records, which is used primarily by employees of historical institutions, guiding them to understanding the basic identifying features of records, such as registry, order and catalog numbers.
In 2018, Gössel and Šír also published an English-Czech publication Bohemia on Records: Early Czech Sound Recordings in the United States, which represents the first comprehensive view of the unexplored phenomenon of sound recordings produced in the first half of the twentieth century by American record companies for the and growing community of Czech immigrants in the USA.
The collaboration between the two authors resulted in the last outstanding work, One-Hundred-And-One Labels: Recordings from the 1900-1926 Era of Mechanical Sound Recording, released in 2019 by the National Museum. The book provides photos and descriptions of labels from the era of mechanical sound recording from the years 1900-1926.
In his final years, Gabriel worked on the project New Phonograph: Listening to the Sound of History, reconstructing the general catalog of recordings of Czech artists on phonographs and records from various producers from the years 1900-1946.
Thanks to his professional work and higher education, he became a member of major foreign societies such as the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society, and the Gesellschaft für Historische Tonträger, Vienna.
GÖSSEL, Gabriel. Fonogram. Praktický průvodce historií záznamu zvuku. V Praze: Radioservis, 2001. 229 s.
GÖSSEL, Gabriel. Fonogram 2. Výlety k počátkům historie záznamu zvuku. Praha: Radioservis, 2006. 536 s.
GÖSSEL, Gabriel. Illustrated Discography of Hot Dance and Jazz Recordings in Czechoslovakia 1920-1950 – 78-RPM. Praha: Gössel, 2009. 260 s.
GÖSSEL, Gabriel a Filip ŠÍR. The Catalogues of Record Companies of the Early 20th Century. The Grey Journal (TGJ) : An international journal on grey literature; GreyNet International, Grey Literature Network Service. Amsterdam: TextRelease, 2017. 51-55. ISSN 1574-180X (PDF).