Tag Archives: Mass media

Women and gramophones

A letter published in the June 1925 issue of Gramophone noted the magazine’s general absence of women correspondents: “are the sweet little things too shy, or what?” A response published in August of that year dismissed the idea of women enjoying the gramophone: “ladies…want to be seen and also to see. They don’t want to listen. That will never interest them.”

The October issue included a letter from a woman reader who noted that women have less money at their disposal for entertainment than men, and that when she attends concerts she sees many women, including poor ones, listening attentively. “I can only conclude,” she wrote, “that certain of your correspondents have been singularly unfortunate in the circle of women they have drawn about them.”

The letters are reprinted in Music, sound, and technology in America: A documentary history of early phonograph, cinema, and radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012). Below, on a record from the year in which the letters were first published, Margaret Young sings Red hot Henry Brown.

Related article: Gramophone ethics

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Filed under Curiosities, Mass media, Reception

Gramophone ethics

With outward horror, but with secret envy, let us contemplate a man who is wealthy, unambitious, and unencumbered. After breakfast he lights a cigar, sinks into an armchair, and rings for the butler to set the gramophone going.

While one’s imagination may boggle at the thought, let us free ourselves from such trammels of convention that would confine the gramophone to the first half hour of after-dinner plethora. There is music to be had for all times and seasons.

Further, a convincing argument cannot be made against listening to the gramophone alone: If one may read a book without company, how can enjoying music in solitude be indecent?

This according to “Times and seasons” by Orlo Williams (Gramophone June 1923, pp. 38–39), an article reprinted in Music, sound, and technology in America: A documentary history of early phonograph, cinema, and radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012). Below, a gramophone record issued a few months after the article appeared.

Related article: Women and gramophones

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Filed under Curiosities, Mass media, Reception

Act: Zeitschrift für Musik & Performance

The Forschungsinstitut für Musiktheater in Thurnau launched the peer-reviewed, open-access electronic journal Act: Zeitschrift für Musik & Performance (ISSN 2191-253X) in 2010. This international interdisciplinary publication provides a platform for essays, reviews, and columns at the intersections of musicology, theater studies, dance studies, and media studies. Act places particular value on methodological plurality and on supporting young academics.

Appearing twice a year, each issue will comprise two to five essays and an editorial, along with a review section (in the form of review essays) and a section for columns and announcements. The inaugural issue was edited by Anno Mungen and Knut Holtsträter.

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Filed under Dramatic arts, Mass media, New periodicals, Opera

Social media, celebrity, and popular music

Popular music has played, and continues to play, a central role in bringing aspects of celebrity culture into the mainstream world.

Fame has been most consistently, deliberately, and insightfully thematized by popular music, which has also been at the center of every major development in social media— both in terms of new technologies and in terms of people’s engagement with and understanding of them.

This according to “Listen to me now: Social media, celebrity, and popular music” by Jason Lee Oakes (IASPM-US 19 and 20 September 2011). Above, Kanye West tweets about the travails of celebrity culture; below, the singer-songwriter Madelaine Zammit uses one social medium (YouTube) to sing about another.

Related post: Lady Gaga’s social network

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Filed under Mass media, Popular music

How Cooke heard America singing

A great mystery surrounded I Hear America Singing, the 13-part series that Alistair Cooke produced in 1938: How had the BBC managed to borrow recordings from the Library of Congress when no other broadcaster was allowed access to them?

The circumstances were extraordinary. First, Cooke wrote an eloquent and charming letter to Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress. “When I first became interested in American folk songs,” he wrote, “I had no idea so little had been done in recording, and how desperately hard it is for an amateur to get within earshot of the music he is interested in and excited about….I found that the Library, and only the Library, has recorded a score or more of the songs which can make my series possible.”

Moved by Cooke’s letter and the goal of the series, Putnam agreed to grant one-time rights with notable restrictions: the BBC would send the Library any copies that were made when it returned the recordings; the series would be broadcast live, and only once; and no recordings of the series itself would be preserved. As a result of this arrangement, many recordings were broadcast that had never before been heard by anyone outside the Library.

This according to “Alistair Cooke: A radio and TV icon in the Archive of folk culture” by Stephen D. Winick (Folklife Center news XXVII/1–2 [winter/spring 2005] pp. 6–8). Above, Cooke interviews an unknown singer for the series in 1938. Below, Vera Hall (1902–64) sings Trouble so hard, recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress in the 1930s.


Filed under Jazz and blues, Mass media, North America, World music

Lady Gaga’s social network

Lady Gaga went from nowhere to everywhere in just 18 months due to many factors—not least, to her unprecedented and canny use of social networking.

Gaga used Internet tools to craft her personal mythology, and continues to use them to keep in constant contact with her fans. She has millions of Twitter followers, and is the first musician ever to garner one billion hits on YouTube, where she uploads her videos for free.

This according to Poker face: The rise and rise of Lady Gaga by Maureen Callahan (New York: Hyperion, 2010). Below, the 2008 video that inspired the book’s title.

Related post: Social media, celebrity, and popular music

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Filed under Mass media, Popular music, Reception

The first pipe organ recording

Capable of producing sounds beyond the range of human hearing, the pipe organ presents the ultimate challenge for sound recording. The first known attempt was the Columbia Records recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from late August and early September 1910, which included two organ solos played by John J. McClellan.

Probably the very first pipe organ recording was a test made on 30 August 1910, with McClellan playing Wagner’s Tannhäuser overture. Two enormous acoustic recording horns, five feet long and two feet wide, were suspended on a rope strung across the Tabernacle. Although the engineer deemed the recordings successful, apparently they were never approved for release.

This according to “The first recordings of organ music ever made” by John W. Landon (Theatre organ: Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society LIII/4 [July–August 2011] pp. 22–28). Above, the Mormon Tabernacle organ as it appeared at the time of the recording (two 15-foot wings were added in 1915).

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Filed under Instruments, Mass media, Science

Carnatic Music Idol

The “Idol” television format has gone global, and since 2004 an Indian version has featured amateur singers of popular Indian film songs. Seeing this, the producer Subhashree Thanikachalam (left)—who had already pioneered three successful television series focused on Indian music—decided to try a version presenting young performers in the classical South Indian tradition.

The result, Carnatic Music Idol, has run for two highly successful seasons and is preparing a third one. The series has done much to raise awareness of the tradition and to help viewers to understand the technical intracacies of its performance. The final rounds even call for a full rāgam-tānam-pallavi, a tour de force that was formerly considered too esoteric for general audiences.

This according to “An idol among TV shows” by Gayathri Sundaresan (Sruti 321 [June 2011] pp. 55–58. Below, an excerpt from the 2011 finals.

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Filed under Asia, Mass media, Reception

The new soundtrack

Launched by Edinburgh University Press in March 2011, The new soundtrack (ISSN 2042-8855; EISSN 2042-8863) presents cutting-edge academic and professional perspectives on the complex relationship between sound and moving images. The journal also encourages writing on more current developments, such as sound installations, computer-based delivery, and the psychology of the interaction of image and sound.

Alongside academic contributions, The new soundtrack includes contributions from practitioners in the field—composers, sound designers, and directors—giving voice to the development of professional practices. Each issue also features a short compilation of book and film reviews.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Film music, Mass media, New periodicals

National jukebox

In May 2011 the Library of Congress launched National jukebox: Historical recordings from the Library of Congress, an Internet resource that makes historical sound recordings available to the public for free. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. These recordings were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.

At launch, the Jukebox already included over 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other U.S. labels, including Columbia, Okeh, and some Universal Music Group-owned labels. The selections range from jazz and popular styles to ethnic traditions to Western classical works, including opera arias.

Above, a Victor acoustical recording session ca. 1920.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Jazz and blues, Mass media, Opera, Popular music, Resources, World music