Tag Archives: Mass media

Alan Lomax and multiculturalism

 

When Alan Lomax accepted a position as the Assistant in Charge of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1936 he became a gatekeeper to the largest repository of recorded traditional music in the country.

He subsequently worked to infuse traditional music into mainstream culture and, in so doing, to publicize his interpretation of American culture and society—an interpretation that placed the American people, a category that included racial and ethnic minorities as well as the economically dispossessed and politically disenfranchised, at the center of the nation’s identity.

During the 1930s and 1940s he pursued this goal by developing radio programs that highlighted the music of American traditional communities. These included shows designed for children, including Folk Music of America, which aired weekly on CBS radio’s American School of the Air.

Lomax used this program as a forum to teach children about American cultural and political democracy by highlighting the music of socially, economically, and racially marginalized communities, often including guests from these groups to sing and explain musical traditions on the air.

An examination of the principles that motivated Folk Music of America, along with the artists, songs, and commentary that Lomax included, reveals a strong connection between the ideas of cultural pluralism that emerged during the World War I era and popular constructs of Americanism that developed during the later decades of the 20th century. Ultimately, Lomax’s radio work helped to lay the foundation for the multicultural movement that developed during the early 1970s.

This according to “Broadcasting diversity: Alan Lomax and multiculturalism” by Rachel C. Donaldson (Journal of popular culture XLVI/1 [February 2013] pp. 59–78).

Today would have been Lomax’s 100th birthday! Below, an example of his move to PBS in 1990.

1 Comment

Filed under Ethnomusicology, North America

Music in media

twilight zone 2

Pendragon Press launched the series Music in media in 2013 with A dimension of sound: Music in “The twilight zone” by Reba Wissner.

Wissner explores the Twilight zone series and offers multiple readings of the ways in which it used music, offering an understanding of the ways in which music—both original and stock—can be used in an anthology television show.

The book focuses both on the ways in which newly composed scores and stock music were used in the series and on how the music enhances and interacts with what we see and hear onscreen.

Below, an abridged version of The invaders (1961), one of Rod Serling’s favorite episodes; no words are spoken until the final scene.

Comments Off on Music in media

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New series

The Leonard Bernstein Collection

bernstein tanglewood august 1946

The Leonard Bernstein Collection is a free online resource comprising selections from The Library of Congress’s holdings related to the composer and conductor.

The collection’s more than 400,000 items—including music and literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings, fan mail, and other types of materials—extensively document Bernstein’s extraordinary life and career, making available 85 photographs, 177 scripts from the Young People’s Concerts, 74 scripts from the Thursday Evening Previews, and over 1,100 pieces of correspondence, all browseable or accessible through the collection’s Finding Aid.

Above, Bernstein at the piano at a party at Tanglewood in August 1946 (photographer unknown); below, the opening of the first televised Young People’s Concert.

3 Comments

Filed under Resources

Lawrence Welk’s chiffon paradise

 

Lawrence Welk’s hour-long world as presented on The Lawrence Welk show—with its smiling singers, brightly colored sets, color-coordinated male and female outfits, and flawless band performances—were stress-free and wholly detached from the outside world.

His was a sealed-off, accident-free utopia soundtracked by an endless supply of what the maestro called “champagne music”. Once a week, Welk presented viewers with one of the most otherworldly—and most underappreciated—psychedelic chiffon musical paradises ever seen on television.

This according to “The maestro from another planet: In praise of Lawrence Welk’s otherwordly chiffon paradise” by Ken Parille (The believer XII/6 [July-August 2009; online only]).

Today is Welk’s 110th birthday! Below, the maestro celebrates on the dance floor.

Comments Off on Lawrence Welk’s chiffon paradise

Filed under Popular music

9/11 music

9-11

The music used in the coverage of the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001 by two leading 24-hour news networks—CNN in the U.S. and CBC Newsworld in Canada—illuminates the politics of news music and puts the subject in a transnational (if specifically North American) perspective.

Distinct musical responses to 9/11 branded each network’s coverage. While CNN’s music communicated a message of fear and anger to American news consumers, Canadians received sounds and images that invoked the horror and tragedy of the event.

Foregrounding the role of music in this comparison adds a revealing dimension to the story of how networks attempt to tap into the personal narratives of viewers, whether to reflect the mood of the country (and thus ensure market share) or to convince the audience of their particular take on the news.

This according to “The sounds of American and Canadian television news after 9/11: Entoning horror and grief, fear and anger” by James A. Deaville, an article included in Music in the post-9/11 world (New York: Routledge, 2007, pp. 43–70).

Below, an excerpt from CNN’s coverage the day after the attacks.

Related article: Music in political ads

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Radio for cows

cows at sunset

The cowboy practice of “singing the cattle down”—the night herder’s soft crooning to quiet the cows for sleep—received a new twist in 1926.

A fan letter sent to WGES in Chicago by Tom Blevins, a Utah cowman, reported that he had set up a portable radio on the range and was treating the cows to urban dance music in the evening.

“It sure is a big saving on the voice” Blevins wrote. “The herd don’t seem to tell the difference. Don’t put on any speeches, though. That’ll stampede ’em sure as shootin’.”

This according to “’Sing down the cattle’ by radio” (Popular radio October 1926, p. 615), which is reprinted in Music, sound, and technology in America: A documentary history of early phonograph, cinema, and radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012) p. 279.

Below, evidence suggesting that cows continue to enjoy that era’s dance music.

Related articles:

3 Comments

Filed under Animals, Curiosities

An early portable radio

poussette-radio1

On 10 May 1921 student members of the Radio Club at Union College, Schenectady, rigged up a wireless receiving station on a baby carriage with a small megaphone mounted under the hood. A sympathetic mother loaded in her baby, and a student wheeled the carriage into the city’s business district.

At the same time, a young woman at the club’s sending station on the college grounds began singing a lullaby. Her singing was reproduced by the receiver on the carriage as it moved all through the city, for over a mile. Those present reported that the baby was “as good as could be” from start to finish.

This according to “Very latest in wireless: Union College students find a universal lullaby for babies” (New York times, 11 May 1921, p.12), which was reprinted in Music, sound, and technology in America: A documentary history of early phonograph, cinema, and radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

A digitized reproduction of the original article is here. Below, a modern version of the carriage.

Comments Off on An early portable radio

Filed under Curiosities

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

1 Comment

Filed under Curiosities, 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 articles:

1 Comment

Filed under Curiosities, 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.

Comments Off on Act: Zeitschrift für Musik & Performance

Filed under Dramatic arts, New periodicals, Opera