Tag Archives: Sound recordings

Accidental hooks

prado cherry pink

Popular records often include accidents, indicating something about the flexibility of musical practices and the limits of theories. Musical hooks provide useful test-cases because they are normally considered the least accidental part of a song.

One imagines the hook emerging fully formed in a moment of inspiration—the catchy phrase that comes into a songwriter’s head—or at least of calculation: But hooks sometimes incorporate accidents or happen accidentally. If hooks are less than completely determinate, then every aspect of a popular record must be subject to contingency.

This according to “Accidents, hooks, and theory” by Charles Kronengold (Popular music XXIV/3 [October 2005] pp. 381–397).

Above and below, Pérez Prado’s Cherry pink and apple blossom white, one of the examples cited in the article. The intended hook was the prominent trumpet lip slurs; the accidental hook, which made the record a number one U.S. hit in 1955, was Prado’s occasional interpolated vocalizations.

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Filed under Curiosities, Popular music, Reception

Voices from the past

Carl Haber, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

While he was stuck in traffic in early 2000, the physicist Carl Haber heard the drummer and world music enthusiast Mickey Hart on the radio talking about the dire need for preserving early recordings of indigenous peoples.

Haber had been working with SmartScope, a machine that analyzes visual information, and his work had been going so well that he had started brainstorming for further uses of this machine. It occurred to him that SmartScope might be able to read these old recordings without touching them, thereby removing the likelihood of irrevocably damaging them by playing them.

The idea worked, and Haber went on to facilitate the preservation of recordings in repositories such as the Library of Congress, and to participate in the repatriation of historical recordings to Native Americans and other ethnic groups, allowing them to hear the voices of their ancestors.

This according to “A voice from the past: How a physicist resurrected the earliest recordings” by Alec Wilkinson (The New Yorker XC/13 [19 May 2014], pp. 50–57). Above and below, Dr. Haber and his technological innovations.

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Filed under Curiosities, Science

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

South African audio archive

Established by Flat International in September 2010, South African audio archive is a not-for-profit visual archive of rare and sometimes unusual South African audio documents. The project aims to provide a resource for those researching South African audio history.

The database is searchable by artist, label, company, and genre, and the website includes a bibliography and a chronology of sound recording in South Africa. High-quality reproductions of album covers or record labels are provided for each entry, along with full discographic notes and annotations.

This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.

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Filed under Africa, Black studies, Mass media, Resources

Black Grooves

Hosted by the Archives of African American Music & Culture at Indiana University, Black Grooves is a review site that aims to promote black music by providing monthly updates on interesting new releases and quality reissues in all genres—gospel, blues, jazz, funk, soul, and hip hop, as well as classical music composed or performed by black artists.

Reviews of selected new discs and DVDs are featured, with occasional attention to books and news items. An extra effort is made to track down releases by indie, underground, foreign, and other labels that are not covered in the mainstream media. While the primary focus is on African American music, related areas such as Afropop and reggae are also covered.

This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Mass media, Popular music, Resources

Falla: Grabaciones históricas

The Centro de Documentación Musical de Andalucía released Manuel de Falla 1876–1946: Grabaciones históricas in 2009 as part of its series Documentos Sonoros del Patrimonio Musical de Andalucía. The earliest recording included is Fantasía Bética, performed by Mark Hambourg in 1923; the most recent is Fuego fatuo, recorded by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española, directed by Antoni Ros Marbà, in 1976.

The accompanying booklet provides complete discographical information, numerous historical photographs, and notes in Spanish, English, and French by Andrés Ruiz Tarazona. Additional performers include Andrés Segovia, the Orquesta Bética de Cámara de Sevilla, which Falla founded in 1923, and the composer himself at the piano.

Above, Alicia de Larrocha performs Falla’s own piano transcription of “Danza del fuegofrom his El amor brujo.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Resources

The java jive

 

The universal availability and divergent imagery of coffee in people’s lives has been expressed in popular music more often than many of us realize. “You’re the cream in my coffee: A discography of java jive” by B. Lee Cooper and William Schurk (Popular music and society XXIII/2 [summer 1999] pp. 91–100) lists over 100 coffee-related popular songs from the 1920s to the 1990s. The songs are grouped both alphabetically and by subject; topics include addictive stimulants, commercial jingles, companionship and socialization, and sexual metaphors.

Click here to hear the Ink Spots performing their 1940 hit Java jive by Ben Oakland and Milton Drake.

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Filed under Food, Popular music, Resources

Sephardic music: A century of recordings

Sephardic music: A century of recordings showcases and discusses over 100 years of recorded Sephardic music, from the 78 rpm era to the present. Created by Joel Bresler, this resource includes information on repertory and performance practice and a comprehensive discography of Sephardic 78s in Hebrew and Ladino ordered by label, song, or artist. Numerous illustrations are provided, including reproductions of record labels and covers.

Above, the label from Haim Effendi’s 1907 recording of the popular Sephardic song A la una; the recording can be heard here.

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Filed under Europe, Mass media, Resources, World music

The Dunn Family Collection

Although he never mentioned it in his published writings, the collector and compiler of traditional Irish tunes Francis O’Neill (1848–1936) made wax cylinder recordings of some of his fellow musicians in Chicago, probably in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Once believed lost, 32 of these recordings were discovered in 2003 when David Dunn opened a suitcase that had belonged to his grandfather, who had been a friend of O’Neill. Dunn brought them to the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee, which contacted the American Folklife Center for help in digitizing them. Several recordings by the renowned uilleann pipe player Patrick J. “Patsy” Touhey (1865–1923) are included, along with performances by four other luminaries of the Chicago Irish music community.

The recordings now comprise the cornerstone of The Dunn Family Collection, an online exhibit hosted by the Ward Archives that also includes manuscripts, artifacts, photographs, and sheet music collected by the instrument maker and repairer Michael J. Dunn (1855–1935). Dunn was also a captain in the Milwaukee Fire Department, while O’Neill—when he was not pursuing his passion for Irish traditional music—served as Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

Thanks to Patrick Hutchinson for alerting us about this collection! Patrick plays the uilleann pipes with Bento Boxty.

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Filed under North America, Resources, World music

The Frog blues & jazz annual

Launched by Frog Records in 2010, The Frog blues & jazz annual is a book series that presents original research and articles on early jazz and blues. The inaugural issue, The musicians, the records & the music of the 78 era, includes articles about the Mississippi Jook Band’s Graves brothers, the pianist Arnold Wiley, and the vocalist Ida Cox.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Mass media, New series