Well, by 1962 Mahler was thought of well enough that his 4th Symphony was a part of the introductory course on symphonies that I took at Harvard, and that wasn’t taught by a Dutchman. David Hall’s 1948 book of record recommendations describes the music as “a mixture of Beethovenate heroes, Austro-Viennese folklore, religious mysticism and nature worship, cast in musical structures ranging from songs of utter simplicity to epic symphonic canvases comparable in scope to Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.” He makes it clear that he doesn’t love everything, but he also looks forward to a time when all the symphonies were recorded. And as I said in another note, Mahler was being performed by Ormandy and Mitropolous in Minneapolis in the 1930s and 1940s.
New York in the early 1950s was still dominated by Toscanini, whose famous opinion was that “Mahler’s music is not fit to wipe my ass.” (Although after he retired he did send Bruno Walter a telegram congratulating him on a performance of the “oh so beautiful” slow movement of the Fifth.) I think that may have had something to do with Mahler’s reputation there.
> On Sep 22, 2014, at 12:42 PM, Steven Smolian <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> This is only somewhat accurate.
> During his lifetime, he was performed in Holland but not so much elsewhere.
> In the early 1950s, when I caught the music disease, Mahler was completely
> declassee in NY and in Philadelphia, where I went to college. The music
> faculty hated him uniformly- except for Alexander Ringer, who was Dutch. I
> was known as "that guy who liked Mahler" even among those outside the music
> It was Mitropoulos, as much as Walter, followed by Bernstein, who brought
> him into the U.S. mainstream, at least in NY. Stokowski's Mahler 8th in
> 1950 (?) got lots of people excited but was a bit before my time. It shows
> up in a memoir of an author and a painter that I'm now reading, of how
> important this event was at the time. Szell came with the Cleveland to
> Carnegie Hall with a "Das Lied," maybe 1963 or 4, that was a blueprint but
> that missed the greater depths of the work. Eventually, he got it. So did
> others who jumped onto the orchestrawagon.
> Part of the virulence against Mahler's music in the 1950's-early 1960s came
> from the musical far left who, I felt, couldn't tolerate the direct and
> enormous impact those susceptible to his music experienced. Part was from
> the time required to listen- to some, endure. Some was from composers with
> press access who thought he took up so much concert time that other, newer
> works of all kinds couldn't be accommodated.
> This attitude died hard. I was the Philharmonic's first sound archivist.
> When the content of the first records for the first NY Philharmonic
> Radiothon were being considered, 1976 maybe?, I suggested the Mahler 5 with
> Mitropoulos. The finale especially crackles with excitement I've never
> heard replicated. At the end, the balcony of Carngie Hall was swaying from
> the rhythmical foot-pounding, enormous applause and yelling. I went twice.
> It was originally rejected by some of the older hands in the front office
> but finally accepted by those way above my pay grade. Getting this out is
> among the proudest accomplishments of my life.
> From 1959 through about 1970, I was an active record and, to a lesser
> degree, music critic in NYC. I knew many of the participants on the music
> scene at the time and have vivid memories of these Mahler battles.
> We won.
> Steve Smolian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 11:33 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
> Mahler was FAMOUS, well-documented and well-liked in his time. He fell out
> of favor among anti-semitic Europeans for a while (mainly the Nazi era, and
> the post-WWII devastation, less than 20
> years) but his works were still being played in the US and elsewhere (by
> Bruno Walter and other people who knew Mahler first-hand, among others). His
> fame was regained and enhanced in the hi-fi/stereo age through a series of
> new recordings and then "rediscoveries" of various works. To compare Mahler
> to someone like Robert Johnson, for instance, is inaccurate. Mahler was
> established, liked, had patrons and was able to compose and conduct in
> relative comfort during a very productive musical life. He was a good enough
> and famous enough conductor to have steady gigs with high-profile orchestras
> through his adult life. His music was played and enjoyed in its time and was
> known in the world of performed classical music (and was known well enough
> to be specifically banned by Nazis).
> Johnson and other blues-cult-discovery artists were almost unknown in their
> time, at best enjoying regional success with one or two records.
> Aaron makes a good point about popularity and also that the "Canon" always
> needs refreshing, but perspective is important. Robert Johnson (or Skip
> James or Son House, etc) were fringe figures in their time, who either died
> young and poor or ended up unable to make a living playing music in most of
> their adulthood. Their importance is not to their contemporary time, it is
> to later times. Robert Johnson is not important to 1930s blues or 1930s
> music or indeed 1930s culture, simply because too few people heard him or
> knew about him. However, he is very important to 1960s blues and rock and
> thus to 1960s and subsequent pop culture. There's one sticky wicket in my
> argument -- Son House.
> Although he enjoyed little more than regional success in his prime, he
> taught and/or influenced people like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf who did
> enjoy wider than regional success in their time (mainly because mass-media
> was better developed and they moved to urban centers with better
> communications infrastructure) and were able to make a living (and have
> relatively long careers) as musicians. Both men credited Son House as a
> teacher, yet even while he was being credited, House was living anonymously
> as a laborer in Rochester NY nursing a bad drinking problem. His "rebirth"
> was due to being "rediscovered" by white blues collector-cultists. House
> also likely taught Robert Johnson a good many licks, but House himself
> couldn't say exactly where or how Johnson evolved from a clumsy kid jamming
> with and being "cut" by House and Willie Brown to the young man who returned
> later and played rings around all comers. This is where the "Crossroads"
> devil-deal story arose, but it's more likely that Johnson holed up somewhere
> with a sympathetic woman feeding and housing him and practiced his playing
> until he was the best around, honing an in-born knack for music. Let's be
> honest and say that many of the older blues guys played in a "primative"
> manner to say the least, probably because they were more interested in their
> next drink or their next bedmate than their next hours-long practice
> session. That's not to say the end result, at least in their recordings,
> isn't entertaining and compelling, but Johnson stands out for his musical
> skill (which is probably what caught the ear of other
> musically-skilled/aware people like John Hammond and Eric Clapton).
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 10:52 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
>> Indeed. Like Mahler!
>> Steve Smolian
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Aaron Levinson
>> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 10:36 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
>> For another perspective, I don't think it's entirely accurate to suggest
>> that later generations "distort" history by highlighting an otherwise
>> neglected or overlooked figure. In any golden age when so much talent is
>> concentrated in a field some figures resonate and become popular while
>> others do not. To suggest that popularity is the sole yardstick (or
>> contemporary acclaim) leaves a lot of interesting people standing on the
>> Sometimes it does take a later generation to shine a little light into the
>> corners and discover some one who may have eluded attention in the earlier
>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> On Sep 22, 2014, at 9:44 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Hi Mike:
>>> In fairness to Petrusich, she addresses the issue of obscure Paramount
>> other blues sides being hyped up through the "blues mafia" and associated
>> reissuers, so they take on unwarranted prominence in the cultural "canon."
>> And, this comes at the expense of blues records that actually WERE popular
>> and sold thousands of copies when they were new and different (Bessie
>> Lonnie Smith, others). One of the modern reissuers calls Skip James a
>> "freak" who couldn't get a Victor or ARC contract.
>>> I think part of this is the same thing driving Avakian and
>> jazz reissues in the late 40s and early 50s, plus the Harry Smith
>> -- each new generation collectors (generally but not always social
>> and people not of the mainstream cultural tastes or norms) has to
>> some "neglected gold" and create a fetish around it. There's also an
>> underlying ecomic element, especially with the blues records, in fact one
>> could call it hucksterism intended to keep prices high and this maintain
>> collection values. This is much more pronounced in modern times and with
>> blues records vs "jass" records in earlier times, although collectors like
>> John Tefteller and Richard Nevins generally reissue at reasonable prices
>> records for which they've paid mega-bux. In any case, it's the age-old
>> of history -- each succeding generation distorts the past context and
>> usually the past facts to suit its own perspectives, tastes and
>> Petrusich also touches on this, but on scratches the surface of the issue.
>>> Overall, I found her book to be entertaining enough to read through
>> quickly, but lightweight in authority and very short on new facts or
>> perspectives. The fact that she really digs the music is a plus as far as
>> readability, but not as far as adding anything new to the facts or
>> conversation. As always when he's involved, Joe Bussard entertained me the
>> most. He is a rare bird anyway, but super-rare in that he's an extrovert
>> a collector-world of introverts. I'm sure other 78 collector-cultists
>> the attention Joe gets, but they aren't nearly as interesting so they
>> shouldn't be surprised.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 8:49 AM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
>>>> I kept on expecting Alan Funt to appear.
>>>> If this guy had recorded on Paramount -- especially if they had put
>>>> this 15 minute piece out on a set of 2-78s, then Amanda Petrusich's
>>>> cult of collectors would be going apesh-t over it and fighting to bid
>>>> tens of thousands of dollars on it. I'm unimpressed with this and am
>>>> unimpressed with most of what her cult is overbidding for.
>>>> (Did you really listen to ALL 15 minutes of that crap????)
>>>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>>>> ------- Original Message --------
>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
>>>> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Date: Sun, September 21, 2014 7:56 am
>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Let's be clear, this is the "artiste" discussed in the essay:
>>>> If 15 minutes of the same 3 chords with often out of tune humming
>>>> along is your thing, then have at it. Many people play acoustic
>>>> guitar into a portable home recorder. Very few of those recordings
>>>> are worth hearing. Almost none of them are worth canonized as
>>>> "undiscovered gold."
>>>> I understand the frustration with modern commercialized popular
>>>> music, but the modern impulse (often by younger writers with little
>>>> historical perspective, writers "born digital" and raised on digital
>>>> pop music glop) to "discover" performers from what is glorified as a
>>>> "wonderful past," many of whom don't really deserve to be canonized,
>>>> is annoying. It seems to be an academic, navel-gazing pursuit.
>>>> And, it smacks of ignorance, of not listening to enough
>>>> commercially-released music from the same time periods. That sort of
>>>> listening will often reveal that there were many excellent examples
>>>> in the selected genre, musicians who could actually play and thus
>>>> make commercially viable recordings.
>>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "WS" <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Sent: Friday, September 19, 2014 6:35 PM
>>>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
>>>>> The link below is an excerpt (published in WIRE magazine) from David
>>>>> Grubb's upcoming book called "Records Ruin The Landscape".
>>>>> I thought it might be of interest to some ARSCLIST members, as it
>>>>> explores the implications of recorded material from an earlier era
>>>>> that only finds an audience much later than it was created.