They're swamped from people following up this article. I figured out the
little green icon that looks like part of a puzzle is for streaming,
which I can't get to work, (firewall?) but if I search on the item it
gives me the choice to download an MP3, which then plays fine on Winamp.
Mario Ancona accompanying this email, from 1907...way cool!
thanks, and if I get weekend time I'll follow up the other
Lou Judson wrote:
> Here's the actual article:
> March 19, 2006
> How Pop Sounded Before It Popped
> By JODY ROSEN
> FOR a couple of months now my iPod has been stuck on Stella Mayhew's
> "I'm Looking for Something to Eat." It's a lurching little waltz-time
> pop tune, drawled over brass-band accompaniment. The lyric is
> hilarious, the lament of a gal on a diet who can't stop eating, and it
> climaxes with a glutton's soul cry: "I want some radishes and olives,
> speckled trout and cantaloupe and cauliflower/ Some mutton broth and
> deviled crabs and clams and Irish stew." I can't get it out of my head
> so far, it's my favorite record of 2006.
> As it happens, it's also my favorite record of 1909. It is an Edison
> Phonograph Company wax cylinder, recorded 97 years ago by Mayhew, a
> vaudeville star who liked to poke fun at her considerable girth. In
> certain ways, the song is up to date: the satire on dieting is plenty
> relevant in the early 21st century, and Mayhew's slurred talk-singing
> is a bracingly modern sound. But the noisy, weather-beaten recording
> is unmistakably a product of the acoustic era the period from about
> 1890 to the mid-1920's, before the advent of electric recording when
> musicians cut records while crammed cheek-by-jowl-by-trombone around
> phonograph horns in rackety little studios.
> Mayhew's record is just one of several thousand cylinders, the first
> commercially available recordings ever produced, that have recently
> become available free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection
> and some spare bandwidth. Last November, the Donald C. Davidson
> Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara, introduced the
> Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project Web site
> (cylinders.library.ucsb.edu), a collection of more than 6,000
> cylinders converted to downloadable MP3's, WAV files and streaming
> audio. It's an astonishing trove of sounds: opera arias, comic
> monologues, marching bands, gospel quartets. Above all, there are the
> pop tunes churned out by Tin Pan Alley at the turn of the century:
> ragtime ditties, novelty songs, sentimental ballads and a dizzying
> range of dialect numbers performed by vaudeville's blackface comedians
> and other "ethnic impersonators."
> For decades, these records languished unheard by all but a few
> intrepid researchers and enthusiasts. Now, thanks to the Santa Barbara
> Web site and the efforts of a small group of scholars, collectors and
> independent record labels, acoustic-era popular music is drifting back
> into earshot, one crackly cylinder and 78 r.p.m. disc at a time. These
> old records hold pleasant surprises, but they also carry a larger
> lesson about gaping holes in the story of American pop.
> While historians have exhaustively investigated blues, jazz, rock and
> their offshoots, the mainstream pop music of the early 20th century
> has received only glancing treatment, the victim of a variety of
> prejudices entrenched in popular music culture. Listeners accustomed
> to the crispness of modern studio recording have been put off by the
> primitive sound of the old records, with their limited frequency
> response and harsh bursts of noise. Pop-song purists have scorned the
> music as the height of Tin Pan Alley's factory-produced pap the
> gruesome stuff that came before Jerome Kern, Cole Porter et al.
> swooped in to transform popular music into a legitimate art form.
> Nearly everybody has been repelled by the content of songs that date
> from a time when coarse racial caricature was one of America's
> favorite sources of amusement.
> Then there is the anti-pop sentiment that has dominated rock-era
> historiography, the tendency to trace rock's roots exclusively to folk
> sources Delta bluesmen, Appalachian balladeers and other
> romantically hard-bitten bumpkins while dismissing as inauthentic
> anything with a whiff of Broadway about it. But turn-of-the-century
> pop was roots music in its own right, and the period that gave us the
> very first star singers and hit records deserves a central place in
> the historical narrative.
> "Acoustic-era music is the historical underdog," said Richard Martin,
> the co-owner with his wife, Meagan Hennessey, of Archeophone Records,
> a label that specializes in acoustic-era pop. "These are scratchy
> records, with 19th-century aesthetics, with racist material all over
> the place, with artists you've never heard of. This stuff is
> completely unknown, and it's a treasure trove."
> Today, a flurry of activity is reviving those antique musical
> treasures, and strengthening the challenge they present to critical
> orthodoxy. Archeophone (archeophone.com), a tiny mom-and-pop label
> based in St. Joseph, Ill., has released dozens of superb compilations
> chronicling the careers of the period's top recording artists,
> including Henry Burr, a prolific warbler of sentimental ballads, and
> the acoustic era's biggest star, Billy Murray, who wrapped his reedy
> pipes around virtually every hit of the day, including George M.
> Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Boy" (1905) and Irving Berlin's "Alexander's
> Ragtime Band" (1911). The label's current top seller is a two-disc
> feat of audio archaeology, "Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the
> Recording Industry, 1891-1922," released in conjunction with a
> groundbreaking book by the historian Tim Brooks.
> Meanwhile, the Internet is crammed with specialists sharing knowledge
> and posting audio files of their own collections. By far the biggest
> online resource is the Santa Barbara site. It took $350,000 and
> several painstaking years for archivists to digitize the university's
> vast cylinder collection the third-largest after the Library of
> Congress's and Syracuse University's using a newly invented electric
> cylinder player that extracts information from the ancient grooves
> with startling clarity. The response has been overwhelming, with more
> than 750,000 songs downloaded and streamed in the four months since
> the site went up.
> "I thought the site would be used primarily for scholarly research,"
> said David Seubert, the project's director. "I had no idea that so
> many people would want to hear the records."
> Spend a little time browsing the site and a lost musical world opens
> to you. The range of music is staggering: whistling soloists,
> xylophonists playing polkas, John Philip Sousa leading his band
> through famous marches. Hacks abound tone-deaf songbirds mauling
> treacly ballads but there are also some real virtuosi. There are
> dozens of catchy records by Harry Lauder, the Scottish music hall star
> with a lustrous vocal tone and a flair for comedy. There's the
> banjoist Vess Ossman, whose fleet-fingered renditions of cakewalks and
> rags reveal that rhythmically dynamic improvisation entered American
> music years before the rise of jazz. Pop vocalists like Murray don't
> exactly swing, but there is a briskness and cheer in their singing
> that is infectious the sound of American pop shrugging off its
> Victor Herbert-light opera complex and becoming something definitively
> Yankee Doodle.
> It is a commonplace that sitcoms and stand-up comedy are contemporary
> extensions of vaudeville, but we have lost sight of pop music's
> vaudeville roots. The popular theater was the main performance outlet
> for Tin Pan Alley's tunes, and you can hear that vaudeville lineage on
> acoustic-era records, in the singers' booming, shout-down-the-rafters
> vocal styles and in lyrics packed with punch lines. It was a time when
> pop music and comedy were virtually one and the same, and one of the
> delights of the period's big hits is the glee and unpretentiousness
> with which they aim for the funny bone. That emphasis on jokes and
> novelty has done the music no favors with historians who equate art
> with gravity.
> But the best of these novelties were artful, with indelible melodies
> and flashes of wit, and many have endured: "Give My Regards to
> Broadway," "Yes, We Have No Bananas," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "The
> Darktown Strutters' Ball," "Carolina in the Morning." Period
> recordings of these standards can be revelatory. Consider "Take Me Out
> to the Ball Game": it's one of the most frequently sung songs in the
> United States, but few people know the verses on Edward Meeker's 1908
> record. It turns out "Take Me Out" was a comedy number about shifting
> gender roles, starring a baseball-crazed young woman.
> Katie Casey was base ball mad.
> Had the fever and had it bad
> Just to root for the home town crew
> Ev'ry sou Katie blew.
> These lines, belted out by Meeker with an audible twinkle in his eye,
> carry us back the social tumult of the Progressive era, to an America
> moving swiftly and anxiously into a post-Victorian phase. Songwriters
> were obsessed with topicality, charting every fad and invention and
> bubble in the melting pot, and the recordings from the period are
> unusually rich artifacts far more historically evocative, for
> instance, than the 32-bar variations on the theme "I Love You" that
> dominated popular song for years afterwards.
> Yet most public archives and record companies have been cavalier about
> conserving these valuable artifacts. (The preservation of silent film
> reels has been a far bigger priority, although the very earliest
> records, delicate brown wax cylinders from the 1890's, are far more
> imperiled.) The most notorious episode occurred in the early 1960's,
> when RCA dynamited the Camden, N.J., warehouse that held the masters
> for Victor Records' thousands of acoustic-era 78's. The rubble was
> bulldozed into the Delaware River and a pier was built atop it: a huge
> part of our musical heritage, entombed in a watery grave.
> And while scholars and critics have lavished attention on early roots
> music recordings no rock snob's record collection would be complete
> without Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" and an Alan
> Lomax field recording or two they have almost completely ignored
> this other recorded legacy. Pop critics are currently in the throes of
> post-"rockist" revisionism, thinking through their longstanding biases
> against commercial pop music. Maybe it's time to look at how those
> same prejudices, projected back into history, have distorted our
> vision of pop's distant past.
> The truth is, beneath their quaint rhythms and lyrics about "spooning"
> under stretching boughs, acoustic-era songs are thematically quite
> similar to rock and even hip-hop, awash in sex and dancing and a
> cheery anti-authoritarianism. (Little wonder that moralists of the day
> thundered against Tin Pan Alley's "suggestive" songs and the
> pernicious moral effects of ragtime.) You hear that spirit in the
> Columbia Quartet's 1911 recording of Irving Berlin's "Everybody's
> Doing It Now," in the salacious relish with which the singers deliver
> the lines "Everybody's doing it/ Doing it?/ Doing what?" Berlin's song
> is nothing less than an anthem of youth rebellion, an ode to kids
> going nuts doing racy dance moves precisely the kind of song that,
> according to conventional wisdom, did not crack the pop mainstream
> until sometime around 1954.
> Of course, the biggest obsession of songwriters during this period was
> ethnic pastiche, and you won't get too far into the Web site without
> bumping up against "How Can They Tell That I'm Irish?," "I'm a Yiddish
> Cowboy" or "Ching-a-Ling's Jazz Bazaar." And then there are the
> ubiquitous "coon songs" hundreds upon hundreds of them, filled with
> racial epithets, chomped watermelon and other grotesqueries. No period
> in American music has been as bound up with the question of racial
> representation, and it is embarrassment about minstrelsy more than
> anything else that that has kept this stuff tucked in the darkest
> corners of sound archives.
> "Some of it was probably better forgotten for a while," Mr. Seubert
> said. "I think coon songs would have been a pretty hard thing for a
> folklorist to try to resurrect during the civil rights era."
> Now, though, minstrelsy is a hot scholarly topic, and much of the
> current interest in the acoustic era revolves around blackface and
> black performers. By far the most talked-about figure is the brilliant
> vaudeville singer Bert Williams, the first African-American pop star,
> who specialized in blackface material. (Archeophone has released three
> volumes of Williams's recordings.) But if we really want to know
> acoustic-era pop music, we need to look at the white minstrels, ask
> some hard questions and rein in our instincts to dismiss their acts as
> racist trash, full stop.
> Some of the most compelling voices of the period belong to female
> "coon shouters" Mayhew, May Irwin, Sophie Tucker who eventually
> washed the burnt cork off their faces and graduated to a thrillingly
> insouciant singing style. That style owed everything to minstrelsy but
> was no longer explicitly "black."
> Then there are even trickier cases, like that of Al Bernard, a
> blackface comedian and female impersonator who specialized in fiercely
> swinging ragtime and minstrel numbers. Are we ready to admit that
> unequivocally racist songs, delivered by white singers in the thickest
> possible dialect, might not only be historically significant music,
> but great music?
> Students of pop history will be mulling over such questions for some
> time to come. In the meantime, there are thousands of new records to
> be listened to some of them more than a century old. "Some of this
> stuff is dreadful, you'd really rather not listen to it," Mr. Martin
> allowed. "But there's some really enjoyable stuff along the way."
> One enjoyable record, which distills the period's pleasing mix of pop
> hooks, belly laughs and sheer strangeness, is the vaudevillian Eddie
> Morton's "Don't Take Me Home," a jaunty ragtime novelty about a
> husband who runs off to war to hide out from his henpecking wife.
> Morton sings the verses pretty straight, but in the fiendishly catchy
> chorus "Don't take me home!/ Pleeeease, don't take me home!" his
> voice ripples across the frantic oompah beat, a long sobbing phrase
> that's halfway between an Irish tenor's flourish and the yelp of a dog
> whose tail has been stepped on. It's unclear what impact the record
> made when it was released in 1908. In 2006, it sounds like a hit.
> Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
> Lou Judson Intuitive Audio
> On Mar 20, 2006, at 6:47 AM, Dick Spottswood wrote:
>> for modern journalism, an exceptionally insightful piece. Maybe pop
>> music criticism is finally moving beyond Rolling Stone.
>> ----- Forwarded by Dick Spottswood/dick/AmericanU on 03/20/2006 09:47
>> AM -----
>> Hank <[log in to unmask]>
>> 03/20/2006 09:26 AM
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>> Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 09:06:18 -0500 (EST)
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>> This is the site we spoke about a few months ago. I donated 6
>> cylinders of mandolin music to them. Best Jim
>> ARTS / MUSIC | March 19, 2006
>> Music: How Pop Sounded Before It Popped
>> By JODY ROSEN
>> An astonishing trove of pop music from 100 years ago is now
>> available on the Web, opening up a lost musical world that deserves
>> its place in the historical narrative.
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>> » Go to Complete List
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