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ARSCLIST  March 2006

ARSCLIST March 2006

Subject:

Re: sorry

From:

Helen Cornwall <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 20 Mar 2006 14:13:15 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (367 lines)

oops! mea culpa - this was a personal note to someone who helped me 
access this terrific site...h

Helen Cornwall wrote:

> 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 
> possibilities. --Hc
>
> Lou Judson wrote:
>
>> Here's the actual article:
>>
>> March 19, 2006
>> Music
>>
>> 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
>> 415-883-2689
>>
>> 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
>>> To
>>> Recipient List Suppressed:;
>>> cc
>>> Subject
>>> Fwd: NYTimes.com: How Pop Sounded Before It Popped
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 09:06:18 -0500 (EST)
>>>  Date-warning: Date header was inserted by ms-mta-02.rdc-nyc.rr.com
>>>  From: [log in to unmask]
>>>  Subject: NYTimes.com: How Pop Sounded Before It Popped
>>>  X-Originating-IP: [67.87.234.187]
>>>  Sender: [log in to unmask]
>>>  To: [log in to unmask]
>>>  Reply-to: [log in to unmask]
>>>  X-Initiated-By: [nytimes.com website user]
>>>  Original-recipient: rfc822;[log in to unmask]
>>> E-Mail This
>>> <unknown.gif>
>>> <unknown.gif><unknown.gif><unknown.gif>
>>>
>>> <unknown.gif><unknown.gif><unknown.gif>        This page was sent to 
>>> you by:  [log in to unmask]
>>> Message from sender:
>>>  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.
>>>                <unknown.gif>                       <unknown.gif>
>>>                 <unknown.gif>
>>> <unknown.gif>
>>>  1. Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?
>>>  2. 'American Theocracy,' by Kevin Phillips: Clear and Present Dangers
>>>  3. Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn
>>>  4. Music: How Pop Sounded Before It Popped
>>>  5. Wanted: A Few Good Sperm
>>>
>>>  »  Go to Complete List
>>> <unknown.gif>
>>>              <unknown.gif>
>>> Advertisement
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>>>
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>>> Do you love NY? Get the insider’s guide to where to stay, what to do 
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>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> <unknown.gif><unknown.gif>Copyright 2006  The New York Times Company 
>>> | Privacy Policy  <unknown.gif><unknown.gif>
>>>                               
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>
>

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