----- Original Message -----
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> On 27/04/07, Bob Olhsson wrote:
> >> From Bertram Lyons: "...Did unknown individuals make attempts to
> >> capture the
> > sounds of slaves previously to the 1930s?..."
> > There obviously had been no slaves for decades when the phonograph was
> > invented
> The Civil War ended in 1865 and Edison invented his phonograph in 1877,
> so not many decades.
> > so it really comes down to how one chooses to define "the
> > sounds of slaves." Early recordings were generally a commercial
> > venture
> As the phonograph was sold as a business tool for dictation, early
> recordings were _not_ commercial.
> > and it can be argued that most of what was recorded in the
> > southeastern US is the music of students of former slaves and their
> > children. There are answers at Fisk and the other traditionally black
> > colleges and universities in the southeast that go beyond minstrel
> > show stereotypes. I would hope that unprejudiced research happens
> > sooner rather than later because many of the people who know the story
> > handed down from their parents and grandparents are approaching the
> > end of their life.
> > I'm very offended that I've only begun to learn the real story of
> > African American music at age 61 because of the pervasive racism found
> > in most of the literature I've encountered about American music. I'm
> > sorry if pointing this out steps on toes but to say nothing only
> > perpetuates racial stereotypes and disenfranchises all Americans from
> > arguably our most significant cultural accomplishment.
Actually, Edison, having invented the phonograph (and being very busy with
his electric lighting and its commercial exploitation...) really wasn't
sure exactly what to do with it...and it wasn't until Bell and Tainter
replaced "tinfoil" with a wax-coated cylinder and thus created more
durable recordings that it became commercially viable!
As noted, it was first visualized as a business tool (which led to
the Dictaphone...!), and it wasn't until coin-operated machines were
introduced (these led to a demand for pre-recorded cylinders...) that
its entertainment-device potential was realized.
Further, since the cylinder machines had the capability of recording
as well as playing "records," it would have been possible to have
recorded living ex-slaves (as well as Buddy Bolden...?!) in the
1890's. However, there was little interest in historic "folk music"
at that time (particularly BLACK folk music...!).
So, it wasn't until into the twentieth century that musicologists
and music historians began to seek out and record various forms of
"ur-music" (i.e. aboriginal music, Anglo-Saxon ballads still being
sung in Appalachia, usw...) and it wasn't until the thirties (IIRC)
that folks like Lomax began exploring the roots of Black music...!).
Steven C. Barr