The Audible Past explores the cultural origins of sound reproduction. It describes a distinctive sound culture that gave birth to the sound recording and the transmission devices so ubiquitous in modern life. With an ear for the unexpected, scholar and musician Jonathan Sterne uses the technological and cultural precursors of telephony, phonography, and radio as an entry point into a history of sound in its own right. Sterne studies the constantly shifting boundary between phenomena organized as "sound" and "not sound." In The Audible Past, this history crisscrosses the liminal regions between bodies and machines, originals and copies, nature and culture, and life and death.
Blending cultural studies and the history of communication technology, Sterne follows modern sound technologies back through a historical labyrinth. Along the way, he encounters capitalists and inventors, musicians and philosophers, embalmers and grave robbers, doctors and patients, deaf children and their teachers, professionals and hobbyists, folklorists and tribal singers. The Audible Past tracks the connections between the history of sound and the defining features of modernity: from developments in medicine, physics, and philosophy to the tumultuous shifts of industrial capitalism, colonialism, urbanization, modern technology, and the rise of a new middle class.
A provocative history of sound, The Audible Past challenges theoretical commonplaces such as the philosophical privilege of the speaking subject, the visual bias in theories of modernity, and static descriptions of nature. It will interest those in cultural studies, media and communication studies, the new musicology, and the history of technology.
It started with the searing sound of a slide careening up the neck of an electric guitar. In 1970, twenty-three-year-old Bruce Iglauer walked into Florence’s Lounge, in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, and was overwhelmed by the joyous, raw Chicago blues of Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. A year later, Iglauer produced Hound Dog’s debut album in eight hours and pressed a thousand copies, the most he could afford. From that one album grew Alligator Records, the largest independent blues record label in the world.
Bitten by the Blues is Iglauer’s memoir of a life immersed in the blues—and the business of the blues. No one person was present at the creation of more great contemporary blues music than Iglauer: he produced albums by Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Professor Longhair, Johnny Winter, Lonnie Mack, Son Seals, Roy Buchanan, Shemekia Copeland, and many other major figures. In this book, Iglauer takes us behind the scenes, offering unforgettable stories of those charismatic musicians and classic sessions, delivering an intimate and unvarnished look at what it’s like to work with the greats of the blues. It’s a vivid portrait of some of the extraordinary musicians and larger-than-life personalities who brought America’s music to life in the clubs of Chicago’s South and West Sides. Bitten by the Blues is also an expansive history of half a century of blues in Chicago and around the world, tracing the blues recording business through massive transitions, as a genre of music originally created by and for black southerners adapted to an influx of white fans and musicians and found a worldwide audience.
Most of the smoky bars and packed clubs that fostered the Chicago blues scene have long since disappeared. But their soul lives on, and so does their sound. As real and audacious as the music that shaped it, Bitten by the Blues is a raucous journey through the world of Genuine Houserockin’ Music.
In Cassette Culture, Peter Manuel tells how a new mass medium—the portable cassette player—caused a major upheaval in popular culture in the world's second-largest country. The advent of cassette technology in the 1980s transformed India's popular music industry from the virtual monopoly of a single multinational LP manufacturer to a free-for-all among hundreds of local cassette producers. The result was a revolution in the quantity, quality, and variety of Indian popular music and its patterns of dissemination and consumption.
Manuel shows that the cassette revolution, however, has brought new contradictions and problems to Indian culture. While inexpensive cassettes revitalized local subcultures and community values throughout the subcontinent, they were also a vehicle for regional and political factionalism, new forms of commercial vulgarity, and, disturbingly, the most provocative sorts of hate-mongering and religious chauvinism.
Cassette Culture is the first scholarly account of Indian popular music and the first case study of a technological revolution now occurring throughout the world. It will be an essential resource for anyone interested in modern India, communications theory, world popular music, or contemporary global culture.
Exploring Peru’s lively music industry and the studio producers, radio DJs, and program directors that drive it, Gentleman Troubadours and Andean Pop Stars is a fascinating account of the deliberate development of artistic taste. Focusing on popular huayno music and the ways it has been promoted to Peru’s emerging middle class, Joshua Tucker tells a complex story of identity making and the marketing forces entangled with it, providing crucial insights into the dynamics among art, class, and ethnicity that reach far beyond the Andes.
Tucker focuses on the music of Ayacucho, Peru, examining how media workers and intellectuals there transformed the city’s huayno music into the country’s most popular style. By marketing contemporary huayno against its traditional counterpart, these agents, Tucker argues, have paradoxically reinforced ethnic hierarchies at the same time that they have challenged them. Navigating between a burgeoning Andean bourgeoisie and a music industry eager to sell them symbols of newfound sophistication, Gentleman Troubadours and Andean Pop Stars is a deep account of the real people behind cultural change.
King of the Queen City is the first comprehensive history of King Records, one of the most influential independent record companies in the history of American music. Founded by businessman Sydney Nathan in the mid-1940s, this small outsider record company in Cincinnati, Ohio, attracted a diverse roster of artists, including James Brown, the Stanley Brothers, Grandpa Jones, Redd Foxx, Earl Bostic, Bill Doggett, Ike Turner, Roy Brown, Freddie King, Eddie Vinson, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. While other record companies concentrated on one style of music, King was active in virtually all genres of vernacular American music, from blues and R & B to rockabilly, bluegrass, western swing, and country.
A progressive company in a reactionary time, King was led by an interracial creative and executive staff that redefined the face and voice of American music as well as the way it was recorded and sold. Drawing on personal interviews, research in newspapers and periodicals, and deep access to the King archives, Jon Hartley Fox weaves together the elements of King's success, focusing on the dynamic personalities of the artists, producers, and key executives such as Syd Nathan, Henry Glover, and Ralph Bass. The book also includes a foreword by legendary guitarist, singer, and songwriter Dave Alvin.
Available in paperback for the first time, this groundbreaking in-depth history of the involvement of African Americans in the early recording industry examines the first three decades of sound recording in the United States, charting the surprising roles black artists played in the period leading up to the Jazz Age and the remarkably wide range of black music and culture they preserved.
Applying more than thirty years of scholarship, Tim Brooks identifies key black artists who recorded commercially and provides illuminating biographies for some forty of these audio pioneers. Brooks assesses the careers and recordings of George W. Johnson, Bert Williams, George Walker, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, W. C. Handy, James Reese Europe, Wilbur Sweatman, Harry T. Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Booker T. Washington, and boxing champion Jack Johnson, as well as a host of lesser-known voices. Many of these pioneers faced a difficult struggle to be heard in an era of rampant discrimination and "the color line," and their stories illuminate the forces––both black and white––that gradually allowed African Americans greater entree into the mainstream American entertainment industry. The book also discusses how many of these historic recordings are withheld from the public today because of stringent U.S. copyright laws.
Lost Sounds includes Brooks's selected discography of CD reissues, and an appendix by Dick Spottswood describing early recordings by black artists in the Caribbean and South America.
The period between the Second World War and the mid-1960s saw the American music industry engaged in a fundamental transformation in how music was produced and experienced. Tim Anderson analyzes three sites of this music revolution: the change from a business centered around live performances to one based on selling records, the custom of simultaneously bringing out multiple versions of the same song, and the arrival of in-home high-fidelity stereo systems.
Making Easy Listening presents a social and cultural history of the contentious, diverse, and experimental culture of musical production and enjoyment that aims to understand how recording technologies fit into and influence musicians’, as well as listeners’, lives. With attention to the details of what it means to play a particular record in a distinct cultural context, Anderson connects neglected genres of the musical canon—classical and easy listening music, Broadway musicals, and sound effects records—with the development of sound aesthetics and technical music practices that leave an indelible imprint on individuals. Tracing the countless impacts that this period of innovation exacted on the mass media, Anderson reveals how an examination of this historical era—and recorded music as an object—furthers a deeper understanding of the present-day American music industry.
Tim J. Anderson is assistant professor of communication at Denison University.
Making the Scene in the Garden State explores New Jersey’s rich musical heritage through stories about the musicians, listeners and fans who came together to create sounds from across the American popular music spectrum. The book includes chapters on the beginnings of musical recording in Thomas Edison’s factories in West Orange; early recording and the invention of the Victrola at Victor Records’ Camden complex; Rudy Van Gelder’s recording studios (for Blue Note, Prestige, and other jazz labels) in Hackensack and Englewood Cliffs; Zacherley and the afterschool dance television show Disc-o-Teen, broadcast from Newark in the 1960s; Bruce Springsteen’s early years on the Jersey Shore at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park; and, the 1980s indie rock scene centered at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Concluding with a foray into the thriving local music scenes of today, the book examines the sounds, sights and textures of the locales where New Jerseyans have gathered to rock, bop, and boogie.
Music listeners today can effortlessly flip from K-pop to Ravi Shankar to Amadou & Mariam with a few quick clicks of a mouse. While contemporary globalized musical culture has become ubiquitous and unremarkable, its fascinating origins long predate the internet era. In Music and the New Global Culture, Harry Liebersohn traces the origins of global music to a handful of critical transformations that took place between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century. In Britain, the arts and crafts movement inspired a fascination with non-Western music; Germany fostered a scholarly approach to global musical comparison, creating the field we now call ethnomusicology; and the United States provided the technological foundation for the dissemination of a diverse spectrum of musical cultures by launching the phonograph industry. This is not just a story of Western innovation, however: Liebersohn shows musical responses to globalization in diverse areas that include the major metropolises of India and China and remote settlements in South America and the Arctic. By tracing this long history of world music, Liebersohn shows how global movement has forever changed how we hear music—and indeed, how we feel about the world around us.
David L. Morton examines the process of invention, innovation, and diffusion of communications technology, using the history of sound recording as the focus. Off the Record demonstrates how the history of both the hardware and the ways people used it is essential for understanding why any particular technology became a fixture in everyday life or faded into obscurity. Morton’s approach to the topic differs from most previous works, which have examined the technology’s social impact, but not the reasons for its existence. Recording culture in America emerged, Morton writes, not through the dictates of the technology itself but in complex ways that were contingent upon the actions of users.
Each of the case studies in the book emphasizes one of five aspects of the culture of recording and its relationship to new technology, at the same time telling the story of sound recording history. One of the misconceptions that Morton hopes to dispel is that the only important category of sound recording involves music. Unique in his broad-based approach to sound technology, the five case studies that Morton investigates are :
The phonograph record
Recording in the radio business
The dictation machine
The telephone answering machine, and
Readers will learn, for example, that the equipment to create the telephone answering machine has been around for a century, but that the ownership and use of answering machines was a hotly contested issue in the telephone industry at the turn of the century, hence stifling its commercial development for decades. Morton also offers fascinating insight into early radio: that, while The Amos and Andy Show initially was pre-recorded and not broadcast live, the commercial stations saw this easily distributed program as an economic threat: many non-network stations could buy the disks for easy, relatively inexpensive replaying. As a result, Amos and Andy was sold to Mutual and went live shortly afterward.
The music industry’s ongoing battle against digital piracy is just the latest skirmish in a long conflict over who has the right to distribute music. Starting with music publishers’ efforts to stamp out bootleg compilations of lyric sheets in 1929, Barry Kernfeld’s Pop Song Piracy details nearly a century of disobedient music distribution from song sheets to MP3s.
In the 1940s and ’50s, Kernfeld reveals, song sheets were succeeded by fake books, unofficial volumes of melodies and lyrics for popular songs that were a key tool for musicians. Music publishers attempted to wipe out fake books, but after their efforts proved unsuccessful they published their own. Pop Song Piracy shows that this pattern of disobedience, prohibition, and assimilation recurred in each conflict over unauthorized music distribution, from European pirate radio stations to bootlegged live shows. Beneath this pattern, Kernfeld argues, there exists a complex give and take between distribution methods that merely copy existing songs (such as counterfeit CDs) and ones that transform songs into new products (such as file sharing). Ultimately, he contends, it was the music industry’s persistent lagging behind in creating innovative products that led to the very piracy it sought to eliminate.
Record Cultures tells the story of how early U.S. commercial recording companies captured American musical culture in a key period in both music and media history. Amid dramatic technological and cultural changes of the 1920s and 1930s, small recording companies in the United States began to explore the genres that would later be known as jazz, blues, and country. Smaller record labels, many based in rural or out of the way Midwestern and Southern towns, were willing to take risks on the country’s regional vernacular music as a way to compete with more established recording labels. Recording companies’ relationship with radio grew closer as both industries were on the rise, propelled by new technologies. Radio, which had become immensely popular, began broadcasting more recorded music in place of live performances, and this created profitable symbiosis. With the advent of the talkies, the film industry completed the media trifecta. The novelty of recorded sound was replacing film accompanists, and the popularity of movie musicals solidified film’s connections with the radio and recording industries. By the early 1930s, the recording industry had gone from being part of the largely autonomous phonograph industry to being a major media industry of its own, albeit deeply tied to—and, in some cases, owned by—the radio and film industries. The triangular relationships between these media industries marked the first major entertainment and media conglomerates in U.S. history.
Through an interdisciplinary and intermedial approach to recording industry history, Record Cultures creates new connections between different strands of media research. It will be of interest to scholars of popular music, media studies, sound studies, American culture, and the history of film, television, and radio.
This volume is an engaging and exceptional history of the independent rock 'n' roll record industry from its raw regional beginnings in the 1940s with R & B and hillbilly music through its peak in the 1950s and decline in the 1960s. John Broven combines narrative history with extensive oral history material from numerous recording pioneers including Joe Bihari of Modern Records; Marshall Chess of Chess Records; Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegun, and Miriam Bienstock of Atlantic Records; Sam Phillips of Sun Records; Art Rupe of Specialty Records; and many more.
Recording is central to the musical lives of contemporary powwow singers yet, until now, their aesthetic practices when recording have been virtually ignored in the study of Native American expressive cultures. Recording Culture is an exploration of the Aboriginal music industry and the powwow social world that supports it. For twelve years, Christopher A. Scales attended powwows—large intertribal gatherings of Native American singer-drummers, dancers, and spectators—across the northern Plains. For part of that time, he worked as a sound engineer for Arbor Records, a large Aboriginal music label based in Winnipeg, Canada. Drawing on his ethnographic research at powwow grounds and in recording studios, Scales examines the ways that powwow drum groups have utilized recording technology in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the unique aesthetic principles of recorded powwow music, and the relationships between drum groups and the Native music labels and recording studios. Turning to "competition powwows," popular weekend-long singing and dancing contests, Scales analyzes their role in shaping the repertoire and aesthetics of drum groups in and out of the recording studio. He argues that the rise of competition powwows has been critical to the development of the powwow recording industry. Recording Culture includes a CD featuring powwow music composed by Gabriel Desrosiers and performed by the Northern Wind Singers.
Boosting the bass guitar, blending the vocals, overdubbing percussion while fretting over shoot-outs in the street. Grumbling about a producer, teasing a white engineer, challenging an artist to feel his African beat. Sound of Africa! is a riveting account of the production of a mbaqanga album in a state-of-the-art recording studio in Johannesburg. Made popular internationally by Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, mbaqanga's distinctive style features a bass solo voice and soaring harmonies of a female frontline over electric guitar, bass, keyboard, and drumset. Louise Meintjes chronicles the recording and mixing of an album by Izintombi Zesimanje, historically the rival group of the Mahotella Queens. Set in the early 1990s during South Africa’s tumultuous transition from apartheid to democratic rule, Sound of Africa! offers a rare portrait of the music recording process. It tracks the nuanced interplay among South African state controls, the music industry's transnational drive, and the mbaqanga artists' struggles for political, professional, and personal voice.
Focusing on the ways artists, producers, and sound engineers collaborate in the studio control room, Meintjes reveals not only how particular mbaqanga sounds are shaped technically, but also how egos and artistic sensibilities and race and ethnicity influence the mix. She analyzes how the turbulent identity politics surrounding Zulu ethnic nationalism impacted mbaqanga artists' decisions in and out of the studio. Conversely, she explores how the global consumption of Afropop and African images fed back into mbaqanga during the recording process. Meintjes is especially attentive to the ways the emotive qualities of timbre (sound quality or tone color) forge complex connections between aesthetic practices and political ideology. Vivid photos by the internationally renowned photographer TJ Lemon further dramatize Meintjes’ ethnography.
The widespread perception of singers and musicians as free individuals doing enjoyable and fulfilling work obscures the realities of their occupation. In Unfree Masters Matt Stahl examines recording artists' labor in the music industry as a form of creative work. He begins by considering the television show American Idol and the 2004 rockumentary Dig!, tracing the ways that popular music making is narrativized in contemporary America and showing how such narratives highlight musicians' negotiations of the limits of freedom and autonomy in creative cultural-industrial work. Turning to struggles between recording artists and record companies over laws that govern their working and contractual relationships, he reveals further tensions and contradictions in this form of work. Stahl argues that media narratives of music making, as well as contract and copyright disputes between musicians and music industry executives, contribute to American socioeconomic discourse and expose a foundational tension between democratic principles of individual autonomy and responsibility and the power of employers to control labor and appropriate its products. Stahl asserts that the labor issues that he discloses in music can stimulate insights about the political-economic and imaginative challenges currently facing working people of all kinds.