Centuries of Sound
Centuries of Sound

1913 cover

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“How can we regard this invasion of vulgarity in music other than as a national calamity, in so far as the mental attainments of the nation are concerned? This cheap, trashy stuff could not elevate even the most degraded minds, nor could it possibly urge any one to greater effort in the acquisition of culture in any phase. There is no element of intellectuality in the enjoyment of ragtime. It savors too much the primeval conception of music, whose basis was a rhythm that appealed to the physical rather than to the mental senses” – ‘Abuses of Music’ Paul G Carr in ‘Musician’, 1912

“I know little about American music except that of the music halls, but I consider that unrivaled. It is veritable art, and I never can get enough of it to satisfy me. I am convinced of the absolute truth of utterance in that form of American art.” – Igor Stavinsky in New York Tribune, 1916

We are our 25th year of mixes now, and so far what has conspicuously been missing is the shock of the new. Sure, there have been glimpses from time to time of futures which did or did not happen, but on the whole popular culture (or the part of it which was captured) seems to have been happy enough to trundle on, making gradual progress, without anything to really shock the parents. As of 1913, that era is now done. Is this the start of the jazz age then? No. This is the short-lived Hot Ragtime & Foxtrot craze of 1913/1914, not just another precursor on the road to the 1920s, but a fully-fledged moral-panic-inducing intercontinental shift in both style and consumption, very much at odds with the cliches of a placid pre-WW1 society. This is real dance music made for real young people.

The person more responsible for this than any other is James Reece Europe. Born into reconstruction-era Alabama, he moved to New York in 1904, and by 1910 had become influential enough to form the Clef Club, a society for black musicians which also functioned as an orchestra – the first all-black orchestra in history, and one which only played compositions by black composers. Aside from the usual selection of string, wind and brass instruments (and a large bass drum) the Clef Club also included a remarkable number of mandolins, guitars, banjos and ukuleles, all of which would be strummed in unison to produce an almost deafening melodic rhythm.


Before I get away with myself and call this “jazz” I should mention that it isn’t really. Undoubtedly there is plenty of music which fits the description being played in New Orleans, but at this stage James Reese Europe is not playing it. The perfect example of this is one of the highlights of this mix, Europe’s Society Orchestra’s “Down Home Rag” – what a piece of music this is, a frenzy of strings playing this simple melody with as much speed and energy as they can muster – the sheer unrelenting drive of it is absolutely new. And yet I feel there is something missing there – everything still seems so regimented, there is no space whatsoever for improvisation, soloing, blue notes – and limited recording equipment may have eliminated bass notes, but still, everything being trapped in that narrow frequency-band does make it sort of sound incomplete. Twelve years later a jazz band, The Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, would record the same tune, now re-titled ‘Black Rag’, and it doesn’t really work that well, the pace is altogether too relaxed, you cannot really imagine anyone dancing to it, so perhaps James Reese Europe had it right the first time and it’s me that needs to adapt.

Clef Club and Europe’s Society Orchestra may have been expected to remain within their own world, but by 1912 they were performing at Carnegie Hall, something simply unheard of at the time – and a further gateway opened to the rest of the world in the form of Irene and Vernon Castle, a married couple who are often credited with the popularization of a number of dances, including the foxtrot.


Vernon, the son of a pub landlord from Norwich, England met New-Yorker Irene when he moved there in 1906 to further his acting career. Their break came in Paris in 1911, when they demonstrated ragtime dances picked up from largely black dancehalls in the USA, including the “turkey trot.” Returning to the USA in 1913, they took immediate advantage of the burgeoning craze for social dancing by – how else? – finding the hottest ragtime band of the day to go into partnership. Europe’s Society Orchestra performed with them at private parties, at their dance school (the “Castle House”) and their summer club (the “San Souci”). When white orchestras refused to have Europe’s band play alongside them, they would be brought up on stage to be part of the act. The Castles learned all they did from black society, but unlike so many others they managed to credit the originators while bringing their music into the mainstream, even if this meant fanning the flames of moral panic.

World War I ended this story in a few different ways – aside from the social changes due in any war of that size, Vernon Castle would be killed in his work as a test pilot, while James Reese Europe would achieve a ridiculous level of fame after touring France with his 369th Infantry “Hellfighters” Band, only to come to an end in an unfortunate accident soon after. That’s perhaps getting ahead of myself though, for now, let’s enjoy the sounds of 1913.


Steve Porter – Alderman Doolin’s Campaign Speech 0:00
Fred Van Eps Trio – Down Home Rag 0:27
Europe’s Society Orchestra – Down Home Rag 1:50
Edward Sterling Wright – ‘Possum 5:18
Prince’s Band – Too Much Mustard 5:42
Europe’s Society Orchestra – Too Much Mustard 7:00
Edward Sterling Wright – When de Co’n Pone’s Hot 9:10
Eddie Morton – Noodle Soup Rag 10:19
Murry K Hill – Seated Around An Oil Stove 11:21
Maurice Burkhart – You Can’t Play Every Instrument In The Orchestra 13:53
Alter Yechiel Karniol – N’kadesh 17:08
Cantor Joseph Rosenblatt – El Mole Rachmim (Fr Titanik) 17:50
Abe Elenkrig’s Yidishe Orchestra – Fon Der Choope 19:14
Frank Lenord – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone Actor Audition 21:30
Agustín Barrios – Aires Andaluces 22:01
María Conesa – El Petit Parisien 1ª Parte 23:31
Samuel Siegel and Roy H. Butin – Waltz 25:23
Harry Lauder – She’s The Lass for Me 26:11
Harry Lauder – Same As His Father Did Before Him 27:50
Billy WIlliams – She Does Like a Little Bit of Scotch 30:23
Roy Spangler – Cannon Ball Rag 32:43
Empire Vaudeville Company – Mrs. Clancy’s boarding house 33:46
George Vintilescu – Chatterbox Rag 33:59
Patrick Conway’s Band – Hungarian Rag 36:15
Bert Williams – How Fried / Borrow From Me 38:19
Claude Debussy – Le Vent Dans La Plaine 42:07
Bob Lett – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone actor audition 42:44
Enrico Caruso – Agnus Dei (Bizet) 43:27
Woodrow Wilson – Address to the American Indians 45:36
Seneca Indians – Funeral Chant 46:09
Seneca Indians – Children’s Chorus 46:48
G.U. Hsu – The English Sound Table 47:30
Venu – Vakulabharanam 47:46
Siegfried Von Schultz – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone actor audition 50:13
Jose Rocabruna – Romanza Expresiva;Tarantela 51:13
Theodore Roosevelt – Address to the Boys’ Progressive League 52:29
Al Jolson – Pullman Porters’ Parade 52:43
Steve Porter & Byron G Harlan – Two Jolly Sailors 54:52
Billy Murray – Bagdad 55:08
Cal Stewart – Uncle Josh Keeps House (part 1) 56:42
Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Arthur Nikisch – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 57:18
Cal Stewart – Uncle Josh Keeps House (part 2) 59:05
Owen J McCormack – When It’s Springtime In Virginia 1:00:02
Rita Villa – Czardas (Verdalle) 1:01:58
Nellie Melba – Mandoline (Debussy) 1:04:00
Alma Gluck & Ephrem Zimbalist – Ave Maria 1:05:22
David Burliuk – House-painter 1:07:57
Demetrius C Dounis mandolin – Souvenir (Drdla) 1:08:23
Arvid Paulson – Bref från Lina Pärson- Till Sin Väninna i Sweden 1:09:27
Sanfrid & Josefina Mustonen – Tukkijoella 1:09:49
Edgar L. Davenport – Lasca 1:11:52
Paulo Gruppe – Rondo (Dvorák) 1:13:08
Autdlârutâ – Duel-song 1:13:31
National Guard Fife and Drum Corps – On Parade 1:13:45
Edgar L. Davenport – Sheridan’s Ride 1:15:26
Fred Van Eps – Frolic of the Coons 1:15:57
Mike Bernard piano solo – Maori (Samoan Dance) 1:17:07
Toots Paka’s Hawaiians – Pulupe 1:18:27
Manhattan Ladies Quartette – Pussy’s in the Well 1:21:58
Ngangela or Cokwe musician (Angola) – cisanzi board lamellophone music 1:23:34
Bert Williams – You Can’t Do Nothing Till Martin Gets Here 1:24:07
Claude Debussy – Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum 1:25:23

6 thoughts on “1913”

  1. You missing out on having pioneering artist Luigi Russolo on your 1913 list is criminal so i really can’t take your project seriously.

    1. Hi Music Matters, I will be featuring Luigi Russolo in some later mixes, however I have not found any recordings of his from 1913 – compositions for sure, but not recordings. ‘Risveglio Di Una Città’ is marked as being from 1913 here – http://ubu.com/sound/russolo_l.html – but if you listen to it, it’s clearly an electronic recording.

  2. That “down home rag” is long! Did records sustain 3 1/2 minutes of music by that time?

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