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Another compilation of early recorded music – this one has a selection of virtuoso xylophone solos, from the time when this was a standard thing to release.
01 Charles P. Lowe – Leonora Waltz (1897)
02 Charles P. Lowe – High And Low (1898)
03 Charles P. Lowe – Brilliant Gallop (1900)
04 Charles P. Lowe. – Carnival Of Venice (1902)
05 J. Frank Hopkins. – Medley Of Reels (1902)
06 Charles P. Lowe – American Patrol (1905)
07 Albert Benzler – Spoontime (1906)
08 Albert Muller with Orchestra – Katie (1906)
09 Charles P. Lowe with Columbia Symphony Orchestra – Medley Of Popular Airs (1906)
10 Chris Chapman – Dill Pickles Rag (1908)
11 Charles Daab – Irish and Scotch Melodies (1910)
12 William H Reitz – Buffalo News March (1913)
13 Charles Daab – Fairest Rose (1914)
14 Lou Chiha Frisco – Kangaroo Hop (1916)
Another sonic adventure through time with James Errington, this time joined by guests Dominic, Joanne & Adam to listen to the sounds of 1905 and discuss such pressing topics as skeleton xylophones, the hubris of Dick Dastardly, melancholy in Spanish music, the latter-day lack of songs about bears in pop music and, for some reason, collared doves, which are definitely a type of pigeon.
Listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital nationwide, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps – or, as you have already missed this one, use the handy ‘listen again’ function below! (Please note that the first two minutes are silent – this is the gap for the news which I generally cut off for the upload. Not this time though, apparently!)
January 1 – The British Royal Army Medical Corps carries out the first successful blood transfusion, using blood that had been stored and cooled.
January 10 – In the Erzurum Offensive, Russia inflicts a defeat on the Ottoman Empire.
January 13 – Ottoman Empire forces defeat the Allied British in the Battle of Wadi.
February 11 – Emma Goldman is arrested for lecturing on birth control in the United States.
February 12 – At The Battle of Salaita Hill, South African and other British Empire troops fail to take a German East African defensive position.
February 21 – The Battle of Verdun begins in France.
March 8 – Pancho Villa leads 500 Mexican raiders in an attack against Columbus, New Mexico, killing 12 U.S. soldiers. A garrison of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment fights back and drives them away.
March 24 – French ferry SS Sussex is torpedoed by SM UB-29 in the English Channel, with at least 50 killed, including the composer Enrique Granados.
April 11 – The Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.
April 24 – The Easter Rising begins in Ireland. Members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood proclaim an Irish Republic, and the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army occupy the General Post Office and other buildings in Dublin.
April 27 – The 47th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division at Hulluch in France is decimated, in one of the most heavily concentrated German gas attacks of the war.
April 29 – The Easter Rising ends, as republican commanders issue an order for all companies to surrender.
April 29 – The Siege of Kut ends with the surrender of British forces to the Ottoman Empire, at Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris in Basra Vilayet.
May 16 – Britain and France conclude the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement, which is to divide Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire into French and British spheres of influence.
May 16 – United States Marines invade the Dominican Republic.
May 31 – The Battle of Jutland, between the British Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy, the war’s only large-scale clash of battleships, begins – the result is inconclusive.
June 4 – The Brusilov Offensive, the height of Russian operations in the war, begins with their breaking through Austro-Hungarian lines.
June 5 – HMS Hampshire sinks, having hit a mine off the Orkney Islands, Scotland, with Lord Kitchener aboard.
June 10 – The Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire is formally declared by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.
July 1 – On the first day of The Battle of The Somme around 30,000 British, French and German soldiers are killed
July 15 – Battle of Delville Wood – 766 men from the South African Brigade are killed, in South Africa’s biggest loss during the First World War.
July 29 – In Ontario, Canada, a lightning strike ignites a forest fire that destroys the towns of Cochrane and Matheson, killing 233.
July 30 – German agents cause the Black Tom explosion in Jersey City, New Jersey, an act of sabotage destroying an ammunition depot and killing at least 7 people.
August 5 – At the Battle of Romani British Imperial troops secure victory over a joint Ottoman-German force.
September 6 – The first true self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, is founded in Memphis, Tennessee, by Clarence Saunders.
September 11 – A mechanical failure causes the central span of the Quebec Bridge to crash into the Saint Lawrence River for the second time, killing 13 workers.
September 13 – Mary, a circus elephant, is hanged in the town of Erwin, Tennessee for killing her handler, Walter ‘Red’ Eldridge.
September 15 – Battle of Flers–Courcelette – significant for the first use of the tank in warfare and for the debut of the Canadian and New Zealand Divisions in The Somme.
September 27 – Iyasu V of Ethiopia is deposed in a palace coup, in favour of his aunt Zewditu.
October 21 – Friedrich Adler shoots and kills Count Karl von Stürgkh, Minister-President of Austria.
November 5 – An armed confrontation in Everett, Washington, between local authorities and members of the Industrial Workers of the World results in seven deaths.
November 7 – In The U.S. presidential election, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson narrowly defeats Republican Charles E. Hughes.
November 7 – Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.
November 18 – After 5 months and nearly half a million British casualties, BEF commander Douglas Haig calls off the Battle of the Somme.
November 21 – Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria dies of pneumonia at the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, aged 86, after a reign of 68 years and is succeeded by his grandnephew Charles I.
November 23 – Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is occupied by troops of the Central Powers.
December 12 – ‘White Friday’ in the Dolomites – 100 avalanches bury 18,000 Austrian and Italian soldiers.
December 18 – The Battle of Verdun ends in France with German troops defeated.
December 22 – The British Sopwith Camel aircraft makes its maiden flight. It is designed to counter the German Fokker aircraft.
December 30 – The mystic Grigori Rasputin is murdered in Saint Petersburg.
The story of recorded must prior to 1917 has been, on a personal level, a juggle with two opposing narratives. First there is of course the convoluted journey towards the explosion in jazz and blues of the late 1910s and 1920. Then there’s the other side, the world of music and musicians who had their own path and their own values. So far these two threads have been happy so sit peacefully side by side, occasionally intertwining, but always on their own terms. In 1916, though, there is an overwhelming feeling that something really big is coming. Perhaps its the war (covered here by a single track) with its mythical power to change attitudes, perhaps its the work of a number of talented individuals, perhaps the spread of the gramophone is making it necessary – but for whatever reason, the majority of music in this mix seems to be almost-but-not-quite jazz and blues.
A couple of exceptions to this, before we go digging in – the mix kicks off with one of a couple of very atmospheric klezmer cymbolom instrumentals (this is a genre which would not be so easily colonised by the new music), and features yet more of the Hawaiian craze which seems to have been a constant in the decade. The biggest revelation here may be from fiddler Don Richardson – his instrumental version of Arkansas Traveller (featured on here a couple of times before in its vaudeville form) is as far as I can tell indistinguishable from the “first country records” which would kick off the other musical explosion in about a decade’s time.
Blues has been around for a while at this point, though not so much as a genre as a mood, or perhaps even what we might call a meme now. The sheet music for “I Got the Blues” by New Orleans musician Antonio Maggio was published in 1908, and over the following decade a number of other songs started riffing on the idea, including some written in Tin Pan Alley and given to a new generation of female vaudeville singers, most notably Sophie Tucker. In this vein we have torch-song standard “I Ain’t Got Nobody” – here performed by Marion Harris, the music for which was written by a black songwriter, Spencer Williams – a pattern of visible white performers with black artists in the background which started as early as the 1890s and would continue until the start of the 1920s.
This naturally leads on to one of the accidental shifts this music has pushed into view. W.C. Handy’s compositions weren’t just called “blues” – they actually drew from his life as a black man in the south of the USA, the presumed source of the melodies and rhythms which easily delineate this music to the modern ear. The St Louis Blues was his breakthrough hit, but is here presented as an instrumental, and performed by a ragtime dance band who had started out performing military marches, led by Charles Adams Prince, a record company director and relative to two US presidents.
The appallingly titled “Nigger Blues” was, naturally, written by a white man, Lee “Lasses” White, a veteran of minstrel shows and “coon songs” who would go on to become a stock actor in early westerns. It would be nice to think that the racism of the turn of the century was dying off by this point, but this would be extremely wishful thinking. “Chinese Blues” was written by young George Gershwin, and is here represented by the composer himself (on a piano roll) and Sousa’s Band, of all people.
The most striking example of all this dissonance, however, is to be found on “That Funny Jas Band From Dixieland” performed by Arthur Collins and Byron G Harlan. Collins, now billed as “king of the ragtime singers”, has a long and very mixed history on this site, as is natural for a figure who looms as large as he does in pre-WW1 music. A good case could be made that “That Funny Jas Band” is the first jazz recording, but it’s a bit less embarrassing to call it “the first recording that mentions jazz” as it is, on the whole, the sort of embarrassing racist churned-out “coon song” which you’d instinctively want to sweep under the carpet – it even includes a painful bit of minstrel-show banter in the middle. For all that though, I don’t know what you can call the instrumental break at the end except jazz – it’s straight out of an Original Dixieland piece.
If we are going to award the birth of jazz to anyone in 1916, though, perhaps the best recipient would be the two acts that close the mix. We’ve heard “Down Home Rag” before, performed at a frantic pace by James Reece Europe and his ‘Society Orchestra’ – but here it is again, first performed by its composer Wilbur Sweatman, on course to become one of the founding fathers of jazz. Then we switch into a supercharged version played by The Versatile Four, associates of Europe who had branched out to form a more portable unit, able to tour the USA and Europe. They may be a smaller ensemble, but their glorious racket is more than enough to match Europe’s Society Orchestra. This really feels like the start of something.
0:00:00 Joseph Moskowitz – Doina
0:01:06 Gilbert Girard & Company – Daybreak at Calamity Farm (Part 1)
0:01:15 Eugene Jaudas National Promenade Band – Memphis Blues
0:04:36 R.H. Burnside – A New York Hippodrome Rehearsal
0:04:45 Arthur Collins – Hesitating Blues
0:06:15 Prince’s Orchestra – The Hesitating Blues
0:07:56 George O’Connor – Nigger Blues
0:10:27 Gladys Rice – Here Comes Tootsie
0:10:41 Marion Harris – I Ain’t Got Nobody
0:12:20 Elsie Baker & Billy Murray – Play A Simple Melody
0:13:17 Gilbert Girard & Company – Daybreak at Calamity Farm (Part 2)
0:13:42 Abe Schwartz – Sadigurer Chused’l
0:16:39 Aleksandr Vertinskiy – Malen’kiy Kreol’chik
0:19:20 Jeanne Feinberg – Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen
0:21:17 Enrico Caruso – Ah Tout Est Bien Fini (Le Cid)
0:23:54 Karl I of Austria – Speech, Feb 1916
0:24:05 Murray Johnson – Pack Up Your Troubles
0:26:47 Barney Bernard – Goldstein Goes in the Railroad Business
0:27:06 Kyria Koula – Tsifte Teli
0:29:07 Canhoto – Abismo De Rosas
0:30:18 Raquel Meller – Los Impertinentes Mágicos
0:32:55 Quinteto Borinquen – Diamante Negro
0:34:31 Pepita Ramos ‘La Goyita’ – La Modista Militar
0:36:44 Helen Louise & Frank Ferera – Hapa Haole Hula Girl
0:37:51 Rene Dietrich and Horace Wright – My Own Iona
0:40:18 Ciro’s Club Coon Orchestra – On The Shore at Le-Lei-Wei
0:42:51 Scott Joplin – Magnetic Rag
0:45:42 Avon Comedy Four – Ginberg’s Stump Speech
0:45:56 Six Brown Brothers – Walkin’ The Dog
0:48:12 Eugene Jaudas National Promenade Band – Walkin’ The Dog
0:51:30 Fred Van Eps – Raggin’ The Scale
0:54:08 George Gershwin – Chinese Blues
0:56:14 Sousa’s Band – Chinese Blues
0:57:40 Lou Chiha Frisco – Kangaroo Hop
0:59:29 George Formby Snr – The Grandfather’s Clock
1:02:14 Bert Williams – Never Mo’
1:04:48 Strassmeir Dachaur Bauernkapelle – Werdenfelser Trompeten Landler
1:07:41 Conway’s Band – Two-Key Rag
1:10:42 Prince’s Band – St. Louis Blues
1:13:24 Eugene Jaudas Society Orchestra – Step With Pep
1:15:26 W.G. Haenschen & T.T. Schiffer – Sunset Medley
1:17:14 Cunniah Naidu – Modi Instrumental- Ragam-Alapana In Thodi
1:19:02 Adeline Francis – The Mouse and the Thomas Cat
1:19:15 Don Richardson – Arkansas Traveller
1:22:00 F. J. Bacon – Massas in De Cold, Cold Ground
1:22:51 Charles Ross Taggart – Old Country Fiddler at the Telephone
1:23:12 Collins & Harlan – That Funny Jas Band From Dixieland
1:26:49 Wilbur Sweatman – Down Home Rag
1:28:10 The Versatile Four – Down Home Rag
Taking a break from the war for a moment, the excellent Between The Liner Notes podcast has a history of Joe Hill, the songwriter whose work would inform the political side of folk music for the rest of the century, who was executed for a murder he almost certainly did not commit in 1915.