James Errington takes you on another trip into the ancient history of recorded sound, this time joined by Cambridge native Liam Higgins to review the music scene on both sides of the Atlantic in 1914, the year the lights famously went out all over Europe. This episode includes for the first (and hopefully the last) time, your hosts actually singing. Sorry.
You can’t listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital nationwide, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps, because it’s already gone out, however you can still play it below or – even better! – sign up to my patreon for the radio podcast.
January 1–7 – In a violent, racially motivated attack, at least 8 people are killed, and the town of Rosewood, Florida is abandoned and destroyed.
January 9 – Lithuania begins the Klaipėda Revolt, to annex the Klaipėda Region (Memel Territory).
January 11 – Despite strong British protests, troops from France and Belgium occupy the Ruhr area, to force Germany to make reparations payments.
January 17 – Juan de la Cierva invents the autogyro, a rotary-winged aircraft with an unpowered rotor.
March 3 – The first issue of Time Magazine is published. Retired U.S. Speaker of the House Joseph G. Cannon appears on the cover.
March 9 – Vladimir Lenin suffers his third stroke, which renders him bedridden and unable to speak. Consequently he retires from his position as Chairman of the Soviet government.
April 18 – Yankee Stadium opens its doors, as the home park of the New York Yankees baseball team.
April 26 – Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI) marries Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) in Westminster Abbey.
April 28 – The original Wembley Stadium opens its doors for the first time to the British public, staging the FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United.
May 20 – British Prime Minister Bonar Law resigns, due to ill health. He dies in October.
May 23 – Stanley Baldwin is appointed British Prime Minister.
May 26 – The first 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race is held, and is won by André Lagache and René Léonard.
June 9 – A military coup in Bulgaria ousts prime minister Aleksandar Stamboliyski (he is killed June 14th)
June 13 – President Li Yuanhong of China abandons his residence, because a warlord has commanded forces to surround the mansion and cut off its water and electric supplies.
June 18 – Mount Etna erupts in Italy, making 60,000 homeless.
July 13 – The Hollywood Sign is inaugurated in California (originally reading Hollywoodland)
July 20 – Pancho Villa is assassinated at Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua.
July 24 – The Treaty of Lausanne (1923), settling the boundaries of the modern Republic of Turkey, is signed in Switzerland, bringing an end to the Ottoman Empire after 624 years.
August 2 – President Warren G. Harding dies of a heart attack, and is succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who becomes the 30th President of the United States.
September 1 – The Great Kantō earthquake devastates Tokyo and Yokohama, killing an estimated 142,807 people
September 13 – Miguel Primo de Rivera siezes power in a military coup in Spain, setting up a dictatorship.
September 17 – A major fire in Berkeley, California, erupts, consuming some 640 structures, including 584 homes in the densely built neighborhoods north of the campus of the University of California.
October 29 – Turkey becomes a republic, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire; Kemal Atatürk is elected as first president.
November 8 – In Munich, Adolf Hitler leads the Nazis in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government. Police and troops crush the attempt the next day.
November 15 – Hyperinflation in Germany reaches its height. One US dollar is now worth 4,200,000,000,000 Papiermark. Chancellor Gustav Stresemann abolishes the old currency and replaces it with the Rentenmark.
December 1 – In Italy, the Gleno Dam on the Gleno River, in the Valle di Scalve in the northern province of Bergamo bursts, killing at least 356 people.
December 21 – The Nepal–Britain Treaty is the first to define the international status of Nepal, as an independent sovereign country.
It’s been a quiet couple of weeks of mainly doing stuff in the garden, and I’ve taken the opportunity to finally tackle James Joyce’s second-most-daunting book, Ulysses. I’ve owned a copy for roughly half of my life now, and hadn’t even opened it, not exactly through feeling intimidated, more that it seemed like a huge project and there was a concern that I would find it disappointing.
If you don’t know about Ulysses, and am expecting me to give some sort of digested summary, then I’m afraid that’s probably beyond me. Here instead is the opening from Wikipedia
Ulysses is a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920 and then published in its entirety in Paris by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, Joyce’s 40th birthday. It is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature and has been called “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement.” According to Declan Kiberd, “Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking”.
Ulysses chronicles the peripatetic appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between the poem and the novel, with structural correspondences between the characters and experiences of Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus, in addition to events and themes of the early 20th-century context of modernism, Dublin, and Ireland’s relationship to Britain. The novel is highly allusive and also imitates the styles of different periods of English literature.
Since its publication, the book has attracted controversy and scrutiny, ranging from an obscenity trial in the United States in 1921, to protracted textual “Joyce Wars”. The novel’s stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—replete with puns, parodies, and allusions—as well as its rich characterisation and broad humour, have led it to be regarded as one of the greatest literary works in history; Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate 16 June as Bloomsday.
Or, as Stephen King put it the other day.
Well, I finally got around to ULYSSES, the James Joyce joint. I understand it better than I expected, but I have to say it’s really fucking Irish.
Here I should say that I cheated, sort of. The book was given a full dramatised reading from RTÉ Radio on Bloomsday 1982, and happily the whole thing is now available for download from archive.org here
It’s an excellent dramatisation, and much like the book itself it’s the kind of quality of work which you struggle to believe was actually put together by real humans with a limited amount of time in their day, and in their life.
And that’s my main takeaway from the book. Each of the 18 “episodes” contained within is an work on its own, each with what seems like an entirely different style, worth digging deeply into, if only there were time! It would be an ideal book to take to a desert island, less ideal to write a thesis about, and a brief blog post seems like an impossibility. So here instead are a few of my favourite episodes.
Episode 14, Oxen of the Sun
“the episode starts with latinate prose, Anglo-Saxon alliteration, and moves on through parodies of, among others, Malory, the King James Bible, Bunyan, Pepys, Defoe, Sterne, Walpole, Gibbon, Dickens, and Carlyle, before concluding in a haze of nearly incomprehensible slang. The development of the English language in the episode is believed to be aligned with the nine-month gestation period of the foetus in the womb” – the alliterative passages in this chapter are a complete joy to listen to and make me think I may actually give Finnegan’s Wake a go one day. The audio version, I am not a complete lunatic.
Episode 15, Circe
“written as a play script, complete with stage directions. The plot is frequently interrupted by “hallucinations” experienced by Stephen and Bloom—fantastic manifestations of the fears and passions of the two characters” – this has a dream logic to it, shifting in and out of the concrete world in spectacular fashion. For a chapter in which most of the action takes place in a brothel, it is also surprisingly lacking in anything off-putting.
Episode 18, Penelope
“The final episode consists of Molly Bloom’s thoughts as she lies in bed next to her husband. The episode uses a stream-of-consciousness technique in eight paragraphs and lacks punctuation. Molly thinks about Boylan and Bloom, her past admirers, including Lieutenant Stanley G. Gardner, the events of the day, her childhood in Gibraltar, and her curtailed singing career.” Despite (due to?) this being a stream-of-consciousness it’s one of the most lucid and realistic of the episodes. Throughout the book, the female characters oddly enough seem to be better drawn and more lucid than the male characters, and this is the ultimate example of this.
The only part which was a real struggle to get through was episode 17, Ithaca, which is “written in the form of a rigidly organised and “mathematical” catechism of 309 questions and answers” and was apparently Joyce’s favourite. It felt like an accurate imitation of something I have no desire to read in the first place, though I have no doubt I would get something out of it given time.
To sum up, this was a good book and you should, uh, listen to it.
Centuries of Sound is a monthly mix of original recordings from a single year. If you want higher bitrate downloads, a bonus podcast with discussion of the recordings, extra bonus mixes and much more, please support me on Patreon for just $5 per month, and keep the project ad-free.
The early history of jazz can seem like a puzzle whose pieces don’t fit together. We’ve been through the initial explosion, led by groups of copycat, mostly white groups, playing their raucous novelty version of the music. We’ve heard those groups begin to refine and be assimilated into dance orchestras who were pretty much going that way anyway. We’ve heard the sudden craze for female blues singers, and the launch of lables specialising in “race records.” But where are, you know, the actual jazz bands though all of this? Six years of jazz and they still don’t seem to be recording.
Well 1923 is the year where that finally changes. The people running those “race record” labels know very well that they can’t rely entirely on the barrel-house mama craze, and those backing bands contain a wealth of (by now) unignorable talent. Joseph “King” Oliver would be the most obvious example. Born and raised in Louisiana, he started playing in proto-jazz bands almost as soon as such a thing existed. From 1908 he played in Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans, and from 1910 the band he led with Kid Ory was one of the most popular in the city. Storyville, one of the few unsegregated places in the USA, was where jazz really took form, and when it was closed down in 1918, King Oliver led the exodus to Chicago. With the start of prohibition and the rise of the speakeasies, he found himself leading the most successful band in what equated to the Storyville of the Midwest. And who did he send for from New Orleans? Cornet prodigy Louis Armstrong.
Louis, a New Orleans native, had been raised in poverty by his grandmother. He did odd jobs for the Karnoffskys, a family of Lithuanian Jews, including selling coal in Storyville, where he first heard this new music being played. Sent to juvenile hall at the age of 12 for firing a blank round from a gun into the air, he practised his cornet skills in their band. A few years after release he was making a name for himself in dance bands and on the riverboats which travelled up and down the Mississippi, enough so that King Oliver heard of his talents and invited him to join his band on second cornet.
The recordings Oliver and Armstrong contribute to this mix are in Oliver’s name only, but Dipper Mouth Blues is named after Armstrong, its soloist – Dipper Mouth being the nickname that later morphed into Satchel Mouth, then Satchmo. Recorded in Richmond, Indiana (a town associated with the Ku Klux Klan), the group were paid little for the recording, and had to put up with crude equipment and a tiny studio. Bearing all of this in mind, the two songs here are near-revelatory – but much better is to come later in the decade.
Across in New York, former home of the last wave of recording artists, another jazz boom was taking place. We have no Duke Ellington so far, but another band leader of the 1930s was already putting out records. Fletcher Henderson was born and raised in the south, moved to New York to work as a lab chemist and study for a master’s degree, but found himself made musical director of Pace and Handy Music Co within a year. In this role he played accompaniment to blues singers, including Ethel Waters. In 1923 he was recording on his own – his is one of two versions of West Indian Blues, a song which attracted a certain amount of controversy for its lyrics being written in a faux patois, which its singer, Esther Bigeou, did not speak.
We are still deep in the blues explosion, of course. While Mamie Smith is still recording, Bessie Smith (no relation) has become the premier performer – The Empress of The Blues, as Mamie was already The Queen. Edith Wilson with her Jazz Hounds are putting out some pioneering jazz records, and even old-timers like Sophie Tucker are getting in on the craze. Sara Martin performs with a novel guitar blues backing (the kind of thing which will be mainstream blues in a decade or so). My favourite, though, might be Marion Harris, as much a gospel and opera performer as a blues one, and here performing the spiritual ‘Deep River’ with breathtaking soul.
0:00:18 No Artist Listed – Morse Code Record. Part 1 (Excerpt 1)
0:00:35 King Oliver – Snake Rag
0:03:46 No Artist Listed – Morse Code Record. Part 1 (Excerpt 2)
0:03:54 Cotton Pickers with Billy Jones – You Tell Her I Stutter
0:06:49 Edgar Guest – A Heap o’ Livin’
0:06:58 Bessie Smith – Aggravatin’ Papa
0:10:04 Sara Martin – I Got What It Takes To Bring You Back (Excerpt 1)
0:10:21 Sara Martin – Atlanta Blues
0:13:11 Sara Martin – I Got What It Takes To Bring You Back (Excerpt 2)
0:13:57 Edith Wilson and Johnny Dunn Original Jazz Hounds – Evil Blues
0:17:14 Art Landry – Rip Saw Blues
0:19:56 Fletcher Henderson – West Indian Blues (Seven Brown Babies)
0:21:52 Esther Bigeou – West Indies Blues
0:24:39 Monroe’s String Orchestra – Old Lady Old Lady
0:26:10 Rosita Quiroga – Sollozos
0:29:24 Isa Kremer – Dwie Guitarre
0:30:16 Bishop Leadbetter of Sydney Australia – To Those Who Mourn (Excerpt 1)
0:30:35 Yossele Rosenblatt – Tal
0:32:33 Bishop Leadbetter of Sydney Australia – To Those Who Mourn (Excerpt 2)
0:32:51 Pablo Casals – Hebrew Melodies Op. 47
0:34:24 Naftule Brandwein’s Orchestra – Doina
0:36:38 Bessie Weisman – Vu Iz Mayn Yukel (Where is My Yukel)
0:38:34 Ignacy Ulatowski – Niemowa Kapelmaister (Excerpt 1)
0:38:41 Jacob Hoffman With Kandel’s Orchestra – Doina And Hora
0:40:55 Ignacy Ulatowski – Niemowa Kapelmaister (Excerpt 2)
0:41:00 Naftule Brandwein – Heyser Bulgar
0:44:05 Fred & Adele Astaire – Opening Dialogue
0:44:46 Fred & Adele Astaire – Whichness Of The Whatness
0:47:34 Eva Taylor – Oh Daddy Blues
0:50:12 Clarence Williams – Achin’ Hearted Blues
0:53;05 Sophie Tucker – You’ve Got To See Mama Every Night
0:55:47 Vic Meyers – Shake It And Break It
0:58:42 Frank Guarente’s Georgians – Learn To Do The Strut
1:01:28 Woodrow Wilson – Armistice Day Radio Address (Excerpt 1)
1:01:50 Marian Anderson – Deep River
1:04:55 Woodrow Wilson – Armistice Day Radio Address (Excerpt 2)
1:05:09 Huston Ray – Concert Fantasie
1:06:28 Anon (central Javanese gamelan) – Tedhak Saking
1:07:39 Clay Custer – The Rocks
1:09:10 Clara Smith – Kind Lovin’ Blues
1:12:09 Jelly Roll Morton – New Orleans Joys
1:14:54 Mamie Smith – I’m Gonna Get You
1:17:49 Abe Lyman – Weary Weazel (Tiger Rag)
1:21:00 Will Rogers – Will Rogers’ First Political Speech
1:21:21 Irving Kaufman with Bailey’s Lucky Seven – Yes, We Have No Bananas
1:23:54 King Oliver – Dipper Mouth Blues
1:26:06 Thomas Morris – Original Charleston Strut
1:28:50 Virginians – He May Be Your Man
1:31:59 Willy Derby – Loe Loe Ja Moe (Maggie Yes Ma)
1:33:31 Sara Martin & Sylvester Weaver – I’ve Got to Go and Leave My Da
1:36:07 Sylvester Weaver – Guitar Blues
1:39:00 Eck Robertson – Ragtime Annie
1:42:23 Fiddlin’ John Carson – The Old Hen Cackled & The Roosters Gonna Crow
1:44:12 Henry C. Gilliland And A. C. (Eck) Robertson – Turkey In The Straw
1:47:09 King George V of England – Empire Day Message
1:47:14 Pipe Major Henri Forsyth – Bagpipe Selection
1:47:59 Queen Mary of England – Empire Day Message
1:48:18 Marika Papagika – Ah! Giatre Mou
1:50:02 Edgar Guest – Ten Little Mice
1:50:24 The Benson Orchestra of Chicago – Dreams of India
1:52:14 New Orleans Rhythm Kings – Millenberg Joys
1:53:42 Rosetta Crawford – Down on the Levee Blues
1:56:00 Benny Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra – Elephants Wobble
1:59:06 Ida Cox – I’ve Got The Blues For Rampart Street
2:01:51 Sidney Bechet – Kansas City Man’s Blues
2:04:45 Fletcher Henderson – Do Doodle Oom
2:07:23 Clarence Williams’ Blue Five – Wild Cat Blues
2:10:20 Mamie Smith – Lady Luck Blues
2:13:28 Virginia Liston – Bed Time Blues
2:15:54 Bessie Smith – ‘Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
2:18:47 Norfolk Jazz Quartette – Sad Blues
2:19:54 Isham Jones – Farewell Blues