Centuries of Sound
Centuries of Sound

At Centuries of Sound I am making mixes for every year from 1953 to the present day. Download full mixes, bonus materials and more for just $5 per month at patreon.com/centuriesofsound. Thanks for listening.


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Have you see the videos of people hearing for the first time? Seen that look on their faces? Well that’s you, today. We have reached 1925, the year the microphone replaced the recording horn and the sideways electrical impulse replaced the hill-and-dale physical analog. The tinniness has gone, low and high sounds are reproducible, and no longer are we trapped in the narrow boundaries of reproducible sound. In theory, all audible sound can now be captured.

“Electrical recording had manifold consequences that affected a range of musical, engineering and business developments” – Susan Schmidt Horning – Capturing Sound

Of course, it’s not really all like that. For a start, at least half of these recordings are still made on old analogue equipment. Even the electrical recordings are still, let’s say, experimental. Sound engineers, some with decades in the business, had to re-learn the very fundamentals of how recording worked, and instead of hanging things across the room to resonate the sound were now having to shift to muffling and dampening. Nobody seems to have yet realised that you can get right up close to the microphone and make quiet things loud. But they will.

“The development of electrical recording made it possible to reproduce a much larger spectrum of sound; pianists, drummers and bassists could finally be heard without undue modulation. Nevertheless, the microphone had its own quirks, and may have also affected jazz performance.” Mark Katz – Capturing Sound

On this website, I make sound collages. These are not a new invention. Here we are in 1925, and pioneering Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov is putting together audio with remarkable dexterity, in the form of “sound poems,” and “verbal montage structures.” – though his most famous film, Man With A Movie camera, produced at the dawn of the sound film era, is entirely silent.

“I had an idea about the need to enlarge our ability for organized hearing. Not limiting this ability to the boundaries of usual music. I decided to include the entire audible world into the concept of ‘Hearing.’” – Dziga Vertov

The dance known as the ‘Juba’ was originally brought by slaves from the Kongo to Charleston, South Carolina. In 1923 it was adapted for a stage play called Runnin’ Wild, with music by (black) stride piano king James P Johnson. The song, and the dance, were called “The Charleston,” known popularly for being danced by lines of (white) flappers in whitewashed recreations of this still-turbulent decade.

“The sound was somehow harsher, with a brightness that almost sounded like the radio. “The Edison has some air and detail, a little bit more roundness,” Devecka said. “The victor is a little bit more like cardboard cutouts. It’s like a photograph that doesn’t have quite the right contrast range.” …The Victor’s sound was impressive, but there was something ultimately more pleasant about the Edison sound” – Greg Milner – Perfecting Sound Forever

The expanded audio range of electrical recording is not its only benefit. The microphone, even in bulky early varieties, was much more portable than the recording horn. Suddenly it was possible to travel anywhere in the world and record – and let’s not forget the poorer parts of the USA, full of local folk and roots music, all untouched and ready. We are just a little too early to get the full force of this explosion, but can’t you feel it already?


0:00:25 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 1)
0:00:38 Joseph Cherniavsky & Yiddish American Jazz Band – Chasene Niginim
0:03:41 Victor – Victor constant note record No 21 (Excerpt 1)
0:03:42 American Concert Orchestra – Extracts from the ballet- suite Scherazada
0:06:07 John Henry & Blossom – My Wireless Set
0:06:17 Clarence Williams’ Blue Five – Cake Walking Babies from Home
0:09:10 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 2)
0:09:26 Fred Longshaw – Chili Pepper
0:11:11 Gus Visser – Gus Visser and His Singing Duck
0:11:15 Sam Manning – Sly Mongoose
0:13:17 Original Cast – The Green Archer Silent Serial Promotional Record (Excerpt 1)
0:13:19 Paul Whiteman – Charleston (take 8)
0:14:59 James P. Johnson – Charleston (South Carolina)
0:16:46 Benson Orchestra Of Chicago – Riverboat Shuffle
0:18:10 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 3)
0:18:28 Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra – T N T
0:21:15 Original Cast – The Green Archer Silent Serial Promotional Record (Excerpt 2)
0:21:19 Clara Smith – Shipwrecked Blues
0:24:29 Bessie Smith – My Man Blues (Spoken word section)
0:24:57 Bessie Smith – He’s Gone Blues
0:27:50 Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five – My Heart
0:30:12 Phil Baker’s Bad Boys – How Can You Look So Good (Spoken intro)
0:30:56 Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians – I’m Gonna Hang Around My Sugar
0:33:55 Charlie Poole – Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues
0:36:44 Frank Ferera – The Farmer’s Dream
0:38:15 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 4)
0:38:33 Sexteto Habanero – Loma De Belen
0:41:34 Shelton Brooks & Company – The Spiritualist
0:41:46 Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra – Kater Street Rag
0:44:16 Uncle Dave Macon – Old Dan Tucker
0:47:16 Billy Mayerl – Jazzaristrix
0:49:04 Victor – Victor constant note record No 21 (Excerpt 2)
0:49:05 Wilhelm Kempff – Beethoven Piano Sonata No.23 Op.57
0:51:29 Revelers – Oh Miss Hannah
0:53:46 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 5)
0:54:02 Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet – Hindemith Kleine Kammermusik
0:56:00 Osip Mandelshtam – Gypsy Girl (Excerpt 1)
0:56:16 Harry Kandel’s Orchestra – Di Terkishe Khasene
0:59:25 Rita Ambadsi – Hanumakia
1:02:40 Cheikh Amin Hasanayn – Surah Al-Haaqqa, Pt. 1
1:02:51 Dahi Ben Walid – Soubhanak Allah
1:04:26 Ghulam Haider – Sindhi Song- I Play Music In The Bazaar
1:04:33 Golden Gate Orchestra – Red Hot Henry Brown
1:05:42 Dora Carr – Cow-Cow Blues
1:08:29 Hersel Thomas – Suitcase Blues
1:10:08 Billy Jones & Ernest Hare – Why Aren’t Yez Eatin’ More Oranges (Excerpt 1)
1:10:47 Billy Jones & Ernest Hare – As A Porcupine Pines For It’s Pork
1:12:21 Billy Jones & Ernest Hare – Why Aren’t Yez Eatin’ More Oranges (Excerpt 2)
1:12:33 Al Jolson – I’m Sitting On Top Of The World
1:14:27 Roy Smeck – Laughing Rag
1:15:49 Carl Sprague – When the Work’s All Done This Fall
1:18:41 Bix & His Rhythm Jugglers – Davenport Blues
1:21:25 Osip Mandelshtam – Gypsy Girl (Excerpt 2)
1:21:34 Kandel’s Orchestra – A Laibediga Honga (A Lively Honga)
1:23:33 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 6)
1:24:16 Tamara Tsereteli – Dorogoi Dlinnoyu
1:25:38 Gertrude Lawrence – Poor Little Rich Girl
1:28:30 Marcelle Meyer – Trois Mouvements Perpétuels
1:32:38 Art Gillham – Hesitation Blues
1:34:35 Ethel Waters – Sweet Man
1:37:26 Josephine Baker – I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight
1:38:45 Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Hotel Biltmore Orchestra – Bam Bam Bamy Shore
1:40:37 Irving Kaufman – Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
1:41:57 Calvin P. Dixon – Who Is Your God? Part I (Excerpt 1)
1:42:14 Fiddlin’ John Carson & Moonshine Kate – Welcome To The Travelers Home No-2
1:43:23 Calvin P. Dixon – Who Is Your God? Part I (Excerpt 2)
1:43:52 The Blue Ridge Duo (Gene Austin and George Reneau) – Lonesome Road Blues
1:45:39 Percy Glascoe – Steaming Blues
1:46:55 Ben Bernie and His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra – Sweet Georgia Brown
1:48:16 Fletcher Henderson & His Orchesta – Carolina Stomp
1:51:24 Tercato Yoyo – El Cangrejito
1:52:52 Orquesta Típica F. Canaro con canto – Besos de Miel
1:54:01 Fritz Kreisler & London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart Violin Concerto No 4 (1st mvt)
1:56:06 Joseph Cherniavsky’s Yiddish American Jazz Band – Kale Bazetzns (Seating Of The Bride)
1:58:31 Josie Miles – Mad Mama’s Blues
2:01:22 Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five – Put It Where I Can Get It
2:04:04 The Original Jazz Hounds – 1620 to 1865 Uncle Ephs Dream
2:05:45 Oliver Naylor’s Orchestra – Slowin’ Down Blues
2:08:01 Sippie Wallace – Baby, I Can’t Use You No More
2:10:57 Shelton Brooks & Company – Work Don’t Bother Me
2:11:09 San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Wagner: Parsifal Prelude
2:15:40 Paul Robeson – Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
2:18:14 Maggie Jones – Suicide Blues
2:19:34 Dziga Vertov – Radio Ear – Radio Pravda (Excerpt 7)

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