Time: 8pm GMT, Saturday 27th February 2021 Place: Cambridge 105 Radio
Another trip into the early days of recorded sound with audio curator James Errington – this time joined by Cambridge 105’s own Greg Butler to dive into the sounds of 1925, including early jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, pioneering country and folk recordings, stride piano, klezmer, rembetika and a song from a Noel Coward musical.
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Or as it’s too late to do any of those things, here’s an extended cut of the show on Mixcloud.
A journey through the history of recorded sound with James and Sean. This time we reach the 1900s, and hear Arthur Collins, Vess L Ossman, Arthur Pryor, and other stars of the late Victorian era. We even have a recording of Franz Joseph I of Austria & Hungary, made on a piece of wire. Join us as we travel back in time to a forgotten land of sound.
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Half a decade ago the United States was in the midst of an explosion in recorded music on a scale not heard before or since. The inception of that revolution – a change in recording technology allowing studios and record labels to spring up everywhere and anywhere – took a couple of years to filter through. In the same way, the death of that same revolution, the collapse of the recording industry at the start of the great depression and the closure of those studios and labels, also took a couple of years to fully filter through. Now we have arrived at 1932 and it’s all over. The wide variety of roots music, whether labelled country, blues or folk, is no longer being recorded, with the exception of a few of the biggest stars. Likewise, recorded jazz is now the preserve of the biggest bandleaders, or as backing groups for the resurgent movie business.
So why then is this mix one of the longest so far? The answer comes down more to the process of putting the thing together than the qualities of the year itself. With less to choose from in the USA, my attentions shifted to the rest of the world, and it turned out that there was plenty out there. We start out on our trip in the Caribbean, where Calypso and other forms of music are now being recorded professionally and regularly for the first time, thanks to people like record-shop owner and entrepreneur Eduardo Sa Gomes in Trinidad.
Then we have a few tangos, first of course from South America, but then also from Eastern Europe, where artists like Jean Moscopol were blending this new music with traditional local flavours like klezmer and rembetika.
The UK has a greater representation in this mix than in any since 1907 (or maybe even 1888) – while the economic situation was nearly as bad here as in the USA, a couple of powerful record companies as well as the BBC ensured that music recording was actually experiencing something of a boom. The UK records here – including the marvelously sinister version of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” and Noel Coward’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” – are easily a match for anything made in the 20s.
All of this also seems to be the case for France, for whom 1932 seems to be a key year on compilations. Next we explore Arabic music, from Tunisia to Iraq, and India, where truly otherworldly traditional musics are being properly recorded for the first time.
It’s always been my intention to show the whole world in these mixes, but this last half-decade the music from the USA has understandably overwhelmed in its quality and variety. Let’s take this brief lull to appreciate that there was a whole world out there, much of it telling stories about the 1930s which are lost in the great narratives of the depression and the buildup to the next war.