Radio Podcast #15 – 1907

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Audio historian DJ James Errington takes you on another time travel adventure, this time to hear some original sounds from 1907, including some wonderful stuff from Enrico Caruso, a few original vaudeville routines and some very premature Christmas cheer.

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Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 15 (1907)

Time: 8pm BST, Saturday 12th October 2019

Place: Cambridge 105fm

Audio historian DJ James Errington takes you on another time travel adventure, this time to hear some original sounds from 1907, including some wonderful stuff from Enrico Caruso, a few original vaudeville routines and some very premature Christmas cheer.

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 it’s too late to do any of these things, just stream it below.

1907 in Art

Gustav Klimt – Danaë

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

Jacek Malczewski – Death of Ellenai

Vardges Sureniants – Salome

Lyonel Feininger – Der weiße Mann

Ivan Grohar – The Sower

Félix Vallotton – Andromède debout et Persée

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis – Sonata of the Sun

Robert Delaunay – Paysage au disque

Gustaf Fjæstad – Winter Evening by a River

Diedrich Cornelius Diedrichsen – List im Winter

Henri Rousseau – The Repast of the Lion

Wassily Kandinsky – Riding Couple

Walter Sickert – The Juvenile Lead

1907 in Film

That Fatal Sneeze

The Red Spectre

Tunneling the Channel

The Policemen’s Little Run

The Golden Beetle

The Dancing Pig

The Eclipse, or the Courtship of the Sun and Moon

The Race For The Sausage

Ride through Victoria and Vancouver, Canada

Laughing Gas

Premier Prix de violoncelle / First Prize for Cello

The Lion Hunt


Georges Mendel’s ‘La Marseillaise’

Not even close to being the first sound film, and not particularly advanced technologically (being simply a mime to a pre-recorded disc), it’s still something of a marvel to see this performance 20 years before ‘The Jazz Singer’ and a few years before even silent shorts started coming out of Hollywood. Three minutes of your time, please, for a marvel of early cinema – a man dressed as Napoleon (?) miming to the French national anthem.

Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows

An odd book, but not one I’m particularly fond of, The Wind in The Willows is a mix of Edwardian rapture at frolicking in the splendors of nature, the high-church volksgeist mysticism that was in vogue at the time and classic anthropomorphic children’s moral tales. It does sort of hang together, and there are many memorable quotes and characters, but reading it undigested makes me feel uneasy, like there’s an unpleasant aftertaste I can’t quite place.

The 1985 Cosgrove Hall adaptation is how I first knew the story, and it’s still easily my favourite version. It apparently features the work of a young John Squire as a background artist too, and is available on youtube in its entirety  (for now)


Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci” – The first album?

I’ve always used the terms “album” and “LP” interchangeably, so it came as a surprise to find out that the former predates the latter quite considerably. We started talking about albums in the sense of ‘photo album’ or ‘stamp album’ as early as the 1850s, and the first ‘music albums’ were along these lines – large books for collecting sheet music. Then at another stretch (and another few decades) we have collections of 78rpm discs bound together as a book. And why would you want to do such a thing? To record an entire opera, of course.

It is unclear who it was that originally had this idea, but the oldest album to have survived appears to be this 1907 recording of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera “I Pagliacci,” starring Puerto Rican tenor Antonio Paoli, and supervised in its production by the composer himself. In its latest (2017) reissue it sounds simply stunning – a testament to both the careful production given to it at the time and the painstaking restoration work done last year. A treatment I wish a lot of other early recordings could receive.


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This week has seen the passing of Geoff Emerick, who served as sound engineer on The Beatles’ Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums, starting at the age of just 20. His death hasn’t generated as much interest as those of George Martin or George Harrison, partly because his role was junior to other people working on the record, but mainly because even now most people are not fully aware of what the job of a sound engineer entails or why it is important. Songwriters have ideas, producers have a grand plan, musicians perform, but it’s the sound engineer who allows these things to come together to make a recording. They may view themselves as technicians, aiming to reproduce a sound accurately (though ‘accurately’ is one of those things that means very different things to different people) or they may be working to mould the sound in subtle, often barely audible ways. ‘Revolver’, for example, has been called a “concept LP about close-miking,” after Emerick insisted on breaking EMI rules to give the album that distinctively vibrant, intimate sound.

This tension between the technical and the creative has been there since the start. The father of sound engineering is a man called Fred Gaisberg, a piano player from New York who found himself working first for Berliner Gram-O-Phone, then its successor company, The Gramophone Company, later known as HMV. He viewed himself very much as outside the creative process, hoping to faithfully capture as many performances as he could with the limited time and materials available. Even with this approach, however, he managed to set up many of the standards which would be used by sound engineers for the rest of the acoustic era. Here is his description of the setup of a studio in New York, based on one of Gaisberg’s technical drawings

“Two recording horns are used, with the violins (which recorded least well) nearest to them. Squashed around them are the woodwind players, who would have been reinforcing the string parts. Behind them, but higher, were most of the brass, with the French horns facing backwards in order to direct the sound from their bells into the recording horn, the players following the conductor in a mirror. The conductor is pushed out of the way to the side where he can be seen but doesn’t obstruct the sound. Bassoons reinforce the ‘cellos, and a tuba and contrabassoon replace double basses, which would not have recorded adequately. Another surviving photograph shows Paderewski recording into a pair of horns and, unusually, it allows us to see something of the coupling mechanism. For a typical studio layout for a recording of voice with piano accompaniment, the horn is hung right in front of the singer’s mouth, and the upright piano is set above and behind the singer at a height that ensures that the maximum amount of piano sound enters the horn. Pianists were instructed to play fortissimo throughout. Singers, on the other hand, had to move towards the horn for quieter passages, and away for louder notes to avoid distortion. Inexperienced soloists were guided back and forth by an assistant, sometimes on a form of trolley!”

from “A Brief History of Recording to ca. 1950” by Roger Beardsley and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music

We have already encountered Fred’s work in a few different forms. It was he who fought to standardise releases as shellac records to be played at 78rpm, and he who set out to travel the world, recording Alessandro Moreschi and the first discs by Caruso, and doing much to set in motion recording in Asia and South America. It’s due to him that this mix has such an international feel – not only in anthropological recordings, but in capturing exciting new kinds of music from Mexico, Cuba and Argentina. The third track in this mix, from the orchestra of Enrique Peña Sánchez, sounds for all the world like a frantic early jazz recording, a clear illustration of the Hispanic influence on what was not yet even called ‘jass’, and evidence for what Jelly Roll Morton later referred to as his music’s “Spanish tinge.” How directly it connected, however, we still cannot know, for though recordings were taking place all over the world, we still have nothing from dance bands in New Orleans.

That’s a minor quibble, though. In 1907 there is a lot to celebrate.


Enrico Caruso – Vesti La Giubba (I Pagliacci) 00:00
Unknown – Sunderland Home Cylinder 33 02:17
Vess L. Ossman – Maple Leaf Rag 02:23
Orquesta De Enrique Peña – Los Guajiros De La Yaya 05:01
Octavio Yáñez – Anita 06:27
Ángel Villoldo – El Negro Alegre 08:34
Orquesta De Pablo Valenzuela – Happy Hobbs 10:11
Steve Porter – Flanagan’s Troubles In A Restaurant 12:14
Edison Vaudeville Company – An Amateur Minstrel Rehearsal 14:25
Billy Murray – I’d Rather Two-Step Than Waltz, Bill 14:52
Peerless Trio – Three Rubes Seeing New York 15:56
Ada Jones And Len Spencer – Burying The Hatchet 17:52
Eddie Morton – That’s Gratitude 18:33
Peerless Quartet – The New Parson At The Darktown Church 21:03
Ada Jones And Billy Murray – Smile, Smile, Smile 21:34
Albert Whelan – The Miser 23:51
Arthur Pryor’s Band – The King Of Rags 24:14
Yolande Noble And Percy Clifton – Buying The Christmas Dinner 25:54
Zonophone Concert Band – The Smiler 26:22
Carl Lüdicke – Der Musikalische Clown 28:18
Edison-Orchester (Berlin) – Alarmierung Der Berliner Feuerwehr 29:57
Gustav Schönwald And Fraulein Vincent – Am Telephon 30:17
Steidl-Quartett – Katzenliebe 30:48
Gustav Schönwald – Nachtliches Abenteuer Eines Studenten 31:53
August Molinari – Street Piano Medley 32:41
Gilbert Girard And Len Spencer – The Vagabonds (Roger And I) 34:49
Antonio Scotti – Sortita D’amonasro 35:14
Emma Calve – Habanera from Carmen 36:01
Maria A. Mikhalova Acc. Boris S. Troyanovsky – Why Should I Live And Grieve Alone? 37:30
Dmitry Bogemsky – The Tossing Of The Steamer 39:30
Orchestra ‘Harmonia’, Conductor Vasily Varshavsky – Sighs 40:06
P. A. Strakhov – The Departure Of A Train 40:56
Chorus Of Terek And Kuban Cossacks Of The Guards Of The Governor Of His Imperial Majesty In Caucasus, Conductor Mikhail Kolotilin – Walking On Water 41:15
Choir Of Makvaneti – Naduri 42:09
Count Leo Tolstoy – Excerpt From ‘Guidelines For Everyday Living’ 43:46
Choir Of Tbilisi – Metiuri 43:54
Victor Orchestra – A Hunt In The Black Forest 44:43
Mme Rollini – Ne M’ Chatouillez Pas 46:59
Bérard – Chargez 48:32
John J. Kimmel – Cakewalk 49:14
Fréjol – C’ Que Tu M’as Fait 50:24
Unknown – Sunderland Home Cylinder 18 51:41
Vesta Victoria – It Ain’t All Honey And It Ain’t All Jam 52:10
Edison Vaudeville Company – At The Village Post Office 53:19
Florrie Forde – I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 53:42
Ada Jones – I’m In Love With The Slide Trombone 55:30
Edith Helena – Cavalleria Rusticana. Intermezzo; Arr. 57:42
Edison Venetian Trio – Sonoma 59:36
Gramophone Orchestra, Conductor I. P. Arkadev – The Music Box 59:49
Picolines Duet – Two Little Finches 1:00:43
Arthur Pryor’s Band – The Lion Chase 1:01:35
Banda De Policía – Álbum Recreativo Variacones De Saxofón Soprano 1:04:55
Antonio Hidalgo – Un Meeting De Raza 1:06:48
Martin Silveira – Nueva York 1:07:15
Arturo De Nava – Décimas Del Sargento 1:08:31
Uncredited Ensemble – Khaek Lopburi 1:09:42
Albert Benzler – The Chapel In The Woods 1:11:11
Alice Shaw & Her Twin Daughters – Spring-Tide Revels 1:12:10
George Islon – Christmas Eve In The Old Homestead 1:12:57
Billy Murray – So What’s The Use? 1:13:23
Percy Clifton – Dick Whittington 1:16:27
Edward M. Favor – Theodore 1:16:47
Choir Of The Royal Court Opera With Orchestra And Church Bells, Acc. Harmonium, Bells – Silent Night, Holy Night 1:18:47

Elsewhere in 1907

January 6 – The first Montessori school and daycare center for working class children opens in Rome

March – The 1907 Romanian Peasants’ Revolt results in possibly as many as 11,000 deaths

April 17 – The first Minas Geraes-class battleship is laid down for Brazil, by Armstrong Whitworth on the River Tyne, in England, triggering the South American dreadnought race.

June 10–August 10 – The Peking to Paris motor race is won by Prince Scipione Borghese, driving a 7-litre Itala

June 15 – The Second Hague Peace Conference opens

June 26 – Bolsheviks attack a cash-filled bank coach in the centre of Tiflis, Georgia, killing 40 people

July 21 – The SS Columbia sinks after colliding with the lumber schooner San Pedro, off Shelter Cove, California, resulting in 88 deaths

August 29 – The partially completed superstructure of the Quebec Bridge collapses entirely, claiming the lives of 76 workers

December 6 – A coal mine explosion kills 362 workers in Monongah, West Virginia

December 17 – Ugyen Wangchuck becomes the first Druk Gyalpo (king of Bhutan)

December 21 – In Chile, soldiers fire at striking mineworkers gathered in the Santa María School in Iquique. Over 2,000 are killed.

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