Another adventure back into the early days of recorded sound with James Errington, this time joined by Cambridge 105 Radio’s Maciek Pawlikowski to listen to some of the sounds of 1913, the year of the short-lived hot dance ragtime craze, led by the first all-black orchestra and the couple who brought the foxtrot to prominence.
My desire for an overview of the year 1913 in book form being so far unsated, I was very happy to find someone else had had a go at it, and didn’t stop for 500 pages. It feels very much like the author had enough material for 1000 and had to cut it down, such is the density of information. On the plus side I feel almost overwhelmed with information, but on the minus side it did all feel a bit disjointed – a trip around the important cities of the world without any real sort of narrative to link it together. This is being picky, though – if you look at it as a series of essays on different places in a single year then it serves as a very readable reference work. When we get onto 1914 the narrative will be naturally stronger, though the scope may be much more narrow.
One part of this project which has surprised me in its scope is “books about years” – this has become something of an obsession, and having started, I’ve been working my way up to having a shelf full of them, which means I also need to read the things. So far the entries in the series have been fairly sporadic, but coming up to the first world war there is a positive flood of the things (then they immediately become sporadic again at the end of the war) – so quite a bit of reading to be done over the next few months.
This one is critically acclaimed, which is a first, and written by a major German intellectual. In a sense it is a good view of the year, though the view it presents is weirdly myopic. At the start we do have Hitler and Stalin nearly bumping into each-other in Vienna, but on the whole Illies steers completely away from any sort of politics, preferring to concern himself with the lives of a handful of writers, artists and musicians living in the more cosmopolitan parts of the German-speaking world. There are many fascinating anecdotes within, the whole thing is very readable, but ultimately at the end I felt I’d been sold a bit of a pup. He presents these artists and thinkers of symptomatic of a cultural moment, which naturally they are – but I want to hear more about the lives of other people, across a much broader area of the world, and waiting patiently for him to get to that bit was a fruitless task.
None of this is fair – if I had approached this book with a better understanding of what it was I would have finished it in a much happier state, and many of these figures have fascinating internal lives which are vividly recreated. But that sense of impending doom, of what was about to come, I just can’t seem to find it anywhere at all. Again, this is probably my problem, not his. But still…
January 16 – Srinivasa Ramanujan, a 26-year-old student in Madras, India, sends a letter to English mathematician G. H. Hardy, which would lead to him becoming one of the most important mathematician in history.
January 23 – Ottoman Empire Navy Minister Nazim is assassinated, and Prime Minister Kamil overthrown in a coup in Turkey
February 2 – Grand Central Station opens in New York
February 13 – Mary Harris Jones, the 83-year-old labor activist remembered as Mother Jones, is arrested in Charleston, West Virginia after leading a group of miners to confront Governor William Glasscock.
February 20 – The first survey stake for what would become the city of Canberra, capital of Australia, is driven into the ground by King O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs.
February 22 -Four days after their forced resignations, former Mexican President Madero, and Vice-President Pino Suarez, are shot to death after being transported from the presidential palace to a prison.
March 4 – Woodrow Wilson is inaugurated as U.S. President
March 13 – Film stuntman and daredevil Rodman Law, ‘The Human Bullet’, attempts to become the first passenger in a manned rocket flight. The rocket explodes on the launchpad, but Law is only slightly injured.
March 18 – King George of Greece is assassinated
March 24 – The 1,740-seat Palace Theatre opens at Broadway and West 47th in New York City. Stars for the first night include Cyril Chadwick, Mabel Berra, Stacia Napierkowska and film star Ed Wynn.
March 25 – Dayton, Ohio is devastated and 400 of its people are killed as the Ohio River overflows its banks following heavy rains.
March 26 – The Battle of Adrianople is won by Bulgarian troops under the command of General Savov, who capture the historic city that once served as the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
March 26 – The Mexican Revolution begins as Venustiano Carranza and starts a rebellion against Victoriano Huerta’s government.
April 3 – The 550 foot long German dirigible Z-4 strays into French territory, runs out of fuel, and is seized by the French Army
April 11 – Albert S. Burleson, the new Postmaster General of the United States, proposes the segregation of white and black federal employees in the postal service. By the end of the year, segregation has spread throughout the department.
April 24 – The Woolworth Building, tallest in the world until 1930, opens to the public
April 25 – Mary Phagan, 15-year old pencil factory employee, is murdered in Atlanta, Georgia.
May 26 – Igor Sikorsky introduces the first four-engine airplane, the Russky Vityaz bomber.
May 29 – Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring is premièred at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris – its modernism provokes one of the most famous classical music riots in history.
May 30 – Jules Goux wins the third Indianapolis 500
May 30 – The First Balkan War formally ends with the signing of the Treaty of London. The Ottoman Turks cede almost all of their European territories to the Balkan nations.
June 8 – Sufragette Emily Davison dies after being hit by King George V’s horse Anmer at the 1913 Derby after she walks onto the track during the race.
June 12 – Billed as ‘the longest wooden bridge in the world’, the 2.5 mile long Collins Bridge opens, turning the small town of Miami, Florida into a premier resort area.
June 18 – John Ernest Williamson, whose father had invented a transparent diving bell called the photosphere, becomes the first person to take photographs from beneath the ocean surface.
June 21 – Georgia Thompson ‘Tiny’ Broadwick becomes the first woman to parachute from an airplane.
July 4 – As the Second Balkan War continues, Greek and Serbian armies are successful in routing attacking Bulgarian troops, at Kılkış, which would later become part of Greek territory.
July 15 – Britain’s House of Lords votes against approval of the Irish Home Rule bill, and Prime Minister H. H. Asquith announces that his government will present a plan for abolition of the House of Lords.
July 22 – Fifty people, mostly women and girls, are killed in a fire at the Binghamton Clothing Company factory in Binghamton, New York.
August 2 – The first known ascent of Mount Olympus in Greece is made by Swiss mountaineers Daniel Baud-Bovy and Frédéric Boissonnas guided by Christos Kakkalos.
August 10 – The Treaty of Bucharest is signed at 10.30 a.m., ending the Second Balkan War.
August 23 – The famous statue of The Little Mermaid, sculpted by Edvard Eriksen, is unveiled in Copenhagen.
September 15 – The first successful 4-wheel drive vehicle, the Jeffrey Quad, is delivered to the U.S. Army
October 6 – Yuan Shihkai is elected President of China by the Chinese National Assembly. He will dissolve the legislature four weeks later, assume dictatorial powers, then proclaim himself the Emperor.
October 10 – Woodrow Wilson presses a telegraph key at his desk in the White House, sending the charge that ignites dynamite to destroy the Gamboa Dike, completing the Panama Canal.
October 14 – In the worst mining disaster in British history, 439 coal miners are killed in the explosion of the Universal Colliery at Senghenydd in Wales
October 16 – The Royal Navy launches its first oil-powered warship, The HMS Queen Elizabeth
October 17 – In the worst air disaster up to this date, the German zeppelin L-2 explodes in mid-air, 600 feet over the city of Johannisthal, killing all 28 passengers and crew on board
October 21 – Camel cigarettes are introduced by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
November 9 – The ‘White Hurricane’ gale sinks 19 ships on Michigan’s Great Lakes, drowning hundreds
November 13 – British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst deliveres her ‘Freedom or Death’ speech in Hartford, Connecticut.
November 14 – The first volume of Marcel Proust’s 3,200-page novel ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’ is published as ‘Du côté de chez Swann’
November 22 – In the Battle of Tierra Blanca, Pancho Villa’s force of 5,500 men engage 7,000 federal troops under command of José Inés Salazar.
December 1 – The Ford Motor Company introduces the first moving automobile assembly line, reducing chassis assembly time by 80 percent
December 12 – Menelik II, the Emperor of Ethiopia since 1889, dies at the age of 69
December 21 – The first crossword puzzle in history, Arthur Wynne’s ‘word-cross’, is published in the New York World
December 23 – The Federal Reserve Act is signed into law by Woodrow Wilson, creating the Federal Reserve System as the central banking system of the United States
“How can we regard this invasion of vulgarity in music other than as a national calamity, in so far as the mental attainments of the nation are concerned? This cheap, trashy stuff could not elevate even the most degraded minds, nor could it possibly urge any one to greater effort in the acquisition of culture in any phase. There is no element of intellectuality in the enjoyment of ragtime. It savors too much the primeval conception of music, whose basis was a rhythm that appealed to the physical rather than to the mental senses” – ‘Abuses of Music’ Paul G Carr in ‘Musician’, 1912
“I know little about American music except that of the music halls, but I consider that unrivaled. It is veritable art, and I never can get enough of it to satisfy me. I am convinced of the absolute truth of utterance in that form of American art.” – Igor Stavinsky in New York Tribune, 1916
We are our 25th year of mixes now, and so far what has conspicuously been missing is the shock of the new. Sure, there have been glimpses from time to time of futures which did or did not happen, but on the whole popular culture (or the part of it which was captured) seems to have been happy enough to trundle on, making gradual progress, without anything to really shock the parents. As of 1913, that era is now done. Is this the start of the jazz age then? No. This is the short-lived Hot Ragtime & Foxtrot craze of 1913/1914, not just another precursor on the road to the 1920s, but a fully-fledged moral-panic-inducing intercontinental shift in both style and consumption, very much at odds with the cliches of a placid pre-WW1 society. This is real dance music made for real young people.
The person more responsible for this than any other is James Reece Europe. Born into reconstruction-era Alabama, he moved to New York in 1904, and by 1910 had become influential enough to form the Clef Club, a society for black musicians which also functioned as an orchestra – the first all-black orchestra in history, and one which only played compositions by black composers. Aside from the usual selection of string, wind and brass instruments (and a large bass drum) the Clef Club also included a remarkable number of mandolins, guitars, banjos and ukuleles, all of which would be strummed in unison to produce an almost deafening melodic rhythm.
Before I get away with myself and call this “jazz” I should mention that it isn’t really. Undoubtedly there is plenty of music which fits the description being played in New Orleans, but at this stage James Reese Europe is not playing it. The perfect example of this is one of the highlights of this mix, Europe’s Society Orchestra’s “Down Home Rag” – what a piece of music this is, a frenzy of strings playing this simple melody with as much speed and energy as they can muster – the sheer unrelenting drive of it is absolutely new. And yet I feel there is something missing there – everything still seems so regimented, there is no space whatsoever for improvisation, soloing, blue notes – and limited recording equipment may have eliminated bass notes, but still, everything being trapped in that narrow frequency-band does make it sort of sound incomplete. Twelve years later a jazz band, The Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, would record the same tune, now re-titled ‘Black Rag’, and it doesn’t really work that well, the pace is altogether too relaxed, you cannot really imagine anyone dancing to it, so perhaps James Reese Europe had it right the first time and it’s me that needs to adapt.
Clef Club and Europe’s Society Orchestra may have been expected to remain within their own world, but by 1912 they were performing at Carnegie Hall, something simply unheard of at the time – and a further gateway opened to the rest of the world in the form of Irene and Vernon Castle, a married couple who are often credited with the popularization of a number of dances, including the foxtrot.
Vernon, the son of a pub landlord from Norwich, England met New-Yorker Irene when he moved there in 1906 to further his acting career. Their break came in Paris in 1911, when they demonstrated ragtime dances picked up from largely black dancehalls in the USA, including the “turkey trot.” Returning to the USA in 1913, they took immediate advantage of the burgeoning craze for social dancing by – how else? – finding the hottest ragtime band of the day to go into partnership. Europe’s Society Orchestra performed with them at private parties, at their dance school (the “Castle House”) and their summer club (the “San Souci”). When white orchestras refused to have Europe’s band play alongside them, they would be brought up on stage to be part of the act. The Castles learned all they did from black society, but unlike so many others they managed to credit the originators while bringing their music into the mainstream, even if this meant fanning the flames of moral panic.
World War I ended this story in a few different ways – aside from the social changes due in any war of that size, Vernon Castle would be killed in his work as a test pilot, while James Reese Europe would achieve a ridiculous level of fame after touring France with his 369th Infantry “Hellfighters” Band, only to come to an end in an unfortunate accident soon after. That’s perhaps getting ahead of myself though, for now, let’s enjoy the sounds of 1913.
Steve Porter – Alderman Doolin’s Campaign Speech 0:00
Fred Van Eps Trio – Down Home Rag 0:27
Europe’s Society Orchestra – Down Home Rag 1:50
Edward Sterling Wright – ‘Possum 5:18
Prince’s Band – Too Much Mustard 5:42
Europe’s Society Orchestra – Too Much Mustard 7:00
Edward Sterling Wright – When de Co’n Pone’s Hot 9:10
Eddie Morton – Noodle Soup Rag 10:19
Murry K Hill – Seated Around An Oil Stove 11:21
Maurice Burkhart – You Can’t Play Every Instrument In The Orchestra 13:53
Alter Yechiel Karniol – N’kadesh 17:08
Cantor Joseph Rosenblatt – El Mole Rachmim (Fr Titanik) 17:50
Abe Elenkrig’s Yidishe Orchestra – Fon Der Choope 19:14
Frank Lenord – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone Actor Audition 21:30
Agustín Barrios – Aires Andaluces 22:01
María Conesa – El Petit Parisien 1ª Parte 23:31
Samuel Siegel and Roy H. Butin – Waltz 25:23
Harry Lauder – She’s The Lass for Me 26:11
Harry Lauder – Same As His Father Did Before Him 27:50
Billy WIlliams – She Does Like a Little Bit of Scotch 30:23
Roy Spangler – Cannon Ball Rag 32:43
Empire Vaudeville Company – Mrs. Clancy’s boarding house 33:46
George Vintilescu – Chatterbox Rag 33:59
Patrick Conway’s Band – Hungarian Rag 36:15
Bert Williams – How Fried / Borrow From Me 38:19
Claude Debussy – Le Vent Dans La Plaine 42:07
Bob Lett – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone actor audition 42:44
Enrico Caruso – Agnus Dei (Bizet) 43:27
Woodrow Wilson – Address to the American Indians 45:36
Seneca Indians – Funeral Chant 46:09
Seneca Indians – Children’s Chorus 46:48
G.U. Hsu – The English Sound Table 47:30
Venu – Vakulabharanam 47:46
Siegfried Von Schultz – ‘Voice trial’ – Kinetophone actor audition 50:13
Jose Rocabruna – Romanza Expresiva;Tarantela 51:13
Theodore Roosevelt – Address to the Boys’ Progressive League 52:29
Al Jolson – Pullman Porters’ Parade 52:43
Steve Porter & Byron G Harlan – Two Jolly Sailors 54:52
Billy Murray – Bagdad 55:08
Cal Stewart – Uncle Josh Keeps House (part 1) 56:42
Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Arthur Nikisch – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 57:18
Cal Stewart – Uncle Josh Keeps House (part 2) 59:05
Owen J McCormack – When It’s Springtime In Virginia 1:00:02
Rita Villa – Czardas (Verdalle) 1:01:58
Nellie Melba – Mandoline (Debussy) 1:04:00
Alma Gluck & Ephrem Zimbalist – Ave Maria 1:05:22
David Burliuk – House-painter 1:07:57
Demetrius C Dounis mandolin – Souvenir (Drdla) 1:08:23
Arvid Paulson – Bref från Lina Pärson- Till Sin Väninna i Sweden 1:09:27
Sanfrid & Josefina Mustonen – Tukkijoella 1:09:49
Edgar L. Davenport – Lasca 1:11:52
Paulo Gruppe – Rondo (Dvorák) 1:13:08
Autdlârutâ – Duel-song 1:13:31
National Guard Fife and Drum Corps – On Parade 1:13:45
Edgar L. Davenport – Sheridan’s Ride 1:15:26
Fred Van Eps – Frolic of the Coons 1:15:57
Mike Bernard piano solo – Maori (Samoan Dance) 1:17:07
Toots Paka’s Hawaiians – Pulupe 1:18:27
Manhattan Ladies Quartette – Pussy’s in the Well 1:21:58
Ngangela or Cokwe musician (Angola) – cisanzi board lamellophone music 1:23:34
Bert Williams – You Can’t Do Nothing Till Martin Gets Here 1:24:07
Claude Debussy – Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum 1:25:23