Early Music Reviews (it’s long, I’m sorry)

I got this site off of Last Plane to Jakarta, and have been listening to it all morning. The idea of historic sound being only 100 years old, the idea of John Phillip Sousa to John Cage seems so alien to me, and the idea of pop as religion (it is what ritualizes and makes appropriate our most obvious passages) is even more so.

What made this kind of experience so ubiquitous in the last 100 years?

Also, aside from historical interest, some of the sounds here are wonderful.:


The Semper Fi in the Marches is sufficiently violent

Comedy Sketches

The Edison Minsterlies Minstrel Potpourri (is this the only MP3 of minstrel shows we have on the web?)–combines low comedy and high art in a way that no one assumes, it is a story of African American liberation (the ending song “Way Up In the Sky”) and degradation (the concept of Black Face)

Murray K Hill’s Vaudeville Nonsense is music hall, sublime for no reason but its verbal dexterity (it is nonsense, but very important, very socially relevant nonsense)

English-Anglo Folk Songs

Lonesome Road Blues.

One of those road songs that sounds like the Carter Family, or anything collected by Harry Smith, but in a good , solid, reedy, cheerful to prevent sadness kind of way. Has all of the lovesickness and prison-redemption expected from country for the rest of its history, sort of an antecedent, but also makes me wonder, all the other lonely road songs that come from this tradition a way to explain a new vastness ?

He Was Nailed to the Cross for Me–Ernest V. Stoneman and his Dixie mountaineers

Sounds like a barndance song, same joviality–which oddly makes the whole thing seem less bloody and less didactic. American Music always conflated ‘church music’ and ‘dance music’, it wasn’t a gift from rock and roll (rock and roll’s gift was that they did it at the same time)

Documentary Recordings

Big Ben Clock Tower rings at half past 10, quarter to 11 and 11.

Noise. Scratchy Vinyl, then 6 bells, silence, scratchy vinyl, then 4 bells, then 11. Someone should sample this into some kind of avant hip hop thing, cause its that odd. Suspense rises, then falls, then rises then falls–there is a need to see how many bells.

Jazz Blues and Dance Bands

St Louis Blues–

This is done on the Hawaiian Guitar, I have no idea why, but it does add a sort of exotic melancholia to Handy’s blues-by-numbers. I remember reading a bunch on early jazz and blues earlier this year and hearing that the guitar had been used from the 1920s to the 1950s with immense frequency and that it developed into the contemporary steel guitar, that gave birth to bluegrass–I can see that here. I wonder its history.

Songs from foreign Countries.

Ok, Edison recorded everything…we know that now. But who knew that he loved America so much, that he loved its Finnish, Quebeqois, Yugoslovakian, Cuban, Polish, and Jewish instruments. All are represented here.

Assin Jukka Ja Harmaan Haat–Otto Pyykkonen

It sounds a little silly sometimes, but there is the catch there. The tune is simple enough for everyone to hum along with (and I have been), but it hangs on what could be called a pop hook–is pop music folk music with an army ?

Au Les Avant Non Gens- Charles Marchand – basse ; Ernest Patience – au piano

Half way through this, so excited by the dancing, and the drinking he shouts Wee!, and soon after that it becomes a duet between a logger in a falsetto and one in a baritone. Its like I’m a Lumberjack, by Monty Python done straight and in French.

Poetry, Short Stories, Readings.

In de Mornin’ & Jes Gib him one of Mine

Paul Laurence Dunbar’s reputation has been renovated from nothing more then a kind of minstrel, sometimes literally (he wrote for them) and figuratively (the words are the same) then to an innovative engager in African American Dialect, even though this is done thoroughly in the first tradition, you can see where Ishmael Reed and company find a fatherland in Dunbar’s language.

Popular Songs and Tin Pan Alley

Jere Sanford’s Yodelling and whistling specialty.

The thing with yodelling is that it does not go high and long at first, think of any mountain range, you need to begin with the foot hills, soft and slow at first, then more undulant and rolling, growing higher as you move longer into the song–the whole point of the yodel is the climax. Here Stanford is a tease, any of the balls out yodelling we expect is replaced with very clever whistling.