That Sound Beat sound….

It’s bittersweet getting to the end of every Sound Beat episode. Bitter because our time together is nearly over, but made so sweet by that Sound Beat Theme. We’re beyond fortunate to have had David Wolfert compose the piece for us.

David is a Grammy and Emmy nominated composer, arranger, songwriter, orchestrator, producer and instrumentalist who has worked in all areas of music, including film, records, advertising and television.

Here’s the complete theme. We get to use about ten seconds of it, and as you read a bit more about this man’s career below, you might see why editing the piece was a bit nervewracking.

David’s songs have been recorded by Whitney Houston (“I Believe in You and Me”), Barbra Streisand, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Murphy, the Four Tops, Cher, Julio Iglesias Jr. and many others, and appear on the Greatest Hits collections of Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, and Dolly Parton.   His song, “Stand Up” was recently used by the United  Nations Millenium project as the centerpiece of an event that rallied over 173 million people all over the world to demand that their leaders live up to 12 basic goals set by the UN. David has also worked as an arranger. producer and guitarist with many icons of the music business, including Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Peter Criss, Jimmy Cliff. Johnny Cash, Harry Nilsson, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Judy Collins, Brenda Russel, Don Covay, Dr. John and many others.(for a more complete listing, please go to allmusicguide.com.)

Some of David’s recent film scores include ” True Bromance (2012), “Smash His Camera,” a 2010 Sundance Selection, “Dale” (Paramount/CMT) one of the  biggest selling sports-themed DVDs of all time, “Montana Meth (HBO) “The Ride of Their Lives,” Petty Blue (2010 Release) and “Together” (Nascar Media Group).

David’s recent television work includes the theme music for The Katie Couric Show (ABC),  Fuse News (Fuse), Poker After Dark and Heads Up Poker, both on NBC.  He wrote the theme for ‘Pokémon,’ currently airing on  the Cartoon Network and in 70 countries, and the theme for Extreme Trains, on the History channel  His catalog also includes music for NFL Football, Nascar, The Martha Stewart Show, Bringing Home Baby, Nascar 360 and the logo music for MSNBC, Procter and Gamble Productions and New  Line Television.  He created the theme and additional scoring for NBC’s ‘The Chris Matthews Show,’ the theme for ‘Professional Bull Riders’ and ‘Notre Dame Football’ on NBC Sports, music for the highly acclaimed PBS program ‘Egg the Arts Show,’ the theme and library for ‘Flashpoints,’ Bryant Gumbel’s show on PBS .  He has composed many promos for NBC Nightly News, Showtime, and the Discovery Channel. He has also written the theme for the Nickelodeon series, ‘The Animorphs’ and scored the ‘Upfront’ presentations for the Discovery Channel and for NBC Networks.

David has also written music for well over a thousand Television and Radio commercials, for virtually every major advertiser. And he’s won more Clio Awards (2) than Don Draper (1).

He is the Composer/Music Director for Goodpenny, a creative boutique came up of equal parts editorial, visual effects and musical talent, and serves on the Advisory board of Songs of Love, a charity that composes personalized songs for chronically and terminally ill children.

David lives in New York and has studios in New York City and Bridgehampton, Long Island.



The Real Thoroughbred Races of 1948

By Patrick Williams

It was a big year for the Kentucky Derby, and for thoroughbread racing in general, but it wasn’t because of the triumph of Feetlebaum in Spike Jones’s 1948 William Tell Overture.

That year, Citation, ridden by Eddie Arcaro and bred by Calumet Farm, won not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes consecutively.

Visit ESPNClassic to read more about that exciting 1948 Derby race.

Citation was the eighth of only eleven Triple Crown winners to date, and the fourth horse in the 1940s to reach all three Winner’s Circles in a single year. Affirmed was the last horese to take the honor nearly 35 years ago, on June 10th, 1978.

Incidentally, music plays a big part in each of the Triple Crown events; fans sing along to a unique tune before the stakes race at each park.

At the Kentucky Derby, we hear “My Old Kentucky Home,” the official state song of Kentucky.

At the Preakness Stakes, we hear “Maryland, My Maryland”, the official state song of Maryland.

And at the Belmont Stakes, well, that’s a little more complicated. Up until 1997, it was the 1894 James Blake & Charles Lawler-penned tune, “The Sidewalks of New York.”

From 1997 on, we have heard the familiar “Theme from New York, New York,” except in 2010, when crowds were treated to a deviation from that tradition in the form of Alicia Keyes’s hit “Empire State of Mind,” by Jasmine Villegas. Many fans were not pleased.

Will any of this year’s horses have a shot at the Triple Crown? We need only wait until the Preakness Stakes on May 18th so see if Saturday’s Derby winner joins 2012’s I’ll Have Another among the 22 “Double Crown” winners.



Baum’s Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, 1908

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

After experimenting with Irish comic-dramas on stage between 1891 and 1895, and his successful theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz in 1902, L. Frank Baum took the Oz franchise in a wonderful (if ill-fated) direction with the “Fairylogue and Radio-Plays” in 1908.

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The cast of the "Fairylogue and Radio-Plays"

Leveraging the current taste for the exotic, Baum named the first part a “Fairylogue” after the increasingly popular “Travelogue”. The Chicago Tribune described it as follows –

A fairylogue is a travelogue that takes you to Oz instead of China… A radio play is a fairylogue with an orchestra on the left-hand side of the stage

If you’re familiar with media history, you may wonder why Baum would put on a “radio play” more than a decade before consumer radios began to sell in the United States. Baum called the multi-media theatrical production a “radio play” to invoke the energy behind the developing technology despite a complete absence of any radio-broadcast technologies. He later justified the name by stating that the process used to color the glass photo-slides was invented by a Parisian named Michel Radio, though there’s no further evidence of this person having existed (the slides were actually colored by the Duval Frères company.

Even if he didn’t have the terms quite correct, Baum was certainly ambitious in his use of developing technologies to present a fantastic experience to his viewers. At the beginning of the show, the author would walk on stage in a “lily-white suit” to introduce the characters, then walk off to one of the wings, hiding behind a velvet curtain, while he was replaced by a film projection of himself, in the same suit, among the characters and scenes of Oz. He would remain onstage to narrate the events, as sound-films were not yet available.

The first act of the show combined scenes from the first Oz books, and the second continued into scenes from John Dough and the Cherub. It combined motion picture, painted backdrops, ‘magic lantern’ style hand-colored slide projections, live orchestra, special effects, and, of course, live narration by the author. It was a spectacle. Audiences loved it.

Admission, however, averaged $3 – twelve times to cost of the average theater ticket at the time. Commercially, the Fairylogue and Radio-Plays were a disaster. Baum had personally funded the project, and convinced the owner of the Selig Polyscope film company of Chicago to produce the film segments under a promise of later payment. The production only lasted three months, and most of the nationally-scheduled dates were cancelled because of the high overhead costs. Baum’s biographer called the Fairylogues a “significant contributing factor” to his bankruptcy claims three years later.

This was only an inconvenience to the determined author. In 1913, he opened “The Tik-Tok Man of Oz”, with music by Louis Gottschalk, at Geo. M. Cohan’s Grand Opera House in Chicago.

Baum's Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, 1908 - TIk Tok Poster

This post was assembled from notes held in the L. Frank Baum papers at the Special Collections Research Center of the Syracuse University Library. The collection holds biographical information of the Baum and Gage families, typescripts of his written works, correspondence between Baum and his publisher, playbills, photographs, memorabilia and more. If you have any research interest in Baum’s life or work, please contact the Research Center.


Jazz: The “Harlem Shake” of Harlem

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

Admitting that the craze for the “Harlem Shake” will probably have died down by the time this makes it to print press you, I felt obliged to give a little background info on the burrough that has become so popular in recent weeks.

Harlem was established as a Dutch outpost more than a hundred years before the revolutionary war, and stayed pretty white until the turn of the 20th century. Around 1905, black real estate entrepreneurs like Philip Payton Jr. began buying newly-devalued properties and renting apartments to blacks. Some tried to thwart this trend by evicting black residents, but Harlem’s increasing reputation as a middle and upper-class black neighborhood, in conjunction with a broader trend of blacks moving into northern urban centers to find opportunity outside of the racist south, eventually afforded it a critical mass that allowed for the formation of the nation’s first center for black culture. By 1915 there were 50,000 blacks from all social classes living in Harlem. A renaissance was afoot.

Though the poets and writers, such as W.E.B. duBois, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, may be better remembered today, the renaissanciers also embraced the new national craze for jazz music. The “Great War” was over, and people were eager to return to life-as-usual, maybe even have some fun. Dance halls such as the Cotton Club, the Savoy, the Roseland Ballroom, and the Apollo Theatre gained such a reputation for an evening out, that white audiences began to travel from Manhattan to join in. Though prohibition was still going strong in the early 20s, many clubs skirted this by hosting ‘private parties’ for fictitious organizations, and charging a club “enrollment fee” at the door.

Show Music

Black musical theatre had come a long way since the 1890s, when blacks were still primarily used to fill the bumbling ‘coon’ role of the minstrel show. Composers Will Marion Cook, Bob Cole, and the Johnson brothers, and performers Bert Williams (and his collaborator George Walker) and Sissieretta Jones defined an era when black artistic ambitions and accomplishments would show without a doubt that these stereotypes were as wrong as they were hurtful.

Cook’s dramatic 1898 opening of “Clorindy: Origin of the Cakewalk” seemed to be a declaration of his intent to redefine musical theater. Ragtime composer Scott Joplin completed an ambitious all-black opera called Treemonisha in 1910. It never took off in his lifetime, but has been put on several time since it’s 1972 debut by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Morehouse College.

This period may be best remembered in Sissle and Blake’s 1921 “Shuffle Along”. The first production of “Shuffle Along” ran 504 shows, simultaneously jump-starting the careers of one of America’s most beloved songwriting teams and influential vocalists Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall and Paul Robeson.


Stride Piano

The traditional New Orleans brass jazz band was seen as outdated, and pianos found new prominence as a symbol of wealth and pride. The new stride style of James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Thomas “Fats” Waller would be the main attraction at all-night “rent parties” where guests would contribute a small fee (toward the host’s rent payment) in exchange for a night of dancing and socializing.

The stride style developed out of ragtime as a result of ‘cutting contests’, in which pianists would alternate turns showing off their virtuosity and innovation, challenging the others. Johnson and Smith were considered the greatest competitors on the scene until a young Art Tatum would unexpectedly upstage them in a 1933 show at Morgan’s Bar.

Dance Orchestras

Confusingly, one of the highest markers of success for black musicians in the 20s was acceptance among the mainstream (white) audiences. Two of the most beloved musicians of the jazz age made their marks playing in whites-only clubs.

Fletcher Henderson became a professional musician almost by accident after moving to New York in 1920 to pursue further education in chemistry. He found employment in W.C. Handy and Harry Pace’s Pace-Handy music publishing company. When Pace divested in early 1921 to form the Black Swan record company, Henderson followed him, becoming musical director and accompanist.

In this role, he made connections with the top blues musicians, and developed a reputation as a charming, amicable character. He wasn’t a virtuoso pianist, or an ambitious composer, but people liked working with him, so he was in demand as an accompanist and house musician.

In 1923,  Joe “King” Oliver’s recordings in the hot Chicago style began to sell well in Harlem. Henderson’s band’s regular gig with Club Alabam downtown was stifling the band, and in September 1924 he accepted a job at the prestigious Roseland Ballroom. Henderson’s best cornetist, Joe Smith, left the band to play with the Chocolate Dandies revue, and Henderson offered the position to Oliver’s second cornetist, Louis Armstrong, whom he had heard in New Orleans while touring for Black Swan.

Henderson’s orchestra, featuring Armstrong on cornet, Don Redman and Coleman Hawkins on saxophone, and Buster Bailey on clarinet, opened to little ado across Sam Lanin’s orchestra, with Red Nichols on cornet and Miff Mole on trombone. Within months, they were the hottest performing and recording outfit in the city.

Around this time, a recent transplant from Washington D.C. named Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington began booking shows for his “Washingtonians”. Duke, with his high-born disposition and solid musical training, quickly made friends with important musicians around the city. Ellington’s engagement with the (white) Harlem Cotton Club positioned him in direct competition with Henderson.This was only the beginning of a prolific and illustrious career. Ellington’s legacy as a jazz composer and bandleader is unrivaled.

The artists of the Harlem Renaissance inspired a pride and confidence in black Americans that contributed to the civil rights movement decades later. It’s a story that should never be truncated to the size of a blog post, but I couldn’t resist. If you’re interested, I recommend finding “Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance“, edited by Samuel A. Floyd, jr. or “Jazz: A History of the New York Scene“, by Samuel B. Charters and Leonard Kunstadt.


Blue Tail Fly

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

The ‘Blue Tail Fly’, or ‘Jim Crack Corn’, dates back to Jan. 1846, the heyday of American minstrelsy. It tells a story of a young slave and his master and reflects some nuance of the race dynamics of the Southern United States before the Civil War. While many minstrel songs whitewash the slaves’ experience by narrating a sentimentality for the land or their masters, “Blue Tail Fly” sneaks in a joke by suggesting that the slave may have intentionally caused his master’s death, or at least been pleased by it after the fact.

Blue Tail Fly - jcc

The meaning of “Jim (or Jimmy) Crack Corn” has been the subject of much debate, but some suggest it meant that the slave could ‘crack [a bottle of] corn [whiskey]’ (now that the master is gone), or that ‘jimmy’ meant ‘gimme’ and cracked corn, unripe green corn only suited for corn meal porridge. Considering the alternate contemporary line “an’ scratch ‘im with a brier, too”, I like the first interpretation.

For a straightforward history of Dan Emmett and American minstrelsy, check out Hans Nathan’s “Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy“. For a discussion of the complex  forces that created minstrelsy, and its extended (and continuing) effects on American culture, see Eric Lott’s “Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class“.


Phonograph History

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

Many historians are content to describe the invention of the phonograph as a flash of inspiration on a single day in Thomas Edison’s New Jersey laboratory in July of 1877. While he may have been the ‘wizard of Menlo Park’, Edison was only a man (if an uncommonly gifted and dedicated one). The recording and reproduction of sound had been theorized and predicted for centuries, and scientific breakthroughs in acoustics of the 19th century made it a matter of time.

Thomas Young, in his 1807 Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts, describes a ‘vibrograph’ used to measure the frequency of a sounding body (read: tuning fork) by etching the vibration of the fork into the surface of a soot-covered cylinder. The weights, labeled D and E regulate speed, a feature that would remain on most mechanical phonographs. The cylinder fell down the axis as the cord, labeled I, unwound.

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Thomas Young's 1807 'Vibrograph'

In 1843, Jean-Marie-Constant Duhamel independently designed the “vibroscope,” which moved the cylinder laterally using of a feedscrew, a feature of the first generation of phonographs.

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Duhamel's 1843 Vibroscope

Leon Scott introduced a breakthrough in 1857 by replacing the tuning fork with a bristle attached to a pliable membrane capable of vibrating in correspondence with sounds in the air. Though Scott didn’t intend for his phonautograph recordings to be reproduced, he must have understood the possibility. In 2008 sound researchers (or archeophonists) reproduced these inscriptions by optically scanning the sheets and digitally reconstructing the waveforms held within.

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Leon Scott's 1857 Phonautograph

Edison’s ‘flash’ of inspiration occurred when he was working on a high-speed telegraph transmitter. The device indented morse code into a taut length of paper tape, and Edison likened the sound to ‘human talk heard indistinctly’. He had been working on improvements to Alexander Graham Bell’s nascent telephone, and wondered if a telephone message could be recorded in the same way as a telegraph message.

On July 18 of 1877, he successfully recorded his voice using the carbon diaphragm of his telephone receiver and an embossing point against wax paper, noting:

“The speaking vibrations are indented nicely, and there’s no doubt that I shall be able to store up and reproduce automatically at any time the human voice perfectly”

Though Edison gave the date of his first successful foil recording session (the fabled recitation of ‘Mary had a little lamb’) as August 12, Roland Gelatt provides compelling evidence in “The Fabulous Phonograph” that the machine used to make this recording wasn’t manufactured until November 29th.

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Edison's original tin-foil phonograph, manufactured by his machinist John Kruesi in 1877. Image - National Park Service.

The term ‘phonograph’ had been applied to at least two previous, virtually unrelated, inventions (by the Pitman brothers in 1837 to describe a form of phonetic ‘shorthand’ writing and by F.B. Fenby in 1863 to describe a sort of proto piano-roll recorder). A French poet name Charles Cros also conceived of a phonograph in 1877 that was virtually Edison’s equal in purpose, but never realized it. Edison was probably unaware of Cros’ work, and predictably named the device after the Greek ‘sound-writer’, in the prevailing style of the telegraph and telephone.

In December 1877, Edison exhibited the phonograph in the office of Scientific American magazine, drawing a crowd so large that the editor had to halt the demonstration because the room was beyond capacity. Word of the invention spread quickly through the local press in the weeks to come. In January 1878, before the patent on the device had been guaranteed, Edison sold the manufacturing rights for the device to the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company. The company manufactured approximately five hundred units of the crude instrument before Edison followed an investment opportunity into the development of the incandescent light bulb, effectively abandoning the phonograph.

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Edison's Tinfoil Phongraph Patent Drawing, 1878

Fortunately, one of the buyers of the parlor foil phonographs had big ideas for further development. In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell won the Volta Prize of $10,000 from the French government for his invention of the telephone. Bell used this money to set up a laboratory in Washington DC for further electrical and acoustical research.

Bell, along with his associates Charles Sumner Tainter and cousin Chichester Bell, experimented with a variety of technologies between 1880 and 1886, but found Edison’s design, with some small but significant adjustments, to be the best approach. Realizing their predicament, Bell and co. approached Edison to propose a partnership for continued development and marketing. Whether for profit, legacy, or simply competition, Edison refused their offer and resumed development of the phonograph, founding the Edison Phonograph Company in 1887. The next year, Edison debuted his “improved” and “perfected” phonographs, using the engraved wax medium and mobile reproducer developed by the Volta laboratory.

Bell and co. were determined to succeed, and incorporated Volta Graphophone in February 1886. They filed several patents that would guarantee their success in both the cylinder and disc phonograph markets that now seemed destined for greatness. Chief among these was the specification that recordings be engraved, or cut, into the surface of the recording medium, rather than Edison’s specification of embossing, or impressing, the recording, which only held for foil.

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Bell & Tainter's 1886 Graphophone. Note - Before Edison debuted the spring motored version in the same year, this model was powered by a treadle, like a sewing machine. Image Electrical World, July 14, 1988 via Princeton University and Hathi Trust.

In the summer of 1888, civil war veteran and glass magnate Jesse H. Lippincott became interested in the financial potential of the technology as a dictation machine, and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to consolidate the American Graphophone Co. (successor to Volta Graphophone) and the Edison Phonograph Co. Lippincott’s limited vision for the machine, along with high costs, complicated leasing arrangements, and opposition from stenographers (whom the machines were intended to replace), doomed the company, and Lippincott sold out to Edison in the fall of 1890.

Edison’s purchase of North American at this time was a wild stroke of luck on his part. Though he had decided to sell the machines outright, he had come to loathe the idea of selling phonographs for entertainment, preferring their ‘practical’ use in the office. A California businessman named Louis T. Glass disagreed.

Along with his business partner William S. Arnold, Glass designed, built and patented a coin-actuated phonograph, and had begun demonstrating its value as a public entertainment machine (a jukebox, in effect, though he wouldn’t use this word) to great acclaim. Despite Edison’s outspoken discouragement of this trend, the small cylinder manufacturing outfits that emerged to supply the North American Phonograph Company followed the money and began marketing pre-recorded entertainment cylinders. Without this fortunate turn, Edison’s North American would probably have continued on the same path as Lippincott’s. The battery powered “Class M” phonographs were simply too expensive, too complicated, and unreliable. Glass’s clever appropriation breathed new life into a withering industry.

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A phonograph parlor. Image - National Park Service

Edison, always the pragmatist, sanctioned the production of entertainment cylinders in late 1890 and turned his attention to perfecting the phonograph machines. In 1894, he declared bankruptcy for the North American Phonograph Company and bought back exclusive rights to his patents. In 1896, he founded the National Phonograph Company to market his new spring-motor home phonographs and entertainment cylinders.

The Columbia Phonograph Company, under the direction of Edward Easton, had been producing entertainment cylinders under North American’s nose for a year prior to Edison’s assent. This head start would give them an advantage in what would become a competitive and lucrative business. Between 1893 and 1895, Easton went on to negotiate a merger with the failing American Graphophone company whereby Columbia Phonograph would produce recordings, and American Graphophone would market their machines under the newly prominent Columbia brand. Edison acknowledged this threat, and patent battles in the next two years began to burden both. Recognizing their legal stalemate and the futility of costly litigation, Columbia and National cross-licensed the fundamental technical patents in December 1896.

1897 marks the beginning of a mature home phonograph market, with both Columbia and National selling machines and records. Competition between the two firms quickly drove down prices for home players, but technical limitations still limited the potential for profit. The recordings were still quiet, low fidelity, and too short to hold popular songs (two minutes), but most importantly, the inability to duplicate the recorded cylinders meant that companies must be constantly recording, and performers must be constantly performing if they were to keep pace with demand. The emerging disc market had solved this by introducing a metal ‘master’ recording that could stamp the impression into a shellac disc, but this was fundamentally impossible for a cylindrical carrier. Edison and Columbia briefly employed a pantograph for duplication between 1898 and 1902, but its scale was limited.

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American Graphophone's 1894 Type G "Baby Grand" was the first phonograph marketed for the home reproduction of pre-recorded 'entertainment' cylinders. Image courtesy René Rondeau, EdisonTinfoil.com
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Edison 'Class H' Home Phonograph. Image from Nation Phonograph Company catalog via Harvard University

Columbia gradually phased out cylinder operations in favor of discs beginning in 1901, halting production in 1909, and phasing out the subsidiary Indestructible cylinders in 1912. Edison spent the same period perfecting the cylinder. In 1898 they debuted a larger concert cylinder to increase loudness. In 1902, they began marketing Gold Moulded records, which were mass-produced by pressing the wax into a mold. In 1908 the wax Amberol increased recording time to four minutes, and in 1912, they debuted the celluloid Blue Amberol which was higher-fidelity and less prone to breakage. They debuted the Diamond Disc in the same year, but would continue selling the Blue Amberol cylinder line until they closed shop in 1929.

Treasures of Cylinder-Era Recording

All of this technology would mean nothing if it didn’t enable us to do something unprecedented and incredible, but it did. Cylinders have two distinct advantages over disc recordings. They existed earlier, and so were able to record sounds between their invention in 1877 and the beginning of a mature disc market around 1900 (Emile Berliner had technically been recording to disc since 1889, but this was a relatively minor operation). Wax cylinder recording was also available to the public like disc recording never was.

Julius Block was a Russian businessman who became fascinated by news reports of Edison’s phonograph in the late 1880s. He convinced Edison to give him a phonograph to bring back to Russia, and ended up recording a number of important musicians. Though these recordings were thought to be lost for decades, they were recently discovered in the Institute of Russian Literature in St. Petersburg. Many of these have been digitized, and some were released by Marston Records in 2008. The last track of this set is a funny conversation between pianist Anton Rubinstein, Julius Block, operatic mezzo-soprano Elizaveta Lavrovskaya, pianist and conductor Vasily Safonov and composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. You can hear this recording here or read more about the collection here.

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Julius Block, listening critically

Theo Wangemann was Edison’s first sound recording engineer (and, by that merit, the first sound recording engineer). Edison sent Wangemann to Paris in June 1889 to demonstrate the machine at the Exposition Universelle, though he would stay in Europe until the next February traveling, demonstrating, and recording. Two of the great victories of this trip are recordings of Otto von Bismarck and Johannes Brahms. Many of these recordings can be heard at the website for the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

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Wangemann in Berlin in 1889 (The date on the image refers to the gift to Edison). Image - National Park Service.

Lionel Mapleson was the librarian for the Metropolitan Opera Company. His recordings, mostly made at the front of the live stage between 1900 and early 1904, captured a few great performers of the golden age of opera, some for the first or only time. Fortunately, the value of these recordings was understood from the beginning, and they have been studied, cared for and reissued with great care. The program notes for a 1985 LP reissue compiled by the New York Public Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound tells a history and provides audio examples [link].

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Mapleson, with an absurd phonograph horn. Image - NYPL Rodgers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.

Frances Densmore was a pioneer ethnographer and field recordist in the musical traditions of native Americans when society at large sought to assimilate or marginalize them. Most of her prolific recording legacy has not been transferred or reissued, but the original cylinders are still held at the Library of Congress.

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Frances Densmore with Blackfoot Chief at Smithsonian in 1916. Image - Library of Congress.

Robert Winslow Gordon founded the Archive of American Folk Song in 1928. He was one of the first to realize the synthetic value of the folk traditions of American immigrant cultures, especially in the rural south. Aside from a 1978 LP (and its 2003 digital reissue), Gordon’s work has also had unfortunately little exposure.

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Gordon, with his recording equipment and a collection of cylinders, ca. 1930. Image - American Folklife Center.

 Sources Consulted and Further Reading

The Fabulous Phonograph, by Roland Gelatt

From Tinfoil to Stereo, by Walter Welch, Oliver Read and Leah Brodbeck Stenzel Burt

The Patent History of the Phonograph, by Allen Koenigsberg

Tinfoil Phonographs, by René Rondeau

Phonograph History - OriginalNipper
Did you know? Francis Barraud's 1898 painting "His Master's Voice" originally showed Nipper listening to a Bell cylinder phonograph. Barraud was paid to update it to with the disc phonograph of the Gramophone Co. and Victor, for whom it would become an icon.


The Norfolke Gentleman

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

The first record of “Babes in the Wood” is an entry in the the register of the Stationers’ Company in October 1595 titled “The Norfolk Gentleman, his Will and Testament, and howe he commytted the keeping of his children to his owne brother, whoe delte moste wickedly with them, and howe God plagued him for it”. Though this original manuscript has been lost, it’s likely very similar to a broadsheet published between 1602 and 1646 that was collected for Robert Harley, the first Earl of Oxford, and is now part of the Roxburghe Collection.

In her comprehensive History of England, Sharon Turner suggested that the tale may allude to the supposed murder of the sons of Edward IV, the Princes of the Tower, by their uncle, Richard III. Later scholars have argued that allegory wouldn’t have been necessary by the time the ballad is thought to have been written¹.

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The earliest extant publication, now held by the British Library

The ballad was included in the first editions of James Francis Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which has come to represent the British ballad tradition in the United States under the name ‘Child Ballads’. It was edited out in subsequent versions when Child discovered the version he was using was transcribed from a seventeenth century broadside for Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry².

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  1. Chappell, W.M. (1873). The Children of the Wood. The Ballad Society: Publications, vol. 2, pt. 2, 214-221. [Link]
  2. Schneider, Matthew (2005). Wordsworthian Songcatching in America. Anthropoetics, vol. 11, no. 2. [Link]


Apocalypse Art and Cinema

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

We at Sound Beat are no strangers to conclusion. Ends of friendships, careers  and lives are all in a day’s work, but the end of the world? That’s a special occasion. Speculation about how and when man will meet his eventual fate can be found in most cultures in history, but perhaps the last 60 years have been the most productive period of discussion and expression on the topic.

The prevailing model of the ‘end times’ in the west has been colored by a millennia-old account (purportedly a divine revelation) by John the Apostle. John envisioned an apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil that would provide artistic imagery for centuries to come. The account, which comprises the final book of the Christian bible, is complex and symbolic. Some characters and events, however, have stood out and become lasting icons in Christian art.

Apocalypse Art and Cinema - Majestas Domini
Majestas Domini with Twenty-Four Elders - Trier Apocalypse, ninth cent.

Majestas Domini pictures Christ in heaven, seated on a throne. The fourth chapter of John’s revelation describes Christ on a throne, surrounded by twenty four elders. This meeting begins the opening of seven seals guarding a scroll. The first four of these seals release the four horsemen, representing conquest, war, famine and death.

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Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Viktor M. Vasnetsov, 1887

After the final seal is opened, seven angels appear, each holding a trumpet. As each of these trumpets is blown, another disaster befalls the earth. These include thunder and lightning, earthquakes, fire, seas of blood, and poisoned rivers. After the final trumpet is blown, a war commences in heaven, introducing a woman and child, a beast from the sea and another from the earth.

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Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Dragon with Seven Heads (Detail) - Albrecht Durer, 1511

After more plagues and more judgements, the beast of the sea is joined by Babylon, who gains influence for the beast by seducing the kings of the earth.

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"The Whore of Babylon" from the workshop of Master Lucas Cranach, published in the Luther Bible 1534

The army of heaven, led by Christ on a white horse, with a sword coming out of his mouth, kills the armies of evil and Christ casts the two beasts into the lake of fire. After one thousand years in the abyss, Satan comes back to earth for one final battle. He is again defeated, and cast eternally into the lake of fire.

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The Destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet - Benjamin West, 1804

When this is complete, Christ raises the dead for one final judgement before destroying the heavens and earth and making new ones. JM Gates’ sermon ‘judgement day’ alludes to this last judgement. This event is seen as the culmination of all the events preceding it, and is probably the most popular scene in eschatological art. Many representations of the Last Judgment employ a triptych form with Christ, or archangel Michael, in the center, and heaven of hell on either side.

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The Last Judgment - Hans Memling, 1466-1473

As scientific developments of the recent few hundred years have assuaged the fears of many of us (though not all) that a divine force will unexpectedly impose its apocalyptic will upon our kind, they have also created strange new theories and myths, and wonderful new modes of expressing them. As we have come to understand that any short term calamity will likely be of our own design, many expressions of the apocalypse have adopted a language of caution and choice.

On October 30, 1938, actor and radio producer Orson Welles delivered a memorable episode of his show Mercury Theatre on the Air, in which he adapted HG Wells’ War of the Worlds into a series of realistic-sounding radio news bulletins outlining a Martian attack on Earth. The reports of widespread violence and destruction caused by the Martians’ advanced technology captured the listeners’ attention and many believed the reports to be true. Science fiction and interest in space exploration boomed in the following years in children’s magazines and the novels of the futurians.

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New York Times headline, the day after broadcast

In the years following the second World War, tensions about nuclear armament and global war fueled a popular interest in what Susan Sontag called the “imagination of disaster”. Theories of World War III, nuclear apocalypse, and Communist imperialism incited works as diverse as Orwell’s cautionary novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and Duck and Cover, featuring Bert the Turtle.

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Manhattan Under Nuclear Attack

In 1964, Stanley Kubrick elegantly summarized this culture of paranoia and propaganda in Dr. Strangelove. Dr. Strangelove theorizes a “Cobalt Thorium G doomsday machine” designed for mutually assured destruction in the case of any military attack. Once activated, the device can’t be disarmed. In theory, this ‘assurance’ would guarantee peace by making the option of attack self-destructive, but this, of course, falls apart if the enemy doesn’t know of its existence


Four years later, George A. Romero took the threat of nuclear radiation in a wholly unexpected direction with Night of the Living Dead. As this week’s episode Zombies! suggests, human reanimation was not invented by Romero, but he did create a memorable archetype that would inform zombie flicks to the present day. In Night of the Living Dead, a radio newscast explains that radioactive fallout from a spacecraft destroyed in re-entry is to blame. In subsequent myths, hell has run out of space, science has meddled with the affairs of the church, and a rage inducing virus has spread.

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The last of these was probably influenced by Boris Sagal’s 1971 The Omega Man. Based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend, The Omega Man features Dr. Col. Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) as one of the last survivors of a war-born virus that has killed most of humanity, and turned the survivors into murderous monsters. In the following decades, Outbreak (1995) and Contagion (2011) made pandemics scary without invoking humanoid antagonists.

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Zombie-Vampire, huh? Nothing a little Science can't fix

Recently, films have begun to deal with the possibility that climate change will make the earth uninhabitable to human life. Though narrative drama requires an abridged timescale compared with real environmental projections, the almost inevitable reality of the underlying concept makes it very frightening material indeed. I can’t recommend The Day After Tomorrow, but it’s 2004 release date makes it the first major film to successfully confront this topic, two years before Al Gore’s influential book and movie An Inconvenient Truth. Five years later, the same director debuted 2012, in which ‘solar radiation’ (picking up on a theme here?) tenuously provokes a number of simultaneous globally catastrophic weather events.

These movies (and magazines, and radio dramas…) are designed for entertainment, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but their increasing success shows that audiences have embraced two things: a morbid curiosity, and a global kinship. As humanity faces global challenges real and imagined, we are faced with the reality that we may have to resolve or ignore our differences and come together if we want to prevent the apocalypse, just like in Independence Day.


Dear Mr. Godfrey

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

Ruth Wallis’ “Dear Mr. Godfrey” riffs on Godfrey’s ironic choice of words in justifying the dismissal as a result of LaRosa’s “lack of humility”. LaRosa primarily sought an agent because his recordings for fellow Godfrey ‘family member’ Archie Bleyer’s Cadence record company were selling well and seemed to be another promising endeavor for the rising star. Though he would spend more of his career in television and radio, his early recordings sold well and played a large part in his sudden rise to fame. You can hear these  below.

Anywhere I Wander

My Lady Loves to Dance

Eh, Cumpari



Love for Sale

Written by Mason Vander Lugt, Syracuse University catalog librarian and proprietor of  the historical music blog Dinosaur Discs.

When Frederick Osius pitched his ‘miracle mixer’ to Fred Waring in 1936, he must have piqued an interest beyond that of a financial investment. When the Pennsylvanians got their start at Penn State University, Fred was working toward a degree in architectural engineering. Although he had decided to pursue a career in music by the time he finished, old habits die hard.

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In his more than 60 years in the music business, Fred nurtured a reputation as a tinkerer and mad-inventor. He devised elaborate sound and light shows to accompany his stage shows, including the ‘dancing tambourines’ and ‘dancing dominoes’, in which the members of the Pennsylvanians would perform a choreographed dance on a dark stage, each holding a homebrewed combination of flashlight and cake pan. Audiences had never seen anything like it.

In the following years, Fred’s “Waring Corp.” also marketed the Aluron portable steam iron he’d designed to aid his musician’s travels. He was also working on an electric hair dryer. A newspaper article published in 1976 (when fred was 76 years old!) mentioned that he was working on an improvement for venetian blinds.

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The same curiosity and persistence that made Fred a competent inventor propelled him to the front of American entertainment for decades. The Pennsylvanians performed on record, radio, film, and television in their 60 year tenure. You can see them performing for an early “talkie” picture from 1927 here.