Music, Sound, and Technology in America

A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio

Music, Sound, and Technology in America

Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: June 2012

American Studies, Media Studies, Music > Sound Studies

This unique anthology assembles primary documents chronicling the development of the phonograph, film sound, and the radio. These three sound technologies shaped Americans' relation to music from the late nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War, by which time the technologies were thoroughly integrated into everyday life. There are more than 120 selections between the collection's first piece, an article on the phonograph written by Thomas Edison in 1878, and its last, a column advising listeners "desirous of gaining more from music as presented by the radio." Among the selections are articles from popular and trade publications, advertisements, fan letters, corporate records, fiction, and sheet music. Taken together, the selections capture how the new sound technologies were shaped by developments such as urbanization, the increasing value placed on leisure time, and the rise of the advertising industry. Most importantly, they depict the ways that the new sound technologies were received by real people in particular places and moments in time.


“A fascinating new book on early media. . . . A delightful read.” — Steve Ramm, In the Groove

“As a resource, the collection is very usable and particularly student-friendly. The introductions are insightful without being exhaustive, which encourages further inquiry and discussion by providing guidance and direction to sound studies, cultural studies, and technological studies. This approach creates a versatile collection that is not only useful for research and scholarship, but which is also strikingly teachable.” — Victoria Willis, Popular Music and Society

“Measuring the cultural importance and metaphysical weirdness of that change is part of the project of Music, Sound, and Technology in America, an anthology of fascinating artifacts whose prosaic title belies its insights into the early years of the recorded-sound era. . . . [T]he editors of Music, Sound, and Technology in America exhibit a canny ear for the electrifying echoes between then and now.” — Andy Battaglia, Wall Street Journal

“Part history of technology, part reception studies, this anthology gathers advertisements, sales agents’ scripts, personal accounts, editorials and letters from hobbyist journals of the early days of recorded sound... At its best, the selections convey an eyewitness sense of first reactions to new technologies, before users’ expectations ossified… What shines through the book is how new technologies have opened up cultural battlegrounds for creativity, access and control.” — Emily Bick, The Wire

“The editors have selected and assembled their material with perspicuity and wit, and anybody interested in the infancy of sound recording, cinema, and radio is guaranteed to experience frequent ‘aha!’ moments that transport them with a simple turn of phrase to the mind-set of an earlier age.” — James M. Keller Santa Fe, Santa Fe New Mexican

Taylor, Katz, and Grajeda have culled print and visual materials from the popular press, trade journals, and company archives that neatly capture the excitement of the new enterprises of radio, sound recordings, and film and the quandaries surrounding these media. . . . Highly Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” — N. Newman, Choice

“Although the book is aimed at scholars and students (the book would work admirably as a reader for any number of courses in music, media studies, or history), Music, Sound, and Technology in America will appeal to nearly anyone who has an interest in exploring further the fascinating early history of phonography, cinema, and radio from the perspective of its founders, critics, and consumers. Truly a landmark documentary in every way, this collection should go a long way in stimulating further historical work in the field.” — Rob Haskins, ARSC Journal

“This is a much needed anthology…. We owe the three editors a considerable debt for doing the necessary research and for organizing and explaining the value of what they have unearthed.” — European Journal of Communication

"Music, Sound, and Technology in America provides a useful overview of the impact of technologies on American music and musical culture. It is a valuable resource, an engaging, well-organized anthology that will raise provocative questions for students of American cultural history." — Michele Hilmes, author of Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922–1952

"Filled with great selections, Music, Sound, and Technology in America is a salutary addition to a media studies literature lacking in such sourcebooks. It provides a ready-made trove of primary source material to use in classroom discussions of historical interpretation and methodology. In addition, by juxtaposing materials on diverse aspects of sound, the editors avoid the persistent habit of segmenting sound studies by medium or mode." — Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Timothy D. Taylor is Professor of Ethnomusicology and Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture and Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World, which is also published by Duke University Press.

Mark Katz is Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music and Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ.

Tony Grajeda is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of English at the University of Central Florida. He is an editor of Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound.

Table of Contents Back to Top
General Introduction: Music Technologies in Everyday Life / Timothy D. Taylor 1

Part 1. Sound Recording

Introduction / Mark Katz 11

Sound Recording: Readings 29

Predictions 29

The Listener and the Phonograph 44

Learning to Listen 44

The Phonograph in Everyday Life 48

The Phonograph and Music Appreication 65

Men, Women, and Phonographs 70

Music and the Great War 78

Performers and the Phonograph 84

In the Recording Studio 84

The Phonograph and Music Pedagogy 94

The Phonograph and the Composer 104

The Composer in the Machine Age 104

The Phonograph as a Compositional Tool 110

Phonograph Debates 113

Con 113

Pro 126

Part II. Cinema

Introduction / Tony Grajeda 137

Cinema: Readings 145

Technologies of Sight and Sound 145

Sounds of the Cinema: Illustrated Song Slides; The Role of the Voice (lecturers, actors); Incidental Musics, Special Effects, Ballyhoo, and Noise of the Audience 153

Playing to the Pictures 173

Performative Accompaniment 173

The Organist of the Picture Palace 192

Conducting and Scoring to the Movies 200

Taste, Culture, and Educating the Public 212

Responding to the Talkies 226

Part III. Radio

Introduction / Timothy D. Taylor 239

Radio: Readings 255

Radio as Dream, Radio as Technology 255

Early Broadcasts: Performer and Listener Impressions 266

Radio in Everyday Life 275

Healing 279

Economics of Radio Broadcasting 285

Advertising 288

Music on the Radio 301

Con 301

Pro 305

What Do Listeners Want? 311

Crooning 316

Radio Behind the Scenes 324

Getting on the Air 324

Talent 340

Production behind the Scenes 344

Composing for the Radio 354

How to Listen to Music on the Radio 361

Notes 367

References 387

Index 399
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Certificate of Merit in the Best General Research in Recorded Sound category

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4946-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4927-3
Publicity material