Earliest jazz recordings: this year’s the 100th anniversary




A record of two songs by the Original Dixieland Jass band appeared in May 1917. It has gone down in history as the earliest jazz recording. Or was it? In any case, it made a huge splash. Recordings of dozens of other pieces with either jazz in the title or the name of the group appeared before the end of the year. The year 1917 marks a turning point not only in a particular art form, but in black music. Even though whites made the overwhelming majority of the earliest jazz recordings. … Continue reading

Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music




The history of recording has gone through several phases, including cylinders (the first commercial format) and early discs (a less expensive format that opened the market to a wider cross-section of people, perfected in 1888). Electronic recording, which enabled far more accurate reproduction of sound than earlier technologies, appeared in 1927. According to Harry Smith, important recordings of folk songs were issued in both formats at the end of the nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth. Shortly after the First World War, Ralph Peer of Okeh Records took some recording equipment from New York to Atlanta. There, a record … Continue reading

Live vs recorded music




Discussion of the relative merits of live and recorded music probably started as soon as recordings became widely available. As the fidelity of recorded sound improved, the discussion evolved somewhat, but it still continues. One of my professors in college disapproved of recorded music, but frequently attended concerts. He did not even own a record player. I have never met anyone else who prefers live music to the absolute exclusion of listening to recordings, but I know lots of people who agree that there is an immediacy in live performances that recordings cannot duplicate. What’s more, recordings must be almost … Continue reading