ARSC/RPTF Collections Directory Project Draft Now Online

Post written by William R. Vanden Dries, Indiana University Bloomington 

ARSC and the Radio Preservation Task Force (RPTF) are developing a national database to identify, map, and make searchable information regarding historical recordings, beginning with radio broadcasts. The initiative has its roots in the reports published by the Library of Congress, The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age (2010) and The Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan (2012). Following discussion between ARSC and the Radio Preservation Task Force, radio broadcast collections were identified as a high priority and an area in which the two groups could collaborate to initiate the national database of recorded sound collections recommended in the 2012 plan. Once the database is established for radio broadcast and radio-related collections and includes the bulk of known radio collections around the country, the scope of the database will expand to include additional collections.

ARSC agreed to be caretaker of the online website and database’s technological needs. Volunteers on ARSC’s Online Media Committee (OMC) executed the installation of the software needed for the online site, which is a Ruby on Rails site. The OMC continues to manage the technological needs of the site, and is working with the RPTF metadata team to update the information about the collections as metadata is gathered and edited.

The RPTF is taking the lead on gathering, editing, and updating the collection information included in the database. Prior to the start of the ARSC-RPTF collaboration, three RPTF teams worked for over a year identifying radio broadcast collections around the country. Metadata was gathered from the collection holders and compiled into one place. Gaps in the information were identified and the next phase of information gathering began to fill in gaps and review existing information with the collection holders. The RPTF and ARSC also created an online form for new collections to be added to the project.

ARSC and the RPTF are eager to continue pushing forward with the development of the site, and are looking for volunteers to help with metadata gathering, review, and editing. We are also looking for anyone with experience with Ruby on Rails that would like to assist with the design and maintenance of the online website and database. If you would like to volunteer with this project in any of these capacities, please contact William Vanden Dries at wrvandendries[at]gmail.com.

To view the site in its current, draft format, please visit arsc-audio2.org.

RPTF Directory

Phonograph Monthly Review, Now Online

Post written by Mason Vander Lugt, National Recording Preservation Board / Library of Congress.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Phonograph Monthly Review was founded by Axel B. Johnson in October 1926. It was the first American magazine about the appreciation and collecting of records by enthusiasts, and helped organize a budding culture of record collectors and scholars. You can now view a full run of the magazine on Archive.org through the work of the National Recording Preservation Board.

State of the Art

Phonograph Monthly Review (‘PMR’) was born into exciting times in the entertainment industry. Consumer radio had been on the ascent for several years, and with RCA’s formation of the NBC network in 1926, it looked ready for the first time to disrupt recording. Columbia and Victor had only the year before licensed Westrex’s electrical recording process, while Brunswick adapted General Electric’s pallophotophone system. Sometimes overlooked in the transition to electrical ‘recording’ are the equally innovative eletro-magnetic reproduction technologies, in the forms of the Brunswick Panatrope and Victor Electrola.

One of Columbia’s electrical reproduction offerings adapted users’ existing phonographs (PMR 4:11)

One of Columbia’s electrical reproduction offerings adapted users’ existing phonographs (PMR 4:11)

The improved fidelity of electrical recording and reproduction revived interest in recordings of classical music, which were somewhat shortchanged by the acoustic processes. Columbia debuted the ‘Masterworks’ line in late 1924, assembling longer works into albums (following the example of the Gramophone Co. / HMV) and presented complete symphonies, concertos, and chamber works often for the first time. Victor followed suit with the ‘Musical Masterpiece’ line in 1927, but added the innovation of automatically playing through the sides in sequence, creating the first commercially successful record changer in the form of the Automatic Orthophonic Victrola.

Columbia Masterworks Advertisement (PMR 1:3)

Columbia Masterworks Advertisement (PMR 1:3)

Creating the Collector

PMR features articles about the top orchestras and famous composers, and reviews of the most recent releases, and could have stopped there, but Johnson felt a higher purpose. He believed that through careful listening and discussion, anyone could attain a sophisticated appreciation of ‘serious’ music. The magazine staff were charter members and officers of the Boston Gramophone Society and encouraged the creation of and participation in the same.

This wasn’t an entirely new concept. PMR never concealed the fact that their model adapted the example set in England by Compton MacKenzie’s magazine Gramophone and the National Gramophonic Society (see ‘At Jethou’, 2:3 and ‘A Resumé’, 2:1). Both Gramophone and PMR aspired to be more than a magazine or a social club. In editorials, Johnson refers frequently to the ‘phonograph society movement’ or ‘phono-musical movement’, or ‘the cause’. The cause was a democratic, communal musical education, and this required a systematic study of the ‘literature’.

In ‘More Important than the Music: A History of Jazz Discography’, Bruce D. Epperson grants Gramophone the first formal discographical lists, but PMR the first freestanding discographical article, in Robert Donaldson Darrell’s ‘Dvorak’s Recorded Works’ (3:8). Darrell would go on to edit PMR and its successor Music Lover’s Guide, and would compile the influential ‘Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music’ in 1935.

PMR reinforced the collaborative culture through recurring ‘Phonograph Society Reports’ and ‘Phonograph Activities’ columns, as well as a robust correspondence column for those too remote to participate in person. The ‘Mart and Exchange’ column was another innovation, allowing readers to advertise records (or literature) they were looking to buy or sell.

PMR, Gramophone, and the various societies changed the relationship between composition, performance, and recording. Before recordings, one could comment on the merits of a composition, or on the qualities imparted by a conductor or performer’s interpretation of it. Recording a work, for better or worse, allowed listeners to share a fixed reference point – still an interpretive performance of a composition, but a particular instantiation of it that could be replayed and compared. Focusing on recordings didn’t end or undermine live performance or its appreciation, but created a new intellectual space and a new kind of enthusiast – the record collector. These values and practices were expanded and codified in the 1930s and 40s in jazz magazines like Down Beat and Record Changer.

The Music

Changes in technology and culture are interesting in retrospect, but PMR’s readers subscribed for the music. 1927-1932 was a golden age in American orchestral music, with the best orchestras led by some of the most legendary conductors. Leopold Stokowski was at the helm of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Serge Koussevitzky led the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Willem Mengelberg and Wilhelm Furtwangler alternately conducted the New York Philharmonic, while Arturo Toscanini guest conducted (Walter Damrosch led the New York Symphony Orchestra, then separate). Richard Strauss’ recordings with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra were imported by Brunswick. PMR’s profiles, histories and discographies of these institutions were its main attraction.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The best American orchestras of the day

While PMR always focused on orchestral music, it also reviewed chamber music, instrumental solos and art songs, opera, light music, musical theater, band music, popular songs and instrumentals, dance music and foreign recordings. The reviews section reads like a ‘hall of fame’ of 20th century artists – violin by Heifetz and Kreisler, piano by Cortot, Godowsky and Paderewski. Jazz by Armstrong, Ellington and Waller. PMR didn’t explore popular artists with the depth of the composers and conductors, but included interviews with Leo Reisman (3:1) and Lee Morse (4:6), and a serial autobiography of Nat Shilkret (vol. 1).

The Recording Industry

PMR also featured articles on the recording industry past and present, like ‘How the Sounds Get Into Your Record by the Electrical Process’ (1:1), ‘Echoes from the OKeh Recording Studio’ (2:3) and ‘The First Years of the Phonograph’ (6:6). Despite frequent disdain for broadcasting among writers, PMR includes announcements that help ground recording in a wider media context, with articles like ‘The New Columbia Broadcasting System’ (1:12), ‘The Phonograph and the Sonal Film’ (4:11) and ‘Television’ (5:3). In one of PMR’s last issues, Sergei Rachmaninoff weighs in on recording vs. broadcast (6:3).

Ulysses “Jim” Walsh first published in PMR. His first article, ‘Pioneer Phonograph Advertising’ (3:6) reviews the preceding 25 years of the recording industry through print advertisements. After a pair of rambling articles titled ‘By the Way’ in 3:10-11, he writes a trio of remembrances of recording pioneers passed on – J.S. MacDonald (“Harry MacDonough”) (6:1-2), Sam H. Rous (“S.H. Dudley”) (6:4) and Anthony and Harrison (6:5). These last articles set the pattern for his prolific and influential column ‘Favorite Pioneer Recording Artists’ in Hobbies magazine.

Regular columns included ‘Record Budgets’, to assist readers in building a library without breaking the bank, ‘Phonographic Echoes’ to keep readers apprised of news, events and industry developments, and ‘British Chatter’ to keep the line open with the substantial gramophile contingent across the pond.

PMR for sale at H. Royer Smith Co., Philadelphia – ‘The World’s Record Shop’ (PMR 3:7)

PMR’s Legacy

After several years of contracting markets (records and otherwise), Phonograph Monthly Review printed its last in March 1932. The final issue begins poignantly with a memorial to John Philip Sousa, who died earlier in the same month. Johnson and Darrell went on to found the ‘Music Lover’s Guide’ magazine in New York in September 1932 which turned into ‘The American Music Lover’ (1935-1941) and ultimately ‘American Record Guide’, still publishing.

The full run of Phonograph Monthly Review can now be viewed on Archive.org, through the work of the National Recording Preservation Board. Thank you to professor, collector and antiquarian Dave Radcliffe of Blacksburg Virginia for lending the beautifully preserved complete run of the magazine that made this project possible.

New Blog Editor

Hi ARSC blog readers, my name is Mason Vander Lugt, and I’ve recently been appointed editor of this blog. To introduce myself, I work as a processing technician at the National Audiovisual Conservation Center in Culpeper Virginia and in my free time maintain a website and blog called ‘Dinosaur Discs’ where I share scans of old record collectors’ magazines. I’ve also written for the blog of the Sound Beat radio program and the ‘Seeing Sound’ blog about IRENE at NEDCC.

I aim to make the ARSC blog a collaborative place where ARSC members and non-members alike can tell stories, share ideas and insights, and announce new or completed projects.  I believe we each archive, or collect, or preserve because we see the stories hidden in recorded sound collections, and I’d like to work together to reanimate these.

One of the strengths of the blog format is the ability to incorporate audio and video seamlessly with text, so I’d like to encourage contributors to include these in submissions. Posts entirely in audio or video format are also supported and encouraged. We will work with you to ensure media fit our guidelines for intellectual property.

Of course, the blog is only one of several official avenues for ARSC communication. If you’re preparing an academic work, please consider submitting it to the ARSC Journal or presenting at our annual conference. If you’ve got an announcement for the ARSC membership, please include it in our newsletter. If you want feedback from our members you can email one of the listservs – ARSClist for general discussion, or ARSClib for library and archives-specific matters.

If you’d like to submit a post to the blog, please email me at blogeditor@arsc-audio.org. We aim to provide an inclusive environment, so please be respectful in your posts and comments. Finally, please subscribe to future blog posts by entering your email address in the form in the sidebar (to the right), or by liking the ARSC Facebook page.

Looking forward,

Mason Vander Lugt

This post transcribed from Memovox - Photo credit Dave Lewis

This post transcribed from Memovox – Photo credit Dave Lewis