News

Up and About

DAHR users might be interested in an overview of the work being undertaken by American Discography Project editors. New descriptions of recording sessions are posted almost every day. About three to five hundred new masters of a variety of record labels are added every week. The bulk of these are Victor masters of the late 1930s and OKeh masters of the late 1920s. But you'll also find newly added Columbia masters, both domestic and foreign, that were out of scope for inclusion in the Tim Brooks and Brian Rust Columbia discography, and previously undocumented Gramophone Company masters issued by Victor.

More audio is also being added to the DAHR. Editors are now including links to YouTube "videos" of 78-rpm discs. They number about 1200 right now, but again, new ones are added on a daily basis. Links to 10,000 Library of Congress National Jukebox are included in the site and that, too, will be expanded in coming months.

The development of several other additions to the DAHR are in the works. Once all of Ross Laird's and Brian Rust's OKeh discography is posted (set for early 2018) we'll begin adding Brunswick masters. But that's not all. Stayed tuned to news of DAHR updates. Unlike anywhere else, here the news will always be good.

Welcome, Zonophone

The American Discography Project is very pleased to announce that documentation of nearly 2500 ten- and twelve-inch Zonophone discs recorded between 1904 and 1912 is now included in the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR).

This addition of Zonophone discs to the DAHR is an adaptation of the print discography, The American Zonophone Discography — Volume I, Ten- and Twelve-Inch Popular Series (1904–1912), by William R. Bryant, edited by Allan Sutton and published by Mainspring Press. It marks the beginning of a partnership between the DAHR and Mainspring Press to offer online versions to some of Mainspring’s most respected discographies and to the work of pioneer discographer Bill Bryant, as edited by discographer and historical recordings authority Allan Sutton. Coming up next: listings of seven- and nine-inch Zonophone discs. 

The staff of the DAHR is honored to collaborate with Allan Sutton and Mainspring Press and look forward to further opportunities to explore the history of recording in the United States together.

John Bolig Victor Black Label Discography Volume 5

The American Discography Project (ADP) is proud to announce the availability in electronic form of the concluding volume of John Bolig’s Victor Black Label Discography. This fifth volume in the series covers Victor Records’ black label popular releases from catalog number 25000, through to the end of the series, with disc 27980. Concurrent with the preparation of the downloadable version, ADP editors have completed DAHR online entries for every master issued on double-sided Victor black label recordings.

The Bolig black label discographies provide authoritative descriptions of close to 24,000 master recordings issued by Victor Records between 1908 and 1942. The earliest discs documented in the volumes were the company’s first releases of two-sided recordings. Considered as a whole, Victor’s double-faced black label discs represent the very broad spectrum of music popular in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Some of the first releases were reissues of recordings made as early as 1904. The series concluded in the summer of 1942 when Victor’s musical recording activities were interrupted by the Recording Ban of the American Federation of Musicians.

The previous volumes in this series have been published, and and are offered for sale, by Mainspring Press. In recognition of his Victor research and discographies, John Bolig was awarded the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

American Discography Project editors have been working with John Bolig for twelve years. We have been guided by his expertise and inspired by his standards of scholarship. The ADP is honored by the opportunity to make this significant achievement and important resource available to the public. Volume five of the Victor Black Label Discography is available here as a PDF that may be downloaded free of charge. Database records for the same group of recordings have been added to DAHR, a sampling of them with embedded streaming versions.

What's going on

ADP editors are presently tackling a special project, the documentation of every Victor double-faced popular black label issue. When we’re done, DAHR users will have at hand definitive discographic documentation relating to every Victor issue within its most popular series of recordings, double-faced ten-inch recordings—from Victor 16000 through the end of the 27000 series. The series comprises nearly 12,000 discs issued over the course of 35 years, from 1908 to 1942.

We're very fortunate to have the assistance of discographer John Bolig in this work. John's print discographies, all published by Mainspring Press, are authoritative. His four black label volumes cover releases 16000 through the 24900s. (Victor didn't issue a disc under every single number in the sequence.) A fifth volume, documenting issues 25000 through the 27900s, will not be published in book form. John has generously provided the ADP with access to this data and on the complete black label series. We are now adding the entries for masters that contributed to that final block of numbers, 25000 through 27980, about 1,000 sides a week. Very soon our users will have at their fingertips listings and details of every Victor release in its ten-inch popular black label series. Great thanks to John Bolig for his assistance with the project. John's books are highly recommended by the ADP. Purchase a set before they go out-of-print.

Smith and Stanley

Among our present projects is documentation of OKeh masters of the 1920s. Early OKeh repertoire is not very different from contemporary pop releases of Victor and Columbia: concert bands, dance bands, small vocal ensembles, Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Ada Jones, the Green Brothers, and the like. Several months ago we posted documentation of OKeh master S-7529, “Crazy blues” by Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, recorded August 10, 1920. Smith’s “Crazy blues” is widely recognized as a landmark recording, the first vocal recording of “vaudeville blues” by an African American singer. (It‘s essential to qualify “firsts.”) “Crazy blues” is far from what we expect today of a vocal blues recording. It is very much of its time, as much novelty as vernacular in form and expression. Its significance now is heralding the beginning of the era of African American blues “shouters” and revealing the potential of recordings by and for African Americans.

Users of the DAHR are encouraged to explore the Date Browse function of website. DAHR reveals recordings made the same day by all of the record companies included in the DAHR. The website shows that the very day that Smith recorded “Crazy blues,” the prolific white vocalist, Aileen Stanley, recorded “The Broadway blues” for Victor. Stanley, now nearly forgotten, was a very talented and successful artist.

Users of the DAHR will note the ever-increasing breadth of OKeh’s repertoire, as the company discovers and exploits the emerging markets for “race” and “hillbilly” recordings, while providing new outlets for performances by well-established recording artists.

Foray into OKeh

We recently began posting OKeh masters to the website. Our work is an electronic adaptation of Ross Laird’s and Brian Rust’s Discography of OKeh Records, 1918-1934 (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2004), and represents the fourth record label to be included in the DAHR website. We'll have 3000 OKeh masters online in a few days and hundreds will be added each week.

As with data that form the basis of our documentation of Berliner and early Columbia recordings, the information provided by Messrs. Laird and Rust here is derived from existing discs and trade catalogs. Corporate archives, which form the basis of our Victor data, do not exist for Berliner and the early years of OKeh and Columbia. As a result, a lot of information about the early activities of OKeh remains unknown. Of the 15000 or so master numbers used by OKeh between 1918 and 1932, about 1200 remain mysteries. No information is known of the titles or the artists. That's not to say that none were issued, however. Below is a list of some of the discs for which the underlying matrix number is unknown. If any readers here happen to own any of these discs, and the matrix number is discernable, we'd love to hear from you in order to fill in our blanks.

Untraced OKeh Issues

The OKeh record sides shown below are some of those for which the underlying matrix number remains unknown to the editors. As a result, details on these records have not been included in the matrix listings. If you own or have access to any of these, please share the information with us so that we may add it to the body f the discography.

 

Issue No.

Artist

Title

4025

Sam Ash

A pretty girl is like a melody

 

Carroll Shannon

Smiling thru'

4029

Joseph Phillips

Hindu rose

4048

Van Eps Quartette

'Round the comer

 

Green Bros. Xylophone Orch.

Turko

4058

Conway's Band

A la carte - One-step

 

   "           "

Ching-a-ling - One-step

4101

Rega Dance Orchestra

When the sun goes down in Cairo Town

 

   "           "         "                       

Oriental stars

4109

All Star Trio

Whose baby are you?

 

Green Bros. Novelty Band

Manyana

4111

Sam Ash

Ages and ages

 

Billy Jones

Everybody's buddy

4115

Joseph Knecht's Waldorf-Astoria Orch.

Zoma

4123

Joseph Knecht's Waldorf-Astoria Orch.

The crocodile

 

All Star Trio

Hullo, home

4129

American Quartette

I love the land of Old Black Joe

4142

Harry McClaskey

Because

 

Carroll Shannon

Dear heart

4147

Harvey Hindermyer

You and your smile

 

Reed Miller

Shadows of love

4148

Elliott Shaw

I'm waiting for ships that never come in

 

Shannon Four

I'm on my way

4150

Sterling Trio

My Dixie rosary

 

Hart & Shaw

Mammy's goodnight lullaby

4186

James & Shaw

Moonlight in Mandalay

 

Neilson & James

Sweet Luana

4200

Lewis James

Out where the West begins

 

Eugene T. Spencer

Rose of my heart

4229

Billy Jones

Broadway rose

 

Lewis James

Little crumbs of happiness

4240

Mario Perry, accordion

You're just like a rose

 

   "           "          "

It isn't what she does

4308

Rega Dance Orchestra

Until we part

4347

Billy Jones

Oh they're such nice people

 

Jones & Hare

Down yonder

4349

Natzy's Hotel Biltmore Orch.

Just keep a thought for me

 

   "           "         "                       

Every night

4393

Bernard Ferguson

Bedouin love song

 

   "           "                                 

Where my caravan has rested

4431

Wilfred Glenn

Saved by grace

 

   "           "        

Just as I am

4434

Bernard Ferguson

On the road to Mandalay

 

Charles E..Galagher

Armorer's song

4443

Damon's Orchestra

Fancies

 

Joseph Knecht's Waldorf-Astoria Orch.

Figaro

 

Glantz & His Orchestra

Senorita

4500

Damon's Orchestra

Blue moon

 

   "           "                                 

Goodbye pretty butterflies

4505

Blue Diamond Dance Orch.

Hawaiian starlight

4538

No information known

 

4567

Glantz & His Orchestra

Wana

 

   "           "         "                       

Never mind

4574

The Original Six

Don't forget

 

   "           "        

Eyes

4584

Kennedy & Hare

Mutt and Jeff on socialism

 

   "           "        

Bringing up Father with Lloyd George

4588

Vaughn De Leath

Can't feel jolly blues

4592

Glantz & His Orchestra

Waltz me, Sweetie, waltz me

4593

Markel's Orchestra

Idola

 

   "           "         "                       

High brown blues

4603

Joseph Phillips

Flee as a bird

4610

Markel's Orchestra

Black eyed blues

 

Rega Dance Orchestra

Poor little me

4613

Sterling Trio

That tumble-down shack in Athlone

4639

Glantz & His Orchestra

Blushes

4651

Shannon Four

All hail the power of Jesus' name

 

   "           "        

Ten thousand times ten thousand

4695

Rega Dance Orchestra

Ja-da blues

4763

Rega Dance Orchestra

Flower of Araby

4799

Sibyl S. Fagan, Whistling

April sighs

4810

Vincent Lopez & Hotel Pennsylvania Orch.

Think of me

 

   "           "         "                       

Without you                                       

4825

Banta & Hess, piano duet

Corn on the cob

 

   "           "         "                       

Slipova

4853

Gaylord & Gaylord

Over the waves

 

   "           "         "                       

Happy days

4860

Billy Jones

Little rover

 

Lewis James

That's why I cried over you

4870

Billy Jones

South Sea eyes

 

Virginia Burt

Honolulu honeymoon

4873

Elinor Remick Warren, piano

Papillons

 

   "           "         "                       

Country dance no.1

4957

Joseph Phillips

Cinderella

 

   "           "                                 

The Pied Piper

7001

Conway's Band

Trovatore

 

   "           "

Reminiscences of Verdi

8081

No information known

 

8131

Plantation Trio

Chicken opera

 

  "            "

Oh! What a time

8165

Lawrence Lomax

Without you dear

 

  "            "

Sweetheart mine

8204

Williams and Todd

Just a cotton picker's blues

 

Clarence Williams

Temptation blues

8271

Billy King

Blessed with trouble

 

  "       "

Runnin' round

8406

George McClennon

Disaster

 

  "            "

Narrow escape

The Columbia Master Book Discography is now complete in DAHR

The American Discography Project adaptation of Tim Brooks’ and Brian Rust’s four-volume Columbia Master Book Discography is now entirely online. Major US master series of Columbia’s Records, comprising more than 32,000 matrix records of 1901 through July 1934, are now documented in the database.

A Lot of Help from Our Friends

The original sources of our listings of early Columbia releases are volumes one and four of Tim Brooks’ and Brian Rust’s Columbia master book discography (Greenwood Press, 1999). The basis of our listings of U.S. Berliner discs, also recently added to the website, is the first edition of Paul Charosh’s Berliner discography (Greenwood Press, 1995). Thanks to the generosity and expertise of two collectors and early recording authorities, Tim Brooks and David Giovannoni, we have been able to augment the database's documentation of these labels significantly.

Original paper documentation that outline activities of early record companies is usually scarce. Most of the information on Berliner and early Columbia discs found in the books adapted for our database was obtained through examination of individual discs and trade catalogs. Tim Brooks and David Giovannoni have provided the editors with information about hundreds of recordings that have been discovered since publication of the print volumes. We're enormously grateful to these two men for their commitment to recording history scholarship and contributions to enhance this work.

Many other collectors, too, have contributed to our work. They are listed on our Acknowledgements page.

Editing of Brazilian Releases Begins

Victor recorded in Brazil as early as 1907 but they didn't set up permanent operations in Brazil until 1927. After they did, a flood of Brazilian sides began to be recorded and issued on 78rpm discs for the local market as well as export. More than 8,700 titles were issued before the last 78rpm discs were pulled off the presses in 1963.

There are several data sources documenting Victor’s Brazilian issues and Jonathan Ward of Excavated Shellac has just joined the UCSB team to work on this corpus of data and prepare it for online publication. Over the next 12 months information on the 1920s and 1930s recordings from Brazil will be put online, making the DAHR more comprehensive and representative of Victor's global recording output.

Welcome EDVR Users

All web traffic from the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) is now being redirected to the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR). All of the content of EDVR now appears in DAHR along with the addition of thousands of new entries. You should be seamlessly redirected from the page you were seeking on the old site to the equivalent page on the new site. If the page you were redirected from doesn't work correctly, try your search again using the new search tools above, or if you encounter problems, please contact ADP staff.

Launch of the Discography of American Historical Recordings

With the generous support of the Packard Humanities Institute, the American Discography Project releases the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) an online database with discographic information on over 100,000 recordings made in the early years of the American recording industry.

The Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) is an expansion of the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR), a project started nearly fifty years ago to systematically document all recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey. Founded by discographers Ted Fagan and William R. Moran, the EDVR project has been based at the library of the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2005.

DAHR is the result of years of planning to create a single, integrated, and authoritative discography of every disc recorded during the 78rpm era, from the early 1890s through the mid-1950s. For its initial launch, discographic information on recordings made by the Berliner Gramophone Co. (1892-1900) and Columbia Records (1908-1925) compiled by noted discographers Paul Charosh, Brian Rust, and Tim Brooks is being added to the existing data for Victor Records (1900-1931).

In cooperation with the Library of Congress, extant recordings are systematically being digitized and added to the database, creating unparalleled access to our recorded sound heritage. Ten thousand Victor recordings are already available online as streaming files, and more than 10,000 more Victor and Columbia recordings have been digitized and will be added in the near future.

In the coming months and years, additional discographic data for OKeh, Brunswick, Decca, Edison, and other labels will be added to the database, along with tens of thousands more sound files, creating a truly comprehensive and authoritative research resource on American historical sound recordings.

Please report any issues you encounter with the database to eldridgerjohnson@gmail.com For a list of known bugs, click here.

New Website Faceting

The transition from the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings to the Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR) is more than a "re-branding." In addition to the new record companies (Columbia and Berliner) added to the discography, we have redesigned the website and added or expanded various features.

Faceted searching has been significantly expanded on the DAHR website to help users home in on masters of particular interest.

 

It is very simple to restrict browsing to masters made by one record company. Once a company is selected users have the option of selecting a company's specific matrix series, and sub-series.

It is very easy to browse names in the discography by selecting leading characters of a name at the top of the website page.

Some users are particularly interested in recording field trips made by the record companies, or other special series of masters. Users can search recording locations, such as "Buenos Aires," "Chicago," or even "Camden," in the Basic Search box. The Recording Series facet on the Browse Matrix Numbers page now enables instant listings of Ralph Peer's 1927 Bristol, Tenn. recordings, and other major field trips, and Victor's motion picture soundtracks.

This article is the first in a series of articles on the new features of the Discography of American Historical Recordings.

Analysis of Asian Recording Series

Jonathan Ward's extensive research into the Asian recording series of the Victor Talking Machine Company is now online. With the growth of the Chinese middle class, there has been an explosion of interest in early Chinese recordings, and for the first time all known series are documented in one place. While very few of the discs are documented in DAHR, Jon's research is the first step toward understand what documentation exisits so that they can be added to the discography.

Feedback or corrections can be sent to the editors at the link below.

Packard Humanities Institute Renews Project Funding

The Packard Humanities Institute has renewed funding for the American Discography Project for another two years, allowing work to continue on the expansion of the Discography of American Historical Recordings. A $500,000 grant will fund acquisitions and keying of Michael Ruppli's Decca discography as well as continuation of the editing of Columbia, Okeh, and Brunswick.

The support also allows staff to continue their support of the Library of Congress National Jukebox, which is expanding the scope of digitized matrial to include all Sony owned pre-1925 catalog including Okeh, Brunswick and Columbia.

The visionary long-term committement of the Packard Humanities Institute to projects like the ADP allow for work like this to be undertaken on a large scale and the UCSB Library is grateful for their continued support.

 

Motion Picture Soundtrack Recordings in the DAHR

The Institute of the American Musical, directed by Miles Kreuger, very kindly provided DAHR editors with access to several Victor company documents in the institute's collections. Among them are two recording books, or ledgers, that describe the creation of thousands of early motion picture soundtrack recordings made by Victor Records in Camden and in Culver City, California.

More than 5,000 of the master recordings made in 1929 and 1930 are now documented in DAHR. Upon learning of our work with the ledgers, music scholar, bandleader, and friend of DAHR Vince Giordano was anxious to hear what information the ledgers provide about the names of the musicians who contributed to these early soundtracks. Alas, the ledgers are disappointing in this regard. For example, the ledgers and DAHR cannot contribute to solving the mystery of the identity of the dance band members heard on so many Laurel and Hardy shorts recorded by RCA Victor, a particular interest of Vince.

Few musicians are listed in the Institute of the American Musical ledgers. DAHR entries derived from the ledgers occasionally reveal the name of a Victor house band member, or a Victor artist who contributed to a motion picture soundtrack. (For instance, Billy Murray is responsible for some sound effects to the film The Kat's Meow.) Also, some might believe that the content of the motion picture ledgers is disappointing because so many of the masters are straight film-to-disc transfers, presumably the creation of Vitaphone-type master records for theaters that had yet to switch to sound-on-film systems.

We find several aspects of the motion picture recordings fascinating, however. They provide a new resource for the study of the early sound era of the movies. Many of the masters were created as special "censored" versions, marked as made to comply with entertainment decency guidelines of specific U.S. states. Technical information is included for some of the early sound-on-film recordings made by Victor, and familiar names do indeed turn up in the ledgers. One of our favorites is "Siegfried Rumann," named often in the ledgers as one of the speakers on German-language soundtracks of American films that Victor recorded. No doubt this is character actor Sig Ruman, well known for his role as Groucho Marx's nemesis, "Mr. Gottlieb," in A Night at the Opera.

This article is the second in a series of articles on the new features of the Discography of American Historical Recordings.

New Editor - Katy Costantinidis

The American Discography Project (ADP) is pleased to welcome Katy Costantinidis as our newest Editorial Assistant. Katy worked as a student researcher on the Project for two years before joining the staff full time this fall. She started by editing the Berliner Gramophone Co. data and is now working on general editing of data for Columbia Records.

Columbia Records Being Digitized

Under contract from the Library of Congress, the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library is digitizing 6,000 sides recorded by Columbia Records before 1925 for inclusion in the Library of Congress National Jukebox website and the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) database.

Drawn initially from the UCSB Library’s vast holdings of early acoustical recordings, 6,000 recordings made by Columbia Records prior to 1925 are being digitized and will be linked to the discographic records. These include domestic Columbia issues such as Tin Pan Alley songs, operatic recordings, and instrumental and band recordings, as well as ethnic recordings for domestic distribution and recordings made by Columbia’s extensive foreign operations in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere.

A second and third phase of the digitization operation is being planned, with further digitization of Columbia discs as well as discs recorded by Okeh, Brunswick, Edison, and other companies.

Brunswick, Okeh Discographies Licensed, To Be Added to EDVR

The American Discography Project (ADP) has licensed electronic publication rights for Okeh and Brunswick discographies from publisher ABC-CLIO for the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR). The Discography of OKeh Records, 1918-1934 by Ross Laird and Brian Rust (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004) is the most comprehensive discography of Okeh’s recordings of the 1920s and 1930s, including their groundbreaking "race" and ethnic series. Likewise, Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931 by Ross Laird (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001) is similarly comprehensive for the years prior to Brunswick’s acquisition by ARC in 1931 and includes the hot dance music Brunswick recorded in the 1920s.

The printed books have been keyed into a database format by a firm specializing in conversion of books to electronic format. The data will then be imported into the ADP master database and edited by UCSB’s team of editors.

The acquisition of these titles and integration of print discographies into EDVR, UCSB's comprehensive online database of 78rpm recordings, will enable researchers for the first time to see an integrated view of the early history of the American recording industry, allowing searches of all recordings made on a particular date, by a particular artist or composer, by particular instrumental forces, in a certain language, or marketed to certain ethnic groups—regardless of which record label made the recording.

The projected date for making the data public has not been firmly set but will likely be in late 2014 or early 2015.

New Editor - Fran Smith

The American Discography Project (ADP) is pleased to welcome Fran Smith as our newest Associate Editor. Fran worked for the American Film Institute in Los Angeles as an editor on the AFI catalog for many years before joining the ADP team. She is currently editing data on Victor recordings from the 1930s. With her background in music and music librarianship, combined with her editorial experience at AFI, she is perfectly suited to editing Victor's 1930s recordings.

Columbia Records Data Licensed

The American Discography Project (ADP) has reached an agreement with ABC-CLIO, publisher of The Columbia Master Book Discography, to license the data compiled by Brian Rust and Tim Brooks on domestic Columbia recordings made before 1934. The monumental four-volume work is a landmark of discographic publishing and will be edited to meet the content and format standards of the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR).

The Columbia Master Book Discography by Tim Brooks and Brian Rust (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999) is the most comprehensive discography of Columbia Records from the earliest recordings in 1900 until their sale to ARC in 1934.

The printed books have been keyed into a database format by a firm specializing in conversion of books to electronic format. The data has been imported into the ADP master database and is being edited by UCSB’s team of editors.

The integration of print discographies into EDVR, UCSB's comprehensive online database of 78rpm recordings, will enable researchers for the first time to see an integrated view of the early history of the American recording industry, allowing searches of all recordings made on a particular date, by a particular artist or composer, by particular instrumental forces, in a certain language, or marketed to certain ethnic groups—regardless of which record label made the recording.

Columbia Master Book data will debut in the ADP's new Discography of American Historical Recordings in the Fall of 2013.

Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities

The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings is very fortunate to have been recently awarded a third grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The EDVR, and the National Jukebox to which the discography provides cataloging information, would not be possible without the generous support of the Endowment.

"Lights for Starting and Stopping Talent"

There are not a lot of first-hand accounts of how recording sessions were conducted during the acoustical era. For that reason, EDVR editors were pleased to recently come across a set of instructions to recording talent on when to begin and end their performances.  The instructions below were written in Spanish on a page in the ledgers maintained by Victor recording specialists who traveled to Puerto Rico and South America to record in 1917.

  • When the bell rings, get ready.
  • When the white light goes on, keep quiet.
  • When the green light goes on, begin singing or whatever.
  • When the red light goes on, it’s an indication that you should stop singing or whatever at the soonest and most opportune moment. You should never stop in the middle of a piece, verse, or word because the red light has gone on.
  • After talent[?] finishes singing, you should not move from your position or make any kind of noise  until the red light goes off.

Lima. Aug. 29, 1917

Asian Recordings Project

In 1902-1903, with a series of discs featuring traditional Chinese opera, the Victor Talking Machine Company began recording the music of Asian cultures, and subsequently marketing those records to Asian communities in the United States. In the ensuing years, Victor expanded its reach to Asia itself, eventually opening thriving offices in both China and Japan.

Between the early 20th century and 1940, Victor had issued thousands of discs for Asian markets. While they focused predominantly on the traditional and popular music of Japan and China, Victor and its satellite offices also recorded the music of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, as well as a few Indian recordings. Chinese opera from Fuzhou, Korean aak court music, Vietnamese cải lương—Victor recorded it all.

Unfortunately, very little original documentation on Victor’s master recordings for Asian markets has been preserved. The editorial staff at UC Santa Barbara's Encylopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) has begun surveying and collecting extant documentation, and with the assistance of scholars and collectors we are researching the scope of Victor’s Asian output. The end result will be a definitive overview of the range of recordings produced, the series names and numbers, the number of master recordings released (or reissued), and the genres recorded. The eventual goal is to gather enough information, including label scans, to include Victor's Asian issues in the EDVR.

As an example, a detailed survey of the 42000 10" double-faced Chinese series has been completed and other similar surveys are under way to help us better understand the extent of Victor's Asian operations. Victor's 42000 double-faced Chinese series began ca. 1910 and initially contained both original recordings and recouplings of Victor's earlier single-faced Chinese issues from as early as 1902. As Victor continued recording Chinese-language masters, it became the primary series for recordings marketed to Chinese in the United States and in Asia and contained a variety of Chinese dialects. The last 42000 was issued sometime in the teens, but the 43000 series continued on until the late 1920s.

For any questions, or if you wish to participate in the project, contact:

Jonathan Ward, Associate Editor for Asia
Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings
ward_jonathan@hotmail.com

Update

Recently, I've been making changes to the locations of very early Victor recording sessions. Victor expert John Bolig questioned why we set so many early 1900s sessions in Camden, and not Philadelphia. He reminded me of the research conducted by Allan Sutton at Mainspring Press and of the entries in the memoirs written by the Sooy brothers, Raymond and Harry, both early employees of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Harry O. Sooy's "Memoir of my Career at Victor Talking Machine Company" notes that Victor's "laboratory,"  as they called their recording studio in the early days, moved from Camden to Philadelphia in September 1901. He puts it at the middle of the month. I noted a gap in recording activities between Sept. 14 and Oct. 5, 1901, so we're speculating that all recordings made prior to Sept. 15 were made in Camden, New Jersey.

Raymond Sooy's "Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company" states that they moved recording activities back to Camden the week of November 25, 1907. Our Victor data bear out Sooy's date. After Nov. 22, 1907, there are no domestic recording sessions until Dec. 9, 1907.

So, on the basis of these leads and evidence in the data, we recently changed the recording locations of nearly every pre-1908 Victor session. Still, unless we saw a specific location noted in Victor ledgers, you'll find "unconfirmed" by most place names in that era.

The capability to revisit these records makes me grateful that this is a dynamic, online project. Three of the advantages of an online, as opposed to print, reference source are: a) we are able to offer it free of charge; b) there are fewer constraints on the amount and detail of content, with no paper or printing costs; and c) our inevitable errors need not exist for all time to haunt us. Unfortunately, large reference resources such as DAHR are bound to include errors, because of inaccessible or nonexistent sources, errors in sources, and, of course, mistakes in editing. We revise DAHR entries constantly to incorporate information contributed by users, add information found in new sources, and fix our mistakes.