The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

May 23 – Andrea Harris Jordan and Melanie Zeck

Thursday, May 23 at 4:30 pm in Goodspeed 205
We have the honor of presenting both Melanie Zeck and Andrea Harris Jordan. Their abstracts are below, please come prepared to engage with their research.

Music plays an important role in yearly rituals, school activities, and the hobbies and daily life of the Japanese who live in the mountainous area of central Honshu, Japan. Based off a year of life and informal fieldwork in Taka-cho and its surroundings, I will paint a picture of musical life in these communities through four broad strokes. First, Japanese seasonal festivals are always accompanied by ritual music making. Second, school festivals are places of both recorded music, but especially choral music are highly prominent. Indeed, choral music and amateur music making is valued by people of all ages in Japan. Third, Western Art Music has come to hold a notable place in the musical life on Japanese people, even in small mountain towns. Fourth, I will argue that western-style recorded music is a prevalent tool in sonically demarcating the local community. – AHJ

“The ‘Victor’ in Education: The Implications of Early Sacred Music Recordings for a ‘A Higher Order of Citizenship’”
This paper explores the relationship between early sacred music recordings and the (re)defining of America’s ethical value system through music education between 1900 and 1940. A pioneer in the recorded sound industry, the Victor Talking Machine Company (VTMC), produced a continuous stream of recordings but differentiated itself from its competitors by establishing a demand for these recordings through an extensive educational program. In so doing, the VTMC strove to position itself as the nucleus of America’s musical life, as both facets of the VTMC’s agenda worked together to cultivate America’s musical taste in an era of technological innovation.
In 1910 renowned educator and founding president of the Music Supervisors National Conference Frances Elliott Clark first introduced recorded sound through Victor Talking Machines (Victrolas) in the Milwaukee public schools, championing increased exposure to music as the gateway to a “higher order of citizenship.” Recruited by the VTMC later that year to serve as chair of its new Department of Education, over the next five years, Clark oversaw the placement of Victrolas in schools throughout 2700 American cities. Her primary responsibility at VTMC was to ensure that, through the advent of recorded sound technology, all Americans had access to “good” music—namely, music that served as a tool of social uplift and as a positive force on the individual and collective moral compass of Americans. After consulting her copious writings (many of which are still in manuscript), I contend that her belief in and commitment to promoting music’s positive effect on America’s ethical value system remained stalwart throughout her career.
Meanwhile, the number of sacred music recordings produced by the VTMC increased dramatically, featuring artists such as tenor Harry Macdonough, evangelist and gospel song writer Homer Alvan Rodeheaver, and the popular Trinity Choir. I am investigating the process by which Clark and her VTMC Department of Education colleagues promoted these and other sacred music recordings to music educators. For example, in the book What We Hear in Music, A Course of Study in Music History and Appreciation (first published by VTMC’s Department of Education in 1913), author Anne Faulkner Oberndorfer recommends the study of “My Jesus, As Thou Wilt,” a hymn that had been recorded by Macdonough for the Victor label in 1902. Of particular relevance to this project, however, is my examination of the reception history of these musical recordings and the extent to which they were integrated into public school music curricula during the interwar period. – MZ

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