Two “Circles of Resonance”

William Howland Kenney

in Recorded Music in American Life

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195171778
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849789 | DOI:
                   Two “Circles of Resonance”

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Reimagining the historical influence of the phonograph and recorded music in American life this chapter begins with a reconsideration of Evan Eisenberg's description of domestic consumer phonograph culture. Eisenberg imagined domestic interactions of Americans with the phonograph as “ceremonies of a solitary”, ritualistic observances in which the listener summons forth the sound of voices and musical instruments of his or her own choosing. The talking machine fragmented the unifying role of live music in late 19th-century social rituals. This chapter compares two different but interrelated patterns of listeners' reaction to phonograph records in the United States between 1890 and 1945. The first circle of popular resonance to phonographic sound emerges from the analysis of responses by a group of 2,644 Americans who filled out a survey undertaken in 1921 by Thomas A. Edison Inc. The second pattern of phonographic culture—circles of jazz resonance—first emerged at about the same time, flourished in tension with Edison's consumers, and died in the depression, only to be revived once it was over.

Keywords: Evan Eisenberg; phonograph; recorded music; talking machine; United States; listeners; records; jazz; survey; Thomas A. Edison Inc.

Chapter.  9191 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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