A Renewed Flow of Memories

William Howland Kenney

in Recorded Music in American Life

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195171778
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849789 | DOI:
                   A Renewed Flow of Memories

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The economic depression of the 1930s decimated the recording industry in the United States: hard times so undermined the phonograph companies that many never recovered. Victor and Columbia survived by merging with other media corporations. The Depression's long-term economic effects, combined with the development of new communication technologies, served to accelerate the expansion of a few leading recording companies into business conglomerates that supplied recorded music for movies, radio, and jukeboxes. These multimedia consolidations led to the simultaneous playing of a limited number of popular songs on movie sound tracks, radio broadcasts, and jukeboxe sounds, saturating the media with hit songs, overwhelming young and musically unformed Americans, and absorbing ethnic and race music traditions into popular music formulas. The hit record phenomenon, so often exaggerated by phonograph critics, highlights a fundamental process in popular recorded music in the United States and a phonographic paradox: the power of a particular musical performance diminishes with repeated listening.

Keywords: Depression; United States; recording industry; recording companies; consolidation; recorded music; jukeboxes; popular music; phonograph; hit songs

Chapter.  11495 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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