Media Studies 330W–Philip Louie-Fall 2010

a blog

America On Record Chapters 8-9, 13 (Points of Interest Journal Entry #2)

Imagine having silent films as the norm for today’s entertainment.  The music and film industry would be very different.

Fortunately enough, the rise of sound emerged and shaped the 20th century as the stepping stone to evolutionary technologies.  For filmmakers, sound shaped the way the film was to be made.  “Talkies” a.ka. talking films had dialogue and music in the film.  It was very popular when it first appeared in society.  It gave Hollywood a profitable period of time.  The two major companies for film were WB and FOX.  Each were acquiring chains of theaters in preparation for exhibition.  I found it interesting that after they acquired the chains, they had rapid profits the following years.  I thought it would take a few more years before any noticed gains.

With the Great Depression entering the scene in America, and around the world, the music industry was feeling the effects which would last throughout the duration of this historical event.  Honestly, I don’t think we can survive today if there were to be a big of a depression they experienced, even though we came close roughly 2-3 years ago with our “mini depression”.  Anyways, with everything in decline, movie theater attendance was on the rise.  This was just one of the few exceptions during the Depression that didn’t feel adverse effects.  Many were going to the theaters for cheap entertainment which they could afford.  When I read this, I felt the pains they had to endure.  At least they had one good source of entertainment that was outside their homes.

When radio entered the scene, many companies were forming including RCA’s merger with Victor to become RCA Victor.  Their rival would eventually be Columbia which was known as CBS later on in 1929.  Radio stations eventually grew bigger and added local affiliates from state to state, coast-to coast.  Each provided the comfortable feeling when you come home from a hard day’s work.  Radio was the home entertainer and most would spend quite a bit of time (~5 hours) near the radio to hear music, musicals, shows, and even propaganda from the wars (e.g. WWI and WWII).  Like most people today who would spend a good portion of their week watching TV, and going online, the people back then had the time to sit down and listen to the radio.  This must’ve been a cool thing to do back then.  It makes me want to travel back in time to be a part of music history and hear the live entertainment and “fireside chats”.

Swing was one of the most popular crazes which gave rise to many big bands.  It enveloped many musical styles from fast and rowdy to sweet and soft playing.  Count Basie’s blues band and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were just some of the famous musicians/bands who entered the swing era in full force.  Their music appealed to both the young and the old.  Swing was for all ages and was thoroughly enjoyed by the masses.  Swing was more of a fad back then as it impacted youth culture; music, dance, fashion, language, and social practices.  What was neat to hear was that every band had their own uniform.  So even back then they had coordination amongst their image and appearance.  It would be dull for bands to be subjected to one direct image, or the image the record companies all designate.

After the Depression, life returned back to normal, maybe even better.  With rising sales of machines and records by the end of the 1930’s, it seemed the music industry was ready to flourish once again.  Though WWII was starting, the music industry kept striving.  Patriotic songs inspired many musicians to write songs for the troops serving for our country.  I find that with today’s society too, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has inspire many artists to write songs for the troops for example John Mayer’s Waiting on a World to Change.

Recording studios were first developed back in the later years of the 19th century with Thomas Edison’s West Orange Lab.  I thought it was kind of funny to hear that Edison calling the recording studio a lab. But seeing that it was a place for experimentation I see where he came up with his notion of the recording studio.  Reading about the studio and different kinds of positions the people held inside the studio/soundstage was really intriguing.  I didn’t knew that certain roles had more power over one another.  For example the musical director was in charge of hiring performers yet they can’t do a recording manager’s job where they set the schedules for the studio.

Many musicians (pre-Microphone days) had to crowd around a horn to record their songs. I feel for them because the studios back then were much too crowded and had to be balanced or else retakes were forced upon them.  The same for noise in the studio.  If the recording was “perfect”, it wasn’t good enough to distribute if you heard someone cough.  Luckily the microphone eventually became ubiquitous, but that had to be developed to what it is today.  Not until the 1950s I feel is when the microphone had no troubles.  All sorts of microphones like the condenser, and the multi-mic were developed in the 1940s.  It was a period of testing, and evaluation, but ultimately the successes eventually became known.  For example, with sound films.  Recorded sound was cut and mixed onto films.  Processes of dubbing, compression, and equalization would give the music/film industries better products (records, talking films) to distribute to the mass audience.  When the audience viewed the sheer quality, it was like music to their ears.

So in conclusion, I feel without the advancements of the recording studio, and the developments of sound, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Some questions to think about:

What do you think, would today be the same without the microphone?  What do you think we would use if microphones didn’t exist?

America On Record Chapters 5-7 (Points of Interest Journal Entry #1)

America on Record Chapters 5-7 and Ted Vincent’s  The Community that Gave Jazz to Chicago

The Jazz Age developed during the early 1920s, way before I was born.  It reflected the lifestyle and goals of the many people who participated in this era.  In particular the Jazz genre was a breeding ground for many black Americans like Louis Armstrong.  Cities like Chicago and New Orleans were famous for Jazz musicians who started their careers playing in clubs and dance halls.  This was the period of time where lots of creativity both imaginative and perverse took place.  The minstrel shows contained the issue of race and the challenges for the black Americans faced.  The intriguing point I found was that white performers played black roles in these shows.  The application of grease to make them look ‘black’ really spoke volumes to me.  I feel that if that were to occur in today’s society, riots and revolts would take place.

The early 20th century was a time where segregation and racism was the norm.  One of the only small exceptions was Jack Johnson who was a Jazz enthusiast and boxing champion. He was welcoming to both blacks and whites in his establishment (though only for a short awhile as his club failed after a year in 1913) as Ted Vincent explained.  Jack Johnson provided a model of the times as it was hard to have both colors in the same room as a norm during that era. Imagine if segregation was still enacted in the United States today, what would the world be like?  Without the civil rights movement for race, I feel that the course of the 20th century would greatly impact the 21st century.  We might not even get to live to see the first Black president of the United States had it not been for that moment in history which shaped the country it is today.

Moving along to a different tangent now:

With the rise of new craze dances like the cakewalk and the foxtrot also arose new technologies that impacted the world’s entertainment entering the 20th Century.  The rise of the home entertainment system (phonograph and gramophone) came into talk.  It was interesting to read about the times the people enjoyed, from the pioneering phonograph all the way to the radio set and sound on discs.  I applaud all the work the inventors and their staff who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of entertainment.  I also sympathize with the people who had to hand crank the phonographs; it must’ve been tiring just to hear a few minutes of  music.  I appreciate the music systems of today whether it’s a CD player or the iPod, the convenience (portability and no hand cranking) really got me to understand what it took to fully thank the pioneers of the music industry who got to where we are today.

The phonograph and the gramophone were literally competing with one another, one using cylinders, while the latter one used discs.  The numerous styles, formats, and inventions gave customers a variety of choices both in size and in price.

[  I agree with the pricing back then because in today’s society we are exposed to new products and they are almost always at a high price upon first release just like in Edison’s time, then improvements come into existence thus lowering the prices of the older models.  The numerous price levels almost often correlates to the purchase of these products among classes of lower, middle, and upper or the luxury as the text uses.  The luxury classes tend to have the newest products sooner before the lower classes do because they tend to have more expendable income.  The lower classes have to either save up or not get the product while the middle class have the chance to get it eventually providing they save a little money for the product.]

It seemed that the competition between them and among other companies wouldn’t cease to exist.  However, it seems in my opinion, with new research and development, the old technologies slowly will be out of the spotlight by something better and new for consumers to buy.  The rise of new technologies in the late 1920s were developed by Lee DeForest (newsreels before a film), and David Sarnoff (RCA), along with companies such as General Electric inspired a long competition to get for example the coming together of sound and image in a film, and sound on discs. The introduction to radio was a big competitor against Edison and Victor’s companies.  I feel that what those two inventors experienced in those days is also felt by today’s companies preferably the companies who still make the compact disc (CD).  New formats will always take over previous ones but won’t replace them totally.  Businesses had to keep on pace with the changes going on as years go by and the evolution of new formats which could potentially put them out of business or cut short the life of a company.

Here are examples which illustrates some important technological shifts:

(Phonographs & Gramophones (early 1900s) to  Radios Sets and Going to the Movies to watch a Sound film (1930s))

Just like in my time where I grew up buying and owning CD’s: (from CD’s to MP3 Players and iPods, online radio, and advanced cell phones and gaming consoles capable of storing music)


I think some questions to pose after reading this are:

  • Can we adapt to the next technology shift in the coming decade(s)?
  • What changes to the music and film industry will we face come 5, 10, 20 years from now?
  • Will CD’s be around in the coming years or will it continue to hover around until CD players are rendered obsolete?

Feel free to comment and consider the questions I pose for all of you to consider.

Source: Andre Millard Chapters 5-7 (Pages 96-157)

Ted Vincent article : “The Community that Gave Jazz to Chicago”


Welcome to my page for Media Studies 330W.

My name is Philip.  I’ve taken some media studies courses before, but none of them seems like this one so far judging by my impressions.  I feel this will be an interesting course to embark and I hope to get to know you all.

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