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Recorded Music in American LifeThe Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890-1945$
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William Howland Kenney

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195171778

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195171778.001.0001

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“His Master’s Voice”

“His Master’s Voice”

The Victor Talking Machine Company and the Social Reconstruction of the Phonograph

(p.44) 3 “His Master’s Voice”
Recorded Music in American Life

William Howland Kenney

Oxford University Press

The history of the phonograph clearly demonstrates important ways in which economic and cultural forces have shaped technological inventions in the world. In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the first functioning prototype of the phonograph, but others subsequently patented major improvements and, in the process, reinvented and reconstructed the phonograph and means of recording sound. In some ways, phonograph technology did determine the broad outlines of sound recording from the popular music in the 1890s to opera in the 1910s. All of the great pioneers of the phonograph industry—Thomas A. Edison; Emile Berliner, inventor of the flat disc; Edward Easton; and Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder and director of the Victor Talking Machine Company—agreed that their invention should become a permanent part of every American home. The Victor Talking Machine Company reinforced the upper and middle levels of an American musical hierarchy in recorded music. This aesthetic stance influenced the initial desire to make records abroad and the subsequent program of recording within the United States for sale to this country's immigrants.

Keywords:   Eldridge Reeves Johnson, Victor Talking Machine Company, phonograph, Thomas Edison, recorded music, United States, sound recording, popular music, records

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