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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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The Phonograph and the Evolution of “Foreign” and “Ethnic” Records

The Phonograph and the Evolution of “Foreign” and “Ethnic” Records

(p.65) 4 The Phonograph and the Evolution of “Foreign” and “Ethnic” Records
Recorded Music in American Life

William Howland Kenney

Oxford University Press

Cultural stereotypes in the United States constrained the involvement of immigrants with recorded music while simultaneously opening limited avenues of opportunity, especially for those from continental European nations. Just as Victorian tradition considered females particularly musical and, therefore, apt consumers of recorded music, so it taught that Europeans had invented and most skillfully developed the traditions of concert hall music that had been grafted onto the American artistic life. The phonograph industry therefore quickly turned to recording “foreign” concert hall vocal artists from Europe. Surprisingly enough, this colonial attitude eventually led the recording industry to a variety of multiculturalism dominated by European musical traditions. The importation into America of “foreign records” by European artists became a regular practice of the recording industry, interrupted (but not ended) by the two world wars. A second, culturally distinct, ethnic recording concept accelerated during World War I: that of recording for American ethnic customers the music of European immigrant musicians living in the United States.

Keywords:   United States, Europe, foreign records, ethnic recording, immigrants, recording industry, phonograph, recorded music

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