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Music and the New Global CultureFrom the Great Exhibitions to the Jazz Age$
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Harry Liebersohn

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226621265

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226649306.001.0001

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Phonographs around the World

Phonographs around the World

(p.177) 7 Phonographs around the World
Music and the New Global Culture

Harry Liebersohn

University of Chicago Press

Arthur Rimbaud’s ironic comments on the global expansion of the piano anticipated another development in the commoditization of music: the worldwide spread of the phonograph between 1900 and 1907. The American trade journal, Talking Machine World, is the source for tables of phonograph exports from the Port of New York. These figures raise as many questions as they answer: some large markets are missing, while small ones come and go. Qualitative descriptions supplement the quantitative evidence for the phonograph’s global expansion. The journal colorfully described the phonograph’s appearance in remote places of the extreme north such as the Bering Straits and Alaska; these articles emphasized its civilizing mission wherever it went, bringing evangelical favorites like "The Holy City." Phonographs were not magically transported, but required human ingenuity, risk and labor. Markets were unstable; executives had nervous breakdowns. The memoir of the sound engineer Raymond Sooy, who traveled to Latin America, brought to life the craft of recording and its challenges. The Columbia Records executive Edward N. Burns described the challenges of understanding foreign customers. Overall the expansion of phonographs was a human story of expanding horizons.

Keywords:   Arthur Rimbaud, Talking Machine World, “The Holy City”, Columbia Records, Edward N. Burns

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