Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
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Saturday, May 18 • 17:00 - 17:30
Lost Recordings, "Recording" and Modernity as Marketing in the Jazz Age [SKYPE] (moderator - Steve D’Agostino)

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As the radio spread throughout American households and fundamentally transformed the intimacy of popular music, the ‘star system’ remained in its infancy. Show biz credits began to feature “recording” as a mechanism for promotion, a new concept that suggested a level of professionalism and devotion to art impossible for artists one generation prior.

Small-time musicians like Hartford native Ben Irving (nee Irving Hurwitz) led multiple bands through successful residencies over the course of the 1920’s. Several ads recovered from Hartford Courant archives and his personal archives indicated that Irving made several recordings over the course of his life and Depression-interrupted career. Unfortunately, years of internet searches and shellac digging have yet to turn up any proof that the Ben Irving Orchestra ever did record any sides.

However, Irving’s story is reflective of many limitations within the study of recording history. Though trustworthy sources indicate he was multitalented and had a strong work ethic, Irving’s story was not unique, even within the regional Jazz scene. Groups like Irving’s have vanished from history, and entire scenes in smaller cities like Hartford went relatively undocumented.

This paper will recount my research into Irving’s early musical career as well as his apocryphal recordings. The cultural and commercial value of being recorded may have transcended any intrinsic value of recordings themselves, which goes a long way to telegraph our society’s media preoccupation and obsession. Following the relationship between music and technoculture, this research may also draw parallels between the use of “recording” as cache in the 1920’s and the shuffling of platforms in contemporary popular music.

avatar for Tyler William Sonnichsen

Tyler William Sonnichsen

The University of Tennessee

Saturday May 18, 2019 17:00 - 17:30 EDT
Classroom 311 (3rd floor)

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