Wednesday July 05, 2017

The Wire: How electricity changed music in the 20th century


Listen to Full Episode 54:00

The arrival of public electricity on the eve of the 20th century transformed virtually every aspect of daily life - not least of all, the experience of music. We begin our journey on The Wire with a reflection on how it has changed the way we think of the human voice, the way we communicate sound to large groups of people, and the way we now take for granted that sound is something that can be preserved, stored and heard again.

The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music first aired on CBC Radio in 2005. Each episode tells the story of how electricity changed music in the 20th century, focusing on a particular new technology. Episode 1 -- Hallo, Hallo -- looks at the microphone. The series was a 2005 Peabody Award winner. Part 2 airs Thursday, July 13. 

The Wire is presented by Jowi Taylor.  

**Note: this series is not available for download and is available for listening in Canada only due to music copyright restrictions. 

Recording, Broadcasting and the Microphone

"It's funny the way we call some music timeless. But really, when you think about it, music is so much OF its time. There are forces musical, social, technological, economic that bring them into being at just the right moment. It's electricity that makes it possible for time NOT to go by. We can capture those moments in various forms. I mean, when I look at my own music collection there's my hard-drive where so much of it lives now, there's this wall of CDs I've been collecting since 1982, there's 4 shelves of vinyl LPs, a rack of cassettes and two crates of 45rpm singles. I hardly ever play those partly because I'm so fascinated by newer and newer technologies. But when I do go to those crates or pull out that vinyl, it's like a bunch of other stuff spills out of the sleeve along with it -- the whole feeling of my room as a teenager in the basement of my parent's house, my sense of anticipation pulling off the shrink wrap, and the pale green glow of my first stereo." -- Jowi Taylor 

Guests in this episode: 

  • Bob Moog (1934-2005) an American engineer, electronic music pioneer, and the inventor of the Moog synthesizer.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) a German composer and electronic music pioneer recognized for his groundbreaking work with tape splicing and synthesized sound.
  • Steve Reich is an American composer and electronic music pioneer famous for his experimentation with tape looping techniques and minimalist compositional style.
  • Bryan deWalt is Director of the Curatorial Division at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
  • Jean MacPhail is a Canadian mezzo-soprano and distinguished voice teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
  • Monique Fortune is a professor of communications at Fordham University in New York City.
  • David Toop is an English musician, cultural critic and author of several books including Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds.
  • Jeff Healey (1966-2008) was a Canadian jazz and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter (and also an avid collector of historical recordings.)
  • Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and author of several books.

The following tracks were used in this episode: 

  • Laurie Anderson - O Superman from Big Science
  • Chet Baker - They All Laughed  from Embraceable You
  • Enrico Caruso - "O souverain, ô juge, ô père" from Le Cid by Jules Massenet
  • Dame Nellie Melba - Home Sweet Home
  • The 7th Regiment Band of New York - The Circus Girl - 1897
  • Harry Lauder - Just a Wee Deoch an Doris
  • Ernest Le Messurier - Yum Yum Yum Yum - 1925, Compo Records, Montreal
  • Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit (live) -  from Lady in Autumn: The Best of the Verve Years
  • Bing Crosby - Paradise
  • Duke Ellington - East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
  • G.F. Handel - Largo from Xerxes
  • Rudy Vallee - As Time Goes By
  • Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra - Whispering
  • Benny Goodman - Stardust
  • Duke Ellington - Black and Tan Fantasy
  • Glenn Gould - Goldberg Variation no. 6 by JS Bach (1981 recording)
  • Pink Floyd - Time from Dark Side of the Moon
  • The Beatles - A Day in the Life from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • Björk - Triumph of a Heart from Medúlla

The Wire, Episode 1 Remix was produced by DJ Meta4.  The series is produced by Chris Brookes, Paolo Pietropaolo and Jowi Taylor. It originally aired February 7, 2005 on CBC Radio 1.