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CREATING A HOME CULTURE FOR THE PHONOGRAPH: WOMEN AND THE RISE OF SOUND RECORDINGS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1877-1913

Bowers, Nathan David (2007) CREATING A HOME CULTURE FOR THE PHONOGRAPH: WOMEN AND THE RISE OF SOUND RECORDINGS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1877-1913. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    This dissertation explains processes of change and adaptation undergone by the early phonographs and talking machines, documenting social and musical forces through which consumers and businessmen shaped an in-home culture for sound recordings during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a force for change in music in the home, the early phonograph embraced middle-class ideologies exemplified in the parlor of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries in order to create a domestic market. Early phonograph companies realized that women maintained and managed the affairs of the parlor, deciding what items were purchased for display and what activities were morally acceptable. Other responsibilities included controlling the household funds and providing music education in the home. For these reasons, the developing recording industry targeted women as a specific consumer group ensuring the success of the talking machine and creation of an "in-home" culture for pre-recorded music in America, one that continues to affect the way we consume music today.Initially designed as a speech recorder, Edison's invention was viewed by the majority of Americans as a machine without daily application. Instead, the phonograph needed to be identified as a perfected instrument, a piece of parlor furniture, and a device capable of saving housewives time, labor and money. By providing pre-recorded music in the form of discs, this device replaced playing and singing around the piano in the home. Opera arias were featured in the early phonograph advertisements since they represented the "best music," sung by the "greatest singers," and provided an instant source of culture, quality entertainment, education and social status for those who purchased the pre-recorded discs. Capitalizing on the "prima-donna" complex prevalent among young women of the time, the early recording industry also promised superior voice lessons by the greatest singers on repeatable discs. Finally, the early phonograph companies placed a high priority on music appreciation. The ability to enjoy "quality music" and discuss merits of a particular piece became an important display of musical ability, one as relevant and refined as actual playing and singing.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    Creators/Authors:
    CreatorsEmailORCID
    Bowers, Nathan Davidndbst13@pitt.edu
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmailORCID
    Committee ChairRoot, Deanedlr@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberFranklin, Dondof@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberLewis, Marylsm@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberBroyles, Michaelbroyles@psu.edu
    Title: CREATING A HOME CULTURE FOR THE PHONOGRAPH: WOMEN AND THE RISE OF SOUND RECORDINGS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1877-1913
    Status: Unpublished
    Abstract: This dissertation explains processes of change and adaptation undergone by the early phonographs and talking machines, documenting social and musical forces through which consumers and businessmen shaped an in-home culture for sound recordings during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a force for change in music in the home, the early phonograph embraced middle-class ideologies exemplified in the parlor of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries in order to create a domestic market. Early phonograph companies realized that women maintained and managed the affairs of the parlor, deciding what items were purchased for display and what activities were morally acceptable. Other responsibilities included controlling the household funds and providing music education in the home. For these reasons, the developing recording industry targeted women as a specific consumer group ensuring the success of the talking machine and creation of an "in-home" culture for pre-recorded music in America, one that continues to affect the way we consume music today.Initially designed as a speech recorder, Edison's invention was viewed by the majority of Americans as a machine without daily application. Instead, the phonograph needed to be identified as a perfected instrument, a piece of parlor furniture, and a device capable of saving housewives time, labor and money. By providing pre-recorded music in the form of discs, this device replaced playing and singing around the piano in the home. Opera arias were featured in the early phonograph advertisements since they represented the "best music," sung by the "greatest singers," and provided an instant source of culture, quality entertainment, education and social status for those who purchased the pre-recorded discs. Capitalizing on the "prima-donna" complex prevalent among young women of the time, the early recording industry also promised superior voice lessons by the greatest singers on repeatable discs. Finally, the early phonograph companies placed a high priority on music appreciation. The ability to enjoy "quality music" and discuss merits of a particular piece became an important display of musical ability, one as relevant and refined as actual playing and singing.
    Date: 29 June 2007
    Date Type: Completion
    Defense Date: 09 February 2007
    Approval Date: 29 June 2007
    Submission Date: 17 April 2007
    Access Restriction: No restriction; The work is available for access worldwide immediately.
    Patent pending: No
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    URN: etd-04172007-223647
    Uncontrolled Keywords: 19th-century music making; labor saving device; labor-saving device; nineteenth-century music making; perfected instrument; Victorian consumers; advertising history; history
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 14:38
    Last Modified: 08 May 2012 12:14
    Other ID: http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-04172007-223647/, etd-04172007-223647

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