Audio Playlists

Irish-American Bands & Electric Recording, 1920s–1940s

12 Sound Recordings
Section: Audio Playlists
Tagged: Dublin, Armagh

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Early forms of sound recording were ‘acoustic’, that is, the sounds produced by singers and musicians were directed into a horn and cut mechanically by a vibrating needle into a groove on a cylinder or disc. The resulting playback sound was constricted and relatively unnatural. But in the mid-1920s the introduction of electric microphones and ‘electrical’ sound recording brought a great increase in fidelity of sound. It also enabled a much greater sound dynamic to be captured, and this had a particular advantage in recording large ensembles like dance bands.

Larger Irish-American bands, of the kind that had been playing in dance halls in the eastern cities since the late 19th century, took advantage of the new medium, and the recordings they made began appearing from 1926. They featured the full band ensembles, as in their performances in the halls, and also the band vocalists and instrumental soloists. The selection presented here from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive represents ensembles from New York, Boston and Chicago, which comprised mainly Irish-born musicians playing traditional music. Combinations of instrumental sounds never before heard in Irish music were heard on these recordings, which give us our first insights into large Irish ensemble playing.

By way of contemporary contrast and contextualisation, the selection concludes with an ‘Irish’ song by the famous Irish-American Bing Crosby and a rendering of one of the most famous Irish melodies by what was possibly the most famous of the American big bands.

With thanks to record donors Jim Brophy, John Cullinane, Ciarán Dalton, Vincent Duffe, John Loesberg, Mrs Walter Maguire, Dan Maher, Matt Murtagh, & Kieran Owens.

NC & DD, 1 December 2011

Irish-American Bands & Electric Recording, 1920s–1940s Image

Irish-American Bands & Electric Recording, 1920s–1940s
Title:Irish-American Bands & Electric Recording, 1920s–1940s