May 6th, 2009
By: Sam Brylawski
Recently, I've been making changes to the locations of very early recording sessions. Victor expert John Bolig questioned why we set so many early 1900s sessions in Camden, and not Philadelphia. He reminded me of the research conducted by Allan Sutton at Mainspring Press and of the entries in the memoirs written by the Sooy brothers, Raymond and Harry, both early employees of Victor Talking Machine Company. Harry O. Sooy's "Memoir of my Career at Victor Talking Machine Company" notes that Victor's "laboratory," as they called their recording studio in the early days, moved from Camden to Philadelphia in September of 1901. He puts it at the middle of the month. I noted a gap in recording activities between Sept. 14 and Oct. 5, 1901 so we're speculating that all recordings made prior to Sept. 15 were made in Camden, NJ.
Raymond Sooy's "Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company" states that they moved recording activities back to Camden the week of November 25, 1907. Our Victor data bear out Sooy's date. After Nov. 22, 1907, there are no domestic recording sessions until Dec. 9, 1907.
So, on the basis of these leads and evidence in the data, we recently changed the recording locations of nearly every pre-1908 session. Still, unless we saw a specific location noted in Victor ledgers, you'll find "unconfirmed" by most place names in that era.
The capability to revisit these records makes me grateful that this is a dynamic, online project. Three of the advantages of an online, as opposed to print, reference source are: a) we are able to offer it free of charge; b) there are fewer constraints on the amount and detail of content, with no paper or printing costs; and c) our inevitable errors need not exist for all time to haunt us. Unfortunately, large reference resources such as EDVR are bound to include errors, because of inaccessible or nonexistent sources, errors in sources, and, of course, mistakes in editing. We revise EDVR entries constantly to incorporate information contributed by users, add information found in new sources, and fix our mistakes.
Asian Recordings Project
July 26th, 2010
By: Jon Ward
In 1902-1903, with a series of discs featuring traditional Chinese opera, the Victor Talking Machine Company began recording the music of Asian cultures, and subsequently marketing those records to Asian communities in the United States. In the ensuing years, Victor expanded its reach to Asia itself, eventually opening thriving offices in both China and Japan. Between the early 20th century and 1940, Victor had issued thousands of discs for Asian markets. While they focused predominantly on the traditional and popular music of Japan and China, Victor and its satellite offices also recorded the music of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, as well as a few Indian recordings. Chinese opera from Fuzhou, Korean aak court music, Vietnamese cải lương – Victor recorded it all.
Unfortunately, very little original documentation on Victor’s master
recordings for Asian markets has been preserved. The editorial staff at
UC Santa Barbara's Encylopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR)
has begun surveying and collecting extant documentation, and with the
assistance of scholars and collectors, we are researching the scope of
Victor’s Asian output. The end result will be a definitive overview of
the range of recordings produced, the series names and numbers, the
number of master recordings released (or reissued), and the genres
recorded. The eventual goal is to gather enough information, including
label scans, to include Victor's Asian issues in the EDVR.
As an example, a detailed survey of the 42000 10" double-faced Chinese
series has been completed and other similar surveys are under way to
help us better understand the extent of Victor's Asian operations.
Victor's 42000 double-faced Chinese series began ca. 1910 and initially
contained both original recordings, as well as recouplings of Victor's
earlier single faced Chinese issues from as early as 1902. As Victor
continued recording Chinese language masters, it became the primary
series for recordings marketed to Chinese in the US and in Asia and
contained a variety of Chinese dialects. The last 42000 was issued
sometime in the teens, but the 43000 series continued on until the late
For any questions, or if you wish to participate in the project, contact:
Jonathan Ward, Associate Editor for Asia
Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings
"Lights for Starting and Stopping Talent"
December 1st, 2010
By: Sam Brylawski
There are not a lot of first-hand accounts of how recording sessions were conducted during the acoustical era. For that reason, EDVR editors were pleased to recently come across a set of instructions to recording talent on when to begin and end their performances. The instructions below were written in Spanish on a page in the ledgers maintained by Victor recording specialists who traveled to Puerto Rico and South America to record in 1917.
- When the bell rings, get ready.
- When the white light goes on, keep quiet.
- When the green light goes on, begin singing or whatever.
- When the red light goes on, it’s an indication that you should stop singing or whatever at the soonest and most opportune moment. You should never stop in the middle of a piece, verse, or word because the red light has gone on.
- After talent[?] finishes singing, you should not move from your position or make any kind of noise until the red light goes off.
Lima. Aug. 29, 1917
Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities
May 18th, 2011
The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings is very fortunate to have been recently awarded a third grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The EDVR, and the National Jukebox to which the discography provides cataloging information, would not be possible without the generous support of the Endowment.