Recording Studios on Tour: The Expeditions of the Victor Talking Machine Company through Latin America, 1903-1926

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During the early twentieth century, recording technicians travelled around the world on behalf of the multinational recording companies. Producing recordings with vernacular repertoires not only became an effective way to open local markets for the talking machines that these same companies were manufacturing. It also allowed for an unprecedented global circulation of local musics. This dissertation focuses on the recording expeditions lead by the Victor Talking Machine Company through several cities in Latin America during the acoustic era. Drawing from untapped archival material, including the daily ledgers of the expeditions, the following pages offer the first comprehensive history of these expeditions while focusing on five areas of analysis: the globalization of recorded sound, the imperial and transcultural dynamics in the itinerant recording ventures of the industry, the interventions of “recording scouts” for the production of acoustic records, the sounding events recorded during the expeditions, and the transnational circulation of these recordings. I argue that rather than a marginal side of the music industry or a rudimentary operation, as it has been usually presented hitherto in many histories of the phonograph, sound recording during the acoustic era was a central and intricate area in the business; and that the international ventures of recording companies before 1925 set the conditions of possibility for the consolidation of media entertainment as a defining aspect of consumer culture worldwide through the twentieth century. Furthermore, by focusing on the interactions between Victor’s traveling recording agents and multiple performers and intermediaries in Latin America, I question top-down narratives of the international dimension of recording companies and offer, instead, a complicated picture of improvisation, untidy imperialism, intercultural misunderstandings, colonial desire, sundry sound recordings, and multimedia entanglements.

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Acoustic Era; Phonograph; Recording Expeditions; Recording Industry; Sound Recording; Victor Talking Machine Company; History; Cultural anthropology; Music history


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Madrid, Alejandro L.

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Pond, Steven F.
Piekut, Benjamin D.
Sierra, Roberto

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Ph.D., Music

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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