“Technology Trumps Tradition–How the Early Phonograph Industry Transformed Human Musical Experience Worldwide.”

Roger Vetter, Professor of Music SFS. May 1, 2013. (Photo by Justin Hayworth)

On March 15, Grinnell College Professor of Music Roger Vetter will give a Bucket Course talk entitled “Technology Trumps Tradition–How the Early Phonograph Industry Transformed Human Musical Experience Worldwide.” The session will take place from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. at the Caulkins Community Room, Drake Community Library. The sessions are free and open to the public. No fee or preregistration is required. Donations to support the purchase of refreshments are welcome.

Vetter explains, “The creation of the music recording industry was an epochal moment in the history of human music making because suddenly it was possible for people to experience the performance of music in a setting and at a time different from that of the performance itself. Previously, since humans first started to make music, all music making was live and imbedded in a social context that added meaning to the sounds being produced.”

From 1895-1925 a number of technological, social, industrial, and business forces converged in North America resulting in the establishment of the recording industry. In the mass-produced hardware (record players) and software (records) and in the promotional material (advertisements) of these earliest decades of the recording industry, the seeds of our current practices of consuming recorded music and integrating it into our individual lives were sown, Vetter notes.

An avid collector of both instruments and recorded music, he adds, “During my three decades of teaching music at Grinnell College I became interested in understanding more broadly my own habits of living with recorded music and asking myself questions about how they came about and what they might tell me about the musical facet of humans in general. This all led to another collecting interest (early phonographs, records, and advertising) and the seeking out of scholarship on the topic of recorded music.”

Now retired, Vetter taught a range of courses and directed ensembles at the college, while also serving in many leadership roles at both the department and college-wide levels. He has lived, taught and carried out research in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Zimbabwe and has integrated these experiences into his teaching at Grinnell. In addition to his research on the history and impact of sound recording, he is interested in musical instruments as objects of material culture. This latter interest resulted in a long term online educational resource project—The Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection—through which visitors can explore instruments from around the world either individually or in relation to one another.

Bucket Courses are sponsored by the Community Education Cooperative, including Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Grinnell College, Drake Community Library, Grinnell-Newburg School District, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Mayflower Community, Grinnell Education Partnership, Read to Lead, and Iowa Valley Community College. Videos of previous Bucket Courses are available on the YouTube channel Grinnell Community Education Cooperative.

For more information, contact Bucket Course Committee Chair Judy Hunter at judy586@gmail.com.


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