On 27 June, I’ll be presenting a paper at the IASPM International Conference in Gijón. The title of my paper is ‘Listening to Europe: “Continental Records” in Britain’.
This paper examines the circulation of recordings from continental Europe in Britain prior to the Second World War, focussing on the broadcast and critical reception of recordings as found in journals such as The Gramophone. I suggest that the discourse built around “foreign” musics during this period can be seen as a forerunner of later periods of interest in international recordings, such as the Anglophone fascination with “exotica” during the 1950s/60s, the “world music” boom of the 1980s and the more recent obsession with “vinyl archaeology”. While these later periods highlight greater consumer access to foreign sounds (through tourism, world music media and access to studio technology), the pre-War period is notable for the reliance on paternalistic “experts” to mediate the sound of otherness to a relatively small and privileged audience. The period thus forms a link between what can be broadly thought of as a colonial era and an era of globalization. I analyse the desire to listen beyond the boundaries of everyday audition, the dependence on imagination and memory and desire in this process, and recordings as exemplary instantiations of the making-audible of such desires.