October, 2000 Edition
In Search of American Popular Song;
Sunday Newspaper Supplements & Digital Reconstruction/Preservation
We have mentioned a number of times that one of our main
objectives is to preserve music and manuscripts that are in danger of
being lost to us forever. Parlor Songs was founded on the idea of preserving
this music and bringing it back into the public consciousness.
No where does the need for preservation become more apparent
than with music that was printed as a part of newspapers, particularly
Sunday music supplements. From as early as the late 1800's, newspapers
began including sheet music as a bonus item in the Sunday newspapers.
Though some of the supplement music were reprints of already published
popular songs, much of this music was especially written for the newspapers
and as such represent a very limited distribution. Some became popular,
and others faded into obscurity. In all cases, music printed on newsprint
was either thrown out with the rest of the paper, used to wrap fish
or line bird cages. The remainder that survived has come down to us
mostly in ghastly condition.
There are two things that contribute to the rapid deterioration
of these rare and valuable manuscripts. Both revolve around the medium
they are printed on, newsprint. The first problem is simply that newsprint
is a light weight paper that is not resistant to tearing and other damage.
As a result, much of what we have is in very poor condition. The more
the paper was used, the more likely it was damaged. The second, and
more deleterious problem is that newsprint is typically produced with
wood pulp, rather than the cotton fiber of bond paper. Newsprint is
highly acidic and as a result, over time the acid content literally
breaks the paper down till it is brittle and simply falls to pieces.
As a result, unless preserved either chemically or digitally,
these items will simply turn to dust. All of the music presented this
month is in extreme distress. Though some of it was lovingly and carefully
cared for, the acid has nearly destroyed the paper. The result has required
us to significantly reconstruct some of the sheets and preserve them
digitally. As I worked with this month's songs, they literally were
falling apart in my hands. We present to you two views of each cover
this month. A reconstructed one and the original so you can see what
was done to preserve them. You will be able to see the second image
by placing your mouse over the cover image, move the mouse off and the
original image returns. In addition, since reconstruction and preservation
is our goal, be sure to read this month's essay
about the process of digital reconstruction and preservation. We
think you will find it interesting.
This month we continue our new format for the presentation
of our music, SCORCH. Scorch is a plug in for your browser that
will allow you to not only listen to our songs but to view the playing,
real time on sheet music WITH LYRICS! Though we often find plug-ins
to be annoying, this is one that we guarantee will be well worth the
time to download and install.
It won't be much longer that we will be able to provide midi versions,
so be sure to get the scorch player now as all music from here on out
will be in the Sibelius format. So, to get started, download the Scorch
player from Sibelius right now, then enjoy an astounding musical experience!
The player is available for Mac and PC so all of you can enjoy the experience,
regardless of platform! The player is free and only takes a minute to
download once you get to the Sibelius site, click on the "scorch"
menu item to download. Just click on the button to go to the Sibelius
site and get your free plug-in
ATTENTION WEB-TV USERS!
We want to continue to provide you with access
to our music. We know that the Scorch player will not work with WEB-TV
and are working on an alternative way for you to continue to listen
to our music. Much
of our design of this site was done with WEB-TV in mind and we appreciate
all of you and your visits to our site. Please be assured, we want you
to continue to enjoy ParlorSongs so please keep visiting us. We will
continue to provide the midi versions of our music for you until we
have explored all options.
Music by: Gertrude Hoffman
Lyrics by: Vincent Bryan
Cover artist: H.B. Eddy
all cover image links now require the "SCORCH" player to play
the midi file)This is one of the "younger"
of the supplements we are featuring this month. It is also one that
in better condition than most. It apparently was well taken care of
and stored carefully for it has remained fairly intact. If you place
your cursor over the image, you will see the condition of the original
and by comparing the two images, you can see what we have done to restore
the image. The damage to these comes in two forms, first, color loss
and a general tendency towards less contrast and a monochromatic look.
Though this one has managed to retain some of its original color, others
this month are much worse. The second problem is the aforementioned
acidity of the paper.
The song here is a wonderful patriotic song "dedicated
to the school children of America". It is intended to teach some
lessons about the flag. I found the melody to be terrific and in my
opinion this song should have lasted and stayed in the repertoire. Why
didn't it? I think it is mainly because the publication of a song in
a newspaper resulted in very little circulation, usually just in a localized
area. I also believe it is due to the throw away nature of these publications.
It is likely only the most dedicated music lovers saved these and as
a result, the songs simply faded from public consciousness. As a result,
these supplement editions are rare and especially in need of preservation.
When you listen to this song, how can you deny its musical
originality and freshness almost one hundred years later? It is a real
treasure and we are happy to be able to revive it for you and preserve
it for our future.
Music by: Henry Waller
Lyrics by: Robert M. Burnside
Cover artist: H.B. Eddy
This work also appears to be in fair shape when you
look at the restored image versus original image (place your cursor
on the cover image). However, the acid in the paper has made this one
so brittle that each time I have had to handle it to play the music
or read it, large sections of the edges have simply fallen off in my
hands. I have treated this one as well as the others in the worst condition
with a commercial archival spay that buffers the acid but unfortunately,
the damage has already been done. We can only arrest further decay.
The music here is a song that is from a stage play,
"The Emerald Isle" and it states "As Sung By Jefferson
De Angelis". De Angelis was a popular vaudeville performer around
the turn of the century, often portraying Irish characters as in this
song. De Angelis was responsible for many songs becoming hits however
this one did not seem to last. Despite a rather extensive reference
library, I cannot find this song listed anywhere nor can I find any
reference to the composer.
Musically, the song is rather simple but not unpleasant.
It has a rather insistent and repetitive rhythm and melody that wears
thin after a while but it is the lyrics that rule with this song. A
very catchy story about a man caught in some rather questionable circumstances
involving another man's horse and his court appearance for horse theft.
Be sure to use the scorch player and read the lyrics as it plays, it
is quite an entertaining story.
Someone Pulls The String
Music & Lyrics by: Charles Hoyt
Cover artist: Brisley
This is the oldest of the newspaper supplements we have and may be
one of the earliest ever. Interestingly, it is in the best shape of
the entire group we have in our collection. The paper is a heavier paper
and apparently was a less acidic batch for the deterioration is less
noticeable and the paper seems less sensitive to handling.
Musically, this is another delight and the lyrics are so true, even
today. You have to read them carefully, especially the second stanza
which is the real payoff. The composer and lyricist, Charles Hoty was
a very popular composer whose most lasting hit is The Bowery
from 1892. That song was later used in the 1945 film Sunbonnet Sue
and was the basis for a ballet sequence in the John Phillip Sousa biographical
film The Stars and Stripes Forever. Born in 1860 in Concord,
NH, Hoyt was most well known as a playwright and in fact, this song
is from his A Stranger In New York. He wrote a number of hit
plays, mostly farces and as you can see from these lyrics, had a rather
The cover photo is of Harry Connor who is credited on the cover as
having sung this song in Hoyt's play. The cover art on this piece almost
appears to be hand painted in watercolor rather than printed. The colors
have a soft, pleasing pastel quality to them. The overall artwork by
the artist is quite detailed and delicate showing a great deal of care
Music by: Edward W. Corliss
Cover artist: unknown, photo by Marceau, NY
This work is another show tune from a play entitled Show
Girl by the composer. This is not to be confused with the later
Show Girl from 1929 which was a huge flop. Apparently though,
this one was a flop too since I can find no reference to this version
nor the composer, I guess we have to assume that this show and song
very quickly became obscure.
The song is a very faced paced and melodically pleasant
one. Regrettably, I can find no information about the writer, the show,
the performer (Katheryn Hutchinson, in inset photo) or anything else
about this tune. The newspaper that published the song (and several
others from the collection) The New York American and Journal, has also
gone with the wind.
Music by: John W. Bratton
Lyrics by: Paul West
Cover artist: unknown, Photo by Pach, NY
It is appropriate, as this year's presidential campaign reaches its
end to feature a political song. Of course today, campaigns select an
existing pop song to use as a theme; in days of yore, they actually
wrote special songs. This song shows the typical bravado of a party
in assuming that its candidate will win. Who was Alton B. Parker (the
man in the cover photo)?
I suppose it is appropriate that I found information about Mr. Parker
at a site called "The
Political Graveyard", ouch! From that site, here is his basic
Parker, Alton (Brooks) (1852-1926) of Esopus, NY Born May
14, 1852. Chief judge of New York Court of Appeals, 1897-1904; Democratic
candidate for President of the United States, 1904; delegate to Democratic
National Convention from New York, 1912. Died May 10, 1926. Interment
at Wiltwyck Cemetery, Kingston, NY
The song here, published in 1904 during the election campaign, basically
tells Teddy Roosevelt to move out of the White House because Alton Parker
is going to win the election. Sorry Alton, not this time.
The composer of this work, John W. Bratton, fared a little better than
Mr. Parker in his chosen career field. Born in Wilmington, Delaware
in 1867, Bratton enjoyed substantial popularity in the 1890's. Along
with lyricist Walter H. Ford he penned I Love You In The Same Old
Way, Darling Sue in 1896 and a number of other hits during the nineties.
Bratton died in 1947 in Brooklyn, NY.
The condition of this cover is relatively good with very little reconstruction
needed. I mainly just had to eliminate some of the "noise"
and stains and add some contrast and clarity.
We hope you are enjoying this month's feature. For more great songs and stories about the "Sunday Supplements" go to part B.
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