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September, 2000 Edition
In Search of American Popular Song;

What's Going On Back There?
or, The Flip Side

Last month we explored vanity music, music as advertising and advertising in music. This month we continue with that theme but exploring the other side of the issue; the back side. Not only did publishers use music itself as advertising or to communicate a message, every bit of unused space on published music was used to help sell something. Other songs, pianos, magazines, even performers.

Any of you who collect sheet music are well aware that the back side of sheet music carries all sorts of advertising messages. Some of the backs are plain and boring, most were designed to generate interest and some were more interesting than the front! This month's edition presents you with a variety of music and explores the back sides of these great sheets. To see the reverse side of each cover, just place your mouse on the cover, it will flip over so you can see the back. When you click on the image, as usual, you will be able to listen to the music.

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.

This month we have changed the page size so that you should not have to scroll as you watch the score. Just set the player window to the center of your screen and play.

It won't be much longer that will 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 until we have explored all options.


We are going to take a break from our essays this month and instead will offer more featured works for your enjoyment. Be sure to come back next month for an interesting and revealing look at digital preservation and how we reconstruct some of the sheet music. Our feature next month will focus on some very rare and fascinating newspaper Sunday supplement music.



Ariel March
1900

Music by: Louis Koemmenich
Cover artist: Unknown

(Note, all cover image links now require the "SCORCH" player to play the midi file)Picking up where we left off last month, this first example is a vanity work written for and dedicated to the Ariel Rowing Club. One such Ariel Rowing Club was based in Worcester, England. It appears that the Ariel club was the very first rowing club in Worcester and participated in the first regatta held in Worcester in 1845. Though we always equate those days with chivalry and sportsmanship, I was amused to find the following excerpt while researching this work:

The sportsmanship and chivalry of the present day regattas was not always evident however and betting was rife - for this was the heyday of the professional gambler and the rewards were worth a spot of corruption. Accounts of the earlier regattas indeed make interesting reading. - A Club President sculled himself to a standstill only to lose to find that a board had been nailed to the bottom of his boat: coxswains were ditched overboard if crews looked like losing, in order to lighten the boat: oars were hidden and inferior ones substituted, indeed, after one such incident and many letters of accusation and counter accusation to the local press, the Editor himself remarked that a more thorough piece of blackguardism and blacklogism never was perpetrated -not even upon the turf!
From the Worcester Rowing Club page, used with permission.

The reverse of this work is dedicated to an advertisement for Wissner Pianos, yet another casualty of history. Though I can find reference to Wissner's built as late as 1934, the trail seems to end there. Wissner was located in Brooklyn, NY and had offices throughout the NY and Jersey area as well as in Conn. This work may have been one that was purchased by Wissner as a giveaway as were some we featured last month.

Musically, this is a typical march from the period, firmly planted in the European tradition. The composer, Louis Koemmenich was born in Elberfield, Germany in 1866 and emigrated to the US before 1890. He set down his roots in NYC and studied with Anton Krause and Barmen. By 1890 he was a teacher and conductor at Kullak's Academy. He held various other conducting posts, most notably conducting the Brooklyn Sangerbund (1894), the New York Oratorio Society (1912 - 17) and the New York Beethoven Society (1917 - 22). Along with his composition of marches and other popular works, Koemmenich also composed a number of choruses and a cantata. He died in NY in 1922

Listen to this stirring march (SCORCH format)


listen to MIDI version

 

When Pansies Bloom Again
1899
Music by: Charles Quinn
Lyrics by: Adam Craig
Cover artist: unknown

The reverse of this work uses a rather straightforward approach by simply featuring the cover images of several current "popular hits" available from the publisher. There is a variety shown, from classical Florentine Waltzes, the whimsical Your Key Don't Fit This Lock No More and the popular but now offensive coon song, I Want A Real Coon . This method of use of the back is visually more enjoyable but may not have been as effective as later methods that actually presented samples of the music.

Charles Quinn is a pretty obscure composer from the period, as is his partner Craig. In spite of numerous listings of American composers and songs, I can find no information about them. Too bad for the song is pretty good but apparently, it may have been the only one he ever wrote that was widely circulated.

Regardless of origins, the song is a fun one to listen to, the lyrics are charming.

Hear this old delight (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

 


Some Little Bug Is Going To Find You
1915
Music by: Silvio Hein
Lyrics by: Benjamin Hapgood Burt and Roy Atwell
Cover artist: unknown

As compared to the previous work, the back of this piece has an entire page of the music for another work to entice the buyer to purchase it as well as the current work. Certainly publishers were learning that once a person tried out a work and listened to a catchy tune, they would be more likely to buy it. The artwork on the reverse is very nice and is better than some front covers. Obviously, the publisher wanted to really sell this one. The question is, on hearing the excerpt, would you buy the music? Listen to it and decide for yourself. Click here to see and hear the sample 11 bars of this piece, They Didn't Believe Me. My bet is, you would have bought it, millions did as this was one of Jerome Kern's greatest hit songs, we hear it to this day.

Silvio Hein was born in NY in 1879 and died there in 1928. He did not publish many songs and his most popular work, He's A Cousin Of Mine was written in 1906. This song is one of the most delightful novelty songs I have seen or heard. From a Franz Lehar Operetta, it is absolutely a gem. Musically it is as humorous as the words are silly. Be sure to listen to the scorch version of this one so you can read the lyrics!

Listen to this great old song (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

 

Half and Half
1914
Music by: Arthur N. Green
Cover artist: unknown

Here is a work where the advertising on the back is more interesting than the cover! Though the cover is certainly visually descriptive of the song title, it is definitely a low budget item. In this case however, the name "Castle" was probably all that was needed to sell the song. More on that in a moment.

The reverse of this work carries the prior example further, rather than just one sample, we now have four musical excerpts to try out. The theme of the sample works is based on the style of the main work presented; dances. If you are interested in hearing these four samples, listen to them here (scorch only). Listen to them and decide if you would buy any of them, I like the tango.

This work is quite unusual, written in 5/4 time it is almost a classical piece rather than a dance. However, the Castles were probably trying to convey a high society image and if you close your eyes as you listen, you can imagine them slithering across the floor in a languid manner that just oozes romance. It has a near tango quality. Vernon and Irene Castle were the most popular dance team during the period 1912 to around 1918. They created many dances, the most famous of which was the Castle Walk, a variant of the one-step. They were highly regarded and had a chain of entertainment centers where they performed and taught social dancing. Vernon was a flight instructor during WWI and was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1918. A wonderful film about them starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers was made in 1939. Get it!

I initially found this piece rather boring and repetitive however, the more I hear it, the more I like it.

Hear this Castle inspired dance (scorch)


Listen to MIDI version

 

We hope you are enjoying this month's feature. For more great songs and stories about the "Flip Side" go to part B.



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