Pioneers of Audio Theater
Early commercial recording companies experimented with many different types of content, and some of their most creative and ambitious efforts fell into a category now known as "audio theater," basically the sound-only equivalent of the fiction film. Phonographic audio theater combined techniques from a wide variety of sources, including theatrical sound effects, oral mimicry, ventriloquial acts, the conventions of the instrumental "descriptive specialty," and 19th-century stage caricatures of distinctive speech styles (especially ethnic ones). Long neglected by students of media history, phonographic audio theater was an important precursor not only of radio drama but of the film soundtrack as well. Please be forewarned that many of the selections presented here contain racial and ethnic slurs and/or build on corresponding stereotypes.
—Patrick Feaster, Indiana University
- The Auto race. Edison Concert Band. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8856. 1905.
- Congressman Filkin's homecoming. [Steve] Porter and [Byron G.] Harlan. Edison Amberol: 677. 1911.
- Policeman O'Reilly on duty. Steve Porter. Edison Standard Record: 10074. 1909.
- Trip to the county fair. Premier Quartet [i.e. American Quartet]. Edison Amberol: 538. 1910.
- Chimmie and Maggie in Nickel Land. Ada Jones and Len Spencer. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9671. 1907.
- Uncle Josh's huskin' bee. Cal Stewart (as Uncle Josh Weathersby) and Co. Edison Blue Amberol: 1866. 1913.
- Pedro, the hand organ man. Len Spencer. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9487. 1907.
- Sheriff's sale of a stranded circus. Len Spencer and Gilbert Girard. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9779. 1908.
- A night trip to Buffalo. Premier Quartette [i.e. American Quartet]. Edison Amberol: 492. 1910.
- Heinie. Ada Jones and Len Spencer. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8982. 1905.
- Steamboat medley [Steamboat Leaving the Wharf at New Orleans]. Columbia Phonograph Co.: 9041. between 1904 and 1909.
- Christmas morning at Clancy's. Steve Porter. Edison Standard Record: 10020. 1908.
- Zep Green's airship. Ada Jones and Len Spencer. Edison Standard Record: 10254. 1909.
- My uncle's farm. [Billy] Golden and [Joe] Hughes. Edison Blue Amberol: 1511. 1912.
- The village constable. Peerless Trio (Billy Murray, Byron G. Harlan, Steve Porter). Indestructible Record: 738. 1908.
- The Arkansaw traveler. Len Spencer [and George Schweinfest]. Columbia Phonograph Co.: 11098. between 1904 and 1909.
- Reuben Haskins' ride on a cyclone auto. Len Spencer. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8619. 1904.
- Fireman's duty. Invincible Quartette. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8048. 1902.
- Ravings of John McCullough Harry Spencer. Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8244. between 1904 and 1908.
- Capture of forts at Port Arthur. Columbia Band. Columbia Phonograph Co.: 32579. 1904.