Sound Of Song (2015) s01e01 Episode Script

The Recording Revolution

1 MUSIC: My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music Songs - some my favourite things.
I bet they're some of yours too.
How about this one? MUSIC: You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' by The Righteous Brothers You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' by The Righteous Brothers.
Or how about a bit of Springsteen? MUSIC: Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA, that iconic opening riff.
Now, there's genius in the writing of all these songs, but, for me, that's not the whole story.
To really understand songs like this, I think we need to know a whole lot more.
We must examine every stage in the life cycle of songs to appreciate why they mean so much to us.
Not only how they're written, but also performed, recorded and how we listen to them.
MUSIC: Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals This is the magical alchemy through which songs become the soundtrack of our lives and how Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals became the ultimate teen anthem.
I'll investigate how new ways emerged to record music and how this helped musicians like The Beatles to entirely reimagine what songs could be.
MUSIC: Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles I'll meet pop genius Brian Wilson, in whose hands songs became three-minute symphonies.
MUSIC: Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys And join me to experience the different ways that songs have been consumed by us as listeners, including the futuristic world of the silent disco.
But, in this first episode, I'm going to begin when everything changed in our relationship with music - when songs were recorded for the first time, giving them a new presence, availability and global reach.
When newfangled machines called record players began a listening revolution.
I'll explain why the songs of writer Irving Berlin appealed then, and still do now.
We'll hear the hits of the day and the glorious way a singer like Louis Armstrong interpreted them.
MUSIC: I Cover The Waterfront by Louis Armstrong How the microphone brought a new kind of singing called crooning.
MUSIC: The Very Thought of You by Nat King Cole And how all of this together began our modern love affair with songs.
MUSIC: Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who Now I'm listening to MY all-time favourite thing.
It's Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who.
When I was 16, I heard this song for the first time.
I loved it then, and I still do now.
What an opening.
A completely new-sounding use of organ, Townshend's crashing guitar, then the driving beat of The Who at the top of their game.
So try and conjure up a world without this pleasure.
A time when any kind of recording simply didn't exist.
When, apart from occasional musicmaking, there was a strange silence in the home.
And let's go back to New York, September 1893, when a group of poor immigrants arrived off a transatlantic passenger ship from Europe.
Making this journey was a five-year-old Jewish boy, his family refugees from pogroms in Eastern Europe.
He was Irving Berlin.
Destined to become one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and a witness to this early story of the sound of song.
Berlin grew up on New York's Lower East Side, Jewtown it was called, living in a typical tenement block.
Irving left home at 14 for a life of sleeping rough, eating scraps and wearing hand-me-down clothes, later remarking that everybody should have a Lower East Side in their lives.
It was in downtown saloon bars that the teenage Berlin began singing and playing piano, where he came under the influence of ragtime music and began writing songs.
In 1909, Irving got his first break when he began working for a music publisher on Tin Pan Alley.
Tin Pan Alley, so-called because, after walking the bustling, hustling streets that housed New York's music business, journalist Monroe Rosenfeld wrote that the cacophony of upright pianos sounded like tin pans clashing in a busy kitchen.
Throughout his Tin Pan Alley days, Berlin would never learn to read or write music and, at the keyboard, ignorant of key signatures and harmonic theory, he kept it simple.
HE PLAYS RAGTIME And he was always happiest with the black notes on the keyboard.
Now, the thing about those notes is that they're proud of the white notes.
They're slightly higher.
It makes it much easier to get from one note to another and it falls naturally under the hand shape as well, so that HE PLAYS RAGTIME For a lad like him, was not only a great way into playing the piano, it really influenced the first songs that he wrote.
From the beginning, Berlin wrote the music and the lyrics and expressed a determination that both should be easy on the ear.
"My songs aim to be a conversation set to music," he said.
But, perhaps more importantly, he wanted to create a sound to his songs that captured the energy and excitement of the world around him in New York.
As he also observed, "All the old rhythm was gone "and, in its place, was heard the hum of an engine.
"The new age demanded new music for new action.
" In 1911, when Irving Berlin was only 23, he first realised this ambition by writing Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Berlin was always searching for that memorable melodic phrase which, as he put it, he would keep at until he could hum it out into something definite.
In the case of Alexander's Ragtime Band HE HUMS THE TUNE Now, that That sticks in the mind.
But then you put under it that fantastic syncopation, the sound of modern America, a sort of sophistication.
But it's about the tension between the left hand and the right.
There's two different rhythms going on at once there - syncopation is that rhythm between the left hand and the right.
And in the middle, a little bit of humour.
Those black notes sound just like a bugle call.
HE PLAYS BUGLE CALL MELODY Alexander's Ragtime Band was a song that Berlin would be asked to sit down and play again and again throughout his long life.
# Up to the man, up to the man Who's the leader of the band And no wonder.
The song has such appeal that it's become a standard - immortal even - still regularly performed and recorded today.
Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Come on along, come on along Nearly two million sheet music copies of Alexander's Ragtime Band were sold worldwide, making it an international hit.
That had always been the traditional measure of a song's success - but by now it was also available through recordings of the song.
And three of these recordings were made by the company of Thomas Edison, who, in 1877, began the revolution in recording that would give us the 20th-century sound of song.
This revolution happened here, at Thomas Edison's Invention Factory in West Orange, New Jersey.
Every kind of scientific investigation took place in these labs - one of the most urgent was into sound reproduction.
In the last quarter of the 19th century a race was on between Edison and his rivals to capture this hitherto elusive phenomenon.
The big bang moment when Edison became the very first to record and play back sound was explained to me by Professor Paul Israel.
This is the first machine.
It was made in December of 1877 Wow! .
and astounded people, because the simple device suddenly could not just record but play back sound - something that nobody had ever done before.
Nobody had ever heard recorded sound.
Now we can't think about life without it, and yet there it was.
These first ever recorders captured sound onto tinfoil - and the words of Edison speaking into the mouthpiece of what he called a phonograph were the first sounds ever to be recorded.
EDISON: The first words I spoke in the original phonograph - "Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.
"And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
" By 1888, Edison had developed a more elaborate machine that recorded onto wax cylinders rather than tinfoil to get a better sound quality to the human voice.
The real business, they thought, would be dictating.
Right? These would be dictating machines, office machines, so that's how this was originally sort of conceived as a business.
The company developed this "talking machine" as a useful product for the office, and these Edison Dictaphones used the first ever headphones - but Edison realised that the real money lay not in words, but recorded music.
So, beginning in '87, he actually thinks that the biggest part of the business might be selling recordings.
Ah! And, by the spring of 1889, Edison is producing commercial recordings.
When he sends out phonographs to his friends, he sends out musical records as well.
Shared domestic enjoyment of the first recordings was followed by a more public and commercial outlet for music.
Another fantastical device was invented - the jukebox.
Over time, What begins to happen is these phonograph parlours are set up.
Where you could go and listen to a number of different recordings.
And these machines are also put up in railway stations and other places where people are moving about and waiting for something to happen - like a train - and they could listen to a recording.
For the first few years of recorded music, this is how most people heard music.
So, in a way, a machine like this is actually DEFINING popular music, isn't it? This is where popular music was first being heard outside of live performances.
MUSIC: By The Light Of The Silvery Moon Just to look at this photograph is to understand the sheer novelty and surprise of recorded sound.
These people had simply heard nothing like this before in their lives.
Look at this woman's face, and see the sheer joy and wonder of listening to her favourite thing.
With a demand for new songs, recording took off.
HE GASPS Beautiful room.
Right! So, this is the music room.
This is where the earliest recordings were made, where Edison and people working with him were selecting out who was going to be recorded, and what music was going to be recorded.
Wow! # Beautiful dreamer # Wake unto me Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee What was Edison's view of popular song? What was his take on what would sell to an audience? For Edison, the popular music that he was recording was the most sentimental kind - a ballad, looking to the past, to the country, um A lot of the people who came from the country to the city longed for that life back home.
Of course.
Small-town America was really his market.
And he was recording the more old-fashioned song.
List while I woo thee The music recorded by the Edison Company could be bought as wax cylinders that played on the first machines to enter the home.
And it was the singing voice which was, from the beginning, so appealing - able to provide the warm and sentimental sound that made the parlour songs of the day so popular.
How'd you like to spoon with me? But how were these songs of the late 19th and early 20th century actually recorded? Call me little tootsy-wootsy baby To find out, I got a trio together to record a hit from the 1906 West End Musical The Earl And The Girl.
It's the mildly risque How'd You Like To Spoon With Me? - words by Edward Laska and music by Jerome Kern.
That's fine - nothing You can't do anything wrong at this point, this is just to give us an idea we've got everybody on at about the right level.
Patricia Hammond is our singer, playing this strange-looking violin is Aleks Kolkowski and there's me on upright piano.
We could try another quick test with a slightly different horn which might pick up more piano, and slightly change the way that your voice is appreciated.
Our ringmaster is early recording expert Duncan Miller.
Get you a little bit higher on that.
A session like this had to be tightly controlled by a recordist - where to place the musicians and how they should play to the recording horn were crucial.
No wonder the first record producers were so coveted by the original record companies.
It does really nice things when you do a really, really straight tone, I noticed.
It does It sounds really nice that way.
Miss Patricia Hammond sings her popular success, How'd You Like To Spoon With Me? Vulcan record.
# I don't know why I am so very shy I always was demure The technology here dictates how the song is sung.
# I never knew what silly lovers do No flirting Patricia shouldn't sing too softly, as the recorder won't pick up her voice.
In all my life I've never kissed a man But not too loudly, either, as that makes the recording stylus jump out of its groove.
# But now at last I'm going to break the ice So how'd you like to try? Some instruments work much better than others - drums and double basses are too loud.
Violins can be a problem, because their thin sound struggles to record - so Aleks is playing this specially adapted violin - called a Stroh - that has its own horn to better project sound towards the recording machine.
And my piano is raised up to get the maximum volume out of it.
How'd you like to be my lovey-dovey? Now here's the science.
Sound through the horn creates vibrations, which, via a diaphragm, activates the recording stylus that in turn engraves the sound onto a wax cylinder.
# .
large and shady Call me little tootsy-wootsy baby To get a good recording, you needed to keep the wax soft, so early recording studios were like a sauna.
Plus the first wax cylinders only lasted two minutes - so songs had to be short and sweet.
Bags of room on there.
It looks so simple - but there's a great skill in singing well into the horn, as Patricia is finding out.
Without anybody playing anything else, just sing through that little bit.
How'd you like to be my lovey-dove? Oh, yes Yeah? I really detect how it really Yeah.
You almost feel the danger as it comes back at you.
Yes, you'll know either to moderate it or to draw back slightly Yes.
or to turn slightly.
Yeah, and you can also get more intimate, as well.
That was the art, because you're getting closer - cos when we play it back you'll see there was a lot more presence Yes! .
in the one you just did than the one we did before.
And whether it is 1906 or today, nothing beats the magical moment of instant playback.
'Miss Patricia Hammond sings her popular success, 'How'd You Like To Spoon With Me? Vulcan record.
' # I don't know why I am so very shy I always was demure From the very beginning, it seems technology was shaping the sounds of the songs we heard.
That's like listening to the great-great-great-grandmother you never had.
Who was a singer.
Well, you have now! That's extraordinary.
We'd have sold a million of those in the Edwardian period.
How'd you like to spoon with me? The recording machine now went out into the world to capture sound wherever it could.
For the first time, an address of the President of the United States a Navajo Indian a school in the Midwest I don't know why I am so very shy There were not only sentimental ballads, but also music hall and vaudeville hits, comic songs and opera.
All these recordings were now being bought in their thousands.
There is a treasure trove of these songs right in the heart of London.
I never winked my eye In the basement of the British Library are 7,000 precious and valuable wax cylinders, acquired and preserved for the nation.
Here you can find the top ten that entertained the Edwardian public.
And, voila - here's a box of delights that the curators at the Library's Sound Archives have kindly selected for us.
Look at this! Treasure indeed.
This is an Edison cylinder known as a Blue Amberol.
Absolutely beautiful.
But, of course, it was pop songs of the day that people wanted to hear in their homes.
It was the music hall artists, particularly.
Billy Williams, for instance, singing When Father Papered The Parlour.
# When Father papered the parlour # You couldn't see Pa for paste # Dabbing it here and dabbing it there # There was paste and paper everywhere # Mother was stuck to the ceiling # And the kids were stuck to the floor You never saw such a blooming family so stuck up before.
Florrie Forde, one of the greatest of the music hall artistes, singing Down At The Old Bull And Bush - and that's actually celebrating a pub in North London, but it's to a kind of German beat - that oompah-pah beat.
# Come and make eyes at me Down at the Old Bull and Bush # Come, come, drink some port wine with me Down at the Old Bull and Bush These cylinders were the way that the song and the sound of song found its way into people's homes.
# Just let me hold your hand, dear Do, do But in the first decade of the 20th century there emerged a rival to the cylinder in the affections of the new listening public.
And there are over 250,000 examples of this competing medium in the vaults of the Library.
And here it is.
Much more recognisable.
The rival format to the Edison cylinder - the Gramophone disc.
Now, this is the same number, by Billy Williams, When Father Papered The Parlour - equally precious recording, it has to be said.
And these discs were made out of a natural resin called shellac.
And they span at 78rpm - 78 revolutions per minute.
So, the early 78s were often known as shellacs.
Much cheaper and easier to produce than the cylinder was, and much more durable.
MUSIC: When Father Papered The Parlour The disc was pioneered by a German emigre to the United States, Emile Berliner, who, in partnership with businessman Eldridge Johnson, founded the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901.
In their factory in Camden, New Jersey, Victor mass-produced discs and the record players they played on, which they called gramophones.
The company bought up the top singers of the day and brilliantly marketed their products using the image of Nipper the Dog and the slogan "His Master's Voice" - HMV.
# .
Paddy Leary from a spot in Tipperary The hearts of all the girls I am a thorn Records spinning on gramophones at 78 revolutions per minute now competed with cylinders playing on phonographs in a format war like that later between vinyl and CD.
in the morning Now music lasted longer on disc - with songs on both sides - and the gramophone was just so much easier to operate.
So, eventually, the disc won out.
In 1912, Thomas Edison bowed to the inevitable.
He signalled the beginning of the end of his beloved cylinder player by announcing the Edison Company's first machine to spin 78rpm discs.
To sell this, the Edison Company embarked upon a celebrated sound experiment, and it gives us a fascinating insight into the collisions of old and new at this time.
Audiences were invited, and came in their thousands, to witness the Test Of Tone Re-creation which was being staged in venues large and small right across America.
On one of these evenings, a curious audience waited expectantly.
APPLAUSE Onto the stage came the celebrated soprano Maggie Teyte.
# Believe me If all those endearing young charms She began singing a famous melody that you might also recognise as the fiddle intro to Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners.
# Were to change by tomorrow and flee in my arms Like This song was the popular folk tune Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms.
Thou wouldst still Then, suddenly, the lights went down.
this moment thou art Just as quickly, the lights went up again as the song continued to ring out.
fade as it will But now on stage with Miss Teyte was this - the new Edison disc phonograph.
ruin each wish of my heart But the sublime Ms Teyte was mute - no words came from those melodious lips.
So where was this music coming from? A record on the turntable was playing - the state-of-the-art diamond stylus reading the disc.
Who in the audience could tell the difference between the real thing and the recording? At first there was stunned silence, and then, when they realised the trick that had been played on them, they burst into spontaneous and generous applause.
and flee in my arms # The Tone Test proved just how far the quality of sound recording had advanced by the eve of the First World War.
Recorded music was now so good that Edison could with some justification claim that the quality of the living voice and the re-created voice were identical.
But I think the Tone Tests went deeper.
Before recorded sound, all music was live.
The important rituals of our lives happened with music there - births, marriages, funerals.
We laboured to working songs, our entertainment was live, be it in the bandstand or the music hall, the parlour or the concert hall.
But these experiences were fleeting, lingering only in the memory, no matter how sweetly.
I had a lovely lady friend who lived next door to me Music now had a new kind of presence and permanence in our lives, that writer and critic Greg Milner considers profound.
What it was telling people was that recordings had reached this point, very quickly, that a record wasn't a recording of music, necessarily - it WAS music, you know? It wasn't that this was something that you took music and put it on - this was music itself, which is a very powerful message, I mean, it's almost like You know, it's Recordings weren't going to sound like life, necessarily, life was going to sound like recording.
Imagine you're sitting alone in your typical Edwardian parlour.
It's evening.
SOPRANO SINGS You might be having a nice leisurely read before bedtime - reaching out for one last sip of one last gin and tonic.
But now you had company, in the shape of the machine that was leading the listening revolution that was transforming your home life.
This is the wonderfully titled G&T Bijou Grand - G&T for Gramophone & Typewriter company.
And the horn is actually inside.
VOLUME INCREASES So it's disguised as a rather beautiful piece of furniture.
No enormous horns erupting out the top to frighten the ladies.
You can actually invite people round, now, for musical evenings.
This would be the centre of attention.
Or you could just sit and listen again and again to your own favourite tunes.
MUSIC: The Liberty Bell March by John Philip Sousa All this pleasure from a rotating turntable WAS the shock of the new - and seen as a threat to live performance.
The celebrated composer of American marching music John Philip Sousa wrote passionately about what he saw as "the menace of mechanical music".
And, in 1913, French composer Claude Debussy worriedly asked, "Should we fear this domestication of sound, "this magic preserved in a disc that anyone can awaken at will?" But, despite these concerns, the record player instantly had enormous appeal.
MUSIC: Sweet Georgia Brown You could gather around for an indoor campfire moment .
or take a portable gramophone to war, to help bear the unbearable.
And live music did endure - helped by recording.
Look at this snapshot from rural America - in the foreground is a phonograph, cylinders on the ground.
But, behind it, see the man with the fiddle looking defiantly at the camera - proud of his playing, I think.
A recording engineer in the field, or the studio, could capture his music and make it more widely available - and that would shape the history of music itself.
Now, people who weren't hearing music as much because, let's say, they couldn't afford it, who all of a sudden had access to it, different types of traditions could be spread around, and all of a sudden music was something it's almost like it added another dimension, music was in 2-D before, now it's like in three dimensions.
That's the way I like to think of it.
Born up on the mountain One kind of music in this new 3-D of sound emerged here on Beale Street in Memphis in the first decades of the 20th century.
From plantations and cotton fields, evolving out of spirituals, work songs and field hollers, this was the blues.
Really just three chords - this one this one .
and that one.
And the effect you get is this HE PLAYS BLUES PROGRESSION It was here in Memphis where the classic 12-bar blues was devised by the composer WC Handy.
And Handy was the first person to write the blues down - notate them on the page.
But it was the recording of his songs, like Memphis Blues, that allowed the music to thrive by making it available to those who could neither afford nor read sheet music.
Everything about blues had to be heard in order to be copied.
If you wanted to be a blues player, you had to be able to hear other people playing it, understand how the thing worked.
That is where recording became so crucial - because people now could hear the blues and do their own thing with it.
Recording companies knew this - they had a massive new market, and so, before very long, they started creating their own blues recording greats.
MUSIC: Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith In 1920, what's considered the first blues record was recorded - Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith.
# I can't sleep at night I can't eat a bite It was released by OKeh, who made what were called "race records", targeted at African-American consumers.
Selling for only 20 cents, Crazy Blues was a million seller - proving that disc buying wasn't just for the white and well-heeled.
I hate to see Then in 1923 the singer who would be crowned Empress of the Blues signed to Columbia Records in New York.
She was the extraordinary Bessie Smith, and her recordings would make the blues an American - indeed, a global - phenomenon, and an art form to be cherished.
sun go down.
On the 14th of January 1925 she went into Columbia Studios on Columbus Circle and recorded another WC Handy classic, St Louis Blues, accompanied by a young cornet player called Louis Armstrong.
LILTING CORNET PROGRESSION A performance of the song was captured on film in 1929 at the height of Bessie's fame.
like I feel today Just listen to the sound of her song.
Feelin' tomorrow She sang what's called gut-bucket blues - with a powerful and strong delivery shaped by years of performing in huge halls without amplification.
I'll pack my trunk and make my get away The slow tempo with that preaching sound to her voice suggests the call and response of gospel music.
Here, the celestial choir of backing singers take the place of Armstrong's cornet.
# .
rock in the sea Oh, sister We're in a nightclub, but we could so easily be in church.
# .
rock in the sea Yes, my sister Bessie bends and stretches each note for maximum effect.
Or else he wouldn't have gone so far from me.
The genius of her performance was inspiration for other new music.
If, as the song goes, blues had a baby and called it rock'n'roll, then its big brother was surely jazz.
And it was Bessie's playing partner who was jazz's greatest innovator at this time - earning the accolade Master of Modernism and creator of his own song style.
MUSIC: Heebie Jeebies by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five Louis Armstrong first began singing in church and barbershop quartets - later vaudeville and cabaret halls.
In 1926 he recorded a song that, due to the disciplines of time in the studio, had to be just right on the night.
# Say, I've got the heebies # I mean the jeebies Talking about In fact Heebie Jeebies turned out to be jazz perfection, and what's said to have happened during the recording has passed into popular music legend.
Armstrong began singing his vocal section, but then accidentally dropped the paper that his lyrics were written on.
But, not wanting to ruin the wax recording, he soldiered on.
He sang without words.
That African-American tradition of scat singing that uses the human voice as an instrument.
A chance accident in the studio had led to an innovation that made his name as a singer - brought a lot of humour to the song, too, and made it a smash hit.
HE SCATS This was the essence of jazz - improvisation and spontaneity - caught on record at the very moment that it happened.
Gary Giddins is Armstrong's biographer.
It's not just that he is using nonsense syllables - it's that he is improvising a solo, that if you transcribed it for his trumpet would be just as brilliant as anything else he recorded.
That is his solo, that is his improvisation.
And part of The gravel in his voice is one of the things that puts it over.
I think it was Earl Hinds who said that for months after that record came out musicians were sticking their heads out the window every time it rained trying to get a cold so they could sound like Louis Armstrong.
HORN SOLO By the time that Armstrong recorded Heebie Jeebies, you didn't have to buy his records to sit at home late at night enjoying his music.
JAZZ CORNET PLAYS Louis was all over the airwaves, from New York to Los Angeles, spreading the gospel of jazz.
And all this live and free in your front room.
An entirely new way of listening had come along - radio - the next important stage in the sonic revolution that was shaping the sound of song.
Imagine having this magnificent machine in your front room for the first time.
And this radio music box came to rival and, indeed, threaten the gramophone as the medium for enjoying popular song - for the simple reason that you could go round that dial and choose exactly the music to fit your mood.
Radio at first was a novel and exotic experience - the early sets fantastic-looking creations.
Following radio's introduction after the First World War there was a broadcasting boom.
On both sides of the Atlantic, millions were buying these wirelesses.
And what they really wanted to hear were songs.
Just as songs were the lifeblood of the recording industry, so they were of those running radio during its golden age.
And this was just more business, and very welcome business, for the habitues of Tin Pan Alley.
Which is where Irving Berlin re-enters our story.
By the coming of radio's golden age, the songwriter from downtown New York had moved up in the world.
Irving Berlin was running his own publishing company, writing for Broadway musicals and revues like the Ziegfeld Follies.
'Music man Irving Berlin assists at the piano.
' But as well as all the high jinks, he was writing songs full of sadness.
The death of his wife after only five months of marriage left Berlin a long time alone.
So, real heartache poured out of him at the keyboard.
Take, for instance, the beautiful ballad All Alone.
Now, there's a nice, simple melody to the hook - the bit you're going to really remember, which is just HE PLAYS MELODY FROM "ALL ALONE" But when you put the lyrics with it, it goes like this # Wondering how you are # And where you are # And if you are All alone.
The sting's in the tail.
"Are you all alone, or have you found somebody else?" It's almost like he's inventing the idea of the torch song for a keening male singer.
# Just for a moment you were mine And then The powerful Irish tenor John McCormack made the best-loved version of All Alone.
I long to hold you in my arms again Thanks to radio technology that widened sonic frequencies and allowed extra amplification, listeners could hear the great man with a better sound quality that was loud and clear.
Indeed, they came to expect it.
There is no-one else but you And this was a challenge to other entertainment industries - either embrace the sonic possibilities, or suffer the consequences.
And silent film, for one, got the message.
In September 1928, movie fans gathered here at the Piccadilly Theatre in London - then a West End cinema - for the premiere of a film that had already caused a sensation in New York.
They were eyewitnesses to cinema being the next entertainment medium to be revolutionised by recorded sound, with songs as the agents of change.
The film was The Jazz Singer, a version of a Broadway show made by Warner Brothers in Hollywood.
It featured the biggest vaudeville star of the 1920s - Al Jolson.
And what delighted and enchanted cinemagoers that evening was Jolson singing this.
# Blue skies # Smiling at me # Nothing but blue skies # Do I see # Ho-toh-toh Bluebirds The song was Blue Skies, written by Irving Berlin.
# Nothing but little bluebirds All day long After his own blue period, Berlin's mood in Blue Skies is jubilant.
Perhaps little wonder, given that he had just fallen in love with the woman who would become his second wife.
# Blue days, days, days All of them gone And this happiness expressed in song seemed to reflect the optimism of an entire nation.
Blue Skies is another one of those songs - it's almost a more sophisticated version of Alexander in that it's very optimistic.
It totally captures the period when Americans think thatthe world is changing and it's all for the good.
Because this is still two years before the Depression, before the stock market crashes, and what's going on in the world? Lindbergh flies the Atlantic.
Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs.
UhMickey Mouse.
# Bluebirds, singing a song Nothing but little bluebirds all day long To see Al Jolson, but to actually hear him sing, that was an extraordinary experience for audiences that had grown up with silent film.
It was a kind of magic.
Never before had picture and sound synchronised so perfectly together.
Eyewitnesses reported that at the end, the enchanted audiences were on their feet cheering.
And it was the half-dozen songs that made The Jazz Singer such a hit.
To quote Harry Warner of Warner Brothers, "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? "The music - that's the big thing about this.
" And Harry had a point.
Warner Brothers made millions at the box office from their gamble on sound and changed cinema forever.
Soon, the rest of Hollywood entered the race to make more of these talkies with songs.
Everybody quiet, please Now behind the film camera was a sound recordist.
This sonic revolution on set came from American Western Electric, developing a 33rpm disc that could synchronise with a reel of film.
This sound on disc format was given the name Vitaphone.
# So I made up my mind # That I wouldn't find The only girl that I adore At the same time, Western Electric developed a new way to capture music in the recording studio.
She'll be a lady HE SCATS It was this technology that Abbey Road Studios would benefit from when they opened in 1931 as the first purpose-built recording complex in the world.
The key to what was a new way to record music here in Studio 2 were these beautiful objects.
Their first inventor thought they were like little voices, so gave them the name "microphones".
Mics combined with other aids for recording and playback that made radio sound so good.
There was the valve amplifier to expand the sound and new loudspeakers to transmit it.
Together, they created a very different feel to songs, and allowed the studio to innovate and experiment.
The Phonograph Monthly Review pronounced the last rites over old mechanical recording by enthusing about the new electrical way.
Recordists could now place their musicians anywhere around the studio to get the best sound.
It wasn't long before they started using more than one microphone and alternating between mics to get different takes of the same song.
The studio became a far more sophisticated place, with much greater experimentation with sound.
But with these new skills and rising expectations about the quality of recorded sound came new demands on musicians and recordists.
Everybody had to raise their game.
One of the first to record electrically was singer Bessie Smith, on this recording of Yellowdog Blues.
MUSIC: Yellowdog Blues by Bessie Smith Played back on this, the first record player to be compatible with electrical recordings, it's the sheer power of her voice that grabs your attention.
And it gave something extra to the listening experience.
# Ever since Miss Susie Johnson # Lost her jockey Lee # There's been much excitement And more to be Well, the first thing you notice is the new loudness - this is really pumping out some volume.
You could fill a room with this sound and, indeed, annoy the neighbours simply by opening the windows.
But more than that, you like a bit of bass with your music, you've got it here.
A machine like this actually broadened the frequencies of the music that the listener could hear.
# Cablegram goes off in inquiry Telegram goes off What the microphone also encouraged was a new style of singing - first dismissed as a soft and over-emotional warbling, it was given the name crooning.
To understand this, I've come here to the gorgeous Art Deco Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House to hear the classic Ray Noble number The Very Thought Of You.
Now, before he had a microphone, the only way a singer could expect to get their voice up there into the cheap seats behind the balcony was with a megaphone, which meant that he had to sing something like this.
Let me introduce to you our singer, Matt Ford.
# The very thought of you # And I forget to do # The little ordinary things # That everyone ought to do I'm living in a kind Now let's use the mic.
And, as ever, we're true to the times - this is a Coles 4038 ribbon mic from the 1930s.
Prepare yourself for proper crooning.
# The very thought of you # And I forget to do # The little ordinary things That everyone ought to do With the microphone, the middle, mezzo range of the baritones worked wonderfully.
Rich and mellow.
And the crooner's voice seemed to float over the lush orchestration.
# And foolish though it may seem To me The microphone allowed every nuance of the crooner's voice to be picked up, but it demanded impeccable intonation in return.
Every word had to be clear, every phrase delicately put across.
# You'll never know how slow the moments go Till I'm near to you And with this kind of clarity, the words could be heard, and therefore became more meaningful.
They now had equal weight with the music.
# .
in stars above It's just the thought of you What's emerging is something quieter, softer, more intimate - a whispering jive, they called it.
# The mere idea of you The longing here Crooning was also a kind of love-making - using voice and eyes to seduce.
So crooners like Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby would use the microphone as a theatrical prop to excite the audience, playing to it as a great movie actor would do to camera.
# Your eyes in stars above It's just the thought of you All this was wildly popular, but also pretty scandalous.
My love.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING Crooning, as it was called - the soft kind of singing where you are suddenly conscious of the lyrics and of the melody in the way that the shouters did not quite let you - is more than a little erotic.
It's very personal, it personalises the whole idea of popular song in a way that it had never been before.
The archdiocese in Boston famously - I think it was Cardinal Cushing - preached against Crosby, in particular, but all the crooners as being degenerates and bringing a degeneracy to American culture.
There were hilarious stories in the newspapers of men suing their wives for divorce and naming Crosby for alienating their affections because they could not get their wives to stop listening to him on the air, that kind of thing.
To begin with, the arousing Bing Crosby was the coolest of the cool - certainly not the old guy in the cardigan singing White Christmas that I grew up with.
# Come let us stroll down Lovers' Lane Once more to sing Crosby always sang with such poise, but also with such emotion.
# .
we must say auf Wiedersehen Auf Wiedersehen, my dear So when he crooned Auf Wiedersehen My Dear, his version of the 1932 song was peerless.
# So let me kiss you once again Soon we must say Louis Armstrong, no less, said the voice of Crosby was like gold being poured out of a cup.
My dear And Bing returned the complement - for him, the Reverend Satchelmouth, as he nicknamed Armstrong, was the beginning and the end of music in America.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm Mr Armstrong and we're going to swing one of the good ones for you - a beautiful number, I Cover The Waterfront.
I Cover The Waterfront - I like it.
Look out now, fellas, look out, there.
One, two In this precious piece of concert footage from 1931, Satchmo is singing I Cover The Waterfront by Johnny Green and Edward Heyman.
# I cover the waterfront # I'm watching the sea # Cos the one I love Will soon come back to me The microphone allowed Louis Armstrong to develop a new vocal style - what you might you call a kind of jazzy blues crooning.
The result was this very distinctive interpretation of a '30s standard.
# Oh, baby, here am I # Patiently waiting # Hoping and longing, yearning # Where are you? # Are you forgetting? # Will you remember? Will you return? Now there is the smooth transition from music to words to scat.
The vibe is informal, almost conversational.
The band's playing at a moderate tempo and Louis Armstrong's doing what jazz musicians call "ragging the tune" - picking it apart, embellishing it, extending it, putting it back together again.
He's playing around with the lyrics.
I think it's magical.
# Shake with fright, oh Cos my Dinah might change her mind So let's have one more moment of Armstrong magic.
The song's Dinah, much loved by jazz vocalists because of the potential for verbal gymnastics.
# Dinah, Dinah # Oh, Dinah, oh, baby # Dinah Lee # Dinah, Dinah, Dinah, Dinah HE SCATS # Oh, baby # Every night, before your eyes # Oh # Cos my Dinah might HE SCATS # If you wandered to China, baby # I'd hop on an ocean liner Yeah Soon Louis, like everybody else, would be lured West, by the promise of fame and fortune in Tinsel Town - Los Angeles.
By the early '30s, when talkies became established, Hollywood went musicals crazy.
Studios were in a hurry to buy up songs.
And if you had a knack for writing a song with a melody that simply wouldn't go away, those moguls wanted you.
Of course, there was one songwriter the big studios desired above all others - Irving Berlin.
But it would be with a smaller outfit, RKO, that he would mine movie gold.
In 1935, RKO contracted the recently established duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to make a musical comedy - Top Hat.
Given star billing with Fred and Ginger, Berlin wrote all the songs for the film.
One was a perfect fit of sound and vision - the truly wondrous Cheek To Cheek.
HE PLAYS "CHEEK TO CHEEK" ON PIANO In writing for Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin is writing for a very particular voice - very laid-back, relaxed, actually a voice that's benefitting from the craze for crooning.
But at the same time, he's got to write a number that would showcase the greatest dance partnership in the movies and so Cheek To Cheek, a masterpiece, has specific sections that fit that.
Nice, relaxed opening with that melody.
HE PLAYS OPENING BARS OF SONG Heaven, I'm in heaven Nice little repeat motif, it's going to go straight in and you'll remember it for good and all.
# Heaven # I'm in heaven # And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak # And I seem to find the happiness I seek When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek There's a nice little section that's kind of going back to his syncopation days.
HE PLAYS AN UPBEAT SECTION OF SONG Very much the old style Berlin.
# Oh, I love to climb a mountain # And to reach the highest peak # But it doesn't thrill me half as much As dancing cheek to cheek And then we have the massive new Berlin - it's almost like Rachmaninoff has broken into his world.
HE PLAYS DRAMATIC PHRASE OF MUSIC And of course, it gives us the most orgasmic moment in the whole film.
# Dance with me # I want my arm about you # That charm about you # Will carry me through to Heaven To film lovers, Top Hat looked a million dollars but sounded just as good.
And I'll explain why.
On set, Astaire was miming to a perfect, orchestrated version of Cheek To Cheek that was recorded before action was called.
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek This allowed Fred to concentrate on acting out the song and dancing with Ginger.
Technical progress had allowed popular song and movie magic to come together in a completely unforgettable way.
It had taken barely 50 years since Edison's invention of the phonograph to reach this point.
Years that saw the genius of Irving Berlin, and witnessed the magic of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, when there were new ways to record songs and new ways to listen to them.
But if the sound of song changed so dramatically during the first part of the 20th century, that was nothing compared to what was to come.
Next time - rocking the joint where Elvis first recorded.
Building Phil Spector's Wall of Sound - how did he do it? And with the Beatles at Abbey Road - experimenting with magnetic tape, the invention that made all this great music possible.
# You say you want a revolution # Well, you know # We all want to change the world # You tell me that it's evolution # Well, you know We all want to change the world