400,000+ Sound Recordings Made Before 1923 Have Entered the Public Domain

A cen­tu­ry ago, the Unit­ed States was deep into the Jazz Age. No writer is more close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with that heady era than F. Scott Fitzger­ald, who (in addi­tion to coin­ing the verb to cock­tail) took it upon him­self to pop­u­lar­ize its name. In 1922 he even titled a short sto­ry col­lec­tion Tales from the Jazz Age, which entered the pub­lic domain not long ago. You may be more famil­iar with anoth­er work of Fitzger­ald’s that fol­lowed Tales from the Jazz Age into free­dom just last year: a nov­el called The Great Gats­by. But only this year have the actu­al sounds of the Jazz Age come into the pub­lic domain as well, thanks to the Music Mod­ern­iza­tion Act passed by U.S. Con­gress in 2018.

“Accord­ing to the act, all sound record­ings pri­or to 1923 will have their copy­rights expire in the US on Jan­u­ary 1, 2022,” says the Pub­lic Domain Review. This straight­ens out a tan­gled legal frame­work that pre­vi­ous­ly would­n’t have allowed the release of pre-1923 sound record­ings until the dis­tant year of 2067.

And so all of us now have free use of every sound record­ing from a more than 60-year peri­od  that “com­pris­es a rich and var­ied playlist: exper­i­men­tal first dab­blings, vaude­ville, Broad­way hits, rag­time, and the begin­nings of pop­u­lar jazz. Includ­ed will be the works of Scott Joplin, Thomas Edison’s exper­i­ments, the emo­tive war­blings of Adeli­na Pat­ti and the first record­ing of Swing Low, Sweet Char­i­ot.”

If you’d like to have a lis­ten to all this, the Pub­lic Domain Review rec­om­mends start­ing with its own audio col­lec­tion, a search for all pre-1923 record­ings on Inter­net Archive, and two projects from the Library of Con­gress: the Nation­al Juke­box and the Cit­i­zen DJ project, the lat­ter of which “has plans to do some­thing spe­cial with the pre-1923 record­ings once they enter the pub­lic domain.” You might also have a look at the Asso­ci­a­tion for Record­ed Sound Col­lec­tions’ list of ten notable pre-1923 record­ings, which high­lights such pro­to-jazz records as “Crazy Blues” and “Dix­ieland Jass Band One-Step” (along with the whol­ly non-jazz work of Enri­co Caru­so and Pablo Casals).

Accord­ing to Alex­is Rossi at the Inter­net Archive Blog, the sound record­ings just lib­er­at­ed by the Music Mod­ern­iza­tion act come to about 400,000 in total. Among them you’ll find “ear­ly jazz clas­sics like ‘Don’t Care Blues’ by Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, ‘Ory’s Cre­ole Trom­bone’ by Kid Ory’s Sun­shine Orches­tra, and ‘Jazz­in’ Babies Blues’ by Ethel Waters.” Rossi also high­lights the nov­el­ty songs such as Bil­ly Mur­ray’s 1914 ren­di­tion of “Fido is a Hot Dog Now,” “which seems to be about a dog who is def­i­nite­ly going to hell.” The Jazz Age soon to come would exhib­it a more rau­cous but also more refined sen­si­bil­i­ty: as Fitzger­ald wrote in 1931, with the era he defined (and that defined him) already past, “It was an age of mir­a­cles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire.”

via Mefi

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free: The Great Gats­by & Oth­er Major Works by F. Scott Fitzger­ald

What’s Enter­ing the Pub­lic Domain in 2022: The Sun Also Ris­es, Win­nie-the-Pooh, Buster Keaton Come­dies & More

Hear the First Jazz Record, Which Launched the Jazz Age: “Liv­ery Sta­ble Blues” (1917)

The Clean­est Record­ings of 1920s Louis Arm­strong Songs You’ll Ever Hear

Great New Archive Lets You Hear the Sounds of New York City Dur­ing the Roar­ing 20s

How the Inter­net Archive Has Dig­i­tized More than 250,000 78 R.P.M. Records: See the Painstak­ing Process Up-Close

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.