Setting That Record Straight: Revised Program Notes for Sounds of New Music, Smithsonian Recordings Page: 1
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Setting That Record Straight: Revised Program Notes for Sounds of New Music, Smithsonian
Recordings. Notes by Eugene Bruck. Revised by Ralph Hartsock, 2005.
During my research for the book Vladimir Ussachevsky: A Bio-Bibliography (Greenwood Press,
2000), I encountered numerous recordings and several self-perpetuating errors. The recording,
Sounds of New Music (Smithsonian Folkways: FX 6160; F-6160 on container) proved no
The recording was originally issued in 1957, on the Folkways label, a company founded by
Moses Asch (1905-1986). Many of the recordings they issued utilized field recordings. The
recordings were later bought buy the Smithsonian Institution, and named Smithsonian Folkways.
This recording was reissued around 2000 as a compact disc, and later as a streaming audio file.
The first discrepancy I noticed was for track 8, labeled Sonic Contours. This is actually
Ussachevsky's Underwater Valse. Tracks 11-14 are Ussachevsky's Transposition,
Reverberation, Experiment Composition, but in the order Transposition, Reverberation,
Composition, Experiment. These two Ussachevsky works were premiered at a Columbia
University Composers Forum on Thursday, May 8, 1952, a date now recognized by eminent
scholar and musicologist Richard Taruskin.
Another glaring error is that the mild sounding track 6, Aeolian Harp, is actually Henry Cowell's
Sinister Resonance, a dissonant piece of prepared piano music.
Some of the works were actually brief excerpts. Track 5 is a 56 second segment of Edgard
Varese's Ionisation, a work that normally last over five minutes. Likewise, the Dance by John
Cage was an excerpt of Dance no. 1 for two prepared pianos. The entire Dance lasts
approximately twenty minutes.
I have verified most of the tracks via scores or books with actual excerpts, or correspondence
with composers. I did not find any substantiating score for Bahnfahrt (track 1), Natural pipes
(track 15-17), or Sonata for Loudspeakers (track 18). The score I observed of Meitus's Dnieper
Water Power Station was for the second suite; its rhythm and timbre indicate that it is very
similar to the recording.
Below are revised contents and program notes for this recording.
Bahnfahrt (2:51) -- Symphony of machines : steel foundry / by Alexander Mossolov (3:02) --
Dnieprostrot : Dnieper water power station / by Julius Meytuss (2:30) -- Dance / by John Cage
(2:42) -- Ionization / by Edgard Varese (:56) -- Aeolian harp [i.e. Sinister resonance] / by Henry
Cowell (2:08) -- Banshee / by Cowell (2:39) -- Sonic contours [i.e. Underwater Valse] / by
Vladimir Ussachevsky (1:13) -- Fantasy in space / by Otto Luening (2:48) -- Symphonies in
sonic vibration : spectrum no. 1 / Halim El-Dabh (4:16) -- Transposition / by Vladimir
Ussachevsky (1:28) -- Reverberation / by Ussachevsky (1:21) -- Composition / by Ussachevsky
(4:07) -- Underwater waltz [i.e. Experiment] / Ussachevsky (1:36) -- Natural pipes (:24) --
Natural pipes (:08) -- Natural pipes (4:32) -- Sonata for loudspeakers / Henry Jacobs (9:32).
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Hartsock, Ralph. Setting That Record Straight: Revised Program Notes for Sounds of New Music, Smithsonian Recordings, text, 2005; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc181696/m1/1/: accessed April 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .