Music in the Streets
A fascinating collection of music and musicians recorded on the streets of New York City.
Conceived and recorded by TONY SCHWARTZ.
In any city in the world you will find music being played in the streets. The first tapes for this album were recorded on the streets of New York City in the Spring of 1950. The last tapes to be included were recorded in the Fall of 1957. This record is in no way a complete collection of New York City's street music, it is just a sampling of the material I came upon while walking or travelling the streets of New York City.
Extracts from an essay by Charles Hardy:
Authoring in Sound: An Eccentric Essay on Aural History, Radio, and Media Convergence.
Perhaps the most important of the American post-war sound documentarians was sound hobbyist Tony Schwartz, whose fascination with history and folk music led him to record urban folklore and soundscapes. Schwartz bought his first wire recorder in 1946, then switched to tape in 1947.
Armed with a twelve-pound Magnemite recorder and a microphone strapped to his wrist, Schwartz traveled the streets of New York recording street songs, children's games, huckster cries, and other sounds he found of interest. (Schwartz was fortunate to record at a time when many people still made their own music on the streets and in their homes.) In the mid-1950s Schwartz began to produce and release his recordings on the innovative Folkways label, producing records on children's games, and the experiences of New York's Puerto Rican immigrants.
Approached by WNYC to produce a program built around the question of "What can a person living in, or visiting, New York hear?" Schwartz spent two months editing and assembling Sounds of My City: The Stories, Music and Sounds of the People of New
York, released by Folkways Records in 1956. Sounds of My City reflected Schwartz's fascination with the sounds of everyday life and the music of ordinary people. On Side 1 he presented "the voice of a city," as he called it, introducing the listener to a broad range of natural and man-made sounds, including songs, snippets of street conversations, the sound of rain and subways, and of people making music, among them Moondog, the great New York street musician and composer who played to the accompaniment of fog horns in New York harbor. On the second side Schwartz assembled a brief soundscape of the city over a twenty-four-hour period recorded from the window of his apartment that included the sounds children singing play songs, teenagers making music, and a street vender hawking Parker pens.
By bringing the sounds of daily life to the foreground of awareness, Schwartz was able to make listeners appreciate sounds that by reason of their ubiquity had been previously invisible. Magnetic tape enabled Schwartz to record and re-package these sounds in such as way as to make people hear their rhythm and beauty.
As a plumber Schwartz recorded repairing a sink in his apartment noted, without music there would be no happiness in life.
For drawing attention to this "universal rhythm that pulses throughout the city."
Schwartz was awarded a Prix de Rome in 1956. Tony Schwartz was a collector of endangered sounds, not a journalist or oral historian. (A woman giving a loving description of her favorite cat - which had died in 1929 - provides the only segment about memory.)