Sunday, October 23, 2011

Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin'

Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin': A History of American Musical Instrument Makers Susan VanHecke

Instead of discussing the musicians that changed American music-- both classical and popular-- this book discusses those who created and made the instruments that would forever change the American sound. It starts with Avdeis Zildjian, a Turkish immigrant candymaker who, when the time came to inherit the family cymbal business brought it over the the US. In the US, he talked with drummers and musicians and created their dream cymbals-- special orders that are now the standards in any drum kit. We see Steinway-- a German immigrant fighting the notion that only European pianos were of quality and building a piano that is now thought to the best world wide. We learn the history of Conn brass instruments, Ludwig drums, Hammond electric organs, the Moog synthesizer, Martin acoustic guitars, and the Fender electrics.

It's an interesting and fascinating way to look at American music. In addition to music history, it's also business history-- how advertising and other activities affected business. One thing I found really interesting was how companies survived the Depression-- many innovations that brought instruments into our homes came out of a desire to survive those tough economic times. Also interesting was how many factories had to stop manufacturing instruments during WWII and during those years instead manufactured things for the war effort-- by order of the government.

Lots of pull-out boxes introduce readers to different instruments and the musicians and musical styles that made them famous.

My only complaint is that each chapter stands alone, even though in later years many of these companies merged or had their paths intertwine in other ways, but this really isn't discussed, which I think would have been interesting either within the existing chapters or by adding something onto the end that talks about how and why these things happened.

Overall though, I found it well-designed, and fascinating.

Book Provided by... my local library

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