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Michael J.

Kramer
Warning: These slides are intended
for student reference only. Distributing
these slides to others, whether on
campus or off, is a violation of
Northwestern Universitys Academic
Integrity Policy.
Subject to removal if lecture
attendance declines.

Standardization: Tin Pan Alley


Charles K. Harris
1892: 2 million copies
of sheet music, 5 million total
It may be said that it was
this song which really
started the popular song
craze as we know it
today. W.L. Hubbard,
music critic for the
Chicago Trubine

Standardization: Tin Pan Alley

Harry Von Tilzer, b. 1872 d. 1946

In the distant past, the writing of


songs was play, a relaxation from
daily cares, but today it is a business
and demands businesslike
methods. - Harry Von Tilzer
[I] assembled songsfor the tunes to popular songs are
mostly made up of standard parts, like motor car.
- Bert Williams

The publishing business is like any


other line with a variety of goods
pardon the commercial term, but it
applies them all the same. Music
Trade Review, 1904
Thorstein Veblen, sociologist, 1910
Any modern business concern:
1. the machine process = systematic organization and
application of knowledge
2. motivation = profit maximized by manipulating supply of
goods and other means.

The vital point of production is the


vendibility of the output, its convertibility
into money values, not its serviceability for
the needs of mankind. Veblen, 1910
The Tin Pan Alley commodity, the song was
a commodity, a cash value, and in order to
augment the value he [the song writer] must
subordinate his own personal tastes to those
of the music-buying public. - Von Tilzer

compelledto study the likes and dislikes of the people


who buy popular sheet music - Von Tilzer

9 Rules for Successful Songwriting


1. The melody must be within the
average voice of the average singer.
2. The title must be planted throughout the song
via use of repetition.
3. The idea and lyric must be appropriate for both
sexes...so that both will want to sing it.
4. The song should contain 'heart interest'(pathos)
even for a comic song.

Irving Berlin
b. 1888 d. 1989

5. The song must be original... success is not


accomplished...by imitating the hit song of the
moment.
6. Your lyric must deal with ideas, objects or
emotions known to everyone.
7. The lyric must be euphonious: simple and
pleasing to the ear.
8. Your song must be perfectly simple.
9. The songwriter must look upon his work as a
business.

Tin Pan Alley


!

28th Street b/t 6th Ave/Bway, Manhattan


Song Factories
-division of labor:
publisher
controlling the means of distribution
lyricist
composer
cobblers vs. staff songwriters
arrangers

Famous Tin Pan Alley Songwriters


Irving Berlin
Harry Von Tilzer
Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
Cole Porter
George and Ira Gershwin
Jerome Kern

Johnny Mercer
Harold Arlen

Tin Pan Alley & the emergence of the culture industry


!
!

Sheet music
Broadway shows
Films/Talkies
Radio

Tin Pan Alley song form


Formulaic (with some variation at times)
verse-refrain-bridge
AABA pattern (sometimes variation)

My Blue Heaven
written by George Whiting and Walter Donaldson, 1924
Gene Austin hit version, 1927

Cello opens with hook


!

Verse
Day is ending, birds are wending
Back to the shelter of each little nest they love
Night shades falling, love birds calling
What makes the world go round, nothing but love
!

Refrain/Chorus:
A When Whippoorwills call, evenin' is nigh
I hurry to my blue heaven
A I turn to the right, there's a little white light
will lead you to my blue heaven
B A smilin' face, a fireplace, a cozy room
A little nest that nestles where the roses bloom
A Just Molly and me, and the baby makes three
We're happy in my blue heaven

I Got Rhythm (1930)


George Gershwin b. 1898 d. 1937
and Ira Gershwin b. 1896 d. 1983

Verse:
A
A
B
B
Refrain
A
A
B
A

Recorded in 1940 by Ethel Merman (note arrangement)

Today: Standardization: Tin Pan Alley

Next time:
Anti-Standardization? Race Records,
Hillbilly Music, and the Emergence of the
Niche Market

Michael J. Kramer
Warning: These slides are intended
for student reference only. Distributing
these slides to others, whether on
campus or off, is a violation of
Northwestern Universitys Academic
Integrity Policy.
Subject to removal if lecture
attendance declines.