RECORDINGS OF UKRAINIAN AND POLISH POPULAR MUSIC MADE IN THE UNITED STATES
By the early eighteen-nineties it was clear that Thomas Edison's crude 1877 invention had immense potential as an entertainment device. Phonographs were being designed and marketed by a number of companies. Records of popular songs and dance music were being turned out regularly for an eager audience. A sizable portion of that audience included immigrants from Europe and Asia who were still arriving in large numbers searching for political freedom and expanded economic opportunities. Music from Slavic countries had exerted considerable influence on popular music in the nineteenth century. The polka, from Bohemia, was the rage of American ballrooms by the eighteen-forties. Frédéric Chopin had begun even earlier to compose popular art music in the form of the polonaises and mazurkas that were a part of the dance music of his native Poland. These and other foreign-born elements were still threads of the American musical fabric in the nineties.Polkas and mazurkas were among the earliest offerings in record-company catalogues.
If the focus of this record is relatively narrow, the quality of the music is fresh and vibrant in spite of the half century that has passed since this music was made. The record offers a concentrated look at one area of eastern Europe through the music of its transplanted peoples. The many other recordings they have made over the years equally deserve attention and further reissuing, as does the music of all the others who brought old traditions to the New World and preserved them for us on recordings.
Detail from "The Artist and His Mother c. 1926-36 by Arshile Gorky