26 August 2011

Duck calling lesson on a gramophone record

(Listen to the instruction on this interesting record and learn duck calling)

Gramophone machines and records used to be good aural aids in teaching and studying foreign languages before the introduction of cassette tapes, CDs or even digital formats. However, much to my surprise, though conceivable, 78 rpm records could also serve as a medium for learning bird language.

An interesting record I bought last week arrived yesterday. It's Duck Calling for Mallards and All Ducks of the Puddler Class, published by Philip S. Olt Company. (not in business anymore but restructured into P. S. Olt LLC now), a manufacturer of hard rubber game and bird calls from Pekin, Illinois.

It's a lesson, if I grasp the content correctly, which teaches you how to communicate with ducks, beguiled them to get within range of the rifle and then shoot them.

The lesson was given by Philip Olt, the eldest son of the founder of the original company. According to the company's website, Philip had made five instructional records to demonstrate duck calling, goose calling, diver duck calling, squirrel calling and crow calling.

Well, while we learn foreign languages to facilitate communication with people from distant lands, with good intentions I suppose, hunter study bird languages to coax them into termination.

Have you manage to speak some duck language after listening to the recording?

18 August 2011

Chiense Version 'Polly Wolly Doodle'

(Zhou Xuan at her late teens, image from this site)

Zhou Xuan (周璇), one of the greatest and most popular Chinese singer and actress in modern times, whose life accounts need not be reiterated here but can be read on Wiki, IMDb or many other websites through Google, once made a recording of 'Polly Wolly Doodle' with Chinese lyrics in 1935—'Roses blooming everywhere' (Qiangwei chuchu kai 薔薇處處開).

The Chinese lyrics were newly written and had nothing to do with the original lyrics published in 1880 nor the lyrics Shirley Temple sang in the 1935 film The Littlest Rebel.

Although there had been several recordings of 'Polly Wolly Doodle' made in and before the 1930s, such as Vernon Dalhart's 1929 version (Victor V-40132A), I believe Shirley's performance in the film would be an interesting one to be compared with the Chinese version.

While the Chinese singer-actress recorded 'Roses blooming everywhere' at her 17, Shirley starred in the film at 7 years old. I can't find a recording made by Shirley and don't even know if there was an original soundtrack ever released, but fortunately an enthusiastic YouTube user has made a video clip with the song against a photo.

Which version do you prefer, the late teenager Zhou Xuan's innocent voice in her 78 rpm single or the cherub Shirley Temple's naive interpretation in the film?

10 August 2011

Somewhere At Sea

Although this recording may sound like an ordinary piece by a 1930s British dance band, a typical jolly cheerful one, there is indeed something special.

The recording was made in London in May 1936 by the BBC Dance Orchestra directed by Henry Hall, with vocal by Dan Donovan. It is the official signature tune of RMS Queen Mary and Henry Hall is the director of the dance orchestra aboard this ocean liner.

Comparing to other ordinary Columbia records pressed in Britain, this one bears a special label designed to commemorate the ship's maiden voyage on 27th May 1936, sailing from Southampton to New York.

Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967 and is now a tourist attraction with restaurants, a museum and a hotel, mooring permanently at the port of Long Beach in California.

I have yet to convert the 78s record to the digital format. Therefore, watch the YouTube clip below to listen to a fantastically remixed version this piece while screening some images onboard.

08 August 2011

As Time Goes By

(Listen to 'As Time Goes By', a recording made more than ten years before Casablanca, reissued on Victor following the success of the film)

As time goes by, my postdoctoral contract has ended. I am now only an adjunct assistant professor, teaching part-time at two universities, and freelance composer and radio host, or broadly speaking, unemployed.


When I decided to write this weblog entry beginning with ‘as time goes by’, the melody of ‘As Time Goes By’ struck my mind. I came to know this song, just like most people I believe, through the all-time classic 1942 romantic drama film Casablanca, in which this song was sung by Sam, the singer-pianist who performed in the bar in the film played by Dooley Wilson, and the tune was used throughout the film as a leitmotif.

However, this song was not written particularly for the film but was a piece originally from the 1931 Broadway musical Everybody's Welcome. The song was recorded later in the same year by several singers after the debut of the musical, but didn't draw much public attention until it was employed in the film.

Interestingly, despite his hauntingly beautiful interpretation of this piece, the actor Dooley Wilson couldn't manage to make a recording for it because of session musicians' strike. As an alternative, the film company reissued a recording made by Rudy Vallée, one of the several who recorded the song in 1931 (Victor 22773), which made Rudy's version a massive No.1 hit in 1942.

Most people are familiar to the tune with the words
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
Nevertheless, few people are aware that this is actually the chorus and there is a verse before it. As the verse was utterly left out in Sam's performance in the film, most people don't even know its existence.

Follow the lyrics below and enjoy the 1931 recording (reissued in 1942) by Rudy Vallée, with the verse which is normally omitted in all the cover versions recorded after 1942.

This day and age we're living in
Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention
And things like fourth dimension.

Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein's theory.
So we must get down to earth at times
Relax relieve the tension.

And no matter what the progress
Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such
They cannot be removed.

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.

And when two lovers woo
They still say, 'I love you.'
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.

Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate.
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny.

It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.

Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.