Welcome to History 117A at UCSC: From the Player Piano to Pandora: A History of Radio and Recorded Sound. The class takes place from noon through 1:45 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Requirements: First, students will keep a weekly blog of a sound/radio subject of their choice. Second, a mid-term and final examination will test students on their comprehension of class readings. Third, students will offer a five to seven page assessment of their blogging subject, due on the last day of class.

The blog posts will represent 25 percent of the class grade; the mid-term and final 25 percent each, and the final paper the last 25 percent.

Contact Matthew Lasar @ mlasar AT


Hilliard and Keith, The Broadcast Century and Beyond
Andre Millard, America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound

Week One (April 1 and 3): The electronic communications landscape in 1880

Introduction to the class; how to blog; we explore the “Invention” landscape of the late-nineteenth century, with particular focus on electricity, the telegraph, the telephone, the Player Piano, and the beginning of international copyright law.

Week Two (April 8 and 10): The dawn of recorded sound

We focus on the early sound recording and reproduction machines and the kinds of musics they distributed.

Readings: Millard, all of part one.

Week Three (April 15 and 17): The invention of “broadcasting.”

From wireless telegraphy to the beginning of broadcast radio.

Readings: Hilliard/Keith: “In the beginning” and “The Roaring 20s.”

Week Four (April 22 and 24): The gendered rise of the Network System

We ask: who decided how radio would be structured? Who decided it would be funded primarily by commercials? Who invented the “soap opera”?

Readings: Hilliard/Keith: “The Terrible 30s”; Millard: Part Two, chapters six through nine.

Week Five (April 29 and May 1): Radio and records

Who decided who would sing what on records and the radio?

Readings: Hilliard/Keith: “The Furious 40s”; Millard: Part two, chapters ten through thirteen

Mid-term examination (May 1)

Week Six (May 6 and 8): Radio in the television era

We follow post-television radio through its phases: Top 40, Free Form, Format and Talk

Readings: Hillard/Keith: “the Fearful ’50s” and “The Soaring ’60s”; Millard: chapters thirteen through fifteen

Week Seven (May 13 and 15): Music and the digital era

CDs, boom boxes, Walkmans, DVDs . . . how did they change music?

Readings: Hillard/Keith: “The Techno-Edged ’80s”; Millard: chapters sixteen through eighteen

Week Eight (May 20 and 22): The great file sharing war

We search for meaning in the controversy over Napster. Did iTunes solve the problem?

Readings: Hilliard/Keith: “The Cyber 90s” and “The New Century.”

Week Nine (May 27 and 29): The Age of Pandora

We explore the radically individualized world of database driven music distribution, podcasting, and “pureplay” broadcasting.

Week Ten (June 3 and 5): Does “radio” have a future? Why the question matters

Final examination: date to come

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