Call for papers

In the space of a few decades, from 1900 to 1950, musicians’ and listeners’ relationship to music was transformed with the advent of records and then the radio. Although the means of engraving sounds onto cylinders and then onto records first appeared in the 1870s, records would become an extraordinary method of circulating music only after the turn of the twentieth century and the development of recording technologies. Radio entered the home in the early 1920s and, within a decade, provoked a new media revolution, fueled in part by the record industry. Music was henceforth circulated via records and the radio to an increasingly wide public.

Several extensive French-language studies have since explored these two forms of media. Sophie Maisonneuve’s work on records[1] and the writings of Cécile Méadel,[2] Pierre Pagé,[3] and Philippe Caufriez[4] on the radio have produced revealing portraits of an evolving musical world. However, fewer studies have examined the music in circulation and the relationships that emerged between composition and new media before 1950 (in other words, before the radio broadcasting bureaus of Paris, Cologne, and Milan became sites of experimentation in electronic music and musique concrète). Some scholars have, nevertheless, begun to explore this field of research: examples include studies by Christophe Bennet[5] and Karine Le Bail.[6]

In French-speaking countries, records circulated rapidly; however, the radio took root more slowly than in other countries such as England, the United States, and Germany.[7] But despite radio’s somewhat protracted establishment, the invasion of radio waves and record sales soon became strategic issues for European as well as American companies that, within a context of large-scale commercialization, adopted a business model that privileged certain genres, well-known artists, and the more famous composers and musical works. In compensation, the pedagogical potential of the radio was quickly recognized by the main actors involved, including artists and governing bodies that sought to regulate radio broadcasting by exerting increased control through the creation of “national” radio stations. Music is obviously a central concern of the recording industry and radio, and has been since the development of radio broadcasting. However, technological issues, the economic context, and sociopolitical objectives impose methods and models that had a direct impact on musical production. What exactly was this impact?

Scholars engaging in research in this field have a growing number of sources at their fingertips. Digitization technology has provided access to an ever-increasing number of recordings from the period (encompassing both records and the radio). Radio archives and the specialty press also comprise an impressive amount of documents that, until now, have rarely been explored. The sheer vastness of this field of research perhaps explains why there has not yet been a comprehensive study of the subject.[8]

The conference seeks to provide researchers an opportunity to explore collectively the relationship between music, records, and the radio by examining the following issues: 1) the interactions between different forms of media and intermedial transfer; 2) the ways in which composers and performers adapted to the new means of dissemination; and 3) the social, economic, and aesthetic consequences on musical activity with the arrival of records and the radio. Restricting the context to French-speaking countries will make it possible to establish comparisons as well as connections between various record “markets” and the radio networks that developed during the period. In addition, the circumscribed context will help scholars call attention to the new means of circulation of artists and works within a linguistic community confronted with the imperatives of an internationalization of musical production. In conjunction with the conference, there will be a workshop entitled “Mémoire musicale et résistance dans les camps [Musical memory and resistance in the camps],” organized by Marie-Hélène Benoit-Otis and Philippe Despoix.

Presentations can be given in French or in English and should not exceed 20 minutes; papers may examine the subject through different lenses (archival, historical, aesthetic, analytical, sociological, or geographical). Proposals for sessions comprising several papers are also welcome. Proposals must contribute to at least one of the following six overarching research axes that the conference seeks to investigate:

1) Technology

  • Technological progress: The relationship between art and technique
  • Recorded sound: The quality of recording and the quality of listening/reception
  • The artifice of recording

2) Audiences

  • Educating the nation through radio and records
  • The contributions of records and the radio to mass culture
  • The effects of record circulation and radio broadcasting on collective musical memory (e.g., music on war fronts and in concentration camps, etc.)

3) Creation

  • The birth of radio genres
  • Technological constraints and the composer
  • Versions of performance for records
  • The technical demands of the studio and the performer
  • Stars and the media
  • The relationship between a success in concert and a recording on record

4) New professions

  • The actors involved in music technology: Technicians, producers, presenters, speakers, and record dealers
  • Eyewitnesses during a time of change: Journalists, music critics, record reviews, specialized journals

5) Aesthetics

  • The novelty of repeated listening and its influence on aesthetic perception
  • The concept of “radio engineering”
  • Legitimization of the new forms of media

6) Record and radio programming

  • The shape and content of a repertory or a canon
  • The mixing of genres
  • Speaking about music: Presentations, pre-concert talks, radio lessons
  • Propaganda and the radio


Paper proposals (max. 4,000 characters, including spaces) should be submitted by 1 April 2016, by completing the online form available at:

For further information, please contact:

Organizational committee:

  • Michel Duchesneau (Professor, Université de Montréal, director of the OICRM)
  • Federico Lazzaro (Postdoctoral fellow, McGill University/OICRM)
  • Liouba Bouscant (Postdoctoral fellow, Université de Montréal/OICRM)


  • Christine Paré (coordinator of the OICRM, Université de Montréal branch)
  • Judy-Ann Desrosiers (coordinator of the Équipe Musique française, Laboratoire Histoire, musique et société, OICRM)

Program committee:

  • Christophe Bennet (Paris-Sorbonne)
  • Marie-Hélène Benoit-Otis (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Liouba Bouscant (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Philippe Despoix (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Michel Duchesneau (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Federico Lazzaro (McGill University)
  • Sylvia l’Écuyer (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Karine Le Bail (CNRS)
  • Pascal Lécroart (Univ. de Franche-Comté)
  • Marie-Thérèse Lefebvre (Univ. de Montréal)
  • Sophie Maisonneuve (Univ. Paris Descartes)



[1] Sophie Maisonneuve, L’invention du disque, 1877-1949. Genèse de l’usage des médias musicaux contemporains (Paris: Éditions des archives contemporaines, 2009).

[2] Cécile Méadel, Histoire de la radio des années trente. Du sans-filiste à l’auditeur (Paris: Anthropos/INA, 1994).               

[3] Pierre Pagé, Histoire de la radio au Québec (Montréal: Fides, 2008).

[4] Philippe Caufriez, Histoire de la radio francophone en Belgique (Brussels: Crisp, 2015).

[5] Christophe Bennet, La musique à la radio dans les années trente. La création d’un genre radiophonique (Paris: L’Harmattan/INA, 2010); idem, “Musiciens de l’entre-deux-guerres. Du clavier au micro,” Cahiers d’histoire de la radiodiffusion, no. 124 (2015): 9-120.

[6] Karine Le Bail, Musique, pouvoir, responsabilité. La politique musicale de la Radiodiffusion française, 1939-1953 (PhD diss., Institut d’études politiques de Paris, 2005); idem, Musique et “drôle de guerre.” Histoire de l’Orchestre national de la Radiodiffusion française (Paris: CNRS Éditions, forthcoming); Myriam Chimènes and Karine Le Bail (eds.), Henry Barraud, Essai autobiographique. Un compositeur à la tête de la Radio (Paris: Fayard/BnF, 2010).

[7] On the history of the Anglo-American and German record industry and radio during this period, see Leon C. Hood, The Programming of Classical Music Broadcasts Over the Major Radio Networks (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1955); William Glock, The BBC’s Music Policy (London: BBC, 1963); Nanny Drechsler, Die Funktion der Musik im deutschen Rundfunk, 1933-1945 (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, 1988); Louis E. Carlat, Sound Values: Radio Broadcasts of Symphonic Music and American Culture, 1922-1939 (Ph.D. diss., John Hopkins University, 1995); Bryan Dewalt and John Vardalas (eds.), Sound Recording in Canada: An Historical Assessment (Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology, 1995); Michael Stapper, Unterhaltungsmusik im Rundfunk der Weimarer Republik (Tutzing: Schneider, 2001); Allan Sutton, Recording the ’Twenties: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1920-29 (Denver: Mainspring Press, 2008).  For a study of music on the radio from a European perspective, see Angela Ida de Benedictis and Franco Monteleone (eds.), La musica alla radio, 1924-1954. Storia, effetti, contesti in prospettiva europea (Rome: Bulzoni, 2012).

[8] For a selection of sources that provide a more general overview within this field of cultural and music history, see Jack Bornoff and Lionel Salter, Music and the Twentieth-Century Media (Florence: Olschki, 1972); Hugh W. Hitchcock (ed.), The Phonograph and Our Musical Life (New York: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1980); Michael Chanan, Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and Its Effects on Music (London: Verso, 1995); Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Marc Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Jean-Yves Mollier, Jean-François Sirinelli and François Valloton (eds.), Culture de masse et culture médiatique en Europe et dans les Amériques, 1860-1940 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2006); Nicholas Cook et al. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Pierre-Henry Frangne and Hervé Lacombe (eds.), Musique et enregistrement (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2014).