Downton Abbey fans anyone? If so, you might recall that the fifth season starts in 1924 (nice coincidence, eh?). And you might remember the season’s second episode when Robert reluctantly agrees to install a “wireless” (radio) in order to hear King George V’s speech broadcast from the British Empire Exhibition (held in April 1924).
Although Downton Abbey may seem in no way relevant to our project, the episode does provide a nice visualization of the excitement, confusion, and awe felt by people experiencing the radio in their homes for the first time. In Paris, in 1924, I imagine people felt similar reactions.
At the very beginning of this project, before we’d consolidated which sources we wanted to use, I began looking for reviews of Paris concerts in British newspapers, such as The Times of London. It at first seemed a dead end. I only found about three reviews from the entire year, showing that British papers did not send as many scouts to Paris as I might have initially guessed. However, what I did find in all these searches were pages and pages of daily radio broadcasting schedules. And many of these schedules included listings of Paris concerts.
The wireless, one might say, actually provided another concert venue we have yet to mention—one’s own home. The radio allowed the music of 1924 Paris to leave Paris—to leave the spaces covered on our map—and enter into homes of people in other parts of France and even as far away as London.
Although the radio was invented in Italy in 1885, it didn’t gain widespread popularity or usability until years later. Radio, like many other technologies, grew and developed because of the war, leaving the more advanced technology to be used for entertainment after the war ended and the wireless’ military purposes decreased.
France was a leader in radio broadcasting in the interwar period (Haine 157). A station at the Eiffel Tower first opened in 1921, followed by the formation of Radiola-Paris Radio in 1922 (Jordan 261). With longwave transmission, radio could carry all the way from Paris to London and throughout France, and although radios were still mostly owned by the middle and upper classes, people who would have never gotten the chance to hear a Paris concert were now able to do this.
The radio proves to be just another way the arts were crossing boundaries and travelling to new areas in 1924.
Haine, W. Scott. Culture and Customs of France. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. Print.
Jordan, Matthew F. Le Jazz: Jazz and French Cultural Identity. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois, 2010. Print.