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Music in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Drama, Gramophone, and the Beginnings of Tamil Cinema

  • Stephen Putnam Hughes

During the first half of the twentieth century, new mass media practices radically altered traditional cultural forms and performance in a complex encounter that incited much debate, criticism, and celebration the world over. This essay examines how the new sound media of gramophone and sound cinema took up the live performance genres of Tamil drama. Professor Hughes argues that south Indian music recording companies and their products prefigured, mediated, and transcended the musical relationship between stage drama and Tamil cinema. The music recording industry not only transformed Tamil drama music into a commodity for mass circulation before the advent of talkies but also mediated the musical relationship between Tamil drama and cinema, helped to create film songs as a new and distinct popular music genre, and produced a new mass culture of film songs.

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