Keir Keightley

Keir Keightley is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. His most recent publications are “Un voyage via barquinho...: Global Circulation, Musical Hybridization, and Adult Modernity, 1961-69” in Migrating Music (Routledge 2011) and “The Historical Consciousness of Sunshine Pop” in Journal of Popular Music Studies. This paper is part of a new book project, Tin Pan Allegory: Music, Media, Modernity.



""From Hogan's Alley to Tin Pan Alley: Media Synergy at the Turn of the Century""

As I dig deeper into the complex history of how the music business in Manhattan came to be called “Tin Pan Alley” in the New York World in 1903, a hit comic strip from the preceding decade appears increasingly relevant. “Hogan’s Alley” also happened to be launched in the New York World (in 1895), and quickly became a popular sensation. Taking its title from a Harrigan and Hart song lyric of 1891, by the end of 1896 there were numerous “Hogan’s Alley” consumer tie-ins (cigars, gum, dolls, etc.) being sold alongside over a dozen different sheet music titles and a musical revue, entitled Hogan’s Alley, that toured the USA into the 20th century. In other words, the “Hogan’s Alley” comic became the nexus for a series of commodities promoted through weekly newspaper sales in the millions, even as these commodities also promoted the newspaper. A close reading of the comic reveals a persistent fascination with the noise and sounds of the modern, urban experience and its entertainments (vaudeville, circus, bowling alley, and, frequently, the use of sheet music for amateur singing).

Using the alley as a microcosm of a noisy, urban modernity becomes an enduring trope of popular entertainment (e.g., “Allen’s Alley” on 1940s network radio) and this is part of why “Tin Pan Alley” gains prominence as the name of the modern music business for the first half of the 20th century. Like Hogan’s Alley, Tin Pan Alley exemplified new forms of cross-media synergy and the increasing importance of intermedial networks in constituting the popular-public of modernity’s so-called “mass culture.” The sheet music publishers that congregated on West 28th St. were not alone; they were literally next door to the New York Clipper (the key entertainment trade paper of the time), the offices of the agent William Morris, rehearsal halls, showbusiness photographers, vaudeville booking offices, and a dozen vaudeville houses and theatres. In other words, “Tin Pan Alley” marks a moment when the industrialization of music (Frith 1987) achieves a new degree of cross-media synergy and coordinated national marketing.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

9:00am EDT