The Sound of the Hound #12: To Japan

After India, Fred goes to the Far East. But when he arrives in Tokyo in January 1903, he is rocked by some terrible family news. Stuck on the other side of the world, Fred does what he’s done countless times before: he throws himself into his job. Once the crates and crates of equipment are finally released by Japanese customs, he embarks on a recording frenzy.

In one day alone he makes some 54 records. However he isn’t a fan of the music, initially at least. It is, he said, “too horrible for words”. But as the weeks pass, he warms to it. A world of new instruments and sounds open up to him. He makes disc after disc, some of which Holley and Hall play here.

Fred throws himself into the local culture. The story of his trip to a Japanese theatre is something to behold. After Japan, Fred heads to China, Thailand, Burma and elsewhere. In this episode we recount these travels, looking at his early 20th century experiences through a 21st century prism.

But if his escapades sound like little more than a sonic gap year, think again. There is a serious side to it all. In travelling to parts of the world where the gramophone is – at best – a strange curio, Fred plants the seeds of the modern music industry. And he does it with all the humour, vigour and eccentricity that we’ve come to expect from him.

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