Asian Recordings Project

In 1902-1903, with a series of discs featuring traditional Chinese opera, the Victor Talking Machine Company began recording the music of Asian cultures, and subsequently marketing those records to Asian communities in the United States. In the ensuing years, Victor expanded its reach to Asia itself, eventually opening thriving offices in both China and Japan.

Between the early 20th century and 1940, Victor had issued thousands of discs for Asian markets. While they focused predominantly on the traditional and popular music of Japan and China, Victor and its satellite offices also recorded the music of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, as well as a few Indian recordings. Chinese opera from Fuzhou, Korean aak court music, Vietnamese cải lương—Victor recorded it all.

Unfortunately, very little original documentation on Victor’s master recordings for Asian markets has been preserved. The editorial staff at UC Santa Barbara's Encylopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) has begun surveying and collecting extant documentation, and with the assistance of scholars and collectors we are researching the scope of Victor’s Asian output. The end result will be a definitive overview of the range of recordings produced, the series names and numbers, the number of master recordings released (or reissued), and the genres recorded. The eventual goal is to gather enough information, including label scans, to include Victor's Asian issues in the EDVR.

As an example, a detailed survey of the 42000 10" double-faced Chinese series has been completed and other similar surveys are under way to help us better understand the extent of Victor's Asian operations. Victor's 42000 double-faced Chinese series began ca. 1910 and initially contained both original recordings and recouplings of Victor's earlier single-faced Chinese issues from as early as 1902. As Victor continued recording Chinese-language masters, it became the primary series for recordings marketed to Chinese in the United States and in Asia and contained a variety of Chinese dialects. The last 42000 was issued sometime in the teens, but the 43000 series continued on until the late 1920s.

For any questions, or if you wish to participate in the project, contact:

Jonathan Ward, Associate Editor for Asia
Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings