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Discordant Notes, 1927-31

Musicians’ Union campaigns to safeguard members’ employment.

During the 1920s (and until 1933) the Musicians’ Union published a quarterly journal, the bulk of readers being its members. It often featured a cartoon highlighting dominant concerns of the day.

This exhibition centres on campaigns defending members’ employment during the period when cinemas converted to playing pre-recorded sound. This was not the only challenge facing the Union, which was fighting on several fronts following the General Strike of 1926. Its cartoons were political (directed at both internal and external targets) and inevitably focused on battles that lent themselves to visual representation. For this reason, wage negotiations are not seen in this gallery; but the Armed Forces Bands and those who hired them are derided for undermining civilian bands. Union members themselves are rebuked for refusing to increase subscriptions, thereby limiting the funds officials needed to work effectively.

Most emphatically, talkies were mocked when the threat they posed became clear. In two years that threat engulfed the professional instrumentalists who once sat beneath the screen. These people had, barely more than a generation earlier, benefited from the increase of apparently stable employment opportunities that came with the massive growth of the cinema business. Now, most were being fired with little prospect in the Depression era of re-employment in any job, let alone one that used their talents and experience.

The Musicians’ Union Archive at the University of Stirling provides a unique perspective on the cultural history of Britain over the last 130 years, documenting the various challenges (both political and technological) which have faced professional musicians. The Archive is a key resource for two current AHRC funded projects: British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound and The Musicians’ Union: A Social History. In light of the AHRC's 10th Anniversary, this Image Gallery is a key example of gains made through the AHRC's support for research based on exploration of archival resources.

John Izod (Professor of Screen Analysis) and Karl Magee (University Archivist), University of Stirling

  • Image of The Musicians' Journal, No. 26 (October 1927)
    The Musicians' Journal, No. 26 (October 1927) about The Musicians' Journal, No. 26 (October 1927)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, No. 27 (January 1928)
    The Musicians’ Journal, No. 27 (January 1928) about The Musicians’ Journal, No. 27 (January 1928)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, No. 29 (July 1928)
    The Musicians’ Journal, No. 29 (July 1928) about The Musicians’ Journal, No. 29 (July 1928)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, No. 30 (October 1928)
    The Musicians’ Journal, No. 30 (October 1928) about The Musicians’ Journal, No. 30 (October 1928)
  • Image of The Musicians Journal, New Series 1 (April 1929)
    The Musicians Journal, New Series 1 (April 1929) about The Musicians Journal, New Series 1 (April 1929)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 2 (July 1929)
    The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 2 (July 1929) about The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 2 (July 1929)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 3 (October 1929)
    The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 3 (October 1929) about The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 3 (October 1929)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 4 (January 1930)
    The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 4 (January 1930) about The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 4 (January 1930)
  • Image of Musicians’ Union Monthly Report, New Series 3 (March 1930)
    Musicians’ Union Monthly Report, New Series 3 (March 1930) about Musicians’ Union Monthly Report, New Series 3 (March 1930)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 5 (April 1930)
    The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 5 (April 1930) about The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 5 (April 1930)
  • Image of The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 7 (October 1930)
    The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 7 (October 1930) about The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 7 (October 1930)
  • Image of The Musicians Journal, New Series 10 (July 1931)
    The Musicians Journal, New Series 10 (July 1931) about The Musicians Journal, New Series 10 (July 1931)
  • Image of ENVOI
    ENVOI about ENVOI