Mapping Early Sounds of a Czech Singer in the USA

By Filip Šír
Friday, February 9, 2024
4:00-5:00 p.m.
Memorial Library, Room 126, 728 State St
Free and Open to the Public


The Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures is excited to join the Mills Music Library, the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic+, and Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA) in welcoming Filip Šír to campus for an exciting talk about the early years of recorded sound and how it connects to immigration stories to the US and the Upper Midwest. Šír is the is the coordinator for Digitization of Audio Documents in the Digitization and New Media Department of the National Museum, Prague.


The period of large-scale migration from Europe to North America during the 19th and into the 20th century coincided with the invention of recorded sound. Through obsolete media such as phonograph cylinders and shellac records, Šír will share a curated historical soundtrack of the famous singer Bohumil Pták (1869-1933), who performed folksongs and operatic arias on tours across North America.

This talk will illuminate one of Pták’s rarest recordings, a duet he recorded with Hanna Foerster in New York on January 24, 1912, of “Vaška a Mařenky” from Bedřich Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride, which is in the Mills Music Library 78-rpm Recordings Collection. Focusing on stories of migrants (Pták and other Bohemians) as well as historical events and music, Šír will show an American story from the early 20th Century and bring the audience to a time when New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, and the rural Upper Midwest were new homes for Bohemian/Czech immigrants.