Jonathan Schroeder

Jonathan Schroeder is William A. Kern Professor in the School of Communication, Rochester Institute of Technology and coauthor of Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America (MIT Press), named a best book of 2017 by the Financial Times and a best music book of 2017 by Vinyl Factory.

  • Designed for Dancing

    Designed for Dancing

    How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance

    Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder

    When Americans mamboed in the kitchen, waltzed in the living room, polkaed in the pavilion, and tangoed at the club; with glorious, full-color record cover art.

    In midcentury America, eager dancers mamboed in the kitchen, waltzed in the living room, Watusied at the nightclub, and polkaed in the pavilion, instructed (and inspired) by dance records. Glorious, full-color record covers encouraged them: Let's Cha Cha Cha, Dance and Stay Young, Dancing in the Street!, Limbo Party, High Society Twist. In Designed for Dancing, vinyl record aficionados and collectors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder examine dance records of the 1950s and 1960s as expressions of midcentury culture, identity, fantasy, and desire. Borgerson and Schroeder begin with the record covers—memorable and striking, but largely designed and created by now-forgotten photographers, scenographers, and illustrators—which were central to the way records were conceived, produced, and promoted. Dancing allowed people to sample aspirational lifestyles, whether at the Plaza or in a smoky Parisian café, and to affirm ancestral identities with Irish, Polish, or Greek folk dancing. Dance records featuring ethnic music of variable authenticity and appropriateness invited consumers to dance in the footsteps of the Other with “hot” Latin music, Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and Hawaiian hulas. Bought at a local supermarket, department store, or record shop, and listened to in the privacy of home, midcentury dance records offered instruction in how to dance, how to dress, how to date, and how to discover cool new music—lessons for harmonizing with the rest of postwar America.

    • Hardcover $39.95
  • Designed for Hi-Fi Living

    Designed for Hi-Fi Living

    The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America

    Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder

    How record albums and their covers delivered mood music, lifestyle advice, global sounds, and travel tips to midcentury Americans who longed to be modern.

    The sleek hi-fi console in a well-appointed midcentury American living room might have had a stack of albums by musicians like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, or Patti Page. It was just as likely to have had a selection of LPs from slightly different genres, with such titles as Cocktail Time, Music for a Chinese Dinner at Home, The Perfect Background Music for Your Home Movies, Honeymoon in Hawaii, Strings for a Space Age, or Cairo! The Music of Modern Egypt. The brilliantly hued, full-color cover art might show an ideal listener, an ideal living room, an ideal tourist in an exotic landscape—or even an ideal space traveler. In Designed for Hi-Fi Living, Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder listen to and look at these vinyl LPs, scouring the cover art and the liner notes, and find that these albums offered a guide for aspirational Americans who yearned to be modern in postwar consumer culture.

    Borgerson and Schroeder examine the representations of modern life in a selection of midcentury record albums, discussing nearly 150 vintage album covers, reproduced in color—some featuring modern art or the work of famous designers and photographers. Offering a fascinating glimpse into the postwar imagination, the first part, “Home,” explores how the American home entered the frontlines of cold war debates and became an entertainment zone—a place to play music, mix drinks, and impress guests with displays of good taste. The second part, “Away,” considers albums featuring music, pictures, and tourist information that prepared Americans for the jet age as well as the space race.

    • Hardcover $34.95
    • Paperback $22.95