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The Secret Music of China

According to Gary Hoffman (the son of Samuel Hoffman) “The Secret Music of China” was a musical produced in 1947 with orchestra, chorus, and cast under the direction of Alexander Laszlo. The music was released in the same year on four 78 rpm records and then re-released in 1949 on a 33&1/3 rpm 10-inch microgroove LP by Columbia (serial number: CL6055). It is a very nice and interesting record but the reason it is featured here is that Samuel Hoffman played some Theremin parts in it.

"The Secret Music of China" Cover (front).
“The Secret Music of China” Cover (front).

Thanks to Howard Mossman and Bret Moreland we are now able to listen to these Theremin gems. Howard passed the record to Bret who restored it and converted the songs in MP3 format in order to make them available on the Internet to all interested people. Bret has also made available the images of the cover (you can see them on this page) and is working on a new, better, audio restoration. Furthermore, Bret discovered that the songs on the L.P. are not in the same order as the liner notes. Read the facts in Bret’s words:

I listened to this music dozens of times over the following 3 weeks, determining how to best transfer to cd for fidelity. As I listened, I would read the song name, and listen to the music to make sense of the action in the song. I had a hard time correlating the sounds in some songs to the title. They didn’t seem to match, in some cases.

So, I gave a CD to a friend who speaks Cantonese, and asked him to translate. He roughly translated a percentage of each song and I went back to the recording to correlate his translation with the action, and with the song title. The song titles still didn’t make sense to me, in many cases.


The liner notes are excellent. They explain the scenes, who is in the scene, and what is happening. As I matched these to the translation, I found that the liner notes did not match the translation on a song by song basis, except on the first and last song. So, I went back to the recording, and listened with both the liner notes, and the translation and found the ‘secret’.

I began to try and figure how this secret came to be. I went to Charlie Lester’s website to look for more clues about the Secret Music of China. There, I found out that according to Sam Hoffman’s personal notes, that this music was recorded in 1947. Further, I learned that Gary Hoffman has a copy of this recording, only Gary’s recording is on 4 78rpm records, not 1 33&1/3 rpm ‘microgroove’ like Howie’s copy. Howies record is copyright 1949. It is an early microgroove record. The songs on this 33 1/3 record are NOT in the same order as the Liner notes. That is why the song titles did not always make sense with the actual songs, and with the liner notes, and the translation I had of Howie’s recording.

My speculation is that when the music was released on the 33 rpm version (later), someone made a mistake in the song order.

The newly restored files will carry the correct names.

"The Secret Music of China" Cover (rear)
“The Secret Music of China” Cover (rear).

Go to the next page to read the liner notes and hear the music.

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