CSP 64 - Spring 2019

From the Phonograph to Auto-Tune...

Author: berge

The Menace of Mechanical Music

After reading Sousa’s “The Menace of Mechanical Music”, I had a few different thoughts. I agree with Sousa’s argument that the phonograph and the player piano do have a negative effect on musical culture. I think that with the overproduction and overuse of the phonograph and player piano can take the authenticity out of the music. As Sousa says “the whole course of music, from its first day to this, has been along the lines of making it the expression of soul states; in other words, of pouring into it soul” (279) As music becomes more interwove with technology- especially the player piano- music will become more reproduced and manufactured. However, while I do agree with Sousa’s argument that the rise of the phonograph and player piano are dangerous for musical culture, they were also both very beneficial. The phonograph has the ability to provide “professional” music to someone at any time and in any location. This development allowed music to spread all over the country. This issue still has relevance in the music culture of today. As technology has become a key component of music production and creation, the whole prosses of creating a song has changed. Artists are able to constantly edit and reproduce small sections of songs to fit their needs.

The Stereograph

The stereograph was revolutionary for its time, it allowed people to be able to see 3D images. The stereograph is considered to be the original virtual reality. The stereograph could create vivid images that resembled real life. As the stereograph grew in popularity so did the accessibility to its images. These images were broken up into sets (some with as many as 10,000) with specific themes. Some of the themes were cities and countries (tourist attractions), art, nature, people, and animals. The first set of stereographic images was of the civil war. The stereograph became an instant hit when it became available to the public. Most people enjoyed the stereograph because you could travel the world from your living room. With Pictures of London, Paris, Rome, and more. People could see the world from their home. The rise in the stereograph proved that visual stimulation was a desire of the time. The stereograph was such a cultural phenomenon that people of all classes were able to own one. Today there are many advanced versions of the stereograph. All virtual reality sets are designed just like the stereograph. Both the cardboard version and the oculus rift are modern day versions of the stereograph.

The Openeer Papers

The first thing I noticed from the reading was that every person who encountered the phonograph, when they entered the house, was completely surprised by the mysterious voice. While the family who owned the phonograph was naturally comfortable with this new set up. Another thing I took away from the reading was the preservation of the voices. I think that this is an important part of the phonograph because it creates a completely new way of remembering people who are not currentlly with you. Whether the person is dead or lives far away with the phonograph you can keep a recording of their voice. The example of Mrs. Openeer talking to her neighbor who just lost her son. When the neighbor turns on the phonograph her son’s voice starts to play. “The next moment it was as if Henry was in the room.” (137) The article describes this as a happy experience for the mother because she can hear her desisted sons voice again. I assume that this feature was heavily used when advertising for the phonograph. Especially during a time when people were more at risk of an unexpected death. I see why Thomas Eddison said that the phonograph would be better than the photograph. The phonograph creates a new way to remember the past in a way that a photograph cant.