CSP 64 - Spring 2019

From the Phonograph to Auto-Tune...

Author: Gwen_Osborne

The Menace of Mechanical Music

Gwyneth Osborne

Blog 3

Professor Johnson


            Sousa’s pessimistic view about mechanical music and its potential malefic on music as an art form stems from concerns about technology and its growing role in society. Sousa is a bit of a luddite concerning automatic music, predicating it will take away the incentive to learn music in the home and play at an amateur level. He goes on to state, “It is simply a question of time when the amateur disappears entirely, and with him a host of vocal and instrumental teachers,” revealing his concern about jobs disappearing at the hands of mechanical music. Another issue Sousa has with mechanical music is the lack of copyright laws to protect the intellectual property of composers. This is particularly damaging when music is being reproduced at a fast rate all over the country without any government monitoring, as it was at this time. I think that artists in the music industry today struggle with a similar issue when dealing with streaming services. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift taking their music off of traditional streaming services a few years ago was an example of artists fighting back against creative theft, which I’m sure Sousa would approved of.

Special Collections Reflection

While observing the many uncommon items in special collections, I gravitated towards Dale’s personal scrapbook of Beatles memorabilia. I of course know about Beatlemania, but that book of articles, tickets stubs, and even a piece of John Lennon’s cigarette, is a tangible example of an infatuation I have never seen the likes of. I flipped through, coming across an article titled, “Girls, Here’s How Beatles Rate You,” and thinking I was going to be subjected to a sexist sort of article, I was happy to discover the title was an early version of clickbait! Instead, I found an interesting firsthand account of the Beatle’s impressions of the states after their first visit in 1964. They described how American girls look way older than girls in the UK, but that English and French teens have better fashion. They also say that New York City was cool, but that they were really smitten with Florida. I think this is funny, because all of my family from Ireland is oddly fond of Florida as well. The Beatles go on to argue about what made them famous in the states, John and Paul insisting it was their music and Ringo saying it was probably their haircuts. This article was a neat primary source that provides an idea of what the early days of the Beatles were like. 

The Openeer Papers

Page 138 and 139 describe the phonograph as a tool for education. French conjugations and German phrases that once vexed children are now, with the assistance of the phonograph, a point of jubilation and mental stimulation. Expressing gleefully, “new ideas appeal to children just as much as grown-ups,” the writer indicates entertainment and simultaneous education as a previously untapped concept. I think this sentiment is naturally appealing to parents who desire betterment of their children and wish to provide through the best learning tools. The emphasis on one’s children and the phonograph is further exhibited on page 143, when the writer’s cousin Smith made a recording, and subsequently died seven days later. The once silly and lighthearted recording became Smith’s father’s “choicest possession on earth”. Today, if you ask someone what they would save if their house was burning down, they would usually say family photos and home videos. These cylinders of your child singing a song or your deceased family members talking seem to be the historical equivalent to today’s family photos. The use of the phonograph as an education tool and a way to preserve the voice of your loved ones align very well with Edison’s advertisement for the many uses of the phonograph. The writer’s review is really just a more personal version of Edison’s advertisement.