NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1896 __ Voices of the Dead
Original excerpt : « If thus we could but listen to the voice of the great founders of this mighty commonwealth : Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and others, how easy it would be for us to grasp their great ideas and teachings and follow in their footsteps. But in their time the talking machines had not been thought of. To-day we are in a position to reap the full benefit of the genius of our great inventors. How salutary and consoling it is for loving children and friends to be able to retain the voices of their dear departed ones for communion in time of trouble, and of pleasure. The voice of that mother whose every thought has been for our welfare, whose last prayer was to call blessings down on us from Heaven; of that father whose stern, unbending, yet loving character first instructed us in the hard realities of life. Death cannot now deprive us of their help, advice and encouragement, if we will but record their voices whilst they live, and treasure them not only in our hearts, but in a certain and lasting form, on the surfaces of phonograph and graphophone cylinders. [...] The voice, formerly invisible and irretrievably lost as soon as uttered, can now be caught in its passage and preserved practically for ever. The great speakers, singers, actors of to-day have it in their power to transmit to posterity all the excellencies they are so richly endowed with. Art in its perfection need no logner be lost to succeeding generations, who now shall be able to enjoy all its benefit by setting in motion the wheels of a simple machine. [...] Death has lost some its sting since we are able to forever retain the voices of the dead. » (In Phonoscope I, No. 1, 15 November 1896; cited by Jonathan Sterne, p. 308)
Source : Sterne, Jonathan (2003), “The Audible Past - Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction”, Durham & London : Duke University Press, p. 308.

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