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1922 __ Impressions of an Artist During His First Radio Concert
Comment : Singing to Tens of Thousands.“What were my impressions when I sang, for the first time, over the Radiophone? What 'were they not! I ranged the gamut of human emotions, from helplessness to exultation. Concert singers are all familiar with the complaint known to phonograph record makers as "horn fever," which means a bad case of nerves. That was it with me. It was a blue funk of the deepest indigo. [...] It has been my privilege to appear before 7,000 people at the New York Hippodrome, the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds, and the Chicago Auditorium, and I thought I was fairly intimate with mob psychology, but when I realized that there were 400,000 wireless outfits sold in this country, and that possibly ten per cent, of them were being tuned on me, the roof of my mouth puckered up, my tongue felt paralyzed, and my lips were blanched. There was I, alone in the wireless studio, except for an unassuring and impersonal accompanist and the radio representative, standing over there at the side, a model of decorum (not a bit interested in my repressed mal de mer), attending strictly to his knitting, said knitting being the care of some electric light bulbs. In front of me was a skinny arm, or skeletonized frame, and from that frame there hung the transmitter. It was a silly-looking little instrument about the size and shape of a ten-cent baked-bean can. When I realized that that wretched little tin can was all that stood between me and the world, his wife and his family, there was an acute palpitation around the heart, and a dry blottery feeling in the mouth. [...] In my mind 1 visualized a life-size map of the United States, and in every town, every hamlet, every cross-roads, there was nothing but ears. And all of these countless thousands of ears were cocked and pointed in my direction. I could see ears sticking out from behind library tables, book-cases and sideboards; the handles were ears, the glass knobs were ears, and 'they were waiting for me. Then came a comforting and cheering thought; one that brought a little gulp to my throat and a foolish bit of moistness around my eyes, and it was this: if there were ears on every sideboard and library table, then by the same token there must be people in hospitals, the bed-ridden folk at home, tubercular, patients in sanitariums, old men and women in institutions, and little children in cripples' wards. They, too, must be waiting and tuning in to catch stupid, simple me. [...] While waiting for 8:30 I looked the "studio" over. It was a room of about twenty feet square, and it was perfectly clear that no woman had had a hand in its design. It was furnished for utility, not beauty. Chairs were pushed in a row against the wall which was hung with thousands of yards of yellow burlap. All the potato sacks in the city must have been draped from that ceiling. "Our accoustical engineer designed that," said the attendant, "to deaden all sound." [...] Later I was to find that the burlap did precisely what was expected of it: namely, keep out extraneous sounds. [...] I sang the aria to the tiny tin can. When I had finished, the room seemed dead. The piano had stopped reverberating and there was not the slightest sound. So, that was that. Nothing more to it. I asked the courteous attendant if the people 'way off in Council Bluffs, Idaho, had heard that aria. He replied that to the best of his knowledge he "fancied they had." The attendant then went over to the transmitter and announced that I would sing two songs, Bizet's "Agnus Dei" and Verdi's "Celeste Aïda" from the opera "Aïda." This I then proceeded to do. At the end, there was the same dull, empty silence. I would have given anything for even a pathetic pattering of applause. It was my meat and drink, my board bill. But no not a sound, not a flutter of a programme. I felt like a bell tinkling in a vacuum you know the example we used to have in high school in physics. [...] While I was catching my breath, the telephone jangled. The attendant picked up the receiver, and said "Yes, I will try." He then came over to me with the information that "A family up in Logan's Ferry, forty miles away, had just phoned in to ask if you wouldn't please repeat that last song again. They said it was the finest thing they had ever heard." So there was my applause my encore! Oh, garcon, that was a moment of exaltation! Would I repeat that song? No power on earth, unless the electric juice gave out, could prevent me. That telephone call was better than a salvo of applause, all the claques in the world couldn't make the noise that that one phone ring did in my head. When someone takes the trouble to phone in from forty miles away, it means that you scored a hit, that you shot a bull's-eye. No dead-heads in that audience. No "paper" in that house. These people knew what they wanted. Talk about flattery, satisfaction, appealing to one's vanity it was all rolled up in one telephone call. I stepped over to the dinky transmitter, and this time it looked as large as the Union Station. I repeated the "Aida" song. Later on in the evening, when I sang "Deep River" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," the phone rang again and asked me to repeat both of them, and then someone called up to enquire if the singer wouldn't sing "Annie Laurie." I knew that all the "press agent stuff" and the three- sheetings were as nothing. These people didn't know whether I was blonde or brunette, whether I wore my hair parted in the middle, side, or in fact if I had any at all; or whether I won people through my "attractive personality" and all the other ridiculous prattle of the profession. Furthermore, they didn't give a tinker's profanation. What they liked was the singing and they wanted more of it. You may believe that they got it. When unseen and unknown people clamor to hear you sing, it is far more to be desired than the roaring applause in the concert hall. [...]”. (Leon Alfred Duthernoy, In“RADIO BROADCAST”, Vol. 2, NOVEMBER, 1922, to APRIL, 1923, Garden City, N. Y., DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY, 1923, pp. 48-51)
Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/radiobroadcast02gardrich/%23page/48/mode/2up (last visited )

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