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1922 __ Will Radio Replace the Phonograph?
Comment : Or Will the Radio Concert Merely be Added to the Existing Sources of Musical Entertainment without Supplanting Any of Them?.“Another invention, rushed to a high state of perfection by the exigencies of the war, has entered our daily life and is this time disturbing the placid surface of our musical habits and traditions. According to some, it even threatens a revolution in musical entertainment. We have heard it predicted in speech and in writing, that with the radio telephone bringing music to every home, the faithful phonograph will soon be left to collect dust in the attic, symphony concerts will be attended only by impossible eccentrics who desire to have their names in the papers, and opera seats will go begging. Of course, we cannot agree altogether with these predictions. [...] As a matter of fact, what is there to be said on this radio-vs. -phonograph controversy? Both instruments are able to reproduce music played by great artists and played at a distance from the "consumer"; both are more or less at the owner's beck and call, the phonograph, to be sure, to a somewhat greater degree than radio; and both furnish entertainment at a comparatively low cost after the original investment. Fifteen years ago the talking machine was still a fad. People would listen to the most horrible airs -- appalling combinations of scratches and screeches -- merely for the sake of hearing the human voice issue from a mechanical contrivance. But the rapid improvement in machines and records soon raised the phonograph a'bove the plane of a curious toy. To-day, with an initial outlay of from forty to four hundred dollars, depending on the fineness of the machine and the class of records desired, one can furnish his own home with concerts, either classical or popular. The dance music is clear and loud enough to fill a good-sized room; the operatic stars are reproduced so faithfully that their voices can be readily recognized; piano and violin solos, string-quartet and even whole orchestra selections are rendered with almost the original fineness of tone and sometimes with greater clearness than is found in a concert hall. So fine is the reproduction, in fact, that great musicians and singers have often studied their records with a view to possible improvement in their own technique. The greatest claim to popularity of the phonograph is, however, that you can have what you want when you want it. You can choose your favorite songs from your favorite opera and hear them as often as you like; or you can dance at a moment's notice and need pay the orchestra no overtime. Practically every piece of great music that has been written is available on a record played or sung by one of the world's greatest artists; all the most modern popular music is to be had in its most modern form; and these are to be had at any moment of the day or night unless the family next door lodges a complaint. The radio concert seems to fall down in the face of such an array of advantages; but to be fair we must consider not only the radio of to-day but what we may expect in five or ten years. Broadcasting stations will be more powerful and long-distance reception consequently improved. Interference will be decreased by the ability to tune more finely. Receiving instruments will have been perfected to avoid "howling," and loud speakers will give a clearer tone. Static can probably never be entirely eliminated, but will be considerably reduced by the use of small, directional aerials and by other devices. Finally, the fact that the choice of music lies with the broadcasting station, not with the audience, constitutes an inevitable and serious handicap. If we imagine a time when every receiving set is within range of ten or a dozen broadcasting stations, and if we suppose that the instrument is selective enough to tune out all but one station, with complete avoidance of interference, still the choice of entertainment will be limited. It is possible to supply the music for an entire dance by radio, but a whole evening of dance music would be acceptable to only a small number of listeners-in. Concerts, operas, and symphony orchestra performances are necessarily limited to productions actually being broadcasted whether direct from the broadcasting station or from the theatre, and one might have to wait for weeks for a particular entertainment. Furthermore, the broadcasting of programmes given in theatres and concert halls, wonderful as it is, is far from perfect. Besides the popular music and opera, many other kinds of entertainment are sent out at the same time. It might be well if two stations, for instance, occupied themselves with instrumental music (one for the soloists and quartets, another for symphonies), if a third broadcasted the semi-popular song, such as the announcer always insists on calling "That old but well-loved selection," and if still others would give news, market and business reports, political speeches, travel talks, children's stories, and all the various types of entertainment included in the present-day programmes of our big stations. This distribution could conceivably be managed. Different types of entertainment transmitted on slightly different wavelengths are undoubtedly to be an improvement of the near future. But even with this choice as to what sort of music one will hear, the radio must bow to the phonograph when it comes to supplying the individual with the particular selections he wants. Broadcasted programmes can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but they can't please them all all of the time. Generally speaking, then, radio is not likely for some time to capture the position held by the phonograph. Just as the phonograph has made no great inroads on the other sources of musical entertainment but has, instead, made more general the appreciation of good music and thus added to the desire of the public to hear the great artists, so radio is taking good music into still more homes, and, since it cannot in many ways replace the phonograph, is supplementing it. We can readily imagine the time when the issue of the monthly record catalogues will be followed by broadcasting the records so that one may sit at home and listen to all of them before deciding what to buy. [...] Thus may grow up that universal appreciation of good music which cheap concerts and opera have given to Italy and Germany. So, while we shall not expect the phonograph to suffer from the advent of radio, neither shall we expect to see radio falling into disuse because of any inherent inferiority; especially so long as there exists that almost universal fondness for tinkering with a machine ourselves and getting results which are immediately dependent upon our own work. This game of constructing one's own apparatus, trying out new hook-ups, and employing all one's skill in tuning the far-off stations in and the interference out, will always make the radio telephone a fascinating instrument.”. (Winslow A. Duerr, In“RADIO BROADCAST”, Vol. 2, NOVEMBER, 1922, to APRIL, 1923, Garden City, N. Y., DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY, 1923, pp. 52-54)
Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/radiobroadcast02gardrich/%23page/52/mode/2up (last visited )

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