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1924 __ « The Talking Machine : A Technical-Aesthetic Essay »
Rudolph Lothar (1865-1933)
Original excerpt : « The talking machine occupies a special position in aesthetics and music. It demands a twofold capacity for illusion, an illusion working in two directions. On the one hand, it demands that we ignore and overlook its mechanical features. As we know, every record comes with interference. As connoisseurs we are not allowed to hear this interference, just as in a theater we are obliged to ignore both the line that sets off the stage and the frame surrounding the scene. We have to forget we are witnessing actors in costumes and makeup who are not really experiencing what they are performing. They are merely playing parts. We, however, pretend to take their apparence for reality. Only if we forget that we are inside a theater can we really enjoy dramatic art. This "as if" is generated by our capacity for illusion. only when we forget the voice of the singer is coming from a wooden box, when we no longer hear any interference, when we can suspend it the way we are able to suspend a stage -- only then will the talking machine come into is own artistically. But, on the other hand, the machine demands that we give bodies to the sounds emanating from it. For example, while playing an aria sung by a famous singer we see the stage he stands on, we see him dressed in an appropriate costume. The more it is linked to our memories, the stronger the record's effect will be. Nothing excites memory more strongly than the human voice, maybe because nothing is forgotten as quickly as a voice. Our memory of it, however, does not die -- its timbre and character sink into our subsconscious where they await their revival. What has been said about the voice naturally also applies to instruments. We see Nikisch conduct the C-minor symphony, we see Kreisler with the violin at his chin, we see trumpets flashing in the sun when litening to military marches. But the capacity for illusion that enables us to ignore boxes and interference and furnishes tones with a visible background requires musical sensitivity. This is the most important point of phonographic aesthetics : The talking machine can only grant artistic satisfaction to musical people. For only musicians possess the capacity for illusion necessary for every enjoyment of art. [...] Everything flows, Heraclitus says, and in light of our modern world view we may add: everything flows in waves. Whatever happens in the world, whatever we call life or history, whatever occurs as a natural phenomenon --- everything transpires in the shape of waves. Rhythm is the most supreme and sacred law of the universe, the wave phenomenon is the primal and universal phenomenon. Light, magnetism, electricity, temperature and finally sound are nothing but wave motions, undulations or vibrations [...] The unit of measurement for all wave motions is the metre, the unit of time is the second. Frequencies are the vibrations registered within a metre per second. The frequencies of light, electricity and magnetism are taken to be identical, with approximately 700 trillion vibrations per second, their speed of propagation is 300 million metres per second. The vibrations of sound exhibit significantly lower frequencies than those described above. The speed of propagation for sound is 332 metres per second. The deepest sound audible to human ears hovers around 8 vibrations, the highest about 40,000. » (Cited by Friedrich Kittler)
Source : Kittler, Friedrich A. (1986), “Grammophon Film Typewriter”, Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose; and also, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter”, translated by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Urls : http://www.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Kittler/GramFilmTypwriter/Kittler_Gramophone.html (last visited )

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