John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

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BleuPanda
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John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

Post by BleuPanda » Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:29 pm

http://explorepahistory.com/odocument.php?docId=1-4-1A1

I read this article for a class over a year ago. I find it interesting to see early reactions to recorded music, especially by the guy who has the oldest recorded song on this website.

My favorite quote by him is "And now, in this the twentieth century, come these talking and playing machines, and offer again to reduce the expression of music to a mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks, cylinders, and all manner of revolving things, which are as like real art as the marble statue of Eve is like her beautiful, living, breathing daughters."

The main point of his view is that recorded music would convince people they don't need to learn instruments themselves, therefore leading to the death of a soul in music.

He closes the piece with "Music teaches all that is beautiful in this world. Let us not hamper it with a machine that tells the story day by day, without variation, without soul, barren of the joy, the passion, the ardor that is the inheritance of man alone."

I want to see what everyone thinks of this piece. I think it was a bit of an overreaction, but there's definitely a lack of learning music in American schools these days. Unfortunately, I think in recent years it has more to do with the tumor that is standardized testing than the ease of recorded music. But I definitely think recorded music has 'soul.'

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JimmyJazz
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Re: John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

Post by JimmyJazz » Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:38 pm

I personally think those views on recorded music are obviously overblown, and are mostly reactionary for its time towards a brand new medium. Much like how so many "cultured" figures feared that photography and cinema would replace literature, theatre, and painting as mediums when they first showed up. Nevertheless, the lack of learning of music in America in general is a serious problem, but one that can be more blamed on the lack of emphasis on the arts in the American educational system in general. Of course, we have been discussing a distinctly American issue here, so it would be great to receive the views of other nationals on this topic :)

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Re: John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

Post by Mindrocker » Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:05 pm

I always understood JP Sousa was against recorded music due to its crappy sound quality in the early days of the acoustic age. In which case he had a point. One only needs to hear the muffled, scratched and sizzling recordings from 100 years ago to understand the listening experience was inferior to seeing a band playing the same piece live in front of an audience. However, Sousa himself might not be seen near a recording facility, that didn't stop him to allow his musicians to enter the studio. Since 1897 the orchestra released dozens of songs and records under the name Sousa's Band. A blessing in disguise because Sousa after all was the most important artist from his period and the recordings of his band are historically of huge importance.

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Re: John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

Post by Jirin » Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:36 pm

I think recorded music has posed to be positive for both his positive and negative examples of art. If you want to make good art, or if you want to make trash art, recorded medium will help you do it and disperse it better.

I might point out retroactively that before recorded music, 'high art' was only available to privileged groups.

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Bruce
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Re: John Phillip Sousa on "The Menace of Mechanical Music"

Post by Bruce » Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:49 pm

Jirin wrote:
I might point out retroactively that before recorded music, 'high art' was only available to privileged groups.
That's right. There were not even radio broadcasts of music then so the only way to hear it was to see it performed live. What MADE the recording industry and got millions of folks to buy record players was the chance to finally hear the Great Caruso through records. Before that most people had only heard ABOUT Crauso, but were never in a position to actually hear him sing.

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