December 1, 2010

"This marvellous musical instrument"

"This marvellous musical instrument" is the telephone.  It was supposed to be used to broadcast a live concert given in Philadelphia, to an eager audience in New York.  Another reciprocal concert was broadcast in the opposite direction.

'Technical problems' meant the New York audience had to manage without entertainment.

The London journal, Orchestra, repeats the article published in a New York music journal, in which they describe the fiasco of the telephone concert that never was.  I detect an undertone of schadenfreude on the side of the British journal: they point out that the telephone (an American invention) is suffering setbacks in its home country.  More to the point, the audience should not be disappointed by such failings; as a means of entertainment, the telephone will fail them.

At a time when those in the industry were struggling to find a use for the new invention (1877), the writer shows remarkable foresight, or at least common sense.  He recommends the telephone should remain at home, together with concert-goers.

"The Telephone at Home."  Orchestra, 4:40 (Nov 1877)

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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.