19th Century Innovations. This lecture by Terry B. Ewell presents guest videos on Volta and electricity, the telegraph, and a demonstration of an 1880's Edison phonograph. The last portion of the video provides an overview of innovations at the 1889 Paris World's Fair and applications to music. Lecture 6 created for “Music, Technology, and Culture,” a course at Towson University. BDP #272. www.2reed.net.

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This video will present some of the innovations highlighted at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. Once again, I am grateful for the scholarship of Annegret Fauser in her book Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair.

Although the use of electricity was not wide spread in 1889, the use of electric batteries was commercially available at that time. Let’s look at this brief video:
Alessandro Volta was born into an aristocratic family in the Italian town of Como on the 18th of February 1705. Even as a school boy he showed a great interest in science, in particular electricity. At this time, while the phenomena of electricity as such was familiar, not much was known about its origins. Volta showed that as long as you have a conductive liquid such as brine, all you needed was two different metals in order to demonstrate the electric effect. This is known as the voltaic effect. He started experimenting with various metals and looking into their properties. His measuring instrument was his own tongue. If you touch it with two different metals at the same time, an electric current will flow. It makes itself felt as a tingly, sour taste.

Painstakingly, Volta tested every possible combination of metals. He entered them into a table; the order corresponded to the strength of electric reaction. However, he didn’t only investigate metals like zinc, tin, lead, iron, platinum, gold, silver, and mercury, which he called conductors of the first class; but he also discovered that liquids and bodily fluids were conductors too. These he called, conductors of the second class. The result meant that his dispute with Galvani was finally settled in his favor. The upshot was an invention that made him world famous. For in his experiments he had realized that the electrical effect could be substantially increased by introducing an acid between the different metals. He constructed a device, which made him famous—the voltaic pile. Volta constructed a column consisting of copper coins alternating with plates of zinc. The metals were separated by leather disks soaked in brine. When he connected the two ends of the voltaic pile with a wire and his hand, electric current flowed. Volta had invented the first battery.

Electricity by means of direct current batteries was the innovation that powered many important 19th century innovations. The most important of these was the electric telegraph. Let’s watch this video on the telegraph:

The electric Telegraph began its life in different parts of Europe in North. America its ascent to media dominance during the 1800s was due in part to the growing railroad networks the need to communicate faster than the transportation of messages via railroad or boats was finally resolved. In 1837 Samuel Morris effectively patented the first electronic Telegraph for instantaneous communication. It finally separated transportation from communication breaking down all barriers of time and space by reducing the time between information being produced to its reception.  The sender inputs their message using Morse code on one end transporting it across transcontinental wires while the receiver automatically records the transmission on the other end. In 1843 the US government paid to string wires 35 miles from Washington to Baltimore and within a few years the first telegraph line had sprouted a system stretching across the United States. This Telegraph Network unified the United States across all major cities, however, the next step was aimed at breaking the Continental isolation between Europe and North America. On August 5th, 1858, a successful wire connection was laid across the Atlantic Ocean using undersea cables to connect Newfoundland to Ireland it was during this time that Samuel Morse sent the first transatlantic message “What hath God wrought.” This message marked the beginning of a long and arduous journey to establish stable means for long-distance communication.

An entire pavilion was dedicated to the telephone. Let me point out a few important features of the building. In the center is an array of trumpet-like bells that are broadcast speakers. These were for amplifying a composition called “Fanfare Ader.” Performers in one location would sing into microphones that were then broadcast through the trumpet-like bells. The electric energy was carried by wires from the microphones to the speakers.

I mentioned in the last video the importance of opera. Here is one of the stunning announcements: One of biggest successes of the exposition every evening, from 8:30 to 11 p.m. was at the pavilion of the telephones. They called these telephonic auditions. They set up some microphones in the opera and the opera-comique, which were two different theaters, and in the afternoon there was a place for that. So, for one franc, you could go in and listen for 10 minutes to these telephones and hear what was happening in another theater, in another location. You can see here that there are some people listening to the opera. It is a stethoscope-type contraption that goes to the ears and then there some sort of speaker that is connected to those stethoscopes.

The public was just amazed that this could happen. Here is an artistic rendition of how this works. We have the opera house over here. Someone is on stage singing. They had two microphones: one for the left ear and one for the right. That is probably why the music is in two streams. This music is streaming across the air. Actually, it wasn’t the air, it was a telephone line. And in this part you have it being received by people, who, in this case look like they are dancing. But we know in the other picture that they were listening through some sort of headset, those stethoscope listening devices.

This is fascinating that you have here the broadcast, the opera, over the wires here.
Thomas Edison’s new innovations further included the broadcast of music over wires. This was titled “telephonic auditions” at that time.
Broadcast of music by wire was one innovation, but another innovation demonstrated was the use of recorded of music. They would record music and then play it at a later time.  Here is a listing of music that was probably available for listeners at that time. Notice that the recordings are of smaller groups. So, here is solo violin, here is a solo cornet, here is a duet of two instruments. Here is voice and piano, here is a flute trio. The reason for that is that the smaller groups were easier to record than the larger groups. They only had a few microphones that they could set up and it was difficult to get balance.

Now, here is an example of the phonograph listening. Once again, they had these stethoscope-like devices.
Now let’s listen to a video that demonstrates Edison’s 1880s phonograph.

Well, this concludes our lectures on the 19th century. I hope that you have now understood and can summarize the context and structures of cultural traditions of music in the 19th century. Furthermore, I hope you have grasped the many innovations that were necessary for the production of 19th century music.

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