Thesis ID: CBB001561033

An Emotive Mechanism: Phonographic Wonders and Possibilities at the Turn of the 20th Century (2012)


Garza, Gustavo Alberto (Author)

University of California, Los Angeles
Porter, Theodore M.

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Advisor: Porter, Theodore M.
Physical Details: 241 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation examines the intellectual and cultural reception of the phonograph at the turn of the 20th century in Western Europe and the United States. My main goal in this project is to investigate the varied reception of the phonograph by different constituencies, such as scientists, cultural critics, ethnomusicologists, and musicians. From apprehension to enthusiasm, the phonograph generated a diverse set of reactions amongst its users and listeners. In order to better understand this range of responses to the sound-recording device, I utilize the theory of the automaton as an important reference point throughout this dissertation. In scientific, musical, economic, and fictional contexts, the phonograph was imbued with life-like characteristics by its users, which stirred fear in some and excitement in others. This perception of the phonograph to be uncanny--to be both mechanical and somehow alive--shapes the focus of the dissertation and demonstrates how a seemingly simple device managed to destabilize traditional notions about human identity. The perceived ability of the phonograph to preserve and reproduce the human voice in isolation from its bodily source raised fundamental questions about what it meant to be human at a time of unprecedented technological and cultural change. The various manifestations of modernization transformed the human experience of time and space. As a consequence, the phonograph became part of this reconceptualization of the human experience in a plethora of human activities. The first part of the dissertation examines the positioning of the phonograph as a doubling agent in the domains of stenography, law, and music. It then explores how the phonograph shaped Thomas Edison's ideas about the structure of the universe and the possibilities of immortality. The second half of the dissertation looks at the role of the phonograph in the domain of ethnomusicology--in both the United States and England--and how it impacted debates over musical authenticity and the practice of scientific objectivity. In its various applications, the phonograph elicited a spectrum of emotions and this dissertation explores the critical first 20 to 30 years of the phonograph before it became a commoditized playback machine in the early 1900s.


Description Cited in ProQuest Diss. & Thes. (2012). ProQuest Doc. ID 1034273483.

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Authors & Contributors
Peter John Blodgett
Suisman, David
Quirke, Carol
Zachmann, Karin
Vaught, Jeannette
Sullivan, Edmund
Technology and culture
Sound reproduction
Mass media
Technology and art
Popular culture
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
20th century
18th century
United States
Philadelphia, PA
Western states (U.S.)
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)
Ford Motor Company

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