Thesis ID: CBB001561533

“The Following Record”: Making Sense of Phonographic Performance, 1877--1908 (2007)


Feaster, Patrick (Author)

Indiana University
Bauman, Richard

Publication Date: 2007
Edition Details: Advisor: Bauman, Richard
Physical Details: 722 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation extends our knowledge of early sound recording practices by tracing the initial construction of the "phonogenic frame," a mode of behavior intended to yield phonograms or "records" for use on future occasions rather than performances for immediate apprehension by a traditional audience. By combining close listening to actual surviving phonograms with a survey of contemporaneous writings about them, I document a variety of acoustic, structural, and linguistic adaptations through which people in the United States first sought to make the phonograph "work" meaningfully as a medium of performance. I begin with an account of the first public demonstrations of Thomas Edison's tinfoil phonograph in 1877-78, which---contrary to received opinion---were far from simple as sounds were "reproduced" at different speeds or backwards, layered one over the other into elaborate montages, and otherwise manipulated to create novel effects. Next, I introduce the key factors that shaped the commercial recording industry between 1888 and 1908 (the new arts of sound recording, phonogenic performance, and phonograph exhibition, coupled with imperfect methods of duplication) and some speech conventions that arose to fit the distinctive exigencies of new sound media (e.g., the word "hello" in telephony and the spoken phonogram announcement). The remainder of the dissertation explores the phonographic representation of an assortment of individual performance genres ranging from minstrel shows to auctioneering chants, from sales pitches to vaudeville acts, and from band music to dance calling. I conclude that early phonographic practice involved much creative reworking of "recorded" subject matter and the emergence of new conventions that were as essential to the success of the medium as was the development of the machines themselves. In particular, my analysis reveals an enduring tension between two modes of phonographic representation in which the listener was respectively invited to eavesdrop on an event or to become a full participant in it--- a distinction with broad formal and social implications.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 68/05 (2007). Pub. no. AAT 3264321.

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Authors & Contributors
Israel, Paul B.
Collins, Theresa M.
Hochfelder, David P.
Edison, Thomas A.
Carlat, Louis
de Quadros, Andre
American Quarterly
Journal of Chemical Education
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Public Understanding of Science
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Johns Hopkins University Press
Bedford/St. Martin's
Palgrave Macmillan
Greenwood Press
Crown Publishers
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
Sound reproduction
Science and technology, relationships
Inventors and invention
Edison, Thomas Alva
Rowland, Henry Augustus
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Insull, Samuel
Farnsworth, Charles Hubert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
21st century
18th century
United States
North America: United States; Canada
Chicago (Illinois, U.S.)
New York City (New York, U.S.)
New York (U.S.)
Menlo Park Laboratory

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