Into lecture for sound workshop,
james beckett march 2004
Edison’s first formal invention was the voting machine, dismissed at the time as the last thing the government would want and hence useless. The machine held the structural basics for what was later to be the tin foil reproducer, or sound reproducer through the medium of tin foil. Effectively concentrating a large surface area of sound into the pressure point of a needle, the first designs were crude yet effective. It was understood prior to its application that sound is basically difference in air pressure, and, in the process of indenting a paper or malleable surface such as tinfoil, one could register sound. In running a playing needle again over the same indented groove one could reproduce (with relative quality) the original sound produced.
Cap: Seen here is a diamond playing head running through the groove of a record, basically a flat version of the original cylinder. Sound, in this case, is registered in the vinyl vertically (referred to as a ‘Hill and Dale’ incision) and produces tone created by the number of cycles or difference in playing surface per second. A groove written with a 440cycle rate will produce the equivalent of the note ‘A’ in a twelve-tone instrument, this can be referred to as the notes frequency.
In 1877 the reproducing instrument was patented as the phonograph, one of approximately 600 later patents claimed by Edison. In following lines of commercial viability, Edison had left his invention for a period, in order to explore the more lucrative directions of incandescent lighting. The reproducer was however taken through several stages of improvement by Alexander Graham Bell, namely by the use of a hard wax to replace the foil recording surface and sapphire recording needles giving the incision a greater deal of accuracy.
Capt. Marked ‘a’ in this illustration from 1890, Tinfoil proved to be a poor surface material for recording into as it could only be dented, hence unable to carry sufficient detail. The later use of wax as a recording surface would prove much more efficient as it could be cut into and easily reproduced as a casting material.
Bell was also formally termed the inventor of the telephone, a system building much like the phonograph had upon an evolution of preceding ideas. Having quite a good understanding of both sound and electricity, Bell was able to realise in practice what had been around in theory for several decades. Before having formalised ‘his’ invention in reality, he had claimed through a registration office that he would attempt certain technical lines to achieve such result. This patent registration had been filed just hours before that of a similar idea of another inventor, Elisa Gray. Bell had supposedly followed a path more accurate to Gray's filed patent, thus arriving at a functioning model able to conduct speech well in advance. This patent had been filed in 1876, one year preceding the invention of the foil phonograph.
Like the phonograph, the telephone receives difference in air pressure through a vibrating membrane of sorts. The phonograph would then register the vibration as inscription where the membrane of the phone would translate the difference in air pressure to difference in electrical current, thus enabling sound to be conveyed live over great distances. The electrical current would then be translated back to acoustic sound via another membrane vibrating in a second headset.
at accurate ideas as to how speech could be conducted Gray had been researching
various technical manner, one of which was the use of electro-magnetism
to induce vibrations in various secondary bodies. This had resulted in the
invention of a musical instrument able to generate tones to be played over
great distance through a single wire. This became known as multiple-pitch
or harmonic telegraphy. Gray had made many advances in this area although
others had been busy along similar lines, 25 years preceding his practice.
The economic and creative climate was at the time geared toward practical invention and the likes of unprofitable entertainment were secondary. Despite such influence, Gray had opted out from his usual development and patent registration to perform live telephonic concerts. Although the instrument allowed only one note to be played at a time with no function for additional expression, people where sufficiently amazed to attend recitals, marking the potential for a new means of listening to music.
time a young electrical engineer had been working on his own improvements
for such a model. As a designer of the first electric typewriters, Thaddeus
Cahill had devised the basics for the formation of an instrument more true
to the sonic properties of a piano. This would involve the production of
smoother tones, possibilities of expression through a second keyboard and
the simultaneous sounding of several notes, thus allowing chords to be held.
Among other innovations the machine would, in theory, also be able to produce
volumes never before heard electronically.
The instrument was to be named the Telharmonium and incorporating the related infrastructure would be referred to as: “The Art of and Apparatus for Generating and Distributing Music Electrically” The instrument had proven difficult to patent as a result of its complex technical makeup. A labyrinth of explanation and correspondence with the patent officials of Washington D.C. had seemingly doomed Cahill to reside in the shadows of patents filed by Gray. With a degree in law he was able to hold his own and persisted in his registrations. Finally able to verify various degrees of uniqueness in his invention, Cahill set about constructing the 200 tonne instrument. With the backing of distinguished Washington Capitalist Oscar T Crosby, he raised enough funds to realise a version of his original design for the instrument. The income raised from the infrastructure was principally to come from the rental of each diaphragm.
“$50 per year on each diaphragm used in the parlours, dining rooms, bar rooms, billiard rooms, porches or other rooms of any hotel, restaurant, café, saloon, billiard room, lodge, club, store, depot, or other public place, in towns of more than 100,000 inhabitants.”
such organisation of infrastructure it is clear it was believed The Telharmonium
was to be a standard for the creation and distribution of live music. The
fate of the proposed infrastructure would however prove quite different.
For commercial interests, the instrument had been moved to Manhattan in New York, practically in the central business district. Various sources accounting for the destruction of the Telharmonium differ although it is clear that it was popular consensus of the district that the instrument should be dismantled on account of its’ interference with phone calls in proximity. Consequently the telephone company had refused to defend the system and had annulled the contract, discontinuing use of their lines, thus deeming the invention redundant.
In the shared use of an infrastructure, that of the telephone lines, the Telharmonium had prematurely fallen from its utopian notch, leaving the Cahill company bankrupt.
To trace back around twenty years, Edison had now begun refining the phonograph incorporating the improvements made by Bell, the sapphire recording knife and hard wax. Like most of his peer inventor-entrepreneurs, it was his intention to mass-produce in order to generate great profit. Upon its first commercial arrival the phonograph had not found much popularity, as even the typewriter was still quite a novelty in the workplace. The expense of such a machine had not warranted the purchase by individuals and companies and was accordingly rented for a given period to suit the need of the consumer. The machines had taken quite some time to enter into their intended practice of the recording and storage of important messages, or for the recreational playback of pre-recorded music. The apparatus had encountered quite some resistance, in particular in the U.K. where stenographers where objecting to the presence of the machines as a threat to their jobs.
function of the phonograph was later to become streamlined as the ‘Voice
Writer’ machine. This machine followed Edison’s preferred method
of the electric driven motor, but had acoustic recording and reproduction.
Edison’s creative expansion of the invention would bring much additional profit. Evident in his pursuit of all potential avenues in exploiting the money-spinner was his speaking doll which contained a tiny playback cylinder of a pre-recorded message.
The phonograph is combined here with a crude form of image reproduction utilizing running scrolls. In a significant combination, the entry into motion picture by Edison was later to become the source of much wealth and controversy.
Edison was later to found The Edison Film Manufacturing Company, which, as an established leader in the field, had merged with other leaders to form a trust, - the Motion Picture Company. As a dominating force with Edison as a leading figure, they had applied regulations across the industry from the producer and supplier of material, right through to the theatre owner screening film. Licensing fees as well as patents filed across the full spectrum of film, cameras and projectors had ensured that no unlicensed producer or screener could pass in the practice without paying royalties to the company. This had effectively created a monopoly, repressing any activity of independent production.
Even small scale and highly secretive underground imports of stock were detected and erased drawing the independent producers into a practically dysfunctional minority. In 1915, just 7 years after the formation of the Motion Picture Company, an independent producer, William Fox, took the Patent Company responsible for the condoning of the operations to court, deeming them illegal. The court found in favour of Foxes accusations hence bringing an end to the monopoly of an industry, a significant victory in the face of the money hounding patents.
Quite ironically, these independent filmmakers would unite and move west to Hollywood to realise their own film utopia. Around the same time several landmark attempts at ridiculous patent attempts help mark the end of gold rush patenting.
This picture shows the introduction of the double-sided record. Up until this moment the record had been only one-sided. When it had occurred to a man that both sides could be used thus doubling the potential playing surface he had made the attempt to register the concept as his own, making himself beneficiary to future royalties. This resulted in a court case whereby the claim was dismissed as an inevitable evolution and hence ridiculous.
with an apparent disease of cash-lust circulating the likes of the Menlo
Park neighbourhood, it is also quite remarkable that Edison had become
quite deaf relatively early in his carrier.
both Edison and Beethoven alternative means of working could be found despite
their disability. In fact a disability can be described to some extent as
a blessing as in the case not only of the deaf but in that of the blind
too. With many blind musicians it seems the sensitivity to sound and the
ability to shape it are more present and acute as a result of a loss, or
lack of a fifth sense. The use of touch is arguably second to sound in the
life of the average blind person, especially in social life. The ability
to judge distance, assess company held and (for example) various types of
clothing worn, are all described quite accurately through sound.
Perhaps it can also be said that a person more sensitive to sound can produce constructive and beautiful sound as a result of their specific experience of them. Muhammad Dilbeg Ruzadarov is a resident of the mountainous regions of Badakhshan, making a traditional sung religious poetry,
Muhammad is blind.
a background I quote the Dutch musical anthropologists Gabrielle van den
Berg and Jan Belle.
The most common instrument is the Rubab, having six strings, made of gut, processed from the skin of a sheep. The fact that the instruments strings come from an animal reaffirms the Ismailis belief that the instrument is an instrument of heaven, consequently an instrument with strings of steel is perceived as an instrument of hell and therefore unfit for religious praise. It is however accepted, that some of the more modern Rubab incorporate nylon strings.
It is recognised by van de Berg and Belle that the music has undergone centuries of various Arabic, Turkish and Persian influence although the harsh Pamir mountainous regions of Badakhshan have served to create a kind of enclosure, preserving the traditional forms from further influence. The people of Badakhshan do however form part of a split people with neighbouring relatives in the mountains of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chinese Turkistan.
brings us to Mali, West Africa, and the blind duo Amadou Bagayoko and
Miriam Doumbia, who had met while performing for a group of musicians
representing an institute for young blind people. Like the music of Badakhshan
their music is also born in a tradition of story telling and in particular
in the figure of the Griot, (or story teller) in the Bambaran language.
Before being colonised by the west Bambara was in fact not a written language
and hence the role of the Griot vital in passing on the traditions and
narrative of the people. In the form of praise for others and god as well
as numerous folk love songs the Griot was and still is to some extent,
a centre of Malian cultural society.
|They were later to move to France, signed to Universal Records, to record the album ‘Sou Nile Tilé’, for release on compact disc. They significantly gained weight as seen on this cover, quite literally descriptive of their own success. The music had also made a noticeable shift in style from the former simplicity of duo to that of a more full sound incorporating many other musicians.|
A point of interest here is the presence of the singer songwriter Issa Bagayogo, with a name similar to that of Amadou Bagayoko, Issa was one of the first traditional Malian musicians to incorporate the drum machine in his compositions. At first reluctant, as a result of its supposedly fake sounds, Issa later embraced the difference of sounds from machine to those organic and formed a band including two kora players as well as the renown guitarist Moussa Koné, former collaborator with the great Ali Farka Touré. Issa had notably changed his stage name to Issa Techno Bagayogo. The large-scale popularity of his music became his saviour, lifting him from a period of drug abuse, -habits he developed whist a trainee bus driver.
Contemporary Chinese piracy is under severe threat. The U.S. is suffering a great loss in trade, estimated at around 2.3 billion dollars per annum as a result of Chinese piracy. In addition to this figure the Russian black market is growing and further depleting the legitimate production and sales of licensed material. For the domestic market in Russia piracy makes perfect sense as for a generally poor populace, the purchase of a fake product is less than a quarter the price of an original.
at this point important to acknowledge that piracy is taking away from the
pockets of the authors as well as those in the record, software and film
industries, placing power instead in clandestine production.
The embrace of copyright, as displayed by Wang Lee Hom, does however seem to run contrary to a Chinese disposition, as is recognised by the journalist Graham J. Chynoweth:
“Historically, copyright law has been present in at least some form since the Tang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.). Since then, copyright law has existed somewhat irregularly and its potency has always remained a question. Although copyright law has existed de jure, the cultural norms of the Chinese society played a large role in mitigating its de facto significance. The deep-seeded yin-yang cultural concepts of Li and Fa leave the Chinese people predisposed against the concept of copyright. Mainly, this predisposition comes from the Li notions that the individual should be submerged in the collective, that the individual-society relationship should be non-competitive, and the disfavoured Fa notion that the state has control over the individual.”
Evidence of the ‘Li’ notion in practice on the level of the state can perhaps be found in a both basic and beautiful measure. The government has at present placed a ban on all its computers to use Windows or any other Microsoft software, in an action aimed to suppress further profit to the monopoly of such multinational corporations. In this case Linux is the operating system of choice.
Issa our next featuring pop star is not blind but does however suffer from
a rare eye disease which (from so far as I can find) is an associated disease
of albinism. Wearing dark glasses on stage with his almost white blonde
hair, Heino was a kind of folk icon at the height of his career in the eighties
in the South of Germany. Like the preceding musicians mentioned, Heino sang
folk music out of love for nature, his people and his country. In a cultural
form that became known as the ‘Schlager’ or ‘hitting’
song, the traditional folk music moved through generations, established
as the popular music of respectful citizens. Often discredited for being
nationalist and as a result fascist, his music had come under much criticism
for both its content and related following. Despite these implications the
music itself seemed harmless and quite beautiful. The image and aura around
Heino had thus grown accordingly.
Like any other pop star Heino’s popularity was exploited for commercial profit, mostly notably in the release of video albums featuring diverse Christmas songs and beyond his control in being included into the then latest version of Microsoft Windows.
pop legend Brian Eno has also been active in the Windows lineage, having
composed the start up sound for Windows 95. Despite the nature of such
later commissions, he had begun an otherwise interesting musical career
in the sixties, producing his own music as well as that of others, most
notably David Bowie and the Irish pop-group U2.
The title for their project is ‘MUDDA’ -"Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists", which was handed to a spectrum of players in the industry as a slim red manifesto around two months ago. With the rise of Apples ‘i-Tunes’ site for 99 cent songs, MUDDA plans to compete by allowing artists to directly upload their music, whether a complete album or not, and benefit from sales directly.
Jump back to the formative years of Thaddeus Cahill and a time when dreaming was as important as doing, this extract, comprised of two references made by the Dutch writer Reynold Weidenaar, from his book, “Magic Music from the Telharmonium”
|It is perhaps worthwhile in finishing to trace back to the late 1960’s, a time preceding the proliferation of the internet and the then still analogue telephonic lines of AT&T in the United States. It was not widely known at the time, that a handful of fanatics began exploiting a loop-hole in the AT&T networks, namely a system of signalling to central computers through analogue frequencies carried on the same lines as speech. The sending of various frequencies at very specific times and intervals would allow one, among other things, to make long distance calls free of charge. The use of one line for two functions was a cost saving measure basically requiring only half the amount of network cabling. This dual function would mean one could send the frequencies directly through the headset of any public or private telephone.|
|John Draper is a pioneer come martyr in phone hacking history, a hobby borne in his meeting up with a handful of blind children whilst studying electronics in college. The kids knew of the AT&T flaw and realised it would be possible to intercept with an electronic box able to generate a series of tones. Draper built such a box, an MF’er or multi frequency box. How exactly to use it was at the time unclear, it was a crude and intuitive approach in learning the telephonic infrastructure. By trial and error Draper and few friends began mapping out the system and had become quite efficient in finding and manipulating paths.|
quote Draper on a few of the benefits:
During this period, very few people knew of the flaws in the system and it would take some time before someone would get caught. The hacking actions were a curiosity above a money-spinner although things were to change; -the conviction of a user had lead to a public announcement of the network vulnerability in a 1971 Esquire article, documenting the growing sub-culture. This lead to many of those involved being prosecuted and many newcomers thirsty for knowledge of the blue-box. One such person was Steve Wozniac, a young college student who, in pursuing Draper, was eager to learn and against all advice, began the production of blue-boxes in commercial venture. He produced hundreds and sold them at around $ 150 to other scholars or anyone else who would listen. Each was engraved with the phrase "He has the whole world in his hands". The money gained from his little project was later to fund a venture which was to become Apple Macintosh.
|Whilst in prison, Draper had also written the first word processing programme for the Apple Easy Writer. Still today he is involved in computers and quite ironically works in inter-net security although is unable to even register a house in his own name as a result of his past-time delving. He is currently brushing up on his German and plans to move as soon as his papers are cleared.|