In the early 1900s, recorded music was accused of muddling our minds, destroying art, and even harming babies. What was everyone so afraid of? In this episode, we dig into the early days of music and see what the hysterics properly predicted—and the benefits they never saw coming.
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Jason Feifer: Welcome to Pessimists Archive. I'm Jason Feifer. I want to play you something that was once frightening. It was dangerous, damaging to the soul, even. Something that ripped mothers from their babies, that threatened to snuff out the passion of artists, that muddled the mind. So please, if you have small children around hold them tight and tell them it'll all be okay, this will only take a few seconds. Here we go.
Audio Clip: Sing, Smile, Slumber. Played by Bohumir Kryl, Edison Records.
Jason Feifer: What you just heard was recorded sometime between 1904 and 1908 during the earliest days of recorded music. Back then, music was recorded onto a cylinder and to give you a sense of just how new it all was, most early cylinders began exactly the way you just heard there. An announcer would name the piece, the performer and the publisher, and then the music would start.
Today, we basically know what happened after that. I mean, you may not know that around 1909, songs stopped containing announcements at the beginning. And could you just imagine how annoying that would be on Spotify? But more importantly, you know that recorded music would go on to become the soundtrack of our lives. It is attached to our fondest memories. As babies, we first danced to whatever music our parents played us. We explored feelings of longing and teenage angst sitting in our rooms, blasting music.
But here's what that history skips. A report from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle October 1st, 1916.
Voice Clip (Brooklyn Daily Eagle): Does not frequent use of the phonograph, especially in continual repetitions of a number, produce inattention in the hearer? The music is so easily obtainable by the listener who sits back and is fed with sweet sounds.
Jason Feifer: And here's an alert from a critic named Alice Clark Cook in a publication called Musical America around the same time.
Voice Clip (Alice Clark Cook): Mental muscles become flabby through a constant flow of recorded popular music.
Jason Feifer: And you know how I said you needed to protect your children? Here's composer John Philip Sousa writing in 1906.
Voice Clip (John Philip Sousa): When a mother can turn on a phonograph with the same ease that she applies to the electric light, will she croon her baby to slumber with sweet lullabies or will the infant be put to sleep by machinery? Children are naturally imitative and if in their infancy they hear only phonographs, will they not sing, if they sing at all in imitation? And finally become simply human phonographs without soul or expression.
Jason Feifer: All of which is to say that to many people of the early 1900s recorded music was seen as a deep threat to our minds and our spirit and our humanity. And so today we're going to ask why? What the hell was that all about? And did any of their fears come true? To start, we need to understand the world those people lived in and that begins with Thomas Edison.
Mark Katz: Thomas Edison, in his lab, introduced the photograph in 1877 and it really didn't go anywhere for a while because he actually set it aside to work on the light bulb. And it wasn't until the 1890s that it became of much interest or known well beyond just being a kind of novelty.
Jason Feifer: That's Mark Katz, a professor of music and a professor of humanities at the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And it was a such a novelty, in fact, that at first people thought it was a trick. This is from a retrospective of Edison's career published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 1931, "Bishop Vincent, a founder of the Chautauqua movement, was one of those who 'knew' that reproduction of the human voice was impossible and that the phonograph was a fake. He demanded a test. Edison covered the cylinder with fresh tinfoil and the Bishop recited haphazard a long list of obscure biblical titles. When the phonograph recited them right back to him, he was convinced because he could not conceive that any hidden ventriloquists could remember them."
But even after the 1890s, it took a series of innovations before sound playing machines actually became popular in people's homes. The gramophone came along and used a flat record, which people liked a lot more than the cylinder and in 1906, the Victor Talking Machine Company introduced its own innovation called the Victrola, which was basically a big cabinet with a record player inside.
Because you know how people always picture those old machines with giant horns? I certainly do. People didn't actually that horn. It was easy to knock over and kids kept putting stuff in it. The Victrola fixed that problem and as the technology got better, it attracted better musicians.
A big breakthrough moment came when the Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso began recording in 1902.
But even as people bought these new machines and marveled at their abilities, they began feeling uneasy about it.
Mark Katz There was a lot of anxiety about recorded sound and that came from a number of things. One, I think at heart it's because the way people engage with sound recording, whether as listeners or performers, is different from the way they create or listen to live music.
Jason Feifer: Because before recorded music, live was the only thing people knew. I mean that term, live music, wouldn't have even made sense back then, right? It wasn't live music, it was just music. If you wanted to hear music, you had to sit down in front of musicians because that tuba wasn't playing itself. And so when recorded music came along, it forced people to reconsider the very experience of music.
In Mark Katz's great book, Capturing Sound, he cites a few awesome examples of how this played out. So, imagine you're walking into a store to check out this new-fangled sound player device. To make sure that this thing doesn't absolutely blow your brains out of your head, the sales person would carefully walk you through what was called the Edison Realism Test. It's a six step method of listening to a record, which I'll abbreviate right here. Okay, here we go.
Pick the kind of music you want. Then sit with your back towards the machine, which isn't going to be playing anything yet. Then spend two minutes looking through a scrapbook, which is apparently full of writings about music. Read some of it. Imagine the music. Say the words, "I am ready," and now, okay, from the rest on you just have to hear the whole thing. So this is word for word of the test.
Voice Actress: About 45 seconds after the music begins, close your eyes slowly and keep them closed for a minute or more. Then open your eyes for 15 seconds but do not gaze at your surroundings. After this, close your eyes again and keep them closed until the end of the selection. You should get the same emotional reaction experienced when you last hear the same kind of voice or instrument. If you do not obtain this reaction at the first test, it is due to the fact that you have not wholly shaken off the influence of your surroundings. In that case, you should repeat the test until you are no longer influenced by your surroundings.
Jason Feifer: End of test. It's just so great, isn't it? Here's another example. In 1923, the writer Orla Williams wrote about how weird it would be to walk in on a friend who's listening to music alone, "You would think it odd, would you not? You would endeavor to dissemble your surprise. You would look twice to see whether some other person were not hidden in some corner of the room and if you found no such one, would painfully blush as if you had discovered your friend sniffing cocaine, emptying a bottle of whiskey or plating straws in his hair."
And yeah, that's a little extreme, but you can see where Orla was coming from. It takes time to adjust to new technologies and the healthiest questions we can ask are, how is this fitting into our lives? Does it fit this way? That way? Does it make sense for us? The answer doesn't have to be yes, either. I mean, look at the conversations we have today. In December, Michael Hiltzik wrote a column for the LA times called, I own an Amazon Echo and an Echo Dot and I still don't know what they're good for.
And hey, preach on, man. I haven't bought one either. I'm not saying I oppose them, it's just that I don't see how they fit into my life right now and the idea of talking to a machine in my living room seems, I mean, not bad necessarily, but not something I need. And that's okay. Maybe that'll change.
But throughout history, many people are tempted to ask a somewhat different version of these questions. Rather than ask, "How does this fit into my life?" They ask, "How will this replace things in my life?" That can lead to far scarier answers because it encourages people to think in zero sum ways that something new must eliminate something familiar.
And during the dawn of recorded music, nobody championed those scary answers better than the man who a minute ago, you heard fretting about babies never learning to sing. John Philip Sousa.
Matthew Thibeau...: If you want to be pessimistic, Sousa's a great place to start and that came from the fact that he deeply understood what live music could be.
Jason Feifer: This is music educator, Matthew Thibeault, who lives in Japan and teaches online for the University of Florida. He studied Sousa's opposition to recorded music and says it's important to understand where Sousa was coming from. Even if you don't know his name, you still know his music today. He was called the March King and was famous for composing patriotic marches, like the Stars and Stripes Forever. And with apologies to Sousa, here's a recording of that tune made long after his death.
Matthew Thibeau...: If you went back and you looked at a Sousa concert, it was an experience that was deeply attuned to things that only live music could do. So for instance, when he gave a concert, he would maybe list four pieces on the program but he would play 12 pieces. After each piece on the program, he would do two or three encores based on what he thought the audience was into and he would even stop a performance in the middle of a song if he thought the audience wasn't paying attention.
Jason Feifer: In other words, a guy who really knew how to work a crowd. He gave over 15,000 concerts in 40 years, which equals out to more than a concert a day. And as recorded music became popular, Sousa led the charge against it. In 1906, he wrote an essay called The Menace of Mechanical Music in a literary journal called Appleton's Magazine and it became instantly famous. Thibeault says he found 400 newspaper and magazine articles from the time that reckoned with it and it's full of sad, alarming predictions about how recorded music would drain our lives of meaning and joy.
So here's what I want to do with this essay. I'm going to pick three predictions of his and then let's see how they turned out. And then after that, we can try to understand what was really going on here and why someone like Sousa was driven to such extreme fears. Okay. Here is fear number one.
Voice Clip (Sou...: Just so far as the spirit of emulation once inspired proud parents or aspiring daughter to send for the music teacher when the neighbor child across the way began to take lessons. The emulation is turning to the purchase of a rival piano player in each house and the hope of developing the local music personality is eliminated.
Jason Feifer: That could use a little translating, so here it is. He's saying that before recorded music, an aspiring musician would learn from another musician and therefore develop their own style and sensibility. But with recordings, he's thinking, new musicians would only repeat what they hear on the records and therefore never truly develop as a musician, they would just kind of repeat and repeat and repeat. So how did that turn out?
Viola Smith: Oh, well that's a strange thought.
Jason Feifer: This is Viola Smith, although I really shouldn't be the one introducing her.
Speaker 3: I'd like you to meet our very charming little drummer, Viola Smith.
Jason Feifer: That's Viola rocking it out in the 1930s. Viola is now 104 years old and she was one of America's first female professional drummers. She began performing in the twenties and Sousa lived till 1932, which means that they overlapped in time. And so Sousa really could have been talking about Viola back then, a young impressionable musician listening to records. But she didn't hear what he heard.
Viola Smith: We listed to records and then we incorporated into our studies, which is an old style of playing and when you listen to records, you tend to pick up ideas, extra ideas, but you cannot change your whole way of playing just because you've heard another style of playing on the record, you're just influenced by it.
Jason Feifer: And by the way, this really interested me. I would have thought that at the time when recording had just started, that every musician of the time would be just clamoring to get into a studio and record. But Viola says that's not actually true.
Viola Smith: No, it was not important at all. We very rarely broadcast anything. We were so busy doing theaters and nightclubs and just working all over the country, that making recordings, it really wasn't something we didn't even think about.
Jason Feifer: So, okay. Let's go on to fear number two from Sousa's essay.
Voice Clip (Sou...: The country dance orchestra of violin, guitar, and melodion, had to rest at times and the resulted interruption afforded the opportunity for general sociability and rest among the entire company. Now a tireless mechanism can keep everlastingly at it and much of what made a dance a wholesome recreation is eliminated.
Jason Feifer: All right, so that should be easy to fact check. I've got a number here for a wedding planner in Chicago. Let's just call her up and see what she thinks.
Beth: Hello, SQN events. This is Beth.
Jason Feifer: Hi. So I've been trying to decide whether or not to have a live band or a DJ at my big party and I'm just concerned because I know that when a band, who are just human beings, takes a break, that's when people at the party socialize. And I'm just afraid that when there's a DJ, the DJ will never have to take a break and the music will never stop and then nobody will ever socialize and everyone will have a horrible time.
Beth: Well actually, just like the band who would feel the room and slow down some songs, the DJ will be able to do the same thing.
Jason Feifer: What would happen if the DJ just played upbeat music the entire time? Would people actually stay on the dance floor the entire time?
Beth: They would take a break when they wanted to take a break. Just because there's music playing if they don't want to dance, they won't dance.
Jason Feifer: So there it is from a professional. You are not a slave to the DJ. Now here is Sousa fear number three.
Voice Clip (Sou...: The child becomes indifferent to practice for when music can be heard in the homes without the labor of study and close application. And without the slow process of acquiring technique, it will simply be a question of time when the amateur disappears entirely and with him, a host of vocal and instrumental teachers who will be without field or calling.
Jason Feifer: So what Sousa's basically saying here is that once there is a record in the home and the record can play the very best of music, that nobody will want to learn an instrument because you can't compete against the very best that's on the machine.
Voice Clip (Sou...: That's really not why people make music. It's not a chore that if given an alternative, you would take it. Like, well no, I don't have to get on my hands and knees and scrub the floor, I can use a mop. So I'll use a mop. It's not like that.
Jason Feifer: Mark Katz actually researched this claim in a paper called The Amateur in the Age of Mechanical Music. And what he found was the exact opposite of what Sousa predicted. During the early years of recordings, the number of music teachers and the number of amateur musicians both went up. So what are we to make of Sousa? This man, who at once seemed to believe music was so powerful, but then also believed that it was just so fragile and vulnerable.
Matthew Thibeau...: What I think we can say about Sousa is he was incredibly insightful about some of the things that we might lose, and he was totally blind about anything that we might gain.
Jason Feifer: I think Thibeault puts it really nice there. Sousa seemed unable to imagine that we can adapt, that we couldn't just take something new and make it work for us. But I was surprised at how both historians I spoke to also said that Sousa was right about some things we'd lose. Like what? I wanted to know. So here's Katz.
Mark Katz: There was worry among performers and music teachers that recording would lead to a modularization of performance styles. Naturally, I think there's some truth to that because people would start listening to recordings as the models of performance.
Jason Feifer: I tend to see that as a good thing because if there wasn't that drive to imitate, you wouldn't end up with the best version of it. I don't know grunge history well enough to know who the originators of grunge were, but they weren't Nirvana, right? Nirvana came along afterwards. But Nirvana heard it and they improved upon it and because lots of bands were all trying out the same style, we got to what we could call the perfected version of it and we got Nirvana.
Mark Katz: Yeah, I think that's a good point and I only grant that there's some truth to it because I think it's more reasonable than some of the other concerns.
Jason Feifer: And this is the thing about music. It isn't measurable. It can't be objectively valued. You can't say that Sousa is better than Nirvana, or I guess you can, but then someone can argue back at you and then you will both need to shut up because seriously, zero people want to sit through that argument.
Music's value is entirely in its audience. If a piece of music is loved by someone, by anyone, then it was worth making and recordings just inspired a greater, more varied volume of music, which inspired more kinds of love. Rather than lose music, we gained more of it and music can keep surprising us. Like one day you might turn on the radio and hear this.
Voice Clip (Sou...: This is John Philip Sousa. And I'm very glad to be here with my band representing my own country America. I hope you will enjoy hearing me again as much as I always enjoy playing for you. I've been asked to begin with a march that is an old favorite of mine. Maybe you will recognize it.
Jason Feifer: I know, right? What? There he is. John Philip Sousa, the man who told us that recorded music would destroy babies. The man who refused to even be near a microphone. In September of 1929, Sousa gave all that up and tentatively embraced the radio.
Remember earlier, when I played that bit of Stars and Stripes Forever and said that it was recorded after Sousa, which sounded right, because how could it possibly be an actual recording of him? Psych, that was him conducting with his band.
Okay, let me clear a few things up here. What you're hearing is not Sousa's first radio broadcast in 1929. It was something that he pre-recorded for a Thanksgiving broadcast a few months later, and he'd go on to play for the radio for years. We don't actually have recordings of most of those performances because back in those days, most of the music broadcast on radio was being performed live somewhere and no one was actually preserving it.
That's what happened with Sousa's radio debut as well. But he did write about that first experience. In the New York Times, he said that he did it with a mix of curiosity and anxiety and described being in a room, performing for no audience aside from his wife, three children, his manager, secretary, and a few guests. And remember, Sousa was obsessed with connecting with his audience. To him, it was a core part of music. But he learned something by doing that first radio bit. Yes, he was isolated in a room far from his listening public, but the audience did hear him and they responded too, just in a way he had never seen before. Here's what he wrote in the Times.
Voice Clip (Sou...: Before the concert was over, I received several telegrams from almost every state in the union, and they were uniformly superlative in utterance and complimentary in character. From that time to the present writing, I've received an immense number of letters and telegrams from everywhere, which leads me to believe that the band made a genuine hit on the air.
And if someone would invent a means to transfer the applause from the audience to the performers, it would be a splendid way to ascertain the opinion of your hearers. I must log onto Amazon at once and order such a thing.
Jason Feifer: I know you're not actually confused by this, but just to be clear, that last part was not in Sousa's piece in the New York Times. That was added in by writer and producer Tim Hatrick, who's been our awesome voice of Sousa this episode.
So why did Sousa go on the radio at all and why did he continue to do it for years? Well, here's the thing, there is a whole other way to look at Sousa's opposition to recorded music. Here's Mark Katz.
Mark Katz: Sousa at first, was very concerned about recorded sound because he thought it would displace the amateur but really he wasn't that worried about amateurs. He was worried about his publishing income because he was worried fewer people would buy the music for his compositions. But then he realized he could make a lot of money off of the recordings.
Jason Feifer: In fact, about halfway through Sousa's famous essay from 1906, he stopped talking about the destructive power of recorded music and began dissecting the many ways that musicians would get screwed out of royalties, and hey, he had a point. Much like today, copyright law of the early 1900s was way behind the technology. But this is where what could have been a healthy cultural debate starts to go south because pessimists throughout history tend to share this one thing in common. They may claim they're speaking for the good of everyone, offering lofty alerts about the widespread damage of some new technology and all the innocent people who'll be harmed in the process but they're really concerned about losing their own status.
And I can't claim to know what was in Sousa's heart, of course. Maybe he was, first and foremost, truly moved by the preservation of artistic value but what happened after him is fairly straightforward and it goes like this. Musicians unions tried to define the national conversation about recorded music and demonized the thing that they feared would take away their jobs. I mean, you know that term live music that I've been using all episode?
Mark Katz: The whole term live music was actually introduced by the musicians union as a rhetorical attempt to oppose live versus dead. They wanted consumers to think of recordings as dead and them as alive and who would choose death over life?
Jason Feifer: And recorded music was threatening a lot of jobs. Here's a good example of how economic threat gets turned into a cultural one. Up until the late twenties movies in theaters were always accompanied by a live band but then recorded music could sync up with the film and an estimated third of working musicians were out of a job.
But then in 1928, the head of the American Federation of Musicians, framed the change as an existential threat to everyone writing that musical machines, "constitute a serious menace to cultural growth." The union would go on to run a long anti recorded music ad campaign, which is pretty amazing to look back on now. For some reason, it involved a lot of cartoons and in one, there was a robot with a guitar serenading this woman who's looking out of her window with a pained expression.
The headline says, "The robot sings of love," and then the text goes on like this, "But the robot has no soul and having no soul, it cannot love. Small wonder the lady spurns its suit. Music is an emotional art. By means of its feeling, may be translated into all tongues. The robot, having no capacity for feeling, cannot produce music in a true sense. You can join in rebuking the proposal that mechanical music is adequate fair for the American intellect by joining the music defense league."
I mean, right? That thing spins out of control really fast. In the 1940s, a guy named James Petrillo took over the union and led two musician strikes. In 1942 and '48 no union musician could go into a studio and record and Petrillo made some pretty intense demands. At one point, he said that if a radio station was going to play a recording, then they'd have to have in-person at the broadcast facility, an equal number of live musicians to however many were on the record.
So say you're playing a piece that features 15 musicians. Then Petrillo just wanted 15 musicians to be paid for their time and when he was asked what those musicians would be doing, Petrillo replied, "Listening to their own music." In 1944, President Roosevelt even got involved. He announced that he began a study to see whether the government could force an end to the ban and he telegramed Petrillo to say, "What you regard as your loss will certainly be your country's gain."
In the short term, Petrillo won these battles. He didn't get all he asked for but he did earn his musicians a few more dollars. But the strike had many long-term unintended consequences that Petrillo never saw coming. You can get a little taste of it in this 1948 ditty called Say Something Sweet to your Sweetheart by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae.
Jo Stafford: Now we're getting rhythm, play the chapel rhythm.
Gordon MacRae: Tell her how much you care.
Speaker 9: At no time during this number do you hear a musical instrument.
Jason Feifer: That was actually just plopped right down there in the middle of the song and anyone at the time would have understood what that jab was about. The strike forbid union members from recording but it didn't cover other kinds of musicians, singers, people who played odd instruments and people who weren't under union contract. So what happened? Well, the world didn't sit silently waiting for one set of musicians to get back into the studio. Music got experimental.
Small record labels opened and radio stations imported new albums from other countries and singers started to take center stage because now they could. Before the forties, singers were often an afterthought and the big band and its bandleader was the big star of the show. But by the time the strikes were over, that had entirely shifted. Singers now dominated and pop music was on its way to replacing big bands.
Jim Ramsburg: I miss it. I'm really a fan of the big bands, which sounds funny coming from an ex top 40 jock. But I miss them.
Jason Feifer: That's Jim Ramsburg. Proud member of the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He took his first radio job in 1954, as the effects of Petrillo's strikes were still reverberating. Fewer and fewer bands were playing live on the radio. Performances like John Philip Sousa's had faded into the background and in that way, at least, Sousa was right. As technology changed, so did music. Ramsburg is 81 years old now and I asked him if he thinks we lost anything in that change.
Jim Ramsburg: Well, who are we to say, quite frankly? Because I was one of the guys that helped kill it. Our studios in Minneapolis were right down the street from WCCO, which was an old line CBS operation, and just one of America's finest radio stations. And we were out to kill it and every time we saw a funeral procession go down the street, we said, "There goes another CCO listener." And that's the way it was in those days. It was a dying art, the big bands. And it really is unfortunate, but that was just the trend of pop culture in those days and it continues today.
Jason Feifer: It does. Today, many musicians say that Spotify and other streaming services are destroying music sales and not properly compensating artists and much like Sousa's campaign, it's not an unreasonable economic fear. So has technology had a lasting negative impact on the labor market for you musicians? That's actually a difficult question to answer over the long-term or even the short term.
For example, a few years ago, the Recording Industry Association of America was on a big campaign against piracy and its CEO, Cary Sherman, kept citing and alarming statistic. Here he is at an event called the Personal Democracy Conference in New York in 2012.
Cary Sherman: According to BLS data from the federal government, the number of people who self describe themselves as musicians has declined since 1999 by 41%.
Jason Feifer: By the way, let's just pause to recognize this amazing moment. Less than a century ago, it was musicians defending their jobs against recording, and then it becomes the recording industry, defending musicians jobs. That's how times change. Anyway, a lot of industry watchers quickly picked apart that 41% figure. It turned out it really depended on how you crunch the data and what it even meant for someone to be counted by the government as a working musician. There was just no way to get a clear answer and anyway, someone steeped in music history, like Thibeault, would say that isn't even the right way to look at it.
Has technology altered the music business? Sure it has, but we can't pick any one moment in time as reflective of what the music business was. Sousa lived during what was really a short-lived period in which there was a lot of money in live music. Today, as a few central hitmakers like radio and MTV no longer have such captive audiences, we may be exiting the era of superstars and over the long run, one pattern emerges and that is, it's always hard making a living as a musician. Mozart and Bach could tell you all about that. So is it technology's fault? "No," says Thibeault, it's our fault, all of us, and living in Japan makes that really clear.
Matthew Thibeau...: When I go out to a club it's normal for me to pay $30 or $40 cover charge to hear a small local band play because the social problem is how much do we value musicians and how much do we want to pay musicians for their work? The same musicians playing in America might make 100 bucks and split it between five people. In Japan they make a good amount of money. There's more technology in Japan. It's not a technological problem, it's a social problem of how we want to value the arts.
Jason Feifer: But that's one way to use the word value. We do value music, even if we're only willing to pay $10 a month on Spotify. I mean, we love music. It's core to our lives, and many of us will continue to make great music, not for money, but for passion. And that leads me to the trouble with people like Sousa and James Petrillo. They confuse the thing with the form.
This is how I always think about it anyway, the thing is the important essence of something and the form is just the way it's expressed at a certain point in time. So the thing in this case is music and the form was the live concerts that paid really well. Just like the thing could be literature and the form was paper. The thing could be community and the form could have been the 1950s bowling leagues.
But now the form is streaming services and eBooks and WhatsApp group chats. And yet, we still have the music we love, the literature we adore and the community that gives us a sense of belonging. The thing we have to remember is resilient. It's always with us. The thing will always outlast the form.
And to make that point really clear, here's one last thing that I want to play for you. It features James Petrillo. In 1954, former President Harry Truman came to visit the Musicians Union Convention, and he and Petrillo sat down for a little duet. It was Truman on piano and Petrillo on trumpet and Petrillo kicked it off with a little joke to his union members.
James Petrillo: This will show you why we don't want any more canned music in the United States [inaudible]. And if that [inaudible] doesn't take it we're going to give it to them, ain't we, Mr. President? [inaudible].
Jason Feifer: There's a lot of laughing because everyone in that room knows the truth, even though they may have never wanted to say it. Sometimes depending on who's playing, live music is crap and you're better off listening to a record.
And that's our episode. I want to say thanks again to Tim Hatrick who voiced Sousa just so damn smugly. Tim is a writer, podcaster and pessimist from Phoenix, Arizona, and you can find him on Twitter at @timhatrick. The other voices you heard were a family affair. My dad, Roy Feifer, and my wife, Jen Miller.
And hey, before you skip the credits, I want to tell you about a bonus audio segment I made just for you. Remember Viola Smith, the 104 year old drummer? She told me some great stories that I just couldn't fit into this podcast, so I put together a little bit of our conversation in an audio file. You can go listen to it on our website, which is pessimists.co. P-E-S-S-I-M-I-S-T-S.C-O.
There, you'll also find links to a lot of the things I referenced on this show, as well as some additional materials like a fascinating paper by Matt Thibeault and a link to the radio history site, Gold Time Radio, that Jim Ramsburg runs.
And here's some other things we'd love you to do. First, subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts and please leave us a review on iTunes, which helps us reach a larger audience. For a regular stream of pessimists throughout history, you can follow us on Twitter at, @pessimistsarc, A-R-C, and you can email us at email@example.com.
Pessimists Archive was created by Louis Anslow, who also mixed and scored this episode and we had production assistance from Jennifer Ritter. Special thanks to Fred Stayton who's 101 years old and still playing the saxophone with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. He was in fact, the second century old musician I spoke to for this episode and it was so interesting, the oldest living musicians today would have become blank around the twenties and forties, but even by then all old fears of recorded music had faded so far away that neither Viola or Fred had any recollection of them.
Jason Feifer: We're wondering if you had any memory of that sentiment, either from-
Fred Stayton: I could tell you now. I had no objections of being recorded.
Jason Feifer: Thanks also to Noah Shaffer, George Corval, Al Vollmer, Debra from Peacemakers and the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive, which is where I found that early cylinder music from the very beginning of the episode.
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