Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mechanical Music

1895

The Wail of a Professor Who Declares That Learning Is a Lost Art.

"What for I look blue?" said the professor. "I will tell you. I look blue because my beezness is being — what you call him? — keeked out. No — ah, yes — knocked out by the maker of those stupid mechanique instruments of music. There is no longer any need to learn the piano, for, see, all you do now is bring in the telegraphique wires from the street, and the piano will play itself. Organ — no. Buy some rolls of papaire and put him in the organ and turn the crank, so, and out will come anything you wish from Strauss to Cherubini. Mandolin — no. For some much too clever Yankee has make another something which you shall button to the piano, and there, my faith, you have your mandolin. Zither — no. For there are the zithers now that you play with a steek. Chord of F, press this steek; cord of B, press that steek, and so on. There is no more need to learn anything.

"Mademoiselle say to me, 'Ah, professor, why should I practice any more when Mees So-and-so, who nevaire took the lesson in her life, has an electrique piano which can play everything as well as you do when she press a leedle button?' And I say, 'Why, indeed?' Then madame say to me, 'Ah, professor, I shall geeve up the mandolin, for I can put a leedle thing to the piano and make it play like the mandolin weeth two fingers.' And I say, `Ah, so?' Then monsieur say, 'Professor, I guess I give up the organ and buy one of those windyphones like Billee Sweetzer have, where all you have to do is to move the feet, and the music come out joost as good as you play,' and I say, 'Was that so?'

'And it ees so. The mechanique music have knocked me out. There is no heart any more to learn anything that take time and patience when you can have all the good music that you like by pressing the leedle button and moving the feet. It ees not the music of the soul, to be sure; maybe it ees not the music of the expression; maybe it ees not music at all. Bah! Who cares? All you want is the tune, just like the organ man and piano woman on the street. Arteest be dam. Vive la mechanique! I am going home to invent a violin electrique and an automatique flute that you shall play with your knees." — New York Sun.

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