A Spiral Way: How the Phonograph Changed Ethnography by Erika Brady

By Erika Brady

This research of the early phonograph's influence indicates conventional ethnography being reworked, for attitudes of either ethnographers and performers have been reshaped through this interesting expertise. within the presence of the phonograph either fieldwork and the fabrics accumulated have been revolutionized. by way of noticeably changing the previous examine modes, the phonograph introduced the disciplines of anthropology and folklore into the trendy era.

At first the tool was once as unusual and new to the fieldworkers because it was once to their topics. to a few the 1st come across with the phonograph used to be a deeply unsettling adventure. whilst it used to be tested in 1878 earlier than individuals of the nationwide Academy of Sciences, numerous individuals of the viewers fainted. Even its inventor used to be astonished. Of his first profitable try of his tinfoil phonograph, Thomas A. Edison stated, "I used to be by no means taken so aback in my life."

The cylinders that experience survived from those occasions provide an unmatched source not just for modern scholarship but in addition for a grassroots renaissance of cultural and spiritual values. In tracing the historic interaction of the speaking computing device with box examine, The Spiral method underscores the traditional adaptiblity of cultural research to this new know-how. Erika Brady is an affiliate professor within the folks reports courses at Western Kentucky college. She served as technical advisor and researcher at the employees of the Federal Cylinder undertaking of the yank Folklife heart on the Library of Congress.

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In its wooden carrying case, it weighed between thirty and thirty-five pounds: not a negligible weight, but easy enough to carry by its handle with one hand. The machine was operated by means of a spring- or battery-powered motor, a treadle identical to those used for sewing machines at the time, by hand, or by water power. The tinfoil cylinder surface of the original machine designed by Edison was replaced by a cylindrical wax sleeve commonly 4 inches in length and 21/4 inches in diameter, sturdy enough to withstand handling and soft enough to take the impression of the stylus.

Peirce, the preeminent American philosopher of the era and progenitor of the contemporary study of semiotics, categorized as an "index" any sign "which refers to the Object it denotes by virtue of being really affected [or caused] by that Object" (Clarke 1990:78). The late nineteenth century was particularly obsessed at both the intellectual and the popular level with the acquisition and display of indexic itemsobjects directly connected, literally pointing to and derived from, their referent. At the academic level, it was during this period that the great public museums were established, replacing the private collections of wealthy aristocrats with repositories that became shrines to the prevailing mythologization of a collective present and a collective historynot just reminders, but actual physical survivals emblematic of what a nation was, and had been.

Howard Nemerov Page ix Contents Acknowledgments xi Introduction: "Fugitive Sound Waves," Fugitive Voices 1 1. The Talking Machine: A Marvelous Inevitability 11 2. A Magic Speaking Object: Early Patterns of Response to the Phonograph 27 3. " 52 4. Performers and the Phonograph: The Box That Got the Flourishes 89 5. A Spiral Way: Bringing the Voices Home 118 Notes 127 References 135 Index 149 Page xi Acknowledgments I intended this book to be in part about gaps and silencesgaps in the picture we have created of participants in early ethnography, and the ironic silence surrounding the early use of the talking machine in that work.

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