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Make Music but Waste no Energy: The Player Piano, Political Economy and Psychophysiology
Högskolan i Halmstad, Akademin för lärande, humaniora och samhälle, Kontext & kulturgränser (KK).ORCID-id: 0000-0002-4453-945X
2014 (engelsk)Konferansepaper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Fagfellevurdert)
Abstract [en]

The player piano was an invention which revolutionised music making around the turn of the century 1900. This machine/instrument served to blur the sharp dividing-lines between social classes and between art and entertainment. As a consequence, it became an extremely popular artefact. However, as was reflected in the Edwardian debate on music, the mechanical dimension tainted the perception of virtuosity. As a consequence, the player piano became the material repository of the problematic phenomenon of virtuosity, which long before the invention of musical mechanisation had foregrounded the excess and materiality of showy pianistic technique.

In my paper I will not confine the discussion of the player piano to the musical sphere but will situate it in a wider material framework. Taking my starting-point in political economy, I will argue that the significance of the player piano may be understood within the context of the theory of labour and value. This approach fits into a general energy conservationist model of mechanical work in which the human motor is to be understood within the frame of thermodynamics. The player piano is thus, I claim, an innovation firmly grounded in an engineering tradition but linked to the medical discourse as a means of combating fatigue, which since the 1870s had been recognized as a growing medical problem.

sted, utgiver, år, opplag, sider
2014.
Emneord [en]
music, engineering, energy conservation
HSV kategori
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-25512OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-25512DiVA, id: diva2:721789
Konferanse
ESSHC - 10th European Social Science History Conference, Vienna, Austria, 23-26 April, 2014
Tilgjengelig fra: 2014-06-05 Laget: 2014-06-05 Sist oppdatert: 2015-11-23bibliografisk kontrollert

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