The Null Device

The fight against recorded music

At the turn of the 1930s, recorded music was seen as an existential threat. Films with sound started appearing, and their prerecorded musical soundtracks started threatening the livelihoods of the musicians who, until then, had played accompaniments to silent films in cinemas. To wit, the American Federation of Musicians launched a campaign against the tyranny of “canned music”, which their advertisements depicted as a malevolent robot:

The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, though recorded music was seen as a threat to live musicians for decades after that. In the 1950s, for example, when the BBC was establishing a studio for experimental electronic music, it dubbed the studio with the decidedly unmusical name of the Radiophonic Workshop, perpetuating the fiction that its function only peripherally touched on the kingdom of music, as to avoid antagonising the unions of the musicians who worked on other BBC broadcasts.

There are 3 comments on "The fight against recorded music":

Posted by: Greg Mon Feb 20 09:42:08 2012

I don't know about talking pictures, but that robot looks the Internet coming to destroy the cd business.

Posted by: Greg Mon Feb 20 09:45:06 2012

By the way, is there still a way to link to individual stories on this blog?

Posted by: acb Mon Feb 20 12:59:43 2012

Yes; the comments link still works via the ctrl-click/right-button menu, and the pilcrow links to the archive page for the day of the item.