Friday, August 27, 2010

The Wiz

In the early 1920's many young affluent Americans became expatriates of une generation predue in Paris. They were contributors of an avant garde lifestyle nurturing the pre-adolescence of Rock 'n' Roll. It was a self imposed exile- from America- to escape the confines brought on in this country by puritanical proponents of the restrictive Eighteenth Amendment. The City of Lights allowed the voice of freedom to expand unrestricted from the measures of America's Prohibition, and the climate of political prejudice that was the aftermath of a recently congressional appealed Sedition Act.

Two of the characters from Benson's House shared a two bedroom apartment, during this era, in the area of Montparnasse on the left bank of the Seine River. Elizabeth Benson was the renowned Impressionist artist, and the prodigal granddaughter of the family's matriarch, Sarah Taggart Benson. Her childhood best friend, Danielle Watson, was the alluringly attractive President of Chariot Records. They shared the apartment together for five years and were inseparable during their time spent in Paris.

They were expected to be present at a gathering with the new brigade of displaced Americans in Paris for lunch at CafĂ© de le Paix. Their arrival was delayed by Elizabeth’s insistence they first attend the cinema to see Lon Chaney as The Hunchback of Norte Dame.

I cannot wait to view movies with sound.” Danielle determined, while the two girls were seated in the backseat of the taxi, heading for the right bank cafe after the show.
“Dialogue will enhance the experience.”
“Do you think so?” Elizabeth speculated. “I believe voice will restrain the necessity of image and restrict its universal appeal. Portrayed actions can be understood in any language. A dialogue restricted by the language- from where the film was made- will only confuse the foreign listener.”
“But words give accent to expression.” Danielle insisted. “One can argue- il est le chanteur pas le morceau- which makes the performance memorable. Yet, the recorded sound can effectively entertain without motion, causing the listener to create an impression that can replace the singer’s physical appearance. It cannot be done the opposite way; you cannot enjoy a mute singer.”
“I have witnessed the street mimes perform so effectively many times.” Elizabeth offered.
Touche,” Danielle conceded after some consideration.
Both girls were in defense of their chosen medium- Elizabeth supporting sight and Danielle sound.

It was an argument that would not have been prompted, had it not been for the advances of sight and sound, brought on by the inventions of The Wizard of Menlo Park!

Thomas Edison's inventions did more than merely provide the catalysis for the modern age; his inventions created the mechanisms for the development of pop culture.The phonograph and the motion-picture camera allowed sight and sound to become a demonstrative devise of subjective thought, entertaining the viewer and listener with persuasive allure.

The piano had been the cornerstone of America's home entertainment throughout the post Civil War era. Shortly after the turn of the century, the phonograph changed everything. Wax cylinders inscribed with the songs of the popular musicians began to out sell sheet music published to be played on the family pianos. The self replicated performance of a popular ballad was now being heard by authentic performances.The new invention now allowed a family in Atlanta, Georgia to hear Enrico Caruso sing Domine Deus from Trinity Church in Camden, New Jersey. It allowed the mid westerner to hear Louis Mitchell sing Ain't We Got Fun from a performance at Casino de Paris(16 rue De Clichy), in Paris, France. The common man was uniting, globally, to the new fraternity of pop.

Much like the invention of the automobile, the demand for the product led to a consumer blitz, only to be compromised by radio in the 1920's. Edison initially refused to manufacture radio, citing an inferior sound quality in the product. He eventually conceded to the demands of his children, but the manufacturing of the product came too late. The stock market crash of 1929 abated demand for all consumer products, and Edison died a year later.

A Great Depression followed the stock market crash and the death of Thomas Edison. Many sought to escape the toils of their daily existences in the movie houses that had evolved from Edison's kinetoscope invention. Most theaters played films non stop, and the price of admission allowed a person to stay in their seats as long as they wanted. The movie houses became a place to allow the common man to rejuvenate his body and soul under the soothing glow of projector light, as the stories of a promising future played out before the audience upon the big screen. Talking films were a blend of Edison's greatest accomplishments, concocting an intriguing potion of sight and sound.

Imagine how many recorded lyrics, provocative soliloquies, and insightful discussions proceeded Edison's first recorded recital of: "Mary had a little lamb." His inventions were truly the didaskophone(portable teacher). They became the medium to advance the songs of freedom, speaking to the common sense of the common man.It allowed a medium to divert the restrictions of oppression and graduate an intellectual spirit that continues in the 21st century. Edison was unquestionably one of the pioneering contributors to a culture that led to the music that became Rock 'n' Roll.

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