The New Talking Machines

A noted architect and writer commends Thomas Edison for his progress in developing the phonograph and predicts great things for its future.

It has been remarked, by the way, that business letters and orders by phonograph would not be so binding as when put in black and white upon paper. A little wax cylinder covered with microscopic dots would not be considered as good evidence in court. But if the speaker's voice, inflection, accent, were so reproduced that witnesses could swear to the personality, would it not suffice? How could there be any dispute over a man's will, when the voice of the dead man was heard?

In music, as I have already said, the value of the phonograph even in its present condition is indisputable. Musicians are divided, and probably always will be, as to the manner in which certain famous symphonies ought to be conducted. The metronome marks used by Beethoven are but uncertain guides at best, while no written directions as to dynamic values, expression, etc., are worth much. The phonograph will at least make it possible for the musician of the future to know exactly bow our composers wished their music given, for it will repeat that music as played today, with every shade of expression, with all its infinite changes of time. Moreover, the phonograph will offer to the composer that long-sought instrument, an automatic recorder of improvisation upon the piano or other instrument. In the far-off future, when our descendants wish to compare our simple little Wagner operas with the complex productions of their own days, requiring, perhaps, a dozen orchestras, playing in half a dozen different keys at once, they will have an accurate phonographic record of our harmonic simplicity.

At present but few of the new phonographs have been finished, and those only for exhibition purposes. When they will be offered for sale seems to be doubtful; probably within a few months. Mr. Edison says that by the beginning of 1890 the phonograph will be far less of a curiosity than the telephone is now, and that he could begin selling the instruments at once if he were fully satisfied with them. There is always something which needs improving. Just at present there is needed a funnel for so magnifying the sound that if the instrument is placed in the centre of a table all the persons sitting around can hear its reading or its music. For the last year it has been the same story, — the phonographs would be ready for sale next month. It was so a year ago, and it may be so a year from now. But these many delays, which have made people rather skeptical as to the doings of the phonograph, do not make wonders already achieved less wonderful, or warrant any doubts as to the vast possibilities which the little device contains.

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