Once there was a time when recording was in flower. No longer a toy, but not old enough to be predictable and boring, the phonograph was seen as a unique repository of musical greatness, protected against the ravages of time by preservation on shellac discs. These noisy and imperfect replicas of live preformances served for countless sensitive souls as the stimulus of fantasies both aesthetic and personal. What Thomas Mann wrote in The Magic Mountain about Hans Castrop’s discovery of the phonograph summed up what a whole generation felt about-an through-this primitive technological marvel:

The carrying power of this ghostly music proved relatively small. The vibrations, so surprisingly powerful in the near neighborhood of the box, soon exhauseted themselves, grew weak and eerie with distance, like all magic. Hans Castorp was alone among four walls with his wonder-box. . . . Those singers male and female whom he heard...


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