September 7 Readings-Some Questions on Sousa's Article

It was soon after Thomas Edison introduced phonograph in 1877, sang and recorded “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in public that phonographs began mass produced and soon spread into families. Although attempts to produce machinery music can be traced back as early as musical automatics around Palestrina’s time, the wide popularity of phonographs began to seriously threaten performers/composers about their survival. In “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” published in August 1906, Sousa held a strong attitude against phonographs and argued that first, the widespread of phonograph will drastically discourage amateurs from learning musical performances, so that in the end only professional musicians and phonographs will exist, and the general public would suffer from not being able to apply adequate performance capability when needed in religious/celebratory/personal events. Second, he argued that composers should financially benefit from the mass production of the phonograph disks that utilize their musical composition. This of course is a concept that has since been adapted in the United States in favor of composers and performers. With the breadth of media that recorded music spans in 2011, it is curious as to whether or not Sousa may have changed his mind about the effects of recorded music, and the "apparatuses" that play the recordings. Surely he would be unable to argue the beneficial nature recordings have with regard to spreading world music to those who may never have the opportunity to travel to the various places where these foreign musics originated.

Although the advent of recorded music may have been frightening to a composer of Sousa's stature, due to the lack of protection he was provided by the court system in the United States, it is odd that Sousa fails to realize the potential for advancing his own music by way of recordings. Sousa's band was known as a band of virtuoso soloists, often being the ensemble to which many of America's first virtuosi are attached. Would it not serve Sousa's art well to invent a method for spreading his music to the millions of Americans who were unable to attend the Sousa bands performances? While there is a certain degree of validity to Sousa's claim that recorded music may alter the regularity of musical amateurism (while I believe it hasn't, it is still a valid argument given the historical context of this article), do musicians not often use recordings of the finest performers in order to better understand certain compositions, performance practices, and interpretations? It is understandable that Sousa felt so strongly about this issue, but it is almost as if his argument against recordings regarding live performing and the interest of non-professional musicians is a facade for his greater interest in reaping the financial rewards for the reproduction of his music. Not only is the majority of the article about the protection of the composer and the financial issues regarding recorded music, but the Sousa family maintains a very strict set of copyrights on his music, which of course continues the stream of money related to Sousa's music within the Sousa family.

Please respond either of the following two questions inspired from this article, preferably by adapting some ideas from the Adorno article:
1. It has been over one hundred years since Sousa claimed that the development of recording devices will ultimately lead to extreme situation: professional musicians vs. machinery device. Do you think this two-polar situation is really happening? Do amateurs decrease their musical performing capability because of their easy access to playback devices?
2. Partly because of easier access/reproduction/portability with a relatively low cost, the copyright issue has becoming much more critical in our current digital music environment than the phonograph/LP/Tape/CD periods. What do you think are the holes of the current model, and what can be done to further improve the effectiveness to protect composer/performer’s copyright?


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