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Posts Tagged ‘Tiny Tim

“Music is like a river or stream”*…

“Deejays” at Shyvers Multiphone studio

The estimable Ted Gioia on an early music streaming success…

Streaming music was a dream long before it became reality. Back in 1627, Francis Bacon imagined a futuristic kind of music streaming technology in his utopian story The New Atlantis—where the inhabitants “have means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, this dream started to turn into reality. An electric utility in Cleveland even offered a service to residents in Lakeland—three channels piped into their homes from the power substation for $1.50 per month. The Muzak company, originally launched as Wired Radio, Inc. in 1922, initially built its business model on the same concept: Music would be provided to homes as a kind of utility, and paid for as part of the monthly electricity bill.

The company eventually changed its name to Muzak, and shifted its emphasis to businesses. The much larger home market continued to rely on recordings and physical media. Even radios, which started showing up in almost every household during the 1920s, never became an actual utility with consumers paying for the service. Instead, radio broadcasts were embraced by station owners as a way to sell advertising and supported by music companies in order to promote recordings and tickets to live events.

At the end of the 1930s, Seattle inventor Ken Shyvers launched a bizarre business out of a kind of studio bunker in the Pacific Northwest. Here a team of women worked late into the night with odd-looking machines combining the capabilities of a turntable, jukebox, and phone line.

The price was five cents per song. The input device looked like a small art deco cylinder, only 18 inches tall and easily fitting on a restaurant tabletop or bar counter. Many customers must have assumed these were some kind of mini-jukebox—except they offered a much wider range of song choices than any other competing technology.

The Multiphones (as they were called) allowed a selection of up to 300 tracks—and typically came with a list of around 170 options. The song choices were relayed to the female disk jockeys [pictured at the top], who worked out of an available room in a drugstore at Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in Bremerton. They would play the chosen track, which was broadcast back to the customer via a telephone line.

Bars and restaurants were the target market, but there was no reason why the concept couldn’t have spread to homes. The technology never gained national distribution, but thrived in Washington state, where it found a user base in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Bremerton. From 1939 to 1959, the Multiphone was not only a viable business, but anticipated many key aspects of the music distribution model of our own time…

From @tedgioia‘s wonderful newsletter, The Honest Broker, the instructive tale of a Seattle entrepreneur who created a successful analog streaming platform—and ran it out of a drugstore: “The First Music Streaming Service.”

* Ali Akbar Khan

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As we tap our toes, we might might send tuneful birthday greetings to Herbert Butros Khaury; he was born on this date in 1932. Better known by his stage name, Tiny Tim, he was a ukulele-playing, falsetto-singing performer. He achieved tremendous celebrity in the late 1960s, appearing on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (among others). His 1969 wedding (to “Miss Vicki”) on Tonight Show was watched by over 40 million viewers, a gargantuan audience for the time slot.

Reproducing excellence?…

 

Even the most perfect reproduction… is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.

– Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 

Julian Baggini recalls a taste test of coffees:

…With me were a coffee shop owner, two coffee obsessives, and a coffee-drinking friend. We were going to blind-taste three coffees: Nespresso capsule coffee, which is served in the restaurant; the traditional espresso that the hotel provides for room service; and a third unmarked coffee I had brought with me to be made the same way, just to see if the whole thing was nonsense and coffee is coffee is coffee. It was the artisan versus the machine…

In distant last place came the ground coffee I had brought, a very good quality, single-estate bean, but not roasted for espresso and ground four days earlier, a little too coarsely for Bruno’s machine. The traditional house espresso scored 18 points, and was the favourite of one taster. But the clear winner with 22 points was the Nespresso, which both scored most consistently and was the favourite of two of the four tasters…

His account becomes a meditation on authenticity:

The key descriptors for Nespresso were ‘smooth’ and ‘easy to drink’. And from the point of view of restaurateurs who use it, the key word is ‘consistency’. It was far from bland, but it was not challenging or distinctive either. It’s a coffee everyone can really like but few will love: the highest common denominator, if you like…

And humanity:

We are not simply hedonic machines who thrive if supplied with things that tick certain boxes for sensory pleasure, aesthetic merit, and so on. We are knowing as well as sensing creatures, and knowing where things come from, and how their makers are treated, does and should affect how we feel about them. Chocolate made from cocoa beans grown by people in near slave conditions should taste more bitter than a fairly traded bar, even if it does not in a blind tasting. Blindness, far from making tests fair, actually robs us of knowledge of what is most important, while perpetuating the illusion that all that really matters is how it feels or seems at the moment of consumption…

Read this eminently-interesting essay in its entirety in Aeon.

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As we accentuate the artisanal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1979 that ukelele sensation Tiny Tim set a new world record for non-stop professional singing– two hours and fifteen minutes– at Luna Park in Sydney, Australia.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

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