Daily Outline


  • John Philip Sousa, “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” 1906, at ExplorePAhistory.com. Pull-quote: “The host of mechanical reproducing machines, in their mad desire to supply music for all occasions, are offering to supplant the illustrator in the class room, the dance orchestra, the home and public singers and players, and so on. Evidently they believe no field too large for their incursions, no claim too extravagant. But the further they can justify those claims, the more noxious the whole system becomes.” He was arguing against the player piano, the phonograph, everything. The original was published in the (very) late Appleton’s Magazine, Vol. 8 (1906).

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  1. Esme Vos’s avatar

    Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, published in the early 1950s, showed a world in which engineers and technocrats — not artists and humanists — called the shots. Vonnegut also foresaw the election of an American president who was nothing more than a talking head, a good-looking actor with good hair. Few people have read Player Piano for me, it’s one of the most memorable Vonnegut novels.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hi Esme. I love Player Piano, which was hugely ahead of its time. Vonnegut was one of the Great Ones, and perhaps the greatest of them all, because he lived deeply what he wrote about, even if the fiction was fantastical.

    Player Piano was composed when Vonnegut worked in the bowels of General Electric. Slaughterhouse Five came out of his experience as a prisoner of war in a city his country destroyed. The list goes on.

    We miss him. And we need him too.

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