Published on December 25th, 2012 | by Alan Cross


What the Future of Music Looked Like 100 Years Ago

Gizmodo posted this great article from The Ladies’ Home Journal from about 100 years ago.  You can browse through the whole thing here, but I’d like to zoom in on what John Elfreth Watkins Jr. predicted about music.

It reads:

Grand Opera will be Telephoned to private homes, and will sound as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box.  Authentic instruments reproducing original airs exactly will bring the best music to the families of the untalented.

 Great musicians gather in one inclosure [sic] in New York will, my manipulating electric keys, produce at the same time music from instruments arranged in theatres or halls in San Francisco or New Orleans, for instance.  Thus will great bands and orchestras give long-distance concerts.  

In great cities there will be public opera-houses whose singers and musicians are paid from funds endowed by philanthropists and by the government.  The piano will be capable of changing its tone from cheerful to sad.  Many devices will add to the emotional effect of music.

I wonder what Mr. Watkins would make of where things are today?

About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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2 Responses to What the Future of Music Looked Like 100 Years Ago

  1. Ryan says:

    Already they were aspiring to transport music directly to people, but what was music like before this for thousands of year? Musicians just performed for people. Music was meant to be a mass experience.

  2. JC says:

    Very cool. It's interesting that back then music was always a live experience, so the technology that was imagined was in the context of a live performance. I would imagine that the notion of somehow recording a performance for posterity might have caused some noses to wrinkle. They might have thought 'why?'.

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