Essays History Of The Piano

In an oft-quoted passage in J R, Gibbs describes his project as -- a book about order and disorder more of a, sort of a social history of mechanization and the arts, the destructive element . Those selections are so dense and allusive that some readers may feel its just as well that Gaddis never completed the book, because even the few pages included in J R are difficult enough that the thought of a lengthy book written in that manner is enough to send even sympathetic readers reeling Gaddis was able to incorporate most of his thoughts on mechanization and the arts in J R, triumphantly if I may say so, and in later years he seems to have become reconciled to this solution.

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And you can play ALL pieces while they can play but a few.

It degraded Art to mere entertainment, and encouraged passivity over activity.

After he finished the assignment he decided to research the history of the player piano further and to write something of his own on the topic, which he hoped to publish in the New Yorkers Onward & Upward column, only to have it rejected. 4 is a slight piece, just an anecdotal overview of the history of the player piano, and yet its opening paragraph gives a clear indication of Gaddiss concern: Selling player pianos to Americans in 1912 was not a difficult task.

By this time, he had begun work on The Recognitions, so he set it aside, but in 1950, while in Paris, Gaddis dusted off his essay and sent it to the Atlantic Monthly, who, much to his delight (as he wrote in a letter to Helen Parker), offered to take an excerpt from it, or possibly the whole. [Click here for this article.] The fact that this essay is only a few pages long suggests that it was indeed only an excerpt from a longer work, and thus that longer work would be the basis for what he eventually called Agapē Agape. There was a place for everyone in this brave new world, where the player offered an answer to some of Americas most persistent wants: the opportunity to participate in something which asked little understanding; the pleasure of creating without work, practice, or the taking of time; and the manifestation of talent where there was none.

In fact, a page of Gaddiss notes for the year 1920 is reproduced on page 587 of J R, and one look at that and you can see what he was up against.

To go back a little bit, it should be remembered the late fifties were a difficult time for Gaddis.Perhaps struggling with would be a more accurate phrase, because its a book that he abandoned decades ago as hopeless, beyond even his superhuman abilities, and in fact he dramatized his struggle in those pages of J R that feature Jack Gibbs working on a book with the same title.The version that will eventually be published is considerably different from the one Gaddis began writing five decades ago, so Id like to describe how this troublesome book evolved over the years.He then decided to resurrect his work of a decade earlier on the player piano because he continued to be obsessed (as he writes in a letter to John Seelye) with expanding prospects of programmed society & automation in the arts.He worked on this version of Agapē Agape from 1960 to 1962, at which time he accepted a commission from the Ford Foundation to write a book on the use of television in the schools, which fell through the following year.It was when Gaddis was working as a fact-checker at the New Yorker in 1945-46 that he first became interested in the player piano, the subject of an article he was assigned to work on.He quickly became interested in this musical contraption not for its own sake I dont think he owned one or played onebut as a popular manifestation of what he considered a dangerous trend, namely, the growing use of mechanical reproduction in the arts and a corresponding loss of the autonomy of the individual artist.And if youre satisfied with a player piano, then what becomes of the piano player?What part, if any, does an artist play in this brave new world?This unnamed character first asks her if she knows anything about player pianos, and when she answers in the negative, he boasts that hes spent two years writing a history of the player piano, and regales her with a list of famous people who owned them (579).Here Gaddis treats the subject in a self-deprecatory way, and indeed a book solely on the player piano would be of limited interest.


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