So I’m writing an article about how it’s now possible to listen to music every hour of every day, what with iPods, car radios, home stereos, etc. I guess this has been a viable option since the days of the first walkmen and portable radios, but, let’s not nit-pick. There’s a question a-coming.
Here goes: When was it first possible to do this? When could you find 24 hours of constant music on the radio, just sitting in your recliner? I’m ignorant not as to when the radio was invented or was in popular use, but when music on the radio (and not serialized programs, news, etc.) was a fixture of everyday life?
Also, an added wonder: Do you think it was ever possible before this? As in, was it possible to listen to 24 hours of music, straight, before the mass use of radios? And we’re talking your average person here, not, say, a classical conductor or troubador or something.
I can’t answer when radio first moved to 24-hour programming; but as for when the “average persion” was able to listen to 24-hour straight programming, that would probably be with the mass production of wax cylinder recordings in the 1880’s.
Perfect answers all----between the three or four, I think I’ve got what I need. In a related (and perhaps to-be-asked-later) question: How often do you think someone in, say, Mozart’s era even heard music?
In Mozart’s era, and well before, playing, listening to, and dancing to music was one of the most common leisure activities. A lot more people learned to play and sing as part of their regular education, especially in the middle and upper classes. Music was also a large part of religious services, which almost everybody (in Europe, at least) participated in frequently.
Centuries before Mozart, traveling minstrels (or equivalent) of varying quality circulated between village taverns – which in turn, played a very different role than today. They weren’t just places to drink alcohol, but evening social centers for extremely practical reasons: why heat and light your own home [fuel wood and candles were a real household expense] when you probably wouldn’t be doing anything productive anyway, and the tavern was already warm and lit, as well as being more fun.
Remember: few were literate. Most people absorbed communal history, social mores and standards, mythology and “current events” through an oral tradition that prominently included music. Even when no professional musician was around, people would sing. Rowers, miners and other group laborers --even farmers at harvest-- kept cadence with worksongs. Music was also used by craftsmen to measure time (Leonardo Da Vinci used music to surprisingly good effect to measure time in his experiments) and cadence (for a cobbler or carpenter a good cadence can make for more uniform, efficient work). Aside from that, it simply induces a conducive state of mind: surgeons often operate to music.
I’ll grant you that music may not have been a 24-hour thing, but it was as least as pervasive in historical cultures as today
WLW, for a brief time in the 1930’s, had a 500,000 watt transmitter!
Music requests came in from as far away as the UK.
The transmitter was/is in Mason, Ohio, about 20 miles from
Cincinatti. To operate the 500kw beast, 33kv were fed into the
transmitter site…enough power to light a city of 100,000 in those days.
The stories of Mason citizens suffering electrical problems because of
WLW are legendary. Reportedly, there was so much radiated energy,
that light switches no longer worked properly. When locals turned
their lights off, the lights stayed on due to RF.
I hope part of your article analyzes the effect of having music being “available” at all hours of the day. Implicit in the statement is that “music” is something to be consumed. However music used to be much more often played than simply passively consumed.
You’ll see in older movies that people would stand around a piano and sing songs to sheet music. “Popular songs” from the 1930s and earlier (e.g., Stephen Foster songs) were disseminated mostly as sheet music, not as cylinders or radio singles play.
I have seen records from as late as the 50s and 60s of “standard” tunes that were meant as “sing-along” records (“H-A-double-R-I, G-A-N spells … Harrigan”) to fill the role of the guy-at-the-piano-with-sheet-music, but that’s pretty much the end of that kind of a tradition.
As long as there have been musicians and wealth, some lucky few could hire people to make music 24/7, if that’s what they wanted. Eventually, though, the rich guy was bound to say, “Don’t you guys know anything but Stairway To Heaven?”