The Gramophone

The gramophone was the precursor to the modern record player and is known for its characteristic conical speaker. The records that the gramophone played were of low sound quality, but what is important is that they were mass produced. The fact that one no longer needed to hear music live to be aware of the popular music of the day was a huge social equalizer. Consumers were still paying for the work of professional musicians, but now they had the choice to pay for records and not more expensive concert or theater tickets. Working class citizens were now able to listen to music more frequently. The price of the gramophone and records still had to be considered, but an advertisement from 1912 states that gramophones can be purchased for as little as four pounds and records for three shillings. When a consumer in 1912 considered that gramophones could play countless records again and again, the product would have seemed worth the price.

Here is a recording of the Australian-born soprano Dame Nellie Melba singing the classic song “Home, Sweet Home” in 1905 at a recording session in London. Melba was a classically trained operatic singer, but this recording shows that even more traditional songs were being incorporated into the emerging class of popular music.

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