July 31, 2014
Last night I played Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord” which is a recording made in 1888, and it is considered to be among the earliest surviving recordings of music. It is likewise the best. One just has to presume that either Thomas Edison or Adelbert Theodor Edward Wangemann produced or recorded this haunted melody on their phonograph cylinder. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but the only version I like is this one. The sadness of time passing appeals to my sense of loss. I have a phonograph cylinder, and this is the sole piece of music I have for it. I tend to play it at least once a week, just before I go to sleep. It is just like a peaceful death, where I wander into my dreams in hopes of a better world.
Sullivan was an interesting man in that he had an affair with Rachel Scott Russell as well as her older sister Louise. He dumped both of them and ended up with an American socialite by the name of Fanny Ronalds. She was an amateur singer, and it has been noted that her favorite song was “The Lost Cord.” When Sullivan died he left her an autographed manuscript of that song to her. He would also record his sexual acts with her, which strikes my fancy, because I too am obsessed with making lists of all sorts.
Sullivan is now famous for the operas he wrote with W. S. Gilbert, but what I find interesting is how he enacted with the first recording. Edison sent his phonograph to London so that George Gouraud could play Sullivan’s “The Last Cord” to a press audience in 1888. Sullivan commented on this recording by saying “I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery. ”
As one’s notice, it seems that Sullivan may also be the earliest record reviewer in existence as well. Nevertheless I had the strangest dream last night, which I believe to be due to this song. I was on a luxury liner, and I sense that it was slowly sinking, but no one was commenting on that fact or appeared to be overly concerned. In fact it was peaceful, and I do believe I was hearing “The Last Cord” at this moment in the dream. Including the sound of decay and destruction of the wax cylinder. As I looked over the ship onto the ocean I saw a faint image of a body floating, and I am not sure if that specific body was swimming or a drowned corpse. Others saw it as well, but of course, not reacting to it or the situation. As I woke up this morning and watched footage of the bombings in Gaza, I felt totally numb to the visuals. Also it struck me funny that as the United States condemns the bombings due to the death of civilians and children, and demands a ceasefire, it is also selling arms to Israel at the same time. I won’t be on this planet forever, but I wonder the one’s who comes after me (if they do) what would they think of such a joke, when they see antique recordings of a disaster such as taking place in Gaza. Perhaps it will be entertainment, but then again, there is something beautiful about cheap music like “The Lost Cord” as well as how one sees their entertainment.