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The History of Music Media Vol. 1

March 18, 2010

We here at Fancy Pants are proud to announce yet another series, to follow in the footsteps of so many other series that were introduced briefly and even more quickly abandoned, like so many wordy babies on the doorstep of WordPress.com. Behold, the History of Music Media, and its attendant Vol. 1, which, if nothing else, indicates that our optimism will nearly always exceed our reach. 

The History of Music Media Vol. 1 – The Formative Years 

A trio of Neanderthal mariachis prepares to annoy the ever-living shit out of some tourists.

Formative Years
Ever since the early cavemen looked for ways to “punch up” their stories of the Coelacanth that “got away,” man (and very occasionally, woman) has expressed himself through music. 

As these tales evolved (along with the tale-tellers), the grunting became more rhythmic. “Hype men” were added, along with backup “grunters” and 60-piece orchestras. 

Progress was minimal during the next several thousand/million years.* It was not until a young composer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart burst on to the scene that music was finally invented. 

*Depending on your religious beliefs/last grade attended.

A young Mozart works on one of his earliest pieces, "Chopsticks (Too Many Notes Mix)"

Sheet Musick
No sooner had Mozart invented music than he began to reinvent it through inappropriate hairstyles, setting his harpsichord on fire during live performances and marrying various 13-year-old cousins. His wild behavior and manic giggling led to him being credited with “singlehandedly destroying the music industry,” thus undoing all of the groundwork laid by him just earlier that afternoon. 

After destroying the music industry, Mozart began to rebuild it, only with him safely on the “inside.” After another manic, flaming performance, Mozart gazed into his piles of money and made an eerily prescient remark — “If ever there dost become an effortless way to perform these musicks at home, I am truly fuckt.” 

Due to his endless campaigning, sheet music was horded by royalty and traded with only other royals, so as to protect their patronized income stream. However, as prices of paper, ink and quills continued to drop, an underground group of transcriptionists began distributing “copied” sheet music. 

 This was met with a legislative effort to build royalty fees into the prices of these items. This, of course, had little effect. Mozart was often seen hawking waistcoats embroidered with the inscription, “Verily, home transcribing is killing the musick industry.” 

Fun fact: Emperor Joseph II was an avid home transcriptionist. His famous remark that Mozart’s music had “too many notes” was not a critique of the piece but rather a complaint about the pending transcription, as he was suffering for a case of “pirate’s elbow.” 

Fun fact II: His rivalry with Salieri (whose work was universally hailed as “competent” and “adequate”) was the precursor to many musical rivalries, including: Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, Blur vs. Oasis, Jack White vs. Jason Von Bondie and Pickle vs. Nickelback. 

A "home composer" prepares to tear the music industry a new one, with his own version of "Chopsticks."

Bedroom Composers
Flash forward 50 years: innovations in mass production make musical instruments more affordable than ever. Soon every saloon, bawdy house and tenement has a minimum of one piano. And it’s not just piano companies that see a boost. Manufacturers of harpsichords, claviers, pipe organs and fiddles see exponential growth. 

Advances in moveable press technology allow sheets of music to be reproduced faster than ever and trims the error rate to a Six-Sigma Blackbelt level of 3 notes per 100. 

Early ASCAP pioneers bemoan these developments and attempt to collect performance royalties from bar owners and burlesque house pimps. Even homeowners are subjected to handwritten missives declaring them responsible for “rights and royalties for performance of popular musicks.” The singing telegram industry folds after crippling fees are levied against them. 

Among the early cash cows for ASCAP are Camptown Races (Stephen Freakin’ Foster) and Chopsticks (Some Annoying Bastard). 

Little known fact: Most player pianos could be rigged to take "upskirt" daguerreotypes.

The Player Piano
As the 19th century wound itself down, another breakthrough in musical entertainment surfaced in the form of the Player Piano (or Auto Pianist), a piano that amazingly “played” itself using perforated paper. (This form of “musick” would later resurface in dot-matrix printers, although audiophiles will point out that the “technology” removed the “soul” of the music and made it unbearably screechy. A quick note: whenever an audiophile refers to “soul” or “fidelity” or “warmth,” they are actually referring to a vacuum tube.) 

Bawdy house proprietors and saloon owners benefitted from this invention the most, firing their drunken, incompetent piano players and replacing them with slightly less drunken and dimwitted paper-loaders. This new position was often filled by the nearest unattended child. 

The tireless, dulcet tones of the Mechano-Piano were the soundtrack of the “Gay ’90s” and the less-unfortunately named “Nondescript Aughts.” As usual, this new invention, with its user-friendliness and low-cost was saddled with the burden of “destroying the musick industry, starting with the extraneous ‘k’.” 

Coming up next:
Volume 2: The Analog Age 

-CLT

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17 comments

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed The History of Music Media Vol. 1 and am looking forward to Vol. 2. I should be packing since I am moving soon, but couldn’t resist checking in (so glad I did). I don’t know if anyone has ever thanked you for the time and effort expended in maintaining this highly entertaining blog (hope I’m the first), but if not, a collective thank you from all of your appreciative readers. Your English professors must have adored you. Now, if I don’t get packing, I’m fuckt.


    • Thank you for the kind words, e3h. I believe I may have been thanked before (see the clown below) but not as effusively.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it and good luck with your packing. Moving sucks and I’ve done it way too often.

      My English professors theoretically would have loved me had I actually had any. These English skills were honed on the streets.


    • Wat?!!!!!!!!!!!? You’re not an Ivy Leaguer? Even more adulation is warranted!


    • Not even community college.


  2. Elizabeth is right of course, but I think I thanked you months ago. Great work CLT and keep on dishing ASCAP your unhittable verbal knuckleballs…your doing God’s work (how ironic…and Lynchian).


    • She is right and I believe you did several months ago. More than once.

      I will continue to crank out half-baked ideas until the point my knuckleballs become hittable. At that point I may just become some sort of verbal “pitching coach” and enjoy the simple pleasures of sunflower seeds.


  3. Ok, ok so I start a lot of stuff and quit a lot of stuff. It was ok for grammar school, ‘college’ twice (DJ and bartending schools respectively), CPR on my rich aunt, and intercourse and marriage (not necessarily in that order) so it’s definitely ok for blogging. You have to stay flexible, especially during intercourse and CPR.

    I love this new series and I hope it lasts….as long as anything lasts with our propensity for quitting anyway. I only wish I’d heard more about the early caveman days (or Adam and Eve days… you know, depending).

    I love Mozart’s work but now I can’t get that damn 80’s pop song Amadeus out of my head. It must have been your intro that did it. I love the work he did producing Requiem for a Dream.

    I would like to have heard more about Beethoven as well. That was one deaf, alcoholic dog with a tortured soul that I could identify with.

    Fanfuckingtastic Shit CLT, and that’s the highest compliment within my vocabulary!


    • Scott, I appreciate your support and hope to continue this for at least one more volume before wandering off to the “next big thing.”

      As for your requests for more “facts”: I honestly can’t be bothered to do the research other than digging thru that area I like to call “the top of my head.” (I keep a lot of information in my journalistic fedora.)

      Thanks for the compliments, Scott. Hopefully, I won’t let you down.


  4. Love it! Not only is it educational (now that I’ve Wikipedia’d the term, I can now drop random “daguerreotypes” into everyday convos), your fun facts are…well, for lack of a more CLT-worthy term, “really fun”.

    “Not since Mozart vs. the Italian Gluck protege, has there been such competition for greatness. Although, truth be told, it doesn’t take a genius to see who will come out as the clear, kosher winner.”

    -Rolling Stone Magazine, in reference to the Nickleback vs. Pickle fued.

    Like those who have commented before, I can’t wait to read more of these “brilliant and extraneous ‘k’-less” Musick History posts.


    • Bschooled, you are a gentlewoman and a scholar. Not only have you bravely waded thru the crowd-sourced Wikipedia in search of further information, but you have done so without crass name-calling or Hitler references.

      Great quote from the RS, by the way. They used to be on top of things back in the vinyl days. But once things started spinning faster than 78 rpms, they became as outdated as Grandma’s marital aids.

      Thanks for the visit, bschooled. To a k-less future!


  5. Fucking awesome. Flaming harpischords are the shit. You should’ve included streaming audio of Mozart’s take on The Star Spangled Banner, though.


    • I tried to get ahold of that tune, Ulysses, but the major labels fuckt it all up with their non-embeddable code and required download of RealPlayer 9.1 (includes free Malware Toolbar!).

      It’s time to bring back that old-old-old school flaming harpsichord. That should put Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow in his 3rd-degree burned place.


  6. […] Capitalist F. Lion Tamer: The History of Music Media Volume 1 […]


  7. That was good n’ funny, (especially the Mozart bit).


    • Thanks, RR. Mozart is comedy gold, apparently. Nothing about his life would indicate that what with his early death and all that.


  8. […] its humble beginning as the musical ravings of an insane harpsichordist to its present day use as audio wallpaper, interstitials and salesperson, music has come a long way […]


  9. […] get here? Brush up with: Volume 1 – The Formative Years Volume 2 – The Analog Age "Like printing money," said the self-satisfied music […]



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