In 1870, composer Richard Wagner had to assemble around 15 string players from the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich downstairs in his Swiss villa to play his beautiful Siegfried Idyll (hear it here) to his wife for her birthday.
Stephen Foster wrote good songs that weren’t too difficult to play at home, so that families and other small gatherings could enjoy music repeatedly. In 1877, Thomas Edison solved the problem of how to capture music so that it could be enjoyed at the listener’s whim. Before that, one had to be 1. Near or at a musical performance, 2. able to play an instrument, or 3. able to whistle or sing; that’s it.
In 2022, I used my Roku TV remote to call up the Siegfried Idyll from Amazon Music and am listening to it now, to prepare a column about two landmarks along the way, the record company that brought the Blues, perhaps America’s first indigenous music, into its living rooms, and the record company most responsible for the synthesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll.