By Doug Boilesen 2001
The revolution of recorded sound that began with the Phonograph was a social, cultural, and literal (in rpms) revolution. And it never stopped. We still have record players and descendent technologies that record and reproduce sound and deliver entertainment to the home and individuals.
Advertising promises have been made by each sound delivering technology that has followed the original phonograph -- the radio, television, high-fidelity, stereophonic, 45 and LP phonograph systems, VHS and Beta video tape systems, reel-to-reel, 8-track and cassette playing systems, laser discs, CEDs, CDs, DVD and Blu-ray systems, computers, iPods and all of the many streaming devices. Formats and media change but each new product pursued the phonograph's primary advertising promise -- that their device will deliver music and entertainment to you as if it's just for you, and it will be an experience equal to or better than the "best seat in the house." Anytime. Anywhere. Forever.
There are still qualities of a live performance that cannot be experienced in the home.
But if you are able to hear a performance that you would otherwise never experience, and if the "music is magic" as you close your eyes and listen, it seems pretty compelling that the 'best seat in the house" can be yours.
Taking your seat for that performance simply requires the what, when, and how often you want to attend.
The following are examples of how realism and "The Stage of the World" have been promised in phonograph and descendent technology advertisements since the beginning of the twentieth century and, as a continuum, into the twenty-first century.
"It is reality, nothing less; for "The Stage of the World" presents the artists themselves to you..." Columbia Grafonola, 1916
"The whole enchanted realm of grand opera...comes to life through the magic portals of the Columbia Grafonola," 1917
"Ring Up the Graphophone Curtain in Your Home, and the Whole World of Entertainment Appears!" 1906
"A Theatre in Your Home," The Talking Machine World, March 15, 1905
"Verdi's Masterpiece, "Il Trovatore", complete, from the opening chorus to the finale of the last act..." Munsey's, Victor Talking Machine Co., 1906
Victor The Fireside Theatre brings to each family exactly the music that it wants; the veritable voice, the actual performance. And all in the comfort and privacy of home.
"At the Christmas Matinee" by J.J. Gould, November 1908
The black and white illustration of Edison's national magazine advertisement "At the Christmas Matinee" in November 1908 was signed by J. J. Gould. When the same advertisement appeared in color in December 1908 magazines there was no longer an artist's signature. One can see the difference in the details of the colorized version which have been apparently modified by Edison artists in the colorization process.
When Edison proudly provided information in his trade magazine about his advertising campaign of 1907 and 1908 he identified the "prominent artists" that were being featured and noted that the advertisements "are reproductions from a series of sketches drawn especially for us by a number of leading artists of the country." (See The Edison Phonograph Monthly, December 1907).
This December 1908 illustration is an example of how "reproducing" an original sketch could alter the original sketch and result in the removal of an artist's signature.
"At the Christmas Matinee" - The Best Seat in the House - Collier's, December 1908
"A home without a Victor is a stage without a play." 1908
The Edison Phonograph "sings as sweetly sings as the most cultivated singer and renders perfectly the tones of the various instruments of orchestras and bands." The Edison Phonograph Monthly, August 1908
"Home is more comfortable than an opera house...“… whenever you want, without going a single step away from home.” 1910
The Edison Phonograph is the theatre... "The voice of all the people on the stage - The choice of all the people off the stage. Edison ad, artwork by Gil Spear 1911
"It brings the talent of the world's greatest artists into the home..." The Edison Phonograph Monthly, January 1912
"This beats putting on your dress suit and paying $5.00 to sit in a camp chair in a crowded theatre." February 1914, The Talking Machine World
"Hearing is Believing" Columbia Phonograph Company, 1911
"Just as real, just as enjoyable, in your own home" 1913
An Edison Phonograph - "A Minstrel Show in Your Own Home with no end of good, clean, bright music and songs." St. Nicholas magazine, 1911 *Disclaimer
"right in your own home the charming selections from the popular operettas now delighting the public..." St. Nicholas, 1913
Any class of amusement "From the sublime to the ridiculous" -- Columbia Graphophone Company, 1915
Columbia Records on the Columbia Grafonola bring the best music of all lands and all ages into the friendly intimacy of your own home." Ladies' Home Journal 1918
"A Magical Voice of Music," Columbia Grafonola, 1919
Yours is the privilege of hearing this group of marvelously gifts artists "from the depths of your pet arm chair, any evening you choose. March 1919, The National Geographic.
The Saturday Evening Post, March 13, 1920
An all-star bill appearing each night at home, Columbia 1920 Disclaimer
"With the Victrola you can have a concert by these same great bands in your home..." 1921
Grand Opera", Tusca Radio, 1923
"The unusual thing on the radio is the usual thing on the Victrola." 1925 (PM-2025)The music which delighted radio listeners "has been and is available at all times through the medium of the Victrola and Victor Records."
RCA Radiola - Full orchestra on a lanterned lawn - 1926
"We thought it was an orchestra." Orthophonic Victrola, The Ladies' Home Journal, 1926
"Waiting to sing and play for you...the Victrola is the gift that keeps on giving." 1927 (PM-2032)
"Lights out...a glow springs up along the stage's rim...The curtains part..." Victor Red Seal Records, 1927
"Almost, you look into the faces of the musicians themselves, so perfect is the illusion..." 1928 - Edmund Wilson artist
"Without stretch of the imagination, they are right in the very room with you." 1928 - Edmund Wilson artist
"You're at a Broadway vaudeville show---in your own home!" 1928 - Edmund Wilson artist
"the utmost possible fidelity and realism..." .RCA Radiola, December 1929
The Variety of Radio Entertainment available for your home - "Get your full share..." RCA Radiola, 1931
Waiting for your Cue", RCA 1944
Magnavox - Radio-Phonograph 1945 "true-to-life tone"
"Close your eyes and enjoy the illusion that singers and orchestra are in the very room with you."
RCA Victor's Golden Throat
If music was to come into the home and be experienced the same as 'live' performances then voices from records needed to have tone, color, timbre and resonanace indistinguisable from their respective human voices.
The Victrola's "Golden Throat" was a personification of the human voice produced by "RCA Victor's exclusive 3-way Acoustical System." The following 1946 Victor ad shows a golden head that looks like a classical sculpture and next to it is its silhouette with a speaker inside, its "Golden Throat."
The "Golden Throat" of the Victrola represents new perfection for RCA Victor in 1946
For more RCA Golden Throat ads see "The Golden Throat."
$200,000,000 Entertainment -- yours free on GE, 1951
Du Mont, with Television, the world is your stage, 1949
1948 Spartan Radio - "It brought the entire world to their fingertips"
1949 - The magic of radio and television bring America's Grandest Entertainment. "Enjoy FM and AM radio--and records--in natural color tone."
1950 Zenith - Watching ballet in the afternoon "with startling new life-like clarity and detail..."
"Command the world's most celebrated stars to perform for you, privately, in your own home." GE Television, The Saturday Evening Post, September 15, 1951
Webcor, Life, September 20, 1954
1954 Sylvania Television - "Chairside Theatre"
Best Seat in the Concert Hall - Right in Your Home! 1956 Admiral
Carnegie Hall - Magavox Stereophonic High-Fidelity -- "recorded music suddenly comes alive...creating an exciting illusion of "living presence...with amazing realism." 1958
Columbia Stereophonic Phonographs PUT YOU IN THE CENTER OF SOUND, 1958
Magavox Stereo Theatre in your home, 1962
"Fifth-Row-Center-Sound" "Full, live sound..." Wollensak Stereo Tape Recorder 1963
Entertainment Center for Children, General Electric's Show' N Tell, 1965
"RCA Victor Stereo...realism that rivals the concert hall," 1965
"RCA Victor Stereo...realism that rivals the concert hall," 1965
"RCA Victor Stereo...realism that rivals the concert hall," 1966
"RCA - realism that rivals the concert hall" 1967
RCA Stereo- Realism that Rivals the Concert Hall, 1968
Realism that rivals the concert hall - closer to the music, RCA 1968
Watch Whatever, Whenever. - Sony Betamax 1978
"Unparalleled in sight and sound," Magnavox 1979
1984 Stereo Broadcasts of San Francisco Opera -- "The effect is amazingly realistic."
Since the invention of the phonograph player back in 1877...the basic concept hasn't changed a bit. Until now." 1984 Sony Compact Disc - Sony's "Revolution"
JBL speakers "Set the Stage at Home"- The speakers relied on by recording engineers to mix the music for the first time are available for your living room. "Bringing Pro Sound All The Way Home. JBL - 1986
1992 RCA Home Theatre - "So lifelike...you'll feel like part of the show."
"...hear something you've never heard before: perfection." "you listen to your favorite artists as though you, and your armchair, were centered in the spotlight above." Courtesy Sony 1983
"At Last, A Theater Where You Can Always Go To A Concert"
Mitsubishi® Technically, Anything Is Possible 1989
Dell, Presidents Day Sale, February 2017
In September 2020 with COVID-19 a continuing reality, The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra's New Season announced their "seven beautifully crafted concerts will come to you at home."
"With fascinating camera angles, bonus interviews and insights, and behind the scenes footage, your own home will be the best seat in the house!
Turn your couch into a box seat at the ballet
Dim the lights and nestle into your sofa like it’s a box at the Palais Garnier to watch ballet and opera clips on the Opéra National de Paris’ YouTube channel. When you need an intermission, do as the audiences do and get a glass of Champagne. By Stephanie Rosenbloom, November 17, 2020 New York Times
Opéra national de Paris
Palais Garnier - Photo NYT and ©Jean-Pierre Delagarde/OnP
A revolution of sound that created the"The best seat in the house. Forever"©