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This module includes two primary sources — that is, sources written at the time of events described — and one secondary source — an historical study that looks back at the development of recorded sound. Historians typically use primary sources, such as these, to understand people and events from earlier times.

In “The Phonograph and Its Future” (1878), Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, discusses the capabilities of his device and his vision for how it will be used in the future.

In “The Menace of Mechanical Music” (1906), John Philip Sousa, a composer, discusses the effects of recorded music on social relationships, musical learning, and intellectual property rights.

In “New Media Publics,” media historian Lisa Gitelman examines the development of recorded sound and the role that users, particularly women, played in the development of the phonograph.

In this response, please address the following questions:

1) According to Edison, what was the most important potential use of his new machine? (Hint: He describes this “application” first.) Was Edison right?

2) According to Sousa, what effect will the phonograph have on music and society? What legal issue is he concerned with? How does this issue relate to modern musicians?

3) Gitelman describes the phonograph as “a rare, Jekyll-and-Hyde” invention. What does she mean by this? How did phonograph users, rather than inventors, shape the technology’s use?

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