Silent, upon a peak

Until a moment ago, nothing in this photograph was not wood or mud. But as soon as a man within a wooden box picked up an apparatus shaped like an iron flower, he and it carried each other out of the box and into the pictorial record. The record has changed itself accordingly. For example, it now takes into account a space between boxes where there is newly to be seen a man’s clumsily hemmed suit and a name, Edison, in gold amid the mud.

But the man isn’t going to remain in the light of that temporary setting. His music is waiting for him, and the only place for sound here is off the record, back in the dark of the box. After the man has vacated the photograph he has caused to be made, it will seem once again to signify nothing but wood and mud. But the form that once penetrated the record of that which was to be photographed will have changed it forever. From now on, whatever new light falls on the picture will be seen within the spectral limits of a prior illumination that once made visible the panoply of the man: his wrinkled cloth, leather to be sited on mud, and iron horn.

Leaving the interior of the box and carrying the apparatus into the light to be photographed was the dispositive event. By forcing us to see, it obviated our surmise. Now that we know we have seen a flower with a golden name, we know we can hear its music. The man who carried it toward the mud and the light c‏aused it to change forever from the not yet seen to the soon to be heard.

But the effort has left a blankness in his face. Something previously there has been erased. He will never again stare at the Pacific.

Source: I haven’t found a provenance for this image. A chain of Tumblr and Pinterest reblogs eventually terminated without bibliographical data at a site called vinylespassion.tumblr.com.

I have photoshopped the image for contrast and clarity. Kim Bridges contributed extra post-processing in Nik.

Audio: Stephen Crane

At the Library of Congress’s wonderful National Jukebox site (new last May) I recently discovered this item, “Coming Home from Coney Isle,” by a duo, Ada Jones and Len Spencer, who recorded a whole stack of dialect novelty songs in 1905 and 1906.

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/1068

When I heard the disdainful “Aw, gee” and the plaintive, “Will I open the window?” I thought, “This sounds just like the dialogue in Maggie, A Girl of the Streets.” Well, it turns out that that was no accident. Your proof:

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/6020

— a song called “Chimmie and Maggie at the Hippodrome.”

Americanists may want to give this site a listen.