Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 087

"Reversing the Phonograph," Literary Digest 19:5 (No. 484), July 29, 1899, p. 136.

REFERRING to the curious effects obtained by running a phonograph backward, Professor Pichot, in an article in Cosmos, June 17, notes that we may obtain an even better realization, in this way, of what a reversed world would be than by reversing the kinetoscope, as has sometimes been done. After noting some of the curious speculations regarding such a world-bewitched, he goes on to say:

"We now have two instruments that . . . can transport us to this new world--this world moving backward. They are the cinematograph and the phonograph.

"The first aids us very easily in getting a view of a backward-moving scene. Unfortunately, the scenes that can be reproduced on the instrument are too limited to give us a general idea of what the whole world would be like under these conditions. In the instrument the aspect of a person approaching evidently resembles, when the machine is reversed, that of one who is retiring by walking backward. This is nothing new. It gives no idea of a world where effects precede causes.

"The phonograph, on the contrary, . . . positively introduces us into a new world, gives us a new language and a new music. I wish to call the attention of musicians to this fact. It is said that Wagner, to get new musical ideas, used to put his piano out of tune, and then play upon it the most beautiful pieces of Mozart or Beethoven. Thus, by chance, unexpected effects would be revealed to his ears. Chance is sometimes artistic. Children throw big ink-blots on a bit of paper, fold it up, press it down, and then admire the odd forms produced. Who has not wondered, during a thunder-storm, at the fantastic and grand forms of the clouds, and in winter at the elegant decorations made by the frost on our window-panes?

"I advise musicians to hear the best pieces of their repertoires played backward on the phonograph. I do not say that all that they hear will be equally beautiful. But I am sure that they will be surprised more than once to hear the result. It may be that from this will arise some new form of music. Let them hear also a piece declaimed in the same fashion, if they wish to get an idea of a new language where the accents are all reversed. I hasten to add, that running the machine backward does not injure the cylinders--at least if they are those of celluloid. This reversibility makes of the instrument a doubly interesting toy.

"This is a good opportunity to put anew the following question, which was once discussed in Les Mondes by the Abbe' Moigno: 'Is the universe reversible, absolutely speaking? That is to say, if we admit the principle of the convertibility of the various forms of energy, could it happen that the universe should return to its primitive state by passing through all the intermediate states in reverse order?'" -- Translations made for THE LITERARY DIGEST.