Mobile II (“Dear Mr. Edison”), for viola and electronics, uses two source recordings from the very early days of recording technology. The first is a speech given by composer Arthur Sullivan in October 1888, thanking Thomas Edison for his invention of the phonograph. Sullivan says:
Dear Mr. Edison,
If my friend Edmund Yates has been a little incoherent, it is in consequence of the excellent dinner, and good wine which he has drunk. Therefore, I beg you would excuse him. He has his lucid intervals.
For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening's experiment -- astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same, I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery.
The second sample is a recording of Handelʼs oratorio Israel in Egypt from June 1888. Recorded from over 100 yards away and subject to over 100 years of decay, the chorus of 4000 voices is almost obscured by noise artifacts from the degradation of the wax cylinder. Often the technological medium itself seems to have its own musical agenda; this piece explores the wonder and terror conjured by that agenda. -IS