Monday, July 25, 2011


Song Title: "Love's Menu"
Artist: Thomas Mills
Search Term: "Menu"

This dainty instrumental was committed to an Edison wax cylinder in 1907, and the sound is so distorted and melted that I can't even tell what instruments I'm listening to. (Woodwinds and a glockenspiel, maybe?) Composer William H. Tyers was evidently an underappreciated trailblazer in the fields of ragtime and jazz, but this song sounds like a holdover from the Victorian era; a reserved, halting number you'd hear at a society ball for owners of powdered wigs, ornate folding fans, dueling pistols, ladies-in-waiting, and corset-induced consumption. Such is my vast historical understanding. I'm not sure how attracted I'd be to "Love's Menu" if I heard a clearer recording, but thanks to the personality of the wax cylinder itself, this version possesses the same once-high-tech, now-quaint charm as the IBM 704 singing "Daisy Bell."

(That said, the well-intentioned creator of this MP3 has clearly run the recording through an overzealous hiss removal filter, which means there's a gurgling phantom high end in place of the typical ambient crackles you'd hear on a wax cylinder. It's kind of odd. I don't find it so distracting that it detracts much from the tune's eerie music-box beauty, but it might get on the nerves of listeners less ape-eared than I.)

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