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The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905.

[Detail] The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905

Music and Film Criticism

When Thomas Edison was describing popular music in the May 1917 Edison Diamond Points article, "New Aspects on the Art of Music," he explained: "People like or dislike what they are told to. There is very little fresh and original thought upon the subject." Sample some of the recordings available in the "Alphabetical List of Edison Disc Titles."

  • Are there certain melodies or stylistic themes that appear in a number of the recordings?
  • Do you agree or disagree with Edison's claim that people "like or dislike what they are told to"?
  • Do you think that contemporary audiences are told what to like?

Professional critics are one group of people who seek to influence popular tastes in the arts. Select a song, comedy sketch, or fictional film (available with a search on the term, drama) and write a critique of the work while keeping in mind the technological limitations of the era.

  • How does the work make you feel?
  • What do you think is the goal of the piece?
  • Do you think the material successfully achieves this goal? Why or why not?
  • What did you like most about the work? What did you like least?
  • How does the work compare to contemporary efforts in the same genre?
  • Would you recommend the piece to anyone you knew?
  • Would you limit your recommendation to a select few? If so, who?