Play it again … and again

There’s a antique mall in an old farmer’s market building in downtown Oklahoma City that we try to get to whenever we’re home visiting the family, and in that mall is a particular store that we make it a point to patronize. The owner’s kind of an old grump and some of his stuff’s overpriced, but he has plenty of the sort of paper ephemera we like, and we usually find something to covet, if not purchase.

The last time we were in his store, we stumbled upon a shelf filled with piano rolls of the 1920s and ’30s, and our heart skipped a beat. They were much more reasonably priced than many of his other offerings, and the titles were right up our alley, many of them songs frequently heard on Cladrite Radio.

It’s one of the few regrets we have about residing in New York City: Space is at a premium, and we simply don’t have room for a player piano. Would that we did. We’d snap up a couple of dozen of that old grump’s piano rolls in a heartbeat

But we did recently learn of a YouTube channel that eases the pain a bit. AeolianHall1 is the poster’s handle, and his or her channel features a delightful roster of piano roll recordings from the 1930s, the 1920s, and even earlier.

We thought we’d share one of our favorites with you, Pauline Albert’s recording of Irving Berlin‘s 1927 hit “The Song Is Ended (but the Meolody Lingers On). But you really should make it a point to pop over and give AeolianHall1’s extensive collection a good listen.

Just give it time

In browsing the web the other day, we came across a piece of video we thought might be of interest.

It featured a cute 25-year-old woman offering her thoughts and opinions on a particular topic.

The identity of the young woman and the topic she was discussing aren’t really salient here, but suffice it to say that, aside from being cute, she didn’t really bring much to the table. Her insights on the topic she was discussing weren’t, in our view, terribly compelling and she came off as not a little callow.

Not that we intend to sound harsh. She was just an average person sounding off on a topic that interested her, and certainly no harm was done and not terribly much time was wasted on our part—we stopped the video and moved on about ninety seconds in. But there was little to recommend the video, in our opinion, even though it was a topic that was of interest to us and might, in fact, have been of interest to some visitors to this very site.

There are, of course, literally millions of such videos spread across the web—hundreds of thousands of them, surely, on YouTube alone—and few have much to really recommend them, but what the heck, they’re not hurting anyone. They’re out there for the viewing—you watch ’em, or you don’t, simple as that.

But it occurred to us that, as little value as that video held for us, give it sixty or seventy years, and someone much like us (we’re not kidding ourselves it’ll actually be us; we’re not likely to still be around then) will come across that video, or another one much like it, and be thrilled to be given a glimpse into what a twenty-something gal was like in the 2010s.

Imagine, for example, there had been something like the internet in the 1920s, and we still had access to videos created by young women of that time—girls next door and flappers, career gals and floozies. Who in the Cladrite community wouldn’t eagerly follow a link to access a trove of such videos, even if the content there was no more compelling on its own merits than the video we watched the other day of that 21st-century gal (or guy—gender’s not the point here) sounding off?

Yes, we have the movies of that era to inform us, but, as much we love moving pictures—and as much as we’ve learned from them about life as it was lived then—they never seem to offer an entirely true depiction of any era (pick a decade from your own life, and then consider the movies that came out during those years—do they really offer a fully accurate account of what it was like to live then?)

If the 1920s videos we’re imagining existed, we’d all be fascinated just to hear the slang used by the average Joes and Jills of the day, to see their mannerisms, their clothes, their hair. It wouldn’t much matter what they were discussing; we’d watch with great interest.

It’s interesting to consider the burnishing that occurs, the value that the passing years add to cultural artifacts, items that, in their own time, may not been held in great regard by anyone.

This effect holds true with moving pictures. We’ll happily watch the silliest 1930s picture, if for no other reason than to enjoy a cinematic glimpse at a bygone era, even though we avoid a distressingly high percentage of what Hollywood is currently cranking out.

Seventy years down the road, though, the fluff coming out of Hollywood today will have a whole new appeal to those with an interest in life as it was lived today, just as, say, Joe E. Brown pictures do now for those of us intrigued by the 1930s.