Thomas Y. Levin is a German professor at Princeton University who typically lectures on Weimar cinema and the Frankfurt School during the week.
On weekends, he often goes to the Golden Nugget flea market located in the old mill town of Lambertville, New Jersey, which has been around for the past fifty-three years.
The seven-acre lot situated by the banks of the Delaware River hosts hundreds of vendors selling their assortment of cast iron, coins, and midcentury decor.
Levin, a media theorist and cultural materialist, is fascinated by the landscape of commonplace objects that the flea market presents. He states, “It provides a marvelous overview of the bizarre detritus of daily life. The flea market is the unconscious of the recent past.”
Once upon a time, Levin was perusing the Golden Nugget when he encountered a peculiar item. It was a blue square envelope that was roughly six inches long. Printed on the upper right corner was an image of an airplane and on the lower left, a battleship.
The envelope was addressed to the Lewises of Louisville, Kentucky from Private C. W. Lewis of San Diego.
The words “Letter on a Record” were inscribed in an upbeat midcentury script. Levin cautiously inserted a finger into the envelope and drew out a cardboard disk. The disk was covered in a shellac coating and had a spiral groove cut into it.
At a flea market, a professor of media studies discovers an unusual cardboard disc and decides to take it home to play on his turntable. When the disc is placed, a low, crackling noise is heard, reminiscent of the sound of windshield wipers.
Accompanying the noise is a tinny, percussive voice.
The window was open and one could view the attractive bedroom from it. It was surely an appealing sight.
The voice was faint and distant. Words were uttered partially, then vanished, as if swept away by the breeze. It stated that the person was in San Diego and that they weren’t doing a lot. They had been attempting to find Carl, but he was nowhere to be found.
He addressed his parents with the words, “Well, Mom and Dad, I assume you’re eavesdropping as well. However, don’t pay too close attention. I might utter certain words that you may not be fond of.”
Private C. W. Lewis had ingeniously sent a message by means of a record in the 1940s. Consequently, Levin had stumbled upon a primitive form of voice mail.
In the 1980s, the answering machine was first released to the public by AT&T, and it rapidly became a part of the American home and a popular trend in the media.
Characters in films and television shows would make a joke out of the answering machine and its messages, and many men used it to make their feelings known to the other person.
However, voice mail has declined in popularity in recent years and texts are now more common. Nowadays, voice mail is primarily used by robots, scammers, the elderly, and dentists.
From a modern perspective, voice mail may appear to be a relic of the past decades. However, prior to the answering machine was a less renowned period of sound messaging which started in the early 1900s, the result of Thomas Edison’s phonograph.
The phonograph was Edison’s invention of 1877, and before revealing it to the public.
He wrote down various names for it in his notebook such as “antiphone” (back-talker), “liguphone” (clear speaker), “bittakophone” (parrot speaker), “hemerologophone” (speaking almanac), and “trematophone” (sound borer).
Ultimately, Edison chose the simple “phonograph,” which meant “sound writer.” This term accurately described the device’s function of transforming sound waves into a calligraphic line etched into a rotating cylinder.
To produce sound, the needle would travel along the groove, picking up sound from the uneven topography and emitting it through a horn.
It can be said that every invention is invented twice, with its creator’s original intent being re-envisioned by its users. The phonograph of the 1910s was popularized as a music player, but this was not what Thomas Edison had in mind when he invented it.
He had intended for it to be used as a memo writer, a dictation machine, or even a mechanical tutor. Companies, such as Speak-O-Phone of New York, recognized the potential of the phonograph and in 1928, introduced an accessory that enabled people to make recordings at home.
Solomon Popper, the company’s leader, referred to the technology as “instant photography of the voice on a record,” and proposed that these records be distributed through the mail.
Popper’s foresight in referencing photography was remarkable. Around the same time, the International Mutoscope Corporation, a New York-based creator of arcade games, released the Photomatic, the first ever boardwalk photo booth.
This device could develop a person’s portrait in less than a minute using a built-in chemical bath. As a result of its success, Mutoscope designed another machine which operated using a similar principle.
This was the Voice-O-Graph. It featured a small booth with a door which had a microphone instead of a camera. By inserting a coin, a light would be illuminated and a timer would start.
After a minute, the recording would play back, then it would drop into a slot with an envelope. With this, one had the physical evidence of their voice ready to be posted.
For approximately thirty years, Voice-O-Graph booths were located in diverse places across the United States, such as bus depots, tourist attractions, and boardwalks. For instance, one was situated at Coney Island, while another was located on Attu Island, Alaska.
The Empire State Building even had a Voice-O-Graph booth on its eighty-sixth-floor observation deck, beside a set of coin-operated binoculars. As the binoculars allowed people to observe the skyline, the Voice-O-Graph encouraged them to share their impressions of it.
A bridge across the wide gulf of time isn’t a strange thing to encounter. We are used to hearing the voices of people who have passed away through media such as old radio shows, films and television series like I Love Lucy.
But when Levin spun the “Letter on a Record” on his turntable in Princeton, NJ, he experienced something unique–a feeling of closeness and privacy.
A representation of a small illustration can be seen in the image that is featured.
Private Lewis was just an everyday individual conversing with his family, saying nothing remarkable or exciting.
Despite the lack of thrill in his words, it was this very simplicity that made what he said captivating. Listening to him felt like eavesdropping on the past, as his words were exactly how they would have sounded when they were first uttered.
Levin was eager to find more records similar to the one he had discovered. He investigated the catalogs from the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, however he only located a few.
He pondered where the others had gone, as if he had stumbled upon a white seabird in a flea market – signifying a hidden land, similar to how the record in the envelope had revealed an unknown area of media history that had not been explored.
Levin is an energetic individual with a head of curly silver hair and bright eyes, his face often in a state of surprise. He is of European Jewish descent, his parents having fled fascism, and was raised speaking German.
His articulation is precise and precise, as he is well-versed in four languages. His words are carefully chosen and spoken out with a pronounced clarity.
Since his Lambertville discovery, Levin has been creating the only existing compilation of old-fashioned sound recordings in the world, which is located in his Princeton faculty office. Last spring, I made my way there, and came upon a room filled with boxes and odd pieces of equipment, like a conical gramophone horn that seemed to be in the shape of a dunce cap. There were also some toys, like a Playmobil TSA security checkpoint, a surveillance van, and a Barbie Video Girl with a locket that had a working camera inside.
His book collection included Isaac Asimov’s Futuredays, Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and multiple copies of 1984. And, on the highest shelf, there stood a zoetrope, its black drum glinting in the light.
Levin inquired, “Why are you wearing a jacket?” He then proceeded to explain that he had been granted exclusive rights by the building services to change the thermostat, making his office a humid sixty-nine degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal archival temperature.
Along the wall there were massive metal filing cabinets with folders inside that were as thick as textbooks. The labels read…
The Empire State Observatory, Coney Island’s Amusement Parks, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Brazil, and Taiwan.
The filing cabinets were packed with documents.
Levin had an extensive collection of over three thousand records, most of which he had gathered on eBay. Just that day, a package from a vendor had arrived.
He suggested that they should give one of the records a listen, so he took it and put it on the turntable.
A loud, rushing sound filled the room. Amid the background noise, a man and a woman could be heard speaking simultaneously. The man exclaimed, “I went on a roller coaster!” with a chuckle. “What can I say?” the woman responded. “Guess it’s all over now!”
Levin added, saying it could be termed as “self-conscious silliness under media duress“. This phrase could equally be applied to a situation such as someone sticking out their tongue behind a Snapchat filter or dabbing in front of the Jumbotron.
Levin took the record off the turntable and placed it inside a clear Mylar sleeve. To ensure the best possible preservation of the record, he consulted a professional from the Library of Congress to get advice.
“These Mylar sleeves are chemically inert and look great,” he remarked. “I’m a real fan of them.”
Buzz and I heard some additional music. He addressed Mary saying: We were just lazing around and then we spotted this machine here. I figured it would give you a better impression of my voice than if I were to explain it to you by post. A great part of a recording is that if you don’t like it, you can just switch it off.
On a different recording, a baby cooed and gurgled. On a different one, a man conversed with a woman in Japan. My dearest Keiko, I can’t stand being separated from you. It breaks my heart. Every night, I cannot sleep, I’m always dreaming of you. I’m even saying your name in my sleep…
An illustration of a small figure can be seen in the image below.
Some may find it perplexing that something that even the Library of Congress has forgotten about can be collected. Levin credits his “exquisite online search skills” for his success. He regularly checks eBay US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Brazil. When he first began collecting, he would bid in the last minute of auctions, which often meant setting alarms in the middle of the night.
Now, he uses a bot called Gixen to “avoid temporal suck.” As of May 2019, he has made 1,777 eBay purchases, all of which have earned him 100 percent positive buyer feedback.
He has even gotten help from a “magical man” in California who finds estate sales and sets aside any records he believes Levin would want.
Although Levin does not remember his name, he knows his eBay handle. He gets two to three packages delivered to him every day, and at the time of my visit, his office desks were filled with books, audio equipment, and records.
However, at the end of the school year, he clears one off to make space for the packages. Beside his desk were three twenty-five-gallon plastic file boxes, which contained his course papers and teaching files. He was having a space problem and so had to get rid of the papers.
He showed me a recording of Bette Gaines, who was in New York at the time. She was sending her regards to the ladies in Pasadena, California. I’m not as scared of the subways now, though I’m still not a fan, she remarked.
I used to get on the wrong train and go the wrong way, then I’d hop on the correct train, but it would be going in the incorrect direction. One morning I got it right and ended up going the correct way.
She remarked that the sheer number of people was almost staggering, and they filled the streets in seemingly infinite numbers.
Bette was frank, genuine, and even upbeat at times. Despite her cheerful excitement, I could detect an underlying apprehension in her.
I remarked on this, and it seemed as though Bette was speaking to a dual audience: the “ladies present” and a mysterious potential listener from the future, who may one day come across this recording after she has passed away.
He looked at me with a certain aloofness, and simply stated, “This is me.”
Efficiency appears to be the main rationale for the abandonment of voice mail. Texting is convenient in comparison, as it can be done in any environment, and can be quickly skimmed or responded to via emoji.
However, a voice mail still has its place, as it captures one’s attention for a longer amount of time than other forms of communication. For some, the pace of speech may be too slow.
It is tragic that we have become so indifferent to voice mail. Historically, voice was perceived as ephemeral, something that could not be stored like moonlight or an idea.
For instance, an encyclopedia from Qing dynasty China mentions a special apparatus, which was invented by the court inventor Chiang Shun-hsin, known as the “thousand-mile speaker”.
It enabled someone to speak into a cylinder, seal it, and then send it across a distance. When the cylinder was opened, the message would be heard again.
Additionally, a French manuscript from 1632 talks about a similar phenomenon in the South Pacific, where a culture with no technology, art, or alphabet communicated by speaking into sponges, which were then squeezed when received.
In chapter LVI, book IV of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Pantagruel and his companions come upon a battleground blanketed with fragments of ice.
This battle had occurred during the winter, and these pieces of ice had been able to capture the sounds of war.
However, the weather had gotten warmer, causing the noises to thaw out. Cries, whinnies, and the clangs of weapons escape into the atmosphere. Rabelais had long imagined the possibility of recording sound like this.
Pantagruel scattered a range of crystallized words of distinct colours across the deck like gules, vert, azure, sable, and or.
We melted them in our hands and heard them, though we didn’t understand them due to their foreign language.
One word, however, was exceptional; Friar John picked it up and it cracked like a chestnut thrown on a fire without being punctured – like a cannon shot in its time.1
Voice mail has allowed us to bridge the distance between people, reclaim time, and allow the dead to continue to have an impact on the living.
Edison was particularly drawn to this last concept. In a press release for the phonograph he emphasized the potential for “the voices of the dead being reheard through this device”. It was in 1906 that Edison’s competitor, Victrola, entered the market.
This company’s logo featured a white terrier called Nipper, which was modelled after an artist’s own dog. This artist had inherited the dog from his brother, and when he heard a recording of his brother’s voice, Nipper put his face to the horn and cock his head.
The Voice-O-Graph, which made its debut in 1941, was perceived as having the capability to revive the deceased by those that interacted with it. It was tall and resembled a coffin, and its bright red-and-orange lettering stood out amidst the smoking and dim lighting of the arcade.
STEP UP TO THE MIC! RECORD YOUR OWN VOICE!
Another attribute was condensed into a succinct phrase: an opportunity to listen to one’s self as it is heard by others.
In the 1940s, it was a brand new experience for many to hear the sound of their own voice playing back to them from a recording. The Voice-O-Graph booth was often their first experience with a microphone, and the recordings made in it often captured the peculiar moment when people realised that their voice could be kept in an object, potentially outliving them.
With the pressure of a live microphone, a ticking timer, and the fear of a silent room, some people found themselves discussing the topic of death.
For two parents in Berlin, they created a record for their sons.
The mother said, “Should anything happen to us, may this record serve as a memento to remind you that we will always be with you in spirit, and that our greatest wish is for your happiness and well-being. And our blessing will forever be with you.”
Levin’s archive contains a variety of emotions in its recordings. Individuals enter the Voice-O-Graph booth to express their love, celebrate a birthday, or tell the story of their day’s events. Small girls sing national anthems.
There is trepidation in front of the microphone. There is a playful awkwardness in the face of the media. These recordings provide a glimpse into the personalities of people no longer with us, each a brief but meaningful insight into their lives.
The objective of Levin’s voice mail project is to conduct his personal research and write papers about the material.
Additionally, he is working to digitize the archive for the benefit of various researchers, including linguists, sociologists, philosophers, genealogists, and historians of day-to-day life.
From the start, he was alone, scouting the unfamiliar space of eBay from the comfort of his faculty office. Now, however, he has a stockpile of resources and his acquisition process has changed.
As he has gained popularity, people have begun to contact Levin when they come across Voice-O-Graph records in their attics.
When I visited, Levin was excited due to having received an email from Claire Lissance from Placitas, New Mexico. Its subject was “My father invented the Voice-O-Graph machine,” and he quickly got her on the line.
Claire, a retired career counselor of the age of sixty-five, informed Levin that her father had passed away in 1972, yet she hadn’t gone through his belongings for quite a while.
After her mother’s death in 1998 was when she began to go through their family apartment thoroughly.
During her sorting of the family documents, she stumbled upon a folder that held letters and schematics with Mutoscope as the header. The majority of them were related to a device called the Voice-O-Graph.
Levin was excited about speaking with Claire, but he was also nervous about the delicate issues they were discussing. He was eager to get his hands on what she had, but he didn’t want to come off as too desperate and possibly push her away.
He was also worried that someone else could get the archive before him. He warned me to be careful with what I said if I ever encountered another collector of gramophonic epistles.
Bill Bollman, a patent lawyer residing three hours away in Newark, Delaware, and Levin can’t really be considered rivals.
Until recently, he was living in a 1940s colonial home in Bethesda, MD, with a basement that he had enlarged to house an indoor basketball court and a rock-climbing wall.
His demeanor is even-keeled and he speaks slowly, likely due to his legal training in being precise with words.
He is passionate about college basketball and the Mold-A-Rama, a coin-operated vending machine that was popular in the 1960s.
This interest has now expanded to a collection of coin-operated machines. When he was living in Bethesda, he had a Shooting Gallery, a Ms. Pac-Man and a Vendo 81 soda vending machine that he kept filled with 81 bottles of soda.
A major component of the vintage coin-op machine industry relies heavily on trades. Bollman, a collector, arranged a trade with a collector in Chicago several years ago. One of the pieces he chose was a tall, thin booth that had seen better days.
The booth had been painted a forest green color and, at one point, was outfitted with a rotary telephone from the 1950s.
In Chicago, the collector attached a trailer to his truck and drove the booth to Maryland. On arriving at Bollman’s residence, they wrestled it into the garage, but were unable to make it stand.
The booth suddenly broke apart. As Bollman explained, it was like one of those steaks that can be easily cut with a fork. In the garage, he then removed the green paint, revealing the words ‘record your own voice’ written in bold, slanted font.
Ever since he fell in love, Bollman has been scouring the United States for Voice-O-Graph machines. When he discovers one, usually stored in some barn or garage, he purchases it, restores it to its original state, and then resells it for a higher price.
He is kept informed of these booths through his relations in the picking world. Once he brings a booth back to his current workspace—a 30-by-30 storage locker in Delaware—he commences with the refurbishing process
. He has a machinist to renovate the mechanism, a sign painter to restore the lettering, and a person who specializes in the cutterhead. Much of his labor is derived from experimentation.
Initially, he had to experiment with different plastics to find the perfect compound for the record blanks. The original Voice-O-Graph records were created with cardboard and shellac. The cutterhead would carve through the shellac, producing a thin, spiral curl called the chip.
The chip and its fragments were extremely flammable, so Bollman replaced them with a clear, non-flammable plastic. “Put together, it’s quite impressive,” he said. “People make a record and it’s kind of cool.”
At the present, Bollman has the exclusive hold on the Voice-O-Graph booths. He is among the few people who can locate them and the only individual able to get them operational. As a result of their scarcity and the difficulties of transport, collecting them is a lengthy process.
In certain instances, Bollman may follow one booth for an extended period of time.
For almost a decade, one booth had been on Bollman’s radar. Initially, it wasn’t of great interest and he didn’t bid on it. But when it was sold to David Copperfield, the magician soon regretted the purchase.
According to Bollman, Copperfield “likes complete [booths], he likes original,” so he contacted Bollman and offered him the booth. After removing the paint, he found that there was beautiful original lettering underneath.
Apart from Copperfield, some of Bollman’s clients include Jack White, Quentin Tarantino, and someone from Metallica. When asked how many Voice-O-Graph booths are left, the lawyer replied that there are less than twelve.
An illustration of a small voiceograph can be seen in the picture. It is a representation of what can be heard when the device is used.
For a while, Bollman was collecting Voice-O-Graph records and could almost trace Mutoscope’s distribution by the labels and locations people mentioned in the recordings.
He had around 800 records, most of which he bought on eBay at a rate of about five dollars per disc. As time passed, he noticed the prices going up and a competitor emerged, bidding on the same records.
The bidder eventually reached out to Bollman and they agreed to a payment in exchange for the entire collection. He then sent the records to an address in Princeton.
According to Bollman, it wasn’t a battle for the same territory; they were both occupying the same space.
Levin and Bollman are the only two notable custodians of Voice-O-Graph materials worldwide, and in multiple respects, they differ from each other significantly.
For instance, Bollman is the Voice-O-Graph’s doctor, restoring a booth’s health through diagnosis. Levin, on the contrary, is the Voice-O-Graph’s analyst, unravelling its symbolic messages.
Levin and Bollman have had the chance to meet a few times and they keep in contact. They exchange any discoveries they make to help the other’s project, despite the fact that they may compete for the same sources.
They even take joy in sharing their information with one another, as who else can Levin converse with about the Voice-O-Graph machine? Similarly, who else can Bollman tell his stories of searching barns to and receive the same kind of response?
The majority of Levin’s recordings are quite ordinary, but if one listens carefully, they will eventually hear something extraordinary. One such recording starts off in an unremarkable fashion.
A soldier is speaking to his family from a military base in a cheerful tone. Greetings, Mary, Catherine and Charles. How are all of you? Oh, I’m feeling quite alright.
However, it eventually becomes clear that the situation is not so great. Yup, I had to cut it off, four inches above the knee he says. I lost my leg, but let’s not dwell on it. Let’s all be merry.
From his desk, Levin posed the question to me, “Do you have any Spanish?”, and then put a record on his turntable. “No?” he continued, “It doesn’t make a difference. So why? By paying attention to the pauses, you’ll get it. Should I play a bit?”
Rene in Argentina received a seventy-five year old record back in 1945.
The sound of a man’s voice echoed throughout the room. I wish to always be at your side in a dream of love, of this eternal love, Rene. Dream, Rene. I wish to love your eyes. I am here with my affection, Rene.
The man spoke in a low voice, taking brief pauses and audibly breathing into the microphone between phrases.
Anhelo besarte. Te daré un beso, Rene, un beso cariñoso. ¿Me amas, Rene? ¿Me amas con todo tu corazón? ¿De verdad?
“I’m PASSIONATELY calling out to you!” Levin yelled over the music. “Do you DESIRE me? Is it what you CRAVE, Rene?”
¿Cuán numerosas son las estrellas que adornan el cielo nocturno? En la noche tranquila, tanta melodía y armonía para compartir ambos.
One can’t help but exclaim “What a SPECTACULAR SIGHT!” when gazing up at the GLITTERING STARS in the BLACKENED NIGHT sky! It’s BREATHTAKING, right?
The man’s voice was drained and desperate, almost inaudible at times. Every time he spoke the name “Rene” his tone became even softer and more hushed, like a faint breath.
He repeated it constantly, blending in with the background noise. It was the most alluring thing I had ever heard.
In May of 2019, on a wet morning, Claire Lissance arrived in Princeton to visit Levin’s archive. That afternoon, they opened their eBay deliveries and played a few records while Claire told stories about her dad, the originator of the Voice-O-Graph machine.
I had a conversation with Claire soon after she had visited, and she gave me an account of her upbringing. She was raised in Spuyten Duyvil, which is located in the West Bronx, during the 1960s as an only child.
Her father, Alexander Lissiansky, was considerably older than other fathers at the time; he was 50 when she was born, but seemed youthful for his age.
He concealed his age from her for most of her childhood. He was known as Sacha, and his hobbies included riding motorcycles, collecting clocks and reading physics books for pleasure. He had an affinity for anything that ticked or clicked. He was also very fond of people and if you were to pass by a street-corner garage in the Bronx in 1955, you may have caught sight of an elderly man wearing a sport coat, conversing with the mechanics.
Claire’s father was a man who endured much. He had a long-term illness, although her mother was not always honest about it.
As Claire was in high school, his health deteriorated, but it took two more years for her mum to confess he was battling cancer. This was not something that was addressed in the Lissiansky family. By the time Claire was born, her dad had left International Mutoscope,
which had been gone for quite some time. Claire was disappointed that she never questioned her father regarding his profession. He hardly ever spoke of it, and she was too young and engrossed in other matters.
He passed away on the last day of Claire’s school. She commented, “It was the usual thing. It was horrible. It happened at home. Nothing was spared.”
When Claire looked through her father’s documents, she found letters between him and a man named William Rabkin. As the president of International Mutoscope, Rabkin was responsible for its products.
By the time he hired Sacha in the 1930s, Rabkin had grown the company into a major provider of coin-operated amusements in the East Coast. The Mutoscope, a large iron Rolodex, was the company’s main product.
It featured silent, flickering peep shows with suggestive titles such as “Loose Ankles!” and “Girl Climbing Apple Tree.”
In the following decades, International Mutoscope expanded its offerings to fulfill people’s varied desires: romance (Love Pilot), aggression (Punch-A-Bag, Drop-Kick), and the future (Grandmother Predictions).
Rabkin was born in Babruysk, Belarus, in 1894 and relocated as a teenager to New York. His daily routine included smoking several fifty-cent cigars and being a thirty-second-degree Mason.
His generous nature nearly caused financial ruin for his company twice, but he never stayed in his office but instead worked out of a small room off the main corridor. It had a kept open door so he could communicate with anyone passing by.
At 7 p.m. he went to board meetings and cultural events then went home at 1 a.m. and went to bed at 2. To ensure he was up he set two alarms, one at his bedside and one across the room. When they went off at 6, he began his day again.
Claire’s Bronx home was very diverse. “You never needed to look too far to find people from other countries,” she remarked. She and the majority of her friends and neighbors were all from immigrant families, so she never thought of her father’s English as having an accent. Like Rabkin, her dad was of Russian-Jewish lineage. Born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1904, he was raised in Vienna, where his parents ran a shoe manufacturing business. Sacha worked there from a young age, which is likely what sparked his inclination towards machinery.
By his twenties, he had begun creating prototypes, and by his thirties, he had relocated to Paris to promote a new invention: a coin-operated recorder which could capture the human voice.
In 1931, Sacha’s career was on the rise while Europe’s economies had yet to recover from WWI and Austria was struggling. Consequently, the family had to close down the shoe factory in Vienna.
With no factory to distract him, Moses’ health deteriorated and he was eventually required to amputate his leg above the knee. In a letter to his son, he wrote “I and Mama, with her back issues, are realizing that we are just two old, worn-out machines.”
As the years passed, the circumstances in Vienna deteriorated drastically. Gitel, Sacha’s mom, remarked that the cityscape had been completely altered.
Nazi flags and symbols had taken over, including an immense electric swastika that illuminated the night sky from the Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg hills. Goering had vowed that Vienna would soon be “free of Jews.”
Despite the Lissiansky family submitting applications for U.S. visas, their chances of being approved were very slim.
Any individuals seeking to become permanent residents in America had to demonstrate they could sustain themselves financially when they arrived.
Unfortunately, since they were elderly and in poor health, as well as being legally barred from employment due to their Jewish identity under the Nazis, they could not meet this requirement.
Not long after Claire’s grandparents had submitted their affidavit, a person from an American firm must have discovered Sacha’s recording device. Little is known about the investor, the business, or how he was associated with Claire’s dad.
Nonetheless, abruptly, her dad was travelling to NYC for the 1939 World’s Fair on official matters. Shortly after, their Vienna flat was empty.
The Lissiansky household in 1940 New York City is the abode of seven members. These include Claire’s grandparents, Moses and Gitel, her uncle Syoma and his wife, their two sons, who were previously based in Prague and her father, Sacha Lissiansky, a single man who had been living in Paris.
He earns enough money through his job in an “Other” field to provide for the entire family.
When I talked to Claire, I had already been absorbing the recordings in Levin’s collection for a while. It left me feeling a bit downcast.
There wasn’t any one recording that could give the whole story; each was a detached moment of an unknown person’s life, a snapshot of time with its original context gone.
You could pick out the nuances of character, a shyness, a moment of strong emotion that came and passed.
None of them were gratifying and none of them gave any kind of consistency. Yet, they were still laden with significance. Listening to a few of them was usually dull; listening to all of them was a meaningful experience.
It made you realize that human experience is expressed through language, yet the breadth of this experience is so extensive that the language used to talk about it cannot, in the end, do it justice.
All libraries are similar, and those who have spent time in a rare-books room know the complex emotions of excitement, powerlessness, and sadness that accompany these experiences. But Levin’s archive provided me with a startling sense of closeness that I had not come across before.
Text may stimulate sound in the mind, yet voice is a disruption of the atmosphere. It hit me that the recordings were physical indication of presence in the same group as a death mask, a footprint, or a fossilized-ash body in the streets of Pompeii.
Every one of the events in an individual’s life might lead him to a booth on a boardwalk. There, he could shout out something rash or uncomfortably self-aware, altering the air around him, and prompting a needle to vibrate around a disk.
If the disk were played back after many years, the atmosphere would be changed in the same manner, though the person speaking could be gone.
By the late 1940s, International Mutoscope was a prosperous business, with two hundred workers and an annual income of two million dollars
. However, it soon after filed for bankruptcy, and there is not much known about the company’s ultimate demise. There is no history of the company available, though the storage facility in Long Island City, New York, still stands.
Having constructed a Voice-O-Graph booth, International Mutoscope’s mechanics conducted a trial recording; however, these weren’t intended to be listened to. From time to time, they were instead placed within the booth as a form of advertisement.
During his decade of collecting Voice-O-Graph related materials, Bollman has managed to uncover a small number of these test recordings.
One mechanic remarks, “This is a test recording.” He continues, “This is the first record that is being cut on this machine.” He turns away from the microphone and talks to someone else.
“Thank you. You’re very kind and considerate today. I really appreciate it, given that today is Saturday and a day of rest.” He then remarks that “the people here are complaining about their coffee. Willy, you’d better do something about it or else you’ll have a full-on rebellion!”
The workers of the International Mutoscope Corporation of New York had no time for leisure due to their manager, “Willy” Rabkin, making them toil through the weekend.
When Claire’s parents tied the knot, her father’s ulcers had become so intense that his food intake was limited to only milk and rice.
Bollman is unsure about the reasons behind Mutoscope’s collapse, and neither does Claire. Though, she is aware that Rabkin “either leapt out or dropped from a window”.
At present, there are four active Voice-O-Graphs, each due to the efforts of Bollman.
Two of these are owned by Jack White, with one in his Third Man Records store in Nashville and the other in his second store in Detroit. On a wet day in the spring, I journeyed to Detroit to experience it firsthand.
As I strolled into Third Man Records, right by the entrance was a booth that could be mistaken for a phone booth by someone who wasn’t familiar with it. It was slim and tall with curved edges and a pleasant wooden look.
I got a token from the counter. The woman at the till said that keeping it in proper condition was a challenge; it had a tendency to break down, and recently it had been operating well, although sometimes the first ten seconds of the recording were lost.
Entering the booth, I was taken aback by its constricted area. It was hard to believe that a lot of people could fit inside, based on the recordings I had listened to that featured multiple voices. It seemed as though they must have been standing closely together.
A caged microphone, a sign with guidance, and a view of the turntable and its mechanics were all present. After I put in my token, the booth started shaking and vibrating. It was as if the walls were about to collapse or the entire thing take off into the sky.
Through the window, I noticed a mechanical arm picking up a plastic disc from the stack and placing it on the turntable. The record dropped and the stylus made contact. Following that, the booth stopped trembling and the grinding stopped.
At the same time, a light turned on and a counter with a preset time of 150 seconds began to count down.
Without warning, I heard myself say my name, where I was, and what day it was. The motion was mechanical and had profound significance. I spoke some words that were probably not coherent. When the allotted time was over, the machine played my message back. Just as the woman at the counter had said it would, the part of the recording which included my name, location and date had been erased.
All that was left was my statement, now completely detached from my identity.
I got a postmark at the desk, sent the LP to a mate, and hurried off to take the bus.
Before handing his Voice-O-Graph records to Levin, Bollman used to enjoy playing them in a roughly chronological order. He commented that if one listened carefully, they could detect the subtle changes in the collective emotion.
During the early years of the Voice-O-Graph, the recordings were cheerful and vibrant. Most people were amazed by this novel technology, intrigued by its strangeness.
As we strolled along the street, Sal had the idea of capturing my voice. Initially, I didn’t believe it was possible, but that’s exactly what happened! I’m not sure what is going on, but it is!… Wow!… How does it sound, Mom? Am I sounding okay?
In 1941, a sense of urgency began to be reflected in the recordings.
When the US joined World War II, Mutoscope devoted its machines to the conflict. The United Service Organizations sent Voice-O-Graph machines to various military bases for the troops to record messages for their spouses, and for the wives to answer.
Thirty seconds, and I’m still missing you. It’ll be at least another six or seven weeks before I get a break and I’m able to come home. We’re not sure where I’m going, but it’s likely that it’ll be Japan.
In the aftermath of the war, there is a sense of joyousness. The musical recordings become buoyant and playful. On Christmas Eve, one particular tune features a man singing very enthusiastically.
Greetings, Bill! How are you doing? Wow, I’m in a great mood. We’ll have a wild time when we get together and celebrate with a hearty hallelujah. Christmas is here and I’m already excited for the New Year.
Don’t forget to have a good time and a few drinks. Until then, I’ll keep talking. Hallelujah, Bill!
The one emotion that has been shared across the decades of recordings is a common and continuous yearning.
People who used the Voice-O-Graph booth were often away from their families, and they expressed their longing to be reunited with those they care about in their recordings.
Greetings, my love, a man declared. What’s the status of my beloved spouse today? Still have an affinity for me? Hmm, what’s going on? Well, my dear, I am currently in New York. Wow, I really do get around. I’m hoping soon we’ll reunite and be able to continue our life as if no time had passed…
An illustration depicting a microphone is depicted in the photo, which, upon closer inspection, is seen to be part of a larger Voiceograph. This unique apparatus was designed to capture the sound of the human voice, allowing it to be stored and shared.
The tangible symbols of history are long-lasting monuments and buildings, but the passing of time in our daily life is marked by the presence of household objects.
For instance, the breakfast table can be seen as a chronometer of Sunday morning, as the arrangement of dishes differ each time. It can be said that reality is determined by our encounters with everyday items.
We can measure our days with credit card swipes, tapping on touchscreen devices, and the sound of ear buds.
These motion and sound become so embedded into our lives that they become a measure of time themselves. Yet, commonplace items are subject to change over the years. Years ago, many a dreaming typist would be awoken by the ding and thump of a carriage return in the office.
In order to gain insight into past mentalities, the Voice-O-Graph provides evidence of a former emotional reality.
The world used to be much larger and further away, with communication limited to the speed of a mail carrier. Consequently, it was not difficult to completely lose touch with someone.
The appeal of this technology was especially evident among immigrants and refugees; Sacha Lissiansky being one himself, he could relate to the pains of migration.
The Voice-O-Graph offered comfort in the form of a recorded voice, but it could not substitute for an embrace. A living person can give one more than just words, they can surprise you.
These days, we feel secure in the knowledge that keeping in touch is easy due to the availability of cell phones and email. We often forget, however, that someday the people we care about will be out of reach.
The Voice-O-Graph provided a way to preserve a physical record of the past, something tangible to be left behind.
This machine enabled those who put a coin in the slot to achieve an earthly afterlife. Through the collection of Leo Levin, we are able to meet the ghosts of the past, such as a man who was drunk on Christmas Eve or a man in Argentina dreaming of Rene.
The Voice-O-Graph provided an income for the Lissiansky family that enabled them to carry on until the end of their lives.
. When Moses, Sacha’s father, moved to New York, he often went for walks along the Hudson River and read the Russian newspaper in Fort Tryon Park. One day, he stumbled upon an advertisement for a Jewish cemetery in Passaic County, New Jersey.
After examining the cemetery, Moses chose a plot, though it was not the one beneath the maple tree that had caught his eye. Unfortunately, it was too expensive. A year later, he passed away and was buried in the cemetery with his artificial leg.
When Claire was young, her family was not affluent; however, her mom used to declare that it had not always been that way. “When I married your dad, he was a prosperous man,” she would say. Back then, her father had the funds to acquire a Buick convertible.
He was always clothed in expensive suits. During his seven-year stay at Mutoscope, he made enough money to buy the cemetery plot his father had desired.
He got his father’s body exhumed and buried him at the maple tree site. Sacha’s mother survived until 1956 and was placed in the same grave with her forty-one-year-old husband when she died.
In Thomas Y. Levin’s paper “Before the Beep: A Short History of Voice Mail,” three examples of proto-voice mail are provided.
It is published in Essays in Sound 2: Technophonia, edited by Alessio Cavallaro, Shaun Davies, and Annemarie Jonson, and released in Sydney by Contemporary Sound Arts in 1995.
Could be Worth a Look
The effects of climate change are becoming more and more evident with each passing day. As temperatures rise and extreme weather patterns become more common, the impact of global warming can be seen in many areas of the world.
From melting glaciers, to rising sea levels, to extreme droughts and floods, the consequences of climate change are undeniable.
It is becoming increasingly clear that we must take steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and adopt more sustainable practices in order to reduce the effects of climate change.
It can be said that there is a need to take action in order to prevent plagiarism. To accomplish this, one solution may be to change the structure of a text without altering its context and the fundamental meaning.
This way, the same ideas can be expressed in a unique way with the markdown formatting still in place.
The use of technology in the classroom is becoming increasingly prevalent. As digital devices become more commonplace, it is becoming more common for teachers to utilize them in their instruction.
Teaching methods that involve the incorporation of technology are becoming more and more popular, as they can provide students with access to a wealth of information and resources.
Additionally, the use of technology can help foster creativity and collaboration among students.
Hey there Jean,
I wanted to get my boyfriend a special gift for his birthday and chose a pair of super-rare Jordans, but I could not afford the real thing. Consequently, I bought a fake pair and had someone customize them so they appeared authentic.
He loves the sneakers, but I feel guilty for lying. Should I reveal the truth? Additionally, the fact that he could not tell the difference implies he needs to study the sneaker culture more, which justifies me buying a counterfeit pair.
Paying over three hundred dollars for shoes that cost two dollars to make seems unreasonable to me. Is it petty or practical?
Tamla Records is a record label that has achieved great success in the music industry. It was founded in 1959 and has since then become a powerhouse in the music industry, producing some of the world’s most renowned artists.
Through the years, the label has found success in many genres, including soul, R&B, funk, gospel, and blues. Tamla Records has also helped to shape the sound of modern music with its diverse releases.
MN has been producing an abundance of coughs.
Jeannie’s response was:
I’m in awe of your artful deception! It’s both funny and kindhearted of you to accomplish so much. It was certainly a journey to get to this point.
It could be argued that some individuals have an excessive amount of something. This is not a universal opinion, however, but rather the opinion of a select few.
Tamla’s name was whispered softly; it was too much to bear.
In a previous incarnation, I was a sneakerhead. I have a passion for fashion, but my enthusiasm for sneakers was mainly driven by my intense drive to succeed. I detest failure, Tamla. I prefer to prevail, and doing so on rap tours with other men who like to win was a distinct form of success. Furthermore, I sought to annihilate.
Classic Jean. My sneaker destruction was enhanced by their unavailability, and I experienced a perpetual let-down as I was unable to buy men’s sneakers that were “fashionable” due to my small feet. We’ll discuss that another time.
Nonetheless, this factor only spurred me on to success. It created numerous opportunities. I had access to children’s and women’s exclusive sneakers, and I would wear them nonchalantly instead of flaunting them like the losers did.
Maybe a subtle leg-cross or a foot wag at the morning tour bus entrance would do the trick. Everyone was extremely vexed.
They recognized the sneakers as ones they could not obtain. I worked hard to distinguish which shoes were exclusive to me and which were phony, as I knew this would increase the level of rage. The stares, stand-ups, and thrown objects were priceless. It was simply fantastic.
I promise that we’re making progress, Tamla.
I shudder to think of the infinite teasing I would have faced if ever I made the mistake of buying knock-off footwear two decades ago. My peers would certainly never let me live it down. You should spare your beau the same humiliation.
It would be like something out of a 1980s teen flick, where the bully gets his just desserts.
My whole point in this long response was to express my disapproval as a result of the potential for being exposed as a fraud.
I understand that honesty and transparency are essential components of any relationship, and that without them, what is the point of it all. Yes, I now see that this is the most important factor.
Yes. Speak to him about the shoes, darling.
I abominate football for the commonplace causes: it is politically outdated, hazardous, and the gameplay is lethargically dull. My significant other, however, enjoys it and often spends the whole Sunday viewing it.
Usually, I find something else to do on Sunday in order to not be exposed to any of the matches, but lately he’s been asking me to watch with him. Should I relinquish my principles to join him in watching, or should I remain steadfast and maybe create a rift between us?
The head of the college is known as the Dean.
The city of Phoenix, located in Arizona,
Jeannie has this to say:
Your significant other should respect the fact that you detest football and look for somebody else to share that enjoyment with. Football seems to be a pretty popular sport, so I am sure there are many people who would be more than happy to watch it with him.
If he is trying to coerce you into engaging in something that is against your principles, then that is entirely unacceptable, and that is much more critical than simply watching a football game.
The only way I can think of this being okay is if you haven’t communicated your opinion on the sport, and he has mistakenly assumed that you are down for Sunday Funday?
It’s alright if not everyone holds the same interests. Having separate activities and passions is beneficial and allows for a healthier relationship.
My spouse enjoys roller coasters, whereas I consider them to be a fatal attraction. We will never go on them together, and that is something we both accept. I will be down below, savoring a funnel cake, whilst he will be up in the sky, seeking out a daring rush that he craves.
Hey there Jean,
I have a friend who is an artist that performs, and I sometimes find it hard to differentiate between her true self and her stage character. Is there a way to recognize the distinction?
The name Althea is associated with a mythological Greek figure.
The capital city of Louisiana is Baton Rouge
Jeannie has this to say:
What an intriguing situation. In my head, I have concluded that her art form is that of becoming Papa Smurf. I’m not sure why I picked that. It’s the first thought that came to me. Then I visualize you sitting there while she tries to give you sage counsel.
In a Smurf voice. I guess that eliminates the part where you can’t recognize if she is her other self due to her voice and all the blue paint.
Would it be possible to identify if she has a naturally blue voice? If so, how would one tell?
[brandishes fist menacingly towards the heavens] You should communicate with her regarding this matter. Otherwise, accept that you have no comprehension of who she truly is. Or–listen to my suggestion–try enacting a Smurf-inspired theatrical production?
That’s simply for my own benefit.
I am interested in setting up my own YouTube channel and growing a following through lifestyle vlogging.
The issue I’m facing is that there are a plethora of vlogging themes that are already popular, such as beauty, pranks, unboxing, cooking, shopping, relationships, etc. I’m not sure where to start. Is there an area within YouTube that hasn’t been explored yet, and if so, what is it?
By altering the structure of the text without affecting the semantic meaning, it is possible to avoid plagiarism.
The state of Illinois is located in the Midwestern United States. It is the sixth most populous state and has a population of over 12 million.
With its capital being Springfield, Illinois is bordered by Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana. It is known for its temperate climate and flat or gently rolling plains.
Greeting to you, J!
Congratulatory wishes on starting something new! It’s always a good thing, and it’s always important. Every time I come up with a new perspective on an idea, I get excited.
Yes, the market may be saturated, but that doesn’t mean there are no new perspectives or concepts. My recommendation is to concentrate on the things that you find relatable and are absent.
Do not consider what is already present. Search your feelings for the open spaces. Does that make sense? Explore yourself for the voids. I can understand how this might sound morose, however, that is the reality.
Well, a question one might want to ask themselves is, “What is absent in my life that could make it more enjoyable on a daily basis?” Could it be a smell, a certain hue, or a stroll?
Oh, my. I wish I hadn’t said that. ~~COPYRIGHT COPYRIGHT TM TM TM TM~~.
Using a natural deodorant is popular nowadays, however, from my experience it didn’t really do the job. I ended up going back to my standard brand, but my spouse is still using the natural product.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be doing the job for her, as she often has a strong smell. How can I let her know without hurting her feelings?
John Carter is a well-known figure in history. He is known for his incredible feats and accomplishments, which have been documented over the years. His actions have made a lasting impression on society, and his legacy lives on.
In a certain area of Los Angeles
My spouse not informing me when I am fully mature is something I cannot accept.
Expressing my fury was beyond words for me.
In my opinion, the consequences of this scenario lead to more emotional pain than if honesty had been maintained from the outset.
I was existing in the world feeling incredibly mature?!?!?
You should certainly let her know that she is ready now.
At the present moment.