What is most surprising in the 150-year history of the gramophone (phonograph, record player) is that it has not ended even today. It might appear that progress in phonography which took place in the twentieth century should have made the gramophone a relic of the industrial age. Investigating the reasons why this device is still alive, the author argues that if it survived all through the twentieth century and found is place in the digital age on the eve of the new century, it was only owing to its hidden potential, which allowed creative individuals to rediscover it, find its new uses, attribute new functions and assign it new roles; in short, reinterpret it in diverse ways, the outcome being gramophone music - a new discursive practice with a varied esthetic appearance.
In the first part of the study the author refers to the history of those gramophone reinterpretations and successively describes early literary impressions of the gramophone, the phonograph postulates of Lászlo Moholy-Nagy, Paul Hindemith’s and Ernst Toch’s Grammophonmusik, John Cage’s Imaginary Landscapes, the art of D.J.’s and turntablists, Christian Marclay “creative gramophony”, and experimental turntablism.
The second part of the article analyzes the esthetics of gramophone music. The author distinguishes three trends in it: in the first the gramophone is subordinated to the classical concept of music, in the second it is used to create poly-style sound collages, in the third the gramophone is the tool for the implementations of the principles of conceptual art.
In conclusion the author writes that it is chiefly owing to these reinterpretations which made the sound-recording and playback invention a composer’s tool, a musical instrument and finally an object of elaborate artistic experiments that the gramophone was able to carry out a historic, technological and conceptual revolution in the twentieth-century and early twenty-first century culture.