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Every new technology transforms the world around it. A century ago, in a gentle preface to his novel Under the Greenwood Tree Thomas Hardy wrote of the transformation of little church orchestras in village England. Humble and amateur community instrumentalists were being displaced by an "isolated organist" employing a newly manufactured and more cheaply distributed technology, the harmonium or barrel organ. The new device presented certain advantages in control and accomplishment, but, he suggested, the change caused the stultification of the clergy's aims and resulted in loss of interest among parishioners. In these tiny hamlets the technology of musical development had consequences for participation, organization of the institution, the nature of the music that was played, and, Hardy seemed to be saying, for country life as well. Of these multiple and small transformations major changes in society take place.
Date Posted: 13 February 2008
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