Prognosticating Echoes: Race, Sound, and Naturalizing Technology

How to Cite

Chude-Sokei, L. (2017). Prognosticating Echoes: Race, Sound, and Naturalizing Technology. Current Musicology, (99/100).


In his near-classic The Recording Angel (2005), Evan Eisenberg points out that the actual legacy of automata in the twentieth century was machines like the phonograph or gramophone. Since so many automata were used as music boxes and existed for entertainment purposes and for refined contemplation in a European context, it is no surprise that they would evolve as they did in America. This emphasizes something more interest-ing than their pedigree: that in the years between Joice Heth, the black slave woman that P.T. Barnum passed for an automata, and (Karel Capek’s) R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the play that would introduce the term “robot” into the English language, ventriloquism and masquerade become increasingly properties of technology.