Music seems to have settled into these spaces [the Paris arcades] only with their decline, only as the orchestras themselves began to seem old-fashioned in comparison to the new mechanical music. So that, in fact, these orchestras would just as soon have taken refuge there. (The "theatrophone" in the arcades was, in certain respects, the forerunner of the gramophone.) Nevertheless, there was music that conformed to the spirit of the arcades—a panoramic music, such as can be heard today only in old-fashioned genteel concerts like those of the casino orchestra in Monte Carlo: the panoramic compositions of David, for example—Le Désert, Christoph Colomb, Herculanum. When, in the 1860s (?), an Arab political delegation came to Paris, the city was very proud to be able to mount a performance of Le Désert for them in the great Théâtre de l'Opéra (?).
—Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project [H1,5]
translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin
August 07, 2008
Posted by Matthew at 5:00 PM