Music Video

2 The First Recorded Moving Images

This singing ghost portrait can be seen as an early forerunner of so-called song slides, which came into fashion in the United States between 1890 and 1915 and were shown during intermissions in vaudeville performances and cinemas. They represented an effort to depict the text and mood of a song visually with the help of a slide show, which included as many as sixteen individual images per song (the refrain was then projected on the screen, so that the audience could sing the song, in the style of today’s karaoke videos). The objective of such presentations was, like the music video later, to advertise the song, the music for which was sold after the performance.

Whereas in the song slides movement could only be suggested by means of clever superimposition tricks, a moving image accompanied by music was the declared goal of Edison’s Kinetophone, a combination film projector and phonograph that he first presented in 1891. It was promoted with a phrase that is highly reminiscent of Lewald’s report cited above: the illusion is complete and we may see and hear a whole opera as perfectly as if actually present although the actual performance may have taken place years before.[3] A journalist in Berlin said the purpose of the device was that anyone sitting in an armchair in his own room could not only hear an entire opera performance telephonically but also see the activities on the stage.[4] The convincing presence of the sound and image (though not their esthetic staging) of musical events occurring away in space and time was thus the stated goal of this apparatus, which is described as a forerunner of the television.

The intentions of the Eidophusikon and the Kinetophone—on the one hand, making the presence of the performer available in sound and image and, on the other hand, the esthetic presentation of events by staging them in a way appropriate to the music—intertwined with and permeated each other to the extent permitted by the available technology.


Timelines:1890 – 1920
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