Thursday, January 17, 2013

HIS SILENCED VOICE


The company’s famous trademark was made in 1898 by Francis Barraud, who painted his brother’s dog Nipper listening to a Berliner disc gramophone - His Master’s Voice has faded to a whisper
The picture of a dog peering into a speaker  searching for the master whose voice he is hearing, is something  that many people of my generation can relate to. I don’t know how many of you noticed this piece of  news –  HMV has been placed under “administration”, a terminology indicating its insolvent/debt ridden status.  Somehow, it seemed like a personal loss to me.
There are many people of my generation who would have grown up listening to vinyl records. I must have been about 7-8 years old when I first encountered these black colored discs. There was a very sophisticated music system with huge speakers at the club that we used to frequent. Those black discs used to be popped on to a turning base and out would ensue the divine sounds of music! A year later we had our own “record player”- a smaller version of the system at the club. A Philips model, where the cover of the player used to double as  a speaker.
The vinyl records used to come in cardboard casings with a thinner paper inside. One had to be very careful while handling them – no dirty fingers or long nails were permitted. Appa used to take them out carefully and pop them on before carefully placing the needle on them.  Each record came with a specified “rpm” or revolutions per minute. There were LPs or long play records which has a  33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm records which were smaller and 78 rpm which were medium. Actually the 78 rpm records were becoming obsolete by the time we got our record player.
As the music played on, I used to turn over the cardboard  cover and gaze at the picture of the dog looking into the speaker. I used to imagine a  lot of stories in my mind about this dog-he was a very loyal fellow obviously. His master was this lonely old man who lived inside that huge speaker and one day disappeared leaving the dog alone and sad. My friend who had the knack of fooling me about most things once told me that she knew the name of this dog. After a lot of cajoling she revealed it – of course, it had to be Tommy!
Between myself and my friend we used to sometime change the rate of revolution of a record making a 45 rpm play at 331/3 or vice versa. This change used to produce sounds that we found hilarious- high pitched fast sounding ones or deep throated groaning noises. This would go on for a while until Amma would rush in and pinch me hard for being naughty while my friend whose idea it often was ( you see she was the more creative one when it came to mischief ) would watch the fun – her eyes dancing with  laughter.    
I still remember those records from my childhood. There were a few Carnatic music ones and some Kishore kumar ones. I think we also had a Ravi Shankar one. Records were expensive and one bought them carefully after a lot of planning. We used to go to a shop called “Melody” in Calcutta ( I don’t remember where exactly it used to be but I guess it was somewhere around Esplanade/ Dharamtala). “Melody” was filled with records and as my parents had serious discussions on what to buy, I used to dance around the shop picking up records and reading what was written on the cardboard case. The salesmen there I must say were rather tolerant.
As the years went by, the cassettes made their arrival on the music scene. The cassettes had an advantage- you could tape songs on them.   I think somewhere just before the arrival of cassettes  existed a strange entity called a tape- which was a plastic disc with tape running around it. It used to turn around like a record – I don’t remember it very well because its life was rather short.
Cassettes stayed right through my college days- they were cheaper ( or may be we had more money) and we had loads of them. We had empty ones on which we used to tape radio programs like “ Man Chahe Geet”. Sometimes we used to tape ourselves singing. .
The record player stayed on, gathering dust until my parents decided to get rid of it. I am not sure what happened to those vinyl records. I wish we had saved at least one of them.  My father had designed a glass case for the player and a teak wood box for the records. These things remain, albeit serving different uses. The box that used to house records was for a while serving the role of a side table at my sister’s flat at Ahmedabad.
When I first set my eyes on a CD I thought it was a “ baby record”.  Though CDs are still around, music today has taken a different form becoming digitalized. With ipods and mp3 players around, one can never imagine that there was a time when  people had to sit somewhere to enjoy good music. And in those days, we never imagined that one could carry music inside one’s ears as we went about doing things.
Like the music, the devices that played them changed and evolved. His master’s voice lived through the evolution adapting and changing itself. But the fact that it will now be silenced forever is difficult to accept. Guess it had to ultimately happen. That  little girl who made up stories about the loyal canine will turn forty five in a week’s time and the little girls of today relate more to images of apples on musical devices than of dogs
RIP – HMV ,  you will be missed…!


 

15 comments:

Divya said...

I know where Melody in Kolkata is :) :) Reading this post brought a smile :) :) My father owned a lot of records which he had carefully preserved...I grew up listening to a lot of cassettes..my mother had a huge box of cassettes (she had apparently brought that with her after she got married and it was her collection since her childhood days)...Cassettes went out of fashion when I was in 6th standard, I think and then CDs were the in-thing...These days we just download music - I do not remember the last time I actually purchased a CD!!

The story about Tommy, the dog is so cute :) :) :)

KParthasarathi said...

Like the dog in HMV, some linger in minds long after they are gone. Who can forget Lalithaji appearing for a detergent or the roaring lion in MGM or the running dog in Hutch?
I had an old gramophone with a flaring brass appurtenance and 72 rpm records of old nadaswaram or music of forgotten Titans and katha kalakshepams of some Saraswathi bai.They were funny to listen to. I had it repaired at Dharamtolla st for its antique value. They are no longer there discarded or given away to kabbadi wala.
Even the boom box with radio, cassette and CD player has become a relic. I listen to music from ipad or laptop with Bluetooth wireless speaker. Even the landline is gradually becoming obsolete. I hardly use the pen except for putting the signature. Verily the old constantly yields place to new and fascinating ones. In twenty years one will smile when we think of the many fascinating gadgets we use today.

anilkurup said...

AS Sherlock Holmes exclaims,"it is elementary Mr.Watson."
Adaptation , that was where HMV lost out, I guess. Look for instance "KODAK', they have filed Chapter 9 in the US.
I think that the iconic image of the dog and the gramophone may have been n immortal aspect of HMV's business if they have chosen to adapt.

Look at Xerox they survived, Sony is in doldrums because they ran out of imagination and the brand Sony cannot help the company. Since the "Walkman" Sony have failed to inspire.

The reality is that one cannot rest on past laurel;s, be it individuals or brand image.

Perhaps the IIM graduates can give a better picture of the fall of HMV and its reason.

Certainly a generation has lost an identity .

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Anil yes, in the world of adaptation they did lose out. But no one other than our generation may actually care. The brand image did not transcend generations.

@ KP I like the way you are taking to technology at your age. That is a sure indication of an innovator.

@ Divya,I hope your mother is able to listen to her cassette collection now. Mine are gathering dust at my parents place. Like KP I also listen to music on my computer and phone ( the daughter has taken over the iPoD you see)

Jack said...

Meera,

Once again you took me back by so many years. If I close my eyes I am transported back to early 1950s. We had hand cranked gramophone with the kind of speaker in picture and loads of big black records, KL Sehgal, Master Rattan and all at my grandparents home where I used to spent many years of my childhood. It was really a fun to play it at higher or lower RPM. I also feel so sad that a well known Image of life has now gone. Now it is pen-drives for car stereos also.

Take care

PS : What date?

Cloud Nine said...

Evolution is what comes to my mind. Though i never listened to gramophones, i loved cassettes. True, future generations will relate music to apple than HMV's dog :(

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Cloud Nine, really missing your visits and your comments here. You are one of the "younger generation" - not like us oldies who used to listen to gramophone records :)

@ Jack Uncle, Saigal I think is best heard on a gramaphone record. I think this changing the RPM was probably a common kids' game those days. And imagine I thought we had invented it :)

Christopher said...

Thanks for stirring some dormant memories. There was a magical charm in those hand wound machines. I saw one some years ago, put up for sale on the footpath near Charminar along with some junk and I will always regret not stopping to buy it.

Couldn't help but recollect some of the other music related brands of that time like Bush, PYE, Murphy, Telefunken etc.

Jyothi said...

So well said! My sisters and I used to change the speed of the discs to enjoy the distorted versions. We used to record our voices on tapes. I think my mom still has one of those tapes with our young voices on it. CD's are going too, I guess. I am sure our kids will talk of apples and berries like this in their forties too. :)

I have one more attachment towards HMV. This was the first Abbreviation I learnt. I used to walk around showing off that I knew what its full form was!

Meera Sundararajan said...

Hi Christopher, people now keep their gramophones like antique show pieces on display- you should have bought that one.

@ Jyothi LoL my first abbreviation was VIP ( not after that suitcase thankfully). Yes recording our young voices is really something. We have some recordings of my late FIL speaking to my nephew.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

Namaste...
Yes i grew up with record player, records-45 etc....

am i showing my age (haha)

that's progress?

love the photo.

stay blessed
peace.
Rhapsody
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Rahul Bhatia said...

The story of cradle to grave of HMV! Sigh RIP, after churning out so many melodies over decades!

SG said...

You brought back pleasant nostalgic memories.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

blessings.....
i could have sworn i left a comment here on this subject/topic but i don't see it, perhaps you haven't been online to have it shown? hmmmm, in any event i popped in to say hi and to wish you a splendid Sunday and week ahead

Meera Sundararajan said...

Rhapsody my dear, you were not wrong. I was travelling and therefore had no time for the blog. Thanks for visiting this space twice

Rahul and SG happy that I was able to bring up memories ( pleasant I hope)

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