Battery

In New York on April 30, 1921, as the liner Aquitania sailed up the bay from quarantine, the tenor John McCormack, one of the most celebrated singers of the time, showed himself before the recording instruments of the media. The role he was performing approximated what his fellow Irishman William Butler Yeats was to call (in “Among School Children”) “a smiling public man.” A space of foggy air and wooden decking separated him from the battery of cameras.

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Then, though, the cameras moved in closer and the singer began to speak.

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The reporters took down his words. They turned out to be Irish words.

New_York_Tribune_Sun__May_1__1921B_
New York Tribune, 1 May 1921, page 12

Along with the celebrated singer, a celebrated newspaper publisher was on board the ship, and so was a celebrated Hollywood producer. We’re willing to believe they were because the story tells us so in indirect discourse. We don’t need the publisher’s or the producer’s actual words to bear witness. And as to the singer, in 1921 all the cameras had to be silent.

But perhaps we can see words forming on his face.

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Sources: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014712442/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014712445/. Post-processed to restore detail and contrast.

“It’s time,” she thinks, “to sing our back-to-school song”

1984 cover

as follows:

I don’t seem to be able to upload the subtitles as part of the video, but this ensemble is North Korea’s Moranbong Band and the song it’s singing is titled, in the Korean jussive mood, “Let’s study.” Here’s a PDF of the subtitle file.

North Korean Moranbong Band 배우자 – Let’s study (English Translation) [VDownloader]

Actor; sound barrier

Once, this is what some men did just before they took action. For a moment they stopped playing and stood still for the record. At their side, their musicians were silent. One day in the second decade of the twentieth century, some of the light that fell on New York was allotted to shadowing the face of a sousaphone player and making his horn glint and his ringed playing hand glow.

But the illumination wasn’t completed. At the edge of its history, a horn slides away behind the dark.

Source: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2006003982/. Photoshopped.