Looking Backward

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward
(Boston: Tiknor & Company, 1888)

There is nothing in the least mysterious about the music as you seem to imagine. It is not made by fairies or genii, but by good, honest, and exceedingly clever human hands. We have simply carried the idea of labor saving by cooperation into our musical service as into everything else. There are a number of music rooms in the city, perfectly adapted acoustically to the different sorts of music. These halls are connected by telephone with all the houses of the city whose people care to pay the small fee, and there are none, you may be sure, who do not.

Julian West wakes in the year 2000 after more than a century of sleep. He finds a vastly changed and utopian society. This is in stark contrast to the industrialized late 19th century society in which he fell asleep. He is guided through this world by Dr Leete and his daughter Edith. The telephone is integral to the cultural experience of the society. A variety of musical genres are available 24 hours a day. The music is played by live musicians and relayed by telephone in to the homes of listeners. Later in the book, Mr West is invited to listen to a sermon and finds sermons can be selected from a variety on offer and listened to over the telephone.  Dr Barton, the suggested preacher often reaches audiences of 150,000.

by David Cantrell