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but the driving force behind it is the ancient desire for synaesthetic experiences. And to make sure that it always has something to chew on, the media industry is trying to link visual and acoustic products. So the extension of the markets in its turn drives the development of media technology and of new product formats. Is there no escape from this cycle?
Yes, says the thesis propounded here, history can be presented differently. Certainly the synthesis of image and sound is one of mankind's old dreams. But it is one we have been taking seriously for about 140 years. Artists and inventors, do-it-yourself enthusiasts and entertainers have been working on realizing it since about 1870. Aesthetic and technical innovations meet at the interface between image and sound. Artistic experiments, obsessive tinkering and genuine technical inventions emerge here in an alternating pattern of enthusiasm and despair, of success and failure. Only a very few of these results are finally washed into the mainstream of marketing by the mass media, most of them very much later. Despite all audio-visual commercialization, the synthesis of sound and image is still an open field for experimentation, an
artistic and technical challenge. Today the sound and image media formats play as important a part as the institutional and commercial rules of music and the visual arts.
At the same time the synthesis of image and sound also remains an interface of avant-garde and mass effect. Artistic concepts often anticipate mainstream culture by decades, but without acting directly as models. It would be better to talk about ‹seepage› from top to bottom through the sediments of culture time strata. This anticipation or re-invention in a changed context is not to be confused with mutual appropriation between avant-garde and mass culture.
Right at the very beginning of the media society, from the second half of the 19th century to the start of the 20th, there were numerous attempts at synthesis in which art and technical invention can often scarcely be separated: inventors built colour organs, light pianos and similar apparatuses that have been forgotten today—and on the other hand painters try to