1) dynamo [the overture] -
instrumental dance, which opens the show, is meant to capture the
spirit of the 'machine age'. the turning of a giant dynamo, if
you will. Thom. Edison invented the dynamo, the prototypical
electric generator, among his many
feats of technological prowess.
2) strange notions -
this song refers specifically to events in Alva's early life. he
was a rambunctious, undisciplined boy, who didn't do well in school.
but he and his pals were always ready to try some new prank which
often involved the kind of substance combinations associated with boy's
'chemistry sets' in the 1950's. in one of these incidents, he is
reputed to have set the family barn ablaze, which resulted in its total
3) experiment - here
we see an important element in Thom's early development. although
he was ridiculed by friends, neighbors, teachers, and other family
members, as possibly retarded or mentally unbalanced, his mother
always continued to staunchly defend her young son, and
maintained and unwavering faith in her special little 'genius'
4) telegraph man - as
a young adult, Edison struck out on his own. fascinated by the
then new technological wonder, the telegraph, he spent all his
spare time hanging around the local telegraph office. the
telegraph operators, a special breed of independent free spirits, were
the 'computer geeks' of their time. they liked Edison, and
shared their esoteric expertise with him. when he was ready,
Edison took up the itinerant lifestyle of the operators for himself for
several years, traveling from town to town, sleeping on telegraph
office floors, and working short stints, and then moving on. it's
good to be young. and travel.
5) inventor -
the early 1880's, Edison had made his way to New York City, where he
was determined to establish himself as an 'inventor'. Alva Edison
was no scientist, per se. he never had the academic credentials
to claim to be a theoretical innovator. what he possessed was a
rare insight into how theoretical concepts could be combined in
practical ways to make socially useful things. he combined the
wide ranging interests of an autodidact with solid 'hands-on'
mechanical aptitude. his first 'invention' was a prototype of the
modern 'stock ticker'. it failed to catch on.
undaunted, Thom. moved his 'laboratory' to Menlo Park, NJ and moved on
to other ideas. he he a lot of them.
6) wizard -
a few years Edison had begun to establish his reputation as a brilliant
inventor. he was also a 'genius' at self-promotion. [ he
kept a firm eye on the 'bottom line' as well ] Edison
delighted in organizing tours of his Menlo Park facility, to promote
his new projects, and himself, and to keep press and public in a state
of bemused wonderment as the marvels of the modern age unfolded
7) skeptics -
established, Edison finally took on a challenge that had so far
resisted all efforts at a solution; namely the creation of a durable
appliance to convert electricity into LIGHT. perhaps the easiest
thing in the whole universe of modern man to forget about himself is
the fact that for 10,000 years prior to the 20th century, mankind lived
in semi-darkness, with only the flickering light of fires
to relieve the gloom. fire gave way to oil lamps and
candles. candles gave way to 'gas' lights. but still, in
the mid-19th century the man who afford enough light at home produced
by any of these means was very wealthy indeed. and yet that man
would be laughed at by the most indigent pauper in 2010 who has a
single 100-watt light bulb. Edison
was not without his detractors. people had been trying and
failing to solve the problem of electric light for some time.
when he began his own experiments he was scoffed at by many.
he was not discouraged. before arriving at a viable
solution himself he is reputed to have conducted 5000 individual trials
8) never give up - the
point of this song is obvious. it emphasizes the one single
quality of Edison's character most likely responsible for his success.
the man simply would not quit. once on the track of an
idea, he just persisted until he reached an solution which satisfied
him. nevertheless, it's worth pointing out, as implied in this
piece, another innovation which, strictly speaking, was not a tangible
'invention'. T. Edison developed and perfected the concept of the
modern laboratory; specifically, the idea of a 'research team'.
he realized early on that the kind of intensive trial and error
of the experimental method could not be implemented by the solitary
'genius', working alone. so he evolved the concept of surrounding
himself with a group of talented individuals who would cooperate to
carry out the needed work. it was an invaluable tool, which in
hindsight, transformed the way 'research' is routinely carried out ever
since. Edison is also the 'inventor' of a another related
concept which is now taken for granted. he understood that
something as complex as electrification required an integrated system
if it was to be practical. accordingly, he addressed himself to
every stage of the process, from the generation of electrical
power, to the network for it's transmission to the point of use, and
finally to the appliances themselves that would utilize the new form of
energy. in each area he designed & made the principal elements of a total system that would bring usable electricity to the world.
9) phonograph - Edison
was well aware to the magical possibilities of his inventive genius for
ordinary people. he had literally hundreds of ideas along these
lines. if only the two commemorated here had come to fruition,
his place in transforming the modern world would be assured.
first, the phonograph....
in this number, an instrumental walze,
we have a 'dream picture' of Alva dancing with his mother. i wonder
if Edison could have envisioned the hundreds of millions of people who
would one day dance to a 'record' spinning on the turntable of his
10) kinetoscope - ....and then, the motion picture camera and 'movie' projector...
in this number, i've tried to create music reminiscent of the
'keystone cops' effect of people running around crazily, in
the speeded-up crowd scenes that so delighted early film-makers.
edison's dream - see 'golden jubilee'
11b golden jubilee -
just a year before his passing in 1931,
a magnificent party was given in honor of Edison by his long-time
friend and fellow innovator, Henry Ford. all the luminaries of the age were there to perform a ritual rare
in any era; the acknowledgment of a towering human being in his
own time & place, while he still dwelt amongst mere mortals.
[pretty neat.] in the final sequence Edison has fallen
asleep at his desk in the laboratory. in his reverie, he
sees the future, and its promise of achievement, fame and adulation.
he awakes, only find the problem of the light-bulb, still unsolved,
on his workbench. he is almost overwhelmed by despair, but
he hears once more the call to greatness that drives him on.....
11c) let your light shine [the finale] -
this last number the voices of destiny reach Thomas Alva Edison's mind in
a final summation of all he has dreamed of and hoped for and worked to
achieve. Tommy, can you hear me...?