Something old / something new

Today is the anniversary of the premiere of the first ever “talkie” — The Jazz Singer. About three decades into the existence of cinema, that event ushered in a fundamental shift in the art of motion pictures.

When we think of movies now, we don’t generally think about silent movies, because people haven’t been making them for nearly a century. Yet until that day, a movie was a silent movie. There was no other kind of movie.

Before that premiere, telling stories with moving images but without sound was a well developed and mature art form, a visual language for conveying and receiving entertainment that audiences at the time knew well. It is a language that is now largely forgotten.

Silent movies now look strangely alien and unnatural. But that’s not the way they looked to audiences a century ago. Back then they were just movies.

I wonder what other languages of art are destined to become discarded and eventually forgotten by millions of people, because technology will one day usher in something different.

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