Historical Time Machine
Time machines are pretty cool right? I mean who hasn’t daydreamed about going back in time to witness an event that changed the course of history, to feel what it would be like to live in certain era, or even to witness an artist or musician during their prime? This must have been the idea behind Hans Gumbrecht’s In 1926: Living at the Edge of Time. Just like a time machine, the goal of the text is to transport the reader into the world of 1926. The more you immerse yourself into the ideas and morals of the era, “the more your reading will fulfill the book’s chief aim” (ix).
The book instructs the reader to treat the book as a non-linear trip into 1926. The reader picks a beginning and then follows their interests as they pick related entries to continue their path. As one winds their way their way through the book more of the world is illuminated into view and more and more related entries offer their information in an ever-expanding web. It’s actually quite disorientating after awhile, but in a wonderful way. You find yourself swimming through a time that no longer exists.
Relating this back to music historians, this is a great model to follow if you are looking for a way to relay information in an engaging and hands on way. When researching a broad topic over a specific stretch of time, this model is perfect. Not only does it keep parties interested by possibly offering a wide variety of topics and views to fit any interest, it also openly invites and almost forces anyone digging their way through the information to make webs of connections to many other issues that apply to the overall basis of the information. This also deviates from the normal very linear study of history where X leads to Y. In Gumbrecht’s model, now there is an entire world of influence to explore and analyze and there is no right or wrong way to trek. This broad and fluid idea of history greatly appeals to me as a historian for I think historians’ goal should always be to broaden and create connections between different events, ideas, and issues of the time as deeply as possible.