Everything in Its Place
of the first things you notice among all of the wood and metal parts
of old machines that are scattered in Goat's shop is a Pentium computer
in one corner. When I first discovered that Goatboy was on the
Internet and had a Web
home page, I was a little surprised -- here was someone who had
seemingly turned his back on technology, only to embrace it in some
ways. When the computer boots up with the sound of a Betty Boop
"Boop Boop Dee Doop", you realize that Goat has some surprises in store.
the years, Goatboy has obtained much of his work through an outside agent
that obtains clients for him through advertising his skills and networking
with collectors and museums that need work done on the machines Goat knows
so well. However, he faced a crisis as the work coming in began
to decline. The interest in player pianos began to evaporate with
the growing interest in the Diskclavier, a player piano developed by Yamaha
that used a computer disk to control the machine instead of a traditional
Audio - Goatboy tells how he got the
that time, Goatboy was given a computer by a friend he had helped out
and seeing how the Internet could help his business, he set out to learn
as much as he could about the new technology. The Net turned around
his business, allowing Goat to network with clients directly and bring
his skills to a whole new audience. Goat also saw that the computer
allowed him to more easily keep up with the bills and paperwork of his
business; "Looking around the shop, you can see I'm a little disorganized,"
he said, laughing.
life in a small town can be a little isolating, so the Internet has allowed
Goat to connect with other like-minded individuals in the Gay and Lesbian
community. But, he has "mixed feelings" about the Internet -- the
technology, like others, can be used for constructive or damaging purposes.
He talked about all of the hate groups that have put up pages on the Net
and the religious extremists who go into chat rooms, screaming "Die Faggots!"
He likened this garbage to the pornography that conservatives get upset
about on the Net. "It isn't just the dirty pictures," Goat noted,
"smut takes many forms."
discussion of technology led to some observations on the player machines
that Goatboy works on. Goatboy talked about the changes that occured
in music with the development of radio. With player machines and
even early phonographs, one "turned on" the machine with the express purpose
of listening to music. It was closer to a live performance -- the
machine needed attention, in the form of pumping or cranking; and there
was only one song on a roll or disc.
changed all of that. Suddenly, one could flip a switch and get instant
music. People started paying less attention to music as they could
listen while doing other activities. "That's when you started seeing
the crooners," Goat said, "it wasn't what they were singing, but how they
sang that was important." Goat feels that the quality of popular
music suffered as a result. Songwriting took a back seat to performers
and lush arrangements.
Audio - Goatboy discussed the influence
of network radio on music
pointed out that the most consistently popular song over the past eighty
years has been "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and that many tunes made their
way into popular culture and were well-known for many years. They
were clever, well-written, and had staying power. He noted how music
became a throwaway commodity after radio arrived -- "I can show you these
cardboard records that were sold in newstands called Hit
of the Week, and that's what they were - the hit of the week,"
first night I arrived, Goatboy treated me to a special evening in front
of the television in his cabin. He has an extensive collection of
videotapes, an eclectic mix of old and new films. We spent much
of the early evening just sitting and talking on the front porch of his
cabin, enjoying the quiet of the woods and watching the subtle changes
in sound, light, and color as sunset progressed. By the time we
were ready to settle down, it was already dark. Goatboy took out
a flashlight and walked about a quarter mile into the woods to his gas-powered
generator and put in enough fuel to power the equipment for the evening,
carefully putting a metal cover over the machine to help muffle the noise
of the motor. As we sat watching a seldom seen Dada-esque musical
comedy from the early 1930's, International
House, I was reminded of how special, fleeting, and temporal our
technology can be.