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So it's 3 years after the apocalypse, there are 2 characters that are living in the wild, I want them to be able to listen to music (any type), but they don't have any electric power. They need to be able to listen to music while working so it can't be by playing instruments.

How could I achieve this?

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    $\begingroup$ You are aware that there are people who can actually play music? Maybe the characters have a harmonica, or a fiddle, or a piano or else they may be able to sing. Moreover, it is a point of music history that Bach and Handel and Mozart and the vast majority of great composers lived before electric power became a requirement for music making... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 24 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas yes, I believe it's appropriate and I have done so.Liliana, I apologize that this question has been subjected to some odd and unusual behavior. Please forgive us. I hope that, despite the problems, this has been educational. It is important to be very specific. I don't know if you thought this way, but sometimes new users think that by withholding details, they'll get better answers (thinking that quantity is better than quality). Stack Exchange does not work that way. Providing as many details as is humanly possible is always preferable (quality is better than quantity). $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 26 at 4:26
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH -- Excellent! Fresh slate and all that. Hopefully Liliana will not be scared away! Or dismayed... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 26 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH thanks for pointing out my mistake, and apologies to Lilana: I clearly wasn't thinking straight; I thought that my edit was a minor clarification for reopening but in retrospect I can see that I actually changed what the question was asking for. Thanks for rolling back the edit that never should have happened. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Hall Jun 26 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH The explanation was given to me here. I was hoping she would too. $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Jun 29 at 10:03
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Given the sheer volume of disposable electronics that have been manufactured to date it seems inevitable that junkyard scavengers would be able to get some working again. Old smart phones, iPods, etc.. are literally in landfills. No cellular network left but as long as you have battery power it can still play music.

Charging a small DC battery really is not that hard when you remember that the difference between a generator and a motor is the direction the rotor is spinning. Rig up a small windmill and put it in a cordless drill chuck and you can recharge a battery on a windy day - probably one of the easiest. It's not as high up the chain as food, medicine, shelter.. but I think it would be a luxury item the best organized groups would have a few of - and having one would be a good way to buy their good favor.

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    $\begingroup$ This was what I was going to say. Even a simple solar cell hooked to an old mp3 player would allow music on a sunny day with no battery. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Jun 24 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ This won't work for any drill with a speed control (which is all of them). You'd at the least have to rewire the drill to connect the motor directly to the battery, and then you'd have it constantly trying to discharge by turning the windmill as a fan when the wind drops a little. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jun 24 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ While that is true, this does presume some electronics skill. A plug-in fan would work just as well. A bicycle gear attached to a flywheel... even an actual windmill or paddle wheel could be modified to do this if you had enough iron and copper wire. $\endgroup$ – Adam Coville Jun 24 at 23:25
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Until Edison patented his phonograph, the only way for people to listen to music was to be present at a live performance.

Therefore I see two possibilities here:

  1. rather tongue-in-cheek, if they want to listen to music, they just need to build musical instruments and play them, or have someone play for them. Percussions are probably the easiest to build, followed by some type of flutes and cord instruments.
  2. if they have some mechanical knowledge and access to the right materials, they can try to replicate an Edison's phonograph, and power it by charging a spring and a fly wheel. They might even find some old recordings while looting in some museum or music shop.
  3. Shanties / Chants de Travail / Work Songs are another option. No instruments needed, no electronics needed, and they are a fact of historical folklore. American Chain Gang Work Song. ~~ Scottish Tweed Waulking Song.
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    $\begingroup$ Not tongue in cheek at all! No 1 is going to be the way to listen to music for the vast majority of post-pockyclyptic denizens of this world. As for No 2, there are squillions of mechanical phonographs already in existence. It would be a trivial matter to scavenge one along with a few cylinders or platters. Another option would be scavenging a player piano. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 24 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas: I doubt that there are "squillions" of mechanical phonographs out there, though I do remember finding one - the really old kind that used cylinders rather than disks - in my grandparents' attic when I was a kid. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 24 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf -- You do realise you can buy actual (brand new) grammophones on Amazon, right? Almost any antique shop or mall will have a couple vintage ones and all the platters you want to spin. While "squillions" might be hyperbole, they certainly aren't vanishingly rare things either! I'd hazard the guess they'll survive the post-Pockyclypse better than most edevices, anyway! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 24 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Before phonographs, there were a variety of clockwork music boxes. Not long before the phonograph was developed, there was even a German company, Polyphon, bringing into production a music box with interchangeable metal discs, which could play different songs. $\endgroup$ – Jedediah Jun 25 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ Now that the conditions of the question have changed, I added an option, which I hope you don't mind! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 25 at 17:35
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Old-style wind-up phonographs would be the way to go. They require no electricity; just turn the handle to wind up the spring. They use flaring horns to amplify the sound picked up by the pickup. In some travel versions, the horn is built into the lid. There are plenty of old phonograph records out there, but it might be difficult to get recent pop music in this format.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea. I would just like to add that there is still kind of a lot of bands that still produce vinyls. I don't really know about pop music, but it is really easy to find recent metal albums in vinyl versions. $\endgroup$ – Zoma Jun 24 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuFoltzer: Mechanical phonographs cannot play vinyls. They play ebonite phonograph records which are much heavier and sturdier than vinyls -- the entire acoustic energy comes from the record jiggling the needle. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 24 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuFoltzer: Such records still exist -- they are extremely durable; usually they are to be found in attics. My bad, it's not ebonite, it's " one-third shellac and two-thirds mineral filler (finely pulverized slate or limestone), with cotton fibers to add tensile strength" (Wikipedia). They are very heavy; I cannot imagine anybody carrying around more than one or two of them casually for entertainment purposes. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 24 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'd consider it a blessing that 21st century pop "music" isn't available on shellac platters. The entire cultural level of the post-Pockyclypse will rise exponentially when once the likes of American Idol and their spawn are forgotten. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 24 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ elemtilas: +10^6 for that, if I could :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 24 at 17:46
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Making their own music is surely the most likely outcome. Whistling, singing (and making up songs, most likely), and simple percussion (clapping or stomping) don't require any equipment. Simple whistles (which can be made from twigs with loose bark), more advanced flutes (an animal thigh bone or the slipped bark from a branch, or a reed stalk), more advanced percussion (logs, animal skins stretched over clay pots or hollowed logs) and so forth. Music apparently dates to the Neolithic (instruments have been found in caves dating back tens of thousands of years).

That said, clever folk, if old enough to remember vinyl records, could improvise a player rather quickly. Look on YouTube for a greeting card phonograph. The needle can be a literal needle or pin, or a sharpened nail; the sounding diaphragm can be plain paper -- and for one or two people to listen, no horn is needed. The record can be turned by hand, at a minimum (though clever folk will quickly find a way to turn it automatically, perhaps even regulate its speed).

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  • $\begingroup$ There can be a person who because of age or injury cannot work. Perhaps she is old and blind. But she can sing and play guitar. She sits out in the fields and plays for the workers. They sing along. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 30 at 1:40
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As an example, look at the player piano: This existed in a couple of versions: One was very much like a music box, and it played with very little expression. A more sophisticated one make recordings that captured the style of the person making the recording (pianist)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_piano

The principle is pneumatic -- air powered -- for all but the last generation. Lots of instruments can be automated, but many are difficult to do at a volume suitable for a outdoor workforce. All of them require a person pumping bellows, changing paper rolls,etc.

One of the most versatile entertainments for this situation is the work song. I have done many canoe trips as troubadour singing songs of work, war, love, and life. I had about 8 hours of repertoire.

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A wind up phonograph will give you varied music provided that you can find records to run on it, pressing new records without electrical power, and plenty of it, is hard but not impossible but they do wear out so it will be necessary to replace them eventually. For single pieces that you want to be highly durable and which are relatively easy to manufacture without electricity I would suggest lamellophones, especially for systems that already incorporate mechanical motion that can be tapped to run a "pin cylinder" such as treadle run elevators. Carillons can also be used but are generally much larger and more mechanically complex. The only alternative is live music rather than anything like a recording.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wind-up phonographs cannot play vinyls. Phonograph records are very much heavier and studier, because they need to provide the entire acoustic energy. Vinyls need electronic amplification. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 24 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Huh thanks, that I didn't know, I always thought the records were the same for both. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 24 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash -- Vinyl records can be played on old grammophones --- if we accept that the action will sound like the torture of chipmunks and physically destroy the vinyl record into the process. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jun 24 at 15:12
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One idea is that they can make some of their work elements BE instruments. We know how to make, say, a music-box, or a "piano-roll" type of punched spaces (which can allow varying air-flow like wind instruments) -- so if they need to MILL their grains, they can design the mill to have a musical element - a pleasing harmonic background, "wasting" some of the energy generated, potentially, but in the service of improved morale.

With this baseline, others may improvise or share songs as they work.

You may have a few people whose main job is music/morale -- it's worth giving up one set of hands (to play the instrument) if it keeps 10 people working longer, or more in-synch, or more productively. More likely, I see it being a turn-based thing, so at the start, no one gets to be ONLY a bard (unless you want that for dramatic tension purposes).

Since I re-read the question and saw it's post-apocalyptic, how long do batteries last? Can they be hooked up to run existing players (whether vinyl, cassette, CD?)

It may be worth researching the Amish and other groups that are deliberately limiting their use of The Grid -- I believe I've read they have cell phones, kept in a central place for use in emergencies, for example.

Perhaps your society can have a resource library where one person per work-area checks out a media-player, media, and power (to avoid redundancies, and the isolation of headphones -- brings music back to being communal).

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Musicians are possible.

I've been to a re-creation where the community harvested grass/hay in the old fashioned way (central sweden, circa 150 years ago). The men formed a line across the field, and started slashing away with scythes. The women and children raked the cut grass into heaps, piled it onto a large canvas sheet, and periodically dragged it away. Meanwhile a few musicians sat behind the line and played folk music. As the work progressed, the men would get further away from the music and it got hard to hear. So the musicians would periodically stop, move close again, and continue playing.

Despite being the hardest days work I ever did, it was a nice day, and the contribution of the musicians was actually really, really welcome. As were the children who ran around with water and juice for us. There was no questioning the value of these contributions. In older days the same scene would be repeated on the next farmers field, and the next, until the whole community harvest was completed.

Keep in mind that music has existed for many thousands of years, but recorded music only 100.

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