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Sound recording

Parent categories: sound - recording

In the early years of the phonograph in the late 19th century, the music industry was dominated by the publishers of sheet music. With the start of the 20th century the importance of recorded sound grew in the business, and about the end of the first World War records supplanted sheet music as the largest player in the music business. The business has largely been dominated and controlled by the record industry, as the economics of mass-production of copies allow the manufacture of valuable music recordings for a tiny fraction of their sale price. There have been repeated allegations of illegal price fixing by the record industry.

Sometime in the middle 20th century, listening to music through a recorded form, such as sound recording or watching a music video became more common than experiencing live performance. Sometimes, live performances incorporate prerecorded sounds; for example, a DJ uses records for scratching.

Related: studio - music industry - music technology - playback - recording - vinyl - CDs - MP3 - studio - tape editing

A DJ selects and plays pre-recorded music for the enjoyment of others.


Methods and media for sound recording are varied and have undergone significant changes between the first time sound was actually recorded for later playback until now. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_recording [Mar 2006]

From singles to albums (and back again)

In the Sixties, rock became the dominant musical form in America. And with the shift from singles to albums, which allowed for the marketing of personalities, it also became big business. The gilded formula froze into place. Today, scouts beat the bushes for young talent, squeeze a quick album out of the band, and put them on the road. "New" material is stressed. Albums featuring cover tunes of classics, as in the early Rolling Stones records, are discouraged. --Camille Paglia, 1992

The MP3 era is anew a singles era.

Recording consciousness

Bennett (1980, p.114) describes the development of recording consciousness, the consequence of "a society which is literally wired for sound" in which, according to Richard Middleton (1990, p.88) "this consciousness defines the social reality of popular music." "Acoustic instruments and unamplified, 'pure'-tone singing can now not be heard except as constrasts to more recent kinds of sounds, just as live perfromances are inevitably 'checked' against memories of recordings," and "live performances have to try to approximate the sounds which inhabit this consciousness."

"Similarly, musicians learn to play, and learn specific songs, from records, and so 'recording consciousness' helps to explain the ubiquity of non-literate composition methods: 'sheet music is just for people who can't hear' (musician quoted in Bennett 1980, p.139) The structure of this consciousness has been produced by various elements, among them experience of editing techniques, reverberation and echo, use of equalization to alter timbre, high decibel levels, both in general and in particular parts of the texture (notably, strong bass-lines), and, most interestingly, the 'polyvocality' created by multi-mike or multi-channel recording. Mixing different 'earpoints' produces a 'way of hearing [that] is an acoustic expectation for anyone who listens to contemporary recordings. It cannot be achieved without the aid of electronic devices. It has never before existed on earth' (ibid, p.119)." (Middleton 1990, p.88) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recording_consciousness [Oct 2005]

See also: playback - recording - sound - consciousness - popular music

Early history of sound recording

The phonograph built expanding on the principles of the phonoautograph. Invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, the phonograph was a device with a cylinder covered with a soft material such as tin foil, lead, or wax on which a stylus drew grooves. The depth of the grooves made by the stylus corresponded to change in air pressure created by the original sound. The recording could be played back by tracing a needle through the groove and amplifying, through mechanical means, the resulting vibrations. A disadvantage of the early phonographs was the difficulty of reproducing the phonograph cylinders in mass production.

This changed with the advent of the gramophone (phonograph in American English), which was patented by Emile Berliner in 1887.

[...] The advent of electrical recording in 1925 drastically improved the quality of the recording process of disc records. Oddly, there was a period of nearly five years, from 1925 to 1930, when the premiere technology for home sound reproduction consisted of a combination of electrically recorded records with the specially-developed Victor Orthophonic phonograph, a spring-wound acoustic phonograph which used waveguide engineering and a folded horn to provide a reasonably flat frequency response. Electrically-powered phonographs were introduced c. 1930, but crystal pickups and electronic reproduction did not become common until the late 1930s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_recording [Mar 2006]

Sound recording as an artistic medium

Though ill-considered as an artistic medium, sound recordings have been produced by visual artists within a variety of contexts since the beginning of the twentieth century and are numerous. Artists and individual works discussed in the following pages have been selected with an ear toward their individual merits, as representative of more general formal and aesthetic currents and for their significance within the broader context of twentieth century art and popular culture. --Kevin Concannon

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