The Audible Past explores the cultural origins of sound reproduction. It describes a distinctive sound culture that gave birth to the sound recording and the transmission devices so ubiquitous in modern life. With an ear for the unexpected, scholar and musician Jonathan Sterne uses the technological and cultural precursors of telephony, phonography, and radio as an entry point into a history of sound in its own right. Sterne studies the constantly shifting boundary between phenomena organized as "sound" and "not sound." In The Audible Past, this history crisscrosses the liminal regions between bodies and machines, originals and copies, nature and culture, and life and death.
Blending cultural studies and the history of communication technology, Sterne follows modern sound technologies back through a historical labyrinth. Along the way, he encounters capitalists and inventors, musicians and philosophers, embalmers and grave robbers, doctors and patients, deaf children and their teachers, professionals and hobbyists, folklorists and tribal singers. The Audible Past tracks the connections between the history of sound and the defining features of modernity: from developments in medicine, physics, and philosophy to the tumultuous shifts of industrial capitalism, colonialism, urbanization, modern technology, and the rise of a new middle class.
A provocative history of sound, The Audible Past challenges theoretical commonplaces such as the philosophical privilege of the speaking subject, the visual bias in theories of modernity, and static descriptions of nature. It will interest those in cultural studies, media and communication studies, the new musicology, and the history of technology.
From Attali's "cold social silence" to Baudrillard's hallucinatory reality, reproduced music has long been the target of critical attack. In Bytes and Backbeats, however, Steve Savage deploys an innovative combination of designed recording projects, ethnographic studies of contemporary music practice, and critical analysis to challenge many of these traditional attitudes about the creation and reception of music. Savage adopts the notion of "repurposing" as central to understanding how every aspect of musical activity, from creation to reception, has been transformed, arguing that the tension within production between a naturalizing "art" and a self-conscious "artifice" reflects and feeds into our evolving notions of creativity, authenticity, and community.
At the core of the book are three original audio projects, drawing from rock & roll, jazz, and traditional African music, through which Savage is able to target areas of contemporary practice that are particularly significant in the cultural evolution of the musical experience. Each audio project includes a studio study providing context for the social and cultural analysis that follows. This work stems from Savage's experience as a professional recording engineer and record producer.
This impressive compilation offers a nearly complete listing of sound recordings made by American minority artists prior to mid-1942. Organized by national group or language, the seven-volume set cites primary and secondary titles, composers, participating artists, instrumentation, date and place of recording, master and release numbers, and reissues in all formats. Because of its clear arrangements and indexes, it will be a unique and valuable tool for music and ethnic historians, folklorists, and others.
Here is a brilliant and deeply informed overview of jazz history, one which gives a rich sense of who the major figures were and how they fit in with one another while showing the reader what to listen for and which recordings are indispensable for a full experience of the music. No other book fuses a singular examination of the key recordings with a presentation of the entire sweep of the music's classic period to provide the listener with such a useful and spirited companion.
Winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, presented annually by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers to American authors and journalists whose books and articles on the subject of music are selected for their excellence.
The period between the Second World War and the mid-1960s saw the American music industry engaged in a fundamental transformation in how music was produced and experienced. Tim Anderson analyzes three sites of this music revolution: the change from a business centered around live performances to one based on selling records, the custom of simultaneously bringing out multiple versions of the same song, and the arrival of in-home high-fidelity stereo systems.
Making Easy Listening presents a social and cultural history of the contentious, diverse, and experimental culture of musical production and enjoyment that aims to understand how recording technologies fit into and influence musicians’, as well as listeners’, lives. With attention to the details of what it means to play a particular record in a distinct cultural context, Anderson connects neglected genres of the musical canon—classical and easy listening music, Broadway musicals, and sound effects records—with the development of sound aesthetics and technical music practices that leave an indelible imprint on individuals. Tracing the countless impacts that this period of innovation exacted on the mass media, Anderson reveals how an examination of this historical era—and recorded music as an object—furthers a deeper understanding of the present-day American music industry.
Tim J. Anderson is assistant professor of communication at Denison University.
Today, jazz is considered high art, America’s national music, and the catalog of its recordings—its discography—is often taken for granted. But behind jazz discography is a fraught and highly colorful history of research, fanaticism, and the intense desire to know who played what, where, and when. This history gets its first full-length treatment in Bruce D. Epperson’s More Important Than the Music. Following the dedicated few who sought to keep jazz’s legacy organized, Epperson tells a fascinating story of archival pursuit in the face of negligence and deception, a tale that saw curses and threats regularly employed, with fisticuffs and lawsuits only slightly rarer.
Epperson examines the documentation of recorded jazz from its casual origins as a novelty in the 1920s and ’30s, through the overwhelming deluge of 12-inch vinyl records in the middle of the twentieth century, to the use of computers by today’s discographers. Though he focuses much of his attention on comprehensive discographies, he also examines the development of a variety of related listings, such as buyer’s guides and library catalogs, and he closes with a look toward discography’s future. From the little black book to the full-featured online database, More Important Than the Music offers a history not just of jazz discography but of the profoundly human desire to preserve history itself.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues Before Sunrise, has spent more than thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In the expanded second edition of Pioneers of the Blues Revival, Cushing adds new interviewees to the roster of prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s. Rare interview material with experts like Mack McCormick supplements dialogues with Paul Garon, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Paul Oliver, Sam Charters, and others in renewing lively debates and providing first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Throughout, the participants chronicle lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They also recount relationships with essential blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White—connections that allowed the two races to learn how to talk to each other in a still-segregated world.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues before Sunrise, has spent over thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In Pioneers of the Blues Revival, he interviews many of the prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s.
Opinionated and territorial, the American, British, and French interviewees provide fascinating first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Experts including Paul Oliver, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Sam Charters, Ray Flerledge, Paul Oliver, Richard K. Spottswood, and Pete Whelan chronicle in their own words their obsessive early efforts at cataloging blues recordings and retrace lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They and nearly a dozen others recount relationships with blues musicians, including the discoveries of prewar bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White, and the reintroduction of these musicians and many others to new generations of listeners. The accounts describe fieldwork in the South, renew lively debates, and tell of rehearsals in Muddy Waters's basement and randomly finding Lightning Hopkins's guitar in a pawn shop.
Blues scholar Barry Lee Pearson provides a critical and historical framework for the interviews in an introduction.
The music industry’s ongoing battle against digital piracy is just the latest skirmish in a long conflict over who has the right to distribute music. Starting with music publishers’ efforts to stamp out bootleg compilations of lyric sheets in 1929, Barry Kernfeld’s Pop Song Piracy details nearly a century of disobedient music distribution from song sheets to MP3s.
In the 1940s and ’50s, Kernfeld reveals, song sheets were succeeded by fake books, unofficial volumes of melodies and lyrics for popular songs that were a key tool for musicians. Music publishers attempted to wipe out fake books, but after their efforts proved unsuccessful they published their own. Pop Song Piracy shows that this pattern of disobedience, prohibition, and assimilation recurred in each conflict over unauthorized music distribution, from European pirate radio stations to bootlegged live shows. Beneath this pattern, Kernfeld argues, there exists a complex give and take between distribution methods that merely copy existing songs (such as counterfeit CDs) and ones that transform songs into new products (such as file sharing). Ultimately, he contends, it was the music industry’s persistent lagging behind in creating innovative products that led to the very piracy it sought to eliminate.
John Cage's disdain for records was legendary. He repeatedly spoke of the ways in which recorded music was antithetical to his work. In Records Ruin the Landscape, David Grubbs argues that, following Cage, new genres in experimental and avant-garde music in the 1960s were particularly ill suited to be represented in the form of a recording. These activities include indeterminate music, long-duration minimalism, text scores, happenings, live electronic music, free jazz, and free improvisation. How could these proudly evanescent performance practices have been adequately represented on an LP?
In their day, few of these works circulated in recorded form. By contrast, contemporary listeners can encounter this music not only through a flood of LP and CD releases of archival recordings but also in even greater volume through Internet file sharing and online resources. Present-day listeners are coming to know that era's experimental music through the recorded artifacts of composers and musicians who largely disavowed recordings. In Records Ruin the Landscape, Grubbs surveys a musical landscape marked by altered listening practices.
Sonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age critically analyzes a range of sounds on vocal and musical recordings, on the radio, in film, and in cartoons to show how sounds are used to persuade in subtle ways. Greg Goodale explains how and to what effect sounds can be "read" like an aural text, demonstrating this method by examining important audio cues such as dialect, pausing, and accent in presidential recordings at the turn of the twentieth century. Goodale also shows how clocks, locomotives, and machinery are utilized in film and literature to represent frustration and anxiety about modernity, and how race and other forms of identity came to be represented by sound during the interwar period. In highlighting common sounds of industry and war in popular media, Sonic Persuasion also demonstrates how programming producers and governmental agencies employed sound to evoke a sense of fear in listeners. Goodale provides important links to other senses, especially the visual, to give fuller meaning to interpretations of identity, culture, and history in sound.
From scouring flea markets and eBay to maxing out their credit cards, record collectors will do just about anything to score a long-sought-after album. In Vinyl Freak, music writer, curator, and collector John Corbett burrows deep inside the record fiend’s mind, documenting and reflecting on his decades-long love affair with vinyl. Discussing more than 200 rare and out-of-print LPs, Vinyl Freak is composed in part of Corbett's long-running DownBeat magazine column of the same name, which was devoted to records that had not appeared on CD. In other essays where he combines memoir and criticism, Corbett considers the current vinyl boom, explains why vinyl is his preferred medium, profiles collector subcultures, and recounts his adventures assembling the Alton Abraham Sun Ra Archive, an event so all-consuming that he claims it cured his record-collecting addiction. Perfect for vinyl newbies and veteran crate diggers alike, Vinyl Freak plumbs the motivations that drive Corbett and collectors everywhere.