Sound Recording, Its History and Impact on Media in the 21st Century

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Sound Recording, Its History And Impact On Media In The 21st Century

On this essay I will try to show how Sound Recording impacts media in the 21st century. But in order for me to do that I will need to explore the history of Sound Recording, which started in the 19th Century.

Before 1877 sound could be recorded but not played. That year Thomas Alva Edison invented the talking tin foil, also known as the phonograph (voice – writer), which enabled sound to be played back (the first speech to be recorded and played back was the poem by Sarah Josepha Hale (1830) ‘Mary had a little lamb’, which, unfortunately “was not preserved, but in 1927, Edison re-enacted the recording for Fox Movietone news. It can be heard on the Recording Technology History web site at http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/recording/mary.html” (John Cosway 2008 - Livin Publishing’s webpage)). But it had a problem when the tin foil was removed from the machine it would loose its shape making it impossible for sound to be played back again. Along the years technology improved a lot, especially after the First World War.

Because of radio improvements as well as records, recording and buying music became cheaper and easier. Radios would use records to fill up airtime and bands and singers would use radio to advertise their songs. That made music palpable to everyone all over the world. So a song recorded in Europe could be heard in the United States of America within months. But not only music was, now, able to cross oceans it was, also, able to cross classes, meaning that classical music could be heard by poorer classes as well as folkloric music could be heard by richer classes.

Edison realized “that what he had arrived at was something else, and in an article for the North American Review in 1878 he suggested a number of uses for the new invention. The article makes curious reading: here is an inventor, aware that the machine he has just created is remarkable but as yet too crude to be practicable, trying to awaken people’s imagination to what it might do:

1. Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.

2. Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.

3. The teaching of elocution.

4. Reproduction of music.

5. The ‘Family Record’ – a registry of saying, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of a dying person.

6. Music boxes and toys.

7. Clocks that should announce in an articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.

8. The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing.

9. Educational purposes; such as preserving the explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory.

10. Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communications.(Gelatt, 1977)” (Chanan, 1995:3)

In 1889 the enterprising manager of the Pacific Phonograph Company decided to put a coin-operated phonograph in a saloon. Although it would only play one song it helped launch the modern music industry. The Pacific Phonograph improved the idea of the coin-operated player piano, music boxes, and other similar technologies by playing back commercially made records. Pacific Phonograph reported that after five months the coin-operated phonograph had generated $1,000.00, which is very remarkable because every time some one wanted to play the song they would only have to pay five cents.

“After a few years as novelty items in "phonograph parlours", low priced home machines began to appear. The top-selling cylinders of the...
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