Music is big business. And not just for record companies or artists, but for entire industries devoted to the playback and experience of sound. From mass produced Bluetooth headphones to hand built direct drive record players, the means of audio reproduction means big bucks. The technology facilitating our listening experience has changed considerably since the days of Edison’s phonograph and consequently so has our relationship with recorded sound. As an aspiring audio engineer I’ve been reading extensively on not only the craft of music production, but about its history and cultural influence. Therefore, for your reading pleasure I’d like to present three outstanding reads about our relationship with not just music, but recorded sound itself.
Perfecting Sound Forever by Greg Milner is a fascinating look at the evolution of audio recording and consumption. Providing heaps of historical context, Perfecting Sound Forever follows every major advancement in recording technology and presents it side by side with the cultural climate in music. There’s also a plethora of technical information explaining exactly what sound is, the various ways it can be captured, and how the methods of reproduction operate mechanically and electronically. An engaging read from beginning to end, the author presents each major advancement in a linear fashion while relating its lasting impact on the present. Passages detailing the recording history of artists like Les Paul and Lead Belly illustrate how shifting attitudes towards music and sound recording forever changed how music is produced and understood.
The New Analog is an absolute must read for any music lover. Author Damon
Krukowski takes a critical look at our relationship with music and how technological shifts have altered our listening experiences. Examining the conflict of analog vs digital recording and playback, the book expands on this dichotomy to illustrate the importance of noise in our lives. Krukowski argues that we’ve prioritized signal to such a degree that we’ve abandoned our own senses. Isolated from noise, signal becomes meaningless with no locus for us to derive meaning. Far from being a rant about the good old days of playing vinyl, The New Analog takes a nuanced and informative approach to the current status quo of audio production and distribution.
Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore isn’t directly about recording or the technology surrounding music, but it is an interesting look at how major record labels once operated before the digital collapse. Author Dan Ozzi delivers a thorough and humorous examination of the biggest alt-rock breakthroughs in the post Nirvana age. Filled with interviews from bands like Jawbreaker, My Chemical Romance, and Blink 182, Sellout highlights the highs and lows of bands making it big and selling out to major record labels.
It feels like there’s so much more to say about all three of these books and perhaps I’ll do each one justice someday with its own post. Expect more posts on recording in the future as we take a look at every music nerds greatest obsession, gear!