counter create hit Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music

Availability: Ready to download

In 1915, Thomas Edison proclaimed that he could record a live performance and reproduce it perfectly, shocking audiences who found themselves unable to tell whether what they were hearing was an Edison Diamond Disc or a flesh-and-blood musician. Today, the equation is reversed. Whereas Edison proposed that a real performance could be rebuilt with absolute perfection, Pro T In 1915, Thomas Edison proclaimed that he could record a live performance and reproduce it perfectly, shocking audiences who found themselves unable to tell whether what they were hearing was an Edison Diamond Disc or a flesh-and-blood musician. Today, the equation is reversed. Whereas Edison proposed that a real performance could be rebuilt with absolute perfection, Pro Tools and digital samplers now allow musicians and engineers to create the illusion of performances that never were. In between lies a century of sonic exploration into the balance between the real and the represented. Tracing the contours of this history, Greg Milner takes us through the major breakthroughs and glorious failures in the art and science of recording. An American soldier monitoring Nazi radio transmissions stumbles onto the open yet revolutionary secret of magnetic tape. Japanese and Dutch researchers build a first-generation digital audio format and watch as their "compact disc" is marketed by the music industry as the second coming of Edison yet derided as heretical by analog loyalists. The music world becomes addicted to volume in the nineties and fights a self-defeating "loudness war" to get its fix. From Les Paul to Phil Spector to King Tubby, from vinyl to pirated CDs to iPods, Milner's Perfecting Sound Forever pulls apart musical history to answer a crucial question: Should a recording document reality as faithfully as possible, or should it improve upon or somehow transcend the music it records? The answers he uncovers will change the very way we think about music.


Compare
Ads Banner

In 1915, Thomas Edison proclaimed that he could record a live performance and reproduce it perfectly, shocking audiences who found themselves unable to tell whether what they were hearing was an Edison Diamond Disc or a flesh-and-blood musician. Today, the equation is reversed. Whereas Edison proposed that a real performance could be rebuilt with absolute perfection, Pro T In 1915, Thomas Edison proclaimed that he could record a live performance and reproduce it perfectly, shocking audiences who found themselves unable to tell whether what they were hearing was an Edison Diamond Disc or a flesh-and-blood musician. Today, the equation is reversed. Whereas Edison proposed that a real performance could be rebuilt with absolute perfection, Pro Tools and digital samplers now allow musicians and engineers to create the illusion of performances that never were. In between lies a century of sonic exploration into the balance between the real and the represented. Tracing the contours of this history, Greg Milner takes us through the major breakthroughs and glorious failures in the art and science of recording. An American soldier monitoring Nazi radio transmissions stumbles onto the open yet revolutionary secret of magnetic tape. Japanese and Dutch researchers build a first-generation digital audio format and watch as their "compact disc" is marketed by the music industry as the second coming of Edison yet derided as heretical by analog loyalists. The music world becomes addicted to volume in the nineties and fights a self-defeating "loudness war" to get its fix. From Les Paul to Phil Spector to King Tubby, from vinyl to pirated CDs to iPods, Milner's Perfecting Sound Forever pulls apart musical history to answer a crucial question: Should a recording document reality as faithfully as possible, or should it improve upon or somehow transcend the music it records? The answers he uncovers will change the very way we think about music.

30 review for Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Edmole

    Usually with 400 page facty books you enjoy them but are happy to have got through to the end. With this, I was disappointed when I got to the last few pages. So much fascinating detail, so many fascinating stories, and hundreds of answers about the recording of sound, none of which Milner is arrogant or foolish enough to call definitive. This starts off with the Big Bang, obviously, and how the universe spread out in waves of sound and light. Then we get a little more specific, with technical bu Usually with 400 page facty books you enjoy them but are happy to have got through to the end. With this, I was disappointed when I got to the last few pages. So much fascinating detail, so many fascinating stories, and hundreds of answers about the recording of sound, none of which Milner is arrogant or foolish enough to call definitive. This starts off with the Big Bang, obviously, and how the universe spread out in waves of sound and light. Then we get a little more specific, with technical but clear explanations of what sound is and how it generally works. After that it's Edison and his rivals working sound vibrations onto discs and tubes trying to reflect back the reality of sound. Right away, with roadshow Tone Tests held to demonstrate the veracity of recording, with crowds amazed at singers singing, then closing their mouths and the record 'taking over', we learn that the idea of recorded sound was bending what we thought sound sounds like. In this case, the singers sang closer to the sound of the record to make the tone test work better. And then on through recorded history with engineers and audiophiles claiming to have made and heard a true or truer sound, then fakery and trickery being just as popular and often far more fun. We learn about studios going from huge rooms where groups locked in tight with each other, to recording in separate spaces to stop bleed, then recording at separate times on different tracks, bouncing down and along via Dub and overdubs and loudness wars and pro-tools, aligning everything and making your drums sound like drums are supposed to by supposing other drums over yours. There's loads of great stories throughout this, Geoff Emerick telling the distraught Kaiser Chiefs they couldn't cheat on a recording and their subsequent shock revelation that they were crap musicians tells you a lot about why Landfill Indie is Landfill Indie. The stuff about King Tubby inventing Dub and one of his proteges coming up with Sleng Teng, where electronics took over. Stories about the invention of synths and sampling, going from megablocks that could heat a whole room while sampling one and a half seconds to being able to hold half the world on a crappy laptop. The central thing I learnt from this book is that music is a string of information, and truth in sound is an unachievable aim, because truth is subjective, even with something fixed like a recorded sound wave. There's a chapter of the book about the different audio file formats. Essentially, to get the entire range of sound frequencies into a reasonably sized file is impossible, so they chop off a lot of the sound at either end, and our minds fill in the blanks. A lot of people claim to have 'Golden Ears' (and have through the history of audiophilia), where they think they can hear the minute different qualities of files, CDs, records. The testing facility that checks peoples reactions to different sizes and qualities of music files never tells the subjects how 'right' they were in identifying different qualities of sound, because if they got it 'wrong' it might fundamentally affect how that person thinks of themselves. There is a big dissection/discussion about digital v analogue, with the pioneers of digital, Old Grumpy Grits Stevey Albini and more throwing in on it. There IS a difference in quality between the two, and the pitch and power of digital means, for me, it has far more capacity to annoy. But maybe I just prefer tapes and radio as that's where my brain got taught about sound? I know John Cale's Fear Is A Man's Best Friend sounds better on a D90 than on the CD I now have of it. But maybe that's just how I learnt it. This is a GREAT book. If you like music, read it. If you like science, read it. If you like people having big fights about things for ages, read it. If you don't like any of those things, who are you and what is your fucking problem?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ero

    Absolutely one of the best things I've ever read about recorded audio. The chapter on Leadbelly's discovery/exploitation/celebration/creation is splendid, and the rest of the book is pretty well done too. Occasionally this lurches a little, from almost-stale college-research-paper historical bits into magaziney "then I went to his house to hear his $5,000,000 speakers for myself" bits. But all in all it sustains a high level of intelligence and ease, and occasionally rises to truly high levels of Absolutely one of the best things I've ever read about recorded audio. The chapter on Leadbelly's discovery/exploitation/celebration/creation is splendid, and the rest of the book is pretty well done too. Occasionally this lurches a little, from almost-stale college-research-paper historical bits into magaziney "then I went to his house to hear his $5,000,000 speakers for myself" bits. But all in all it sustains a high level of intelligence and ease, and occasionally rises to truly high levels of clarity (and "presence", maybe even "tube warmth") on what is sometimes a very abstract and subtle subject matter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike Lindgren

    This is a well-researched and intermittently fascinating look at the history of recording technology. Music geeks will like it because they get to learn a lot of semi-technical stuff about compression and waveforms and the like. Milner is not a natural storyteller and occasionally gets himself crossed up; the book could have been substantially shorter. Audiophiles and vinyl snobs will find ammunition for defending their Luddite ways.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    This book took an incredibly long time for me to finish. I found the topic interesting, but the writing was a little hard to read for extended periods. I believe this was primarily due to being sort of repetitive and circular in sections. Still, it was nice to know how the recording process has changed over the years. The book made me wish I had been around before music was compressed to within an inch of its life. I'd probably recommend the book only to those highly interested in the subject matt This book took an incredibly long time for me to finish. I found the topic interesting, but the writing was a little hard to read for extended periods. I believe this was primarily due to being sort of repetitive and circular in sections. Still, it was nice to know how the recording process has changed over the years. The book made me wish I had been around before music was compressed to within an inch of its life. I'd probably recommend the book only to those highly interested in the subject matter. It isn't captivating enough for a more casual reader.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bram

    This took me 4,5 months to read. Not because it was heavy, but because large parts of it were quite repetitive. And then I would just put it away and try to forget about it. But yeah, you’re like a 150 pages in, it would be a waste to just throw it out, right? And admittedly, I did enjoy the whole synthesizer history lesson, which I would’ve missed out on if I would’ve given up at 150. But mi gado, this could’ve easily done with half of the pages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Darren Hemmings

    Starting with Thomas Edison's invention of the Gramophone, it traces key developments in the world of music, including the development of analogue tape, the high fidelity years, multitracking, digital, the Loudness Wars and finally the emergence of Digital Audio Workstations such as Pro Tools which instigated the widespread closure of the legedary recording studios of the world, such as the Power Station in NYC. If you're a music fan of any kind, this book is simply a must-read: one of those work Starting with Thomas Edison's invention of the Gramophone, it traces key developments in the world of music, including the development of analogue tape, the high fidelity years, multitracking, digital, the Loudness Wars and finally the emergence of Digital Audio Workstations such as Pro Tools which instigated the widespread closure of the legedary recording studios of the world, such as the Power Station in NYC. If you're a music fan of any kind, this book is simply a must-read: one of those works you can only be all the better for reading. Jarvis Cocker is quoted on the front cover stating that "very very few books will change the way you listen to music. This is one such book. Read it." I heartily concur. Whilst reading the book I put together a Spotify playlist of releases that represent for one reason or another key developments in the history of recorded music. I've re-ordered some of the tracks here if only to avoid jumping back and forth through time and confusing you, but only where absoutely necessary. Rather than just present you with the playlist here, I thought it might be worth annotating the tracks with the year of release and the reason for their inclusion. This won't play well in a sequential manner as the reason for the tracks' inclusion is based on technology rather than genre, but even so I hope it can provide a sonic companion piece to the book if you read it - which I highly recommend you do. Enjoy! http://mrtrick.posterous.com/perfecti... http://open.spotify.com/user/darren.h...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emeraldia Ayakashi

    « Très, très, très peu de livres changeront votre façon d’écouter la musique. Celui-ci est l’un d’eux. » Jarvis Cocker Obviously this Jarvis's sentence terribly given me want to read this book! Here is a book for lovers of music. More than 400 pages to revisit the history of technology that helped save the music (which seems so obvious now), and yet it only goes back to 1877. Extremely well documented, concealing technical details (complex enough for some), but also anecdotes from the world of mu « Très, très, très peu de livres changeront votre façon d’écouter la musique. Celui-ci est l’un d’eux. » Jarvis Cocker Obviously this Jarvis's sentence terribly given me want to read this book! Here is a book for lovers of music. More than 400 pages to revisit the history of technology that helped save the music (which seems so obvious now), and yet it only goes back to 1877. Extremely well documented, concealing technical details (complex enough for some), but also anecdotes from the world of music (I have those Beatles passionate Pavement on those too), this book will tell you all about recorded music. It starts with the famous Edison phonograph and it ends with the dematerialization through the cassette and compact-disc, the digital revolution, not to mention the eternal vinyl. It talks among other analog and digital, "High Fidelity" or "High Fidelity" (the famous hifi) but also "level wars." Exciting and challenging!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taffnerd

    This book is outstanding. The cover (and title to a lesser degree) might lead one to believe that it is a dry academic work but that couldn't be further from the truth. The mechanical and cultural impact of recorded music read like well-paced fiction. Milner writes about the whole history of recorded sound with humor and insight. His retellings of Edison's efforts and the field recordings that john and Alan Lomax did in the 1930's illustrate the conflicts between fidelity and reality that have sh This book is outstanding. The cover (and title to a lesser degree) might lead one to believe that it is a dry academic work but that couldn't be further from the truth. The mechanical and cultural impact of recorded music read like well-paced fiction. Milner writes about the whole history of recorded sound with humor and insight. His retellings of Edison's efforts and the field recordings that john and Alan Lomax did in the 1930's illustrate the conflicts between fidelity and reality that have shaped much of what we think of as music. He does get fairly technical at times but his examples use familiar recordings - Led Zeppelin, Bing Crosby - and his writing is so clear and engaging that I think anyone would find much to love about this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Cope

    An excellently written, thoroughly researched and absorbing history of recorded sound. The author is clearly something of an audio geek, in a good way, and his passion for the subject shines through. There is a well judged balance of technical detail throughout; accessible but not over simplified. What really adds value though are the accounts of the personalities and politics that shaped the way recordings have been made all the way through from wax cylinders to MP3s. It is possibly not surpris An excellently written, thoroughly researched and absorbing history of recorded sound. The author is clearly something of an audio geek, in a good way, and his passion for the subject shines through. There is a well judged balance of technical detail throughout; accessible but not over simplified. What really adds value though are the accounts of the personalities and politics that shaped the way recordings have been made all the way through from wax cylinders to MP3s. It is possibly not surprising to know that quality of sound has not always been the primary driving force. I'd recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in sound recording.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Horton

    Probably the first accessible "general audience" book about the history of recording music, it perfectly balances the sociocultural context behind the history of different recording practices and technological advances without skimping on either front or capitulating to an elusive mainstream audience. As a recording engineer, I was surprised that even I learned new things and yet I'd still feel comfortable recommending the book to my Mom or anyone looking for a general pop-nonfiction read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Review at Konichiwa Witches, on the "Bell" pages.... http://home.earthlink.net/~cumulo-nim... Review at Konichiwa Witches, on the "Bell" pages.... http://home.earthlink.net/~cumulo-nim...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Great, just great. This book will change the way you listen to music. Greg Milner is a gifted storyteller and very good writer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    It's easy for a 21st century music listener to forget that for the majority of human history, music appreciation has been an exclusively live, ephemeral, social affair - the serious music nerd with a vast album library, arcane tastes, and expensive headphones and speaker setup is purely an creature of the fruits of technological progress. Milner shows how the invention of sound recording technology had a transformational effect on how people interact with and appreciate music, from the early Edi It's easy for a 21st century music listener to forget that for the majority of human history, music appreciation has been an exclusively live, ephemeral, social affair - the serious music nerd with a vast album library, arcane tastes, and expensive headphones and speaker setup is purely an creature of the fruits of technological progress. Milner shows how the invention of sound recording technology had a transformational effect on how people interact with and appreciate music, from the early Edison era to the modern period of Pro Tools, covering recording, production, and reproduction. The first era of sound recording was the acoustic/electric era, and many of the arguments that figures in the era made about recorded sound seem to resonate today in some way. The increasingly deaf yet still innovative Thomas Edison was one of the pioneers of recording, and, as was his wont, got into yet another standards war with a competitor - this time, it was his wax cylinders against the disc records of the Victor corporation's famous Victrola. Right from the start there was a fidelity debate, with electric partisans claiming that electrical recording systems, aided by microphones, could record sounds better than purely acoustic technology, and acoustic partisans arguing the opposite, that acoustic technology was more faithful, more pure than their opponents' systems. Important musical figures weighed in; the famous tenor Enrico Caruso gave Victor a boost by recording a number of performances that were supposed to demonstrate their superiority to the original sound over Edison's setup. In the other direction, Conductor Leopold Stokowski had great enthusiasm for the ability of electrical sound recording to "improve" music; disdaining the idea that a concert experience could truly be duplicated by a record played in someone's living room, he used every means at his disposal to make recordings sound larger than life (he was also one of the primary creative forces behind Fantasia, to this day one of the best and most innovative unions of sight and sound). The second era of analog involved a switch from cylinders and discs to tape. A hidden legacy of World War 2 is the invention of magnetic tape - the Magnetophon was a German invention used in high-power radio broadcasts. Brought back to the US after the war by a curious radio hobbyist, he eventually teamed with the company Ampex to record Bing Crosby, whereupon tape became a rapidly more popular standard. Another driver was the unsuitability of discs or cylinders as media for field recordings. Father-and-son team John and Alan Lomax hated using bulky and cranky cylinder machines to do field recordings, especially when they happened on talents like Leadbelly. The two fought creatively with Leadbelly, as did later collaborator Moses Asch, since their visions of "true American popular music" didn't always coincide, but they were the first true producers in the modern sense, liberated by the greater possibilities of tape. Les Paul also made pioneering experiments in multi-track recording, when he realized you could simply rewind tape and record over it. Of course, the disc format didn't sit still either - there was yet another format war between the old-school 78s, the "hi-fidelity" 45s, and the long-playing 33 1/3s - and the discovery that different studios seemed to affect performances in different ways both helped artists and helped companies making money off of them, as in the big debates over Elvis moving from Sun's studios to RCA's, and Motown sold many records on the strength of their own unique sound. This also resurrected the debate over the role of the producer - to record "live in the studio" with as few alterations as possible, or to take advantage of newer technology like SSL consoles to help make the sounds bands like Def Leppard had always dreamed about? Both Phil Spector and Steve Albini have their points. The digital era didn't really settle any disputes, it just made the stakes bigger. Digital technology, in theory allowing for greater fidelity than ever thought possible, also allowed for much greater manipulation of "natural" sounds. Much like in earlier eras, aficionados of the past immediately began arguing that newer technology removed some important element from the music-listener equation, while enthusiasts used that same technology to do things that hadn't been possible before. Sound engineers like Jamaica's King Tubby invented entire new genres like dub, thanks to their mixing boards' ability to manipulate sounds and give artists the chance to do new takes on old material, and the invention of the synthesizer and sampler gave artists almost limitless new options for creating or manipulating sounds themselves. There was even a political angle, as groups like Public Enemy used specific samplers like the SP-1200 to give their records unique, immediately identifiable atmospheres (something that contemporary artists still do, like Kanye West with the 808). New software like Pro Tools made editing far easier than it had been before, and yet, when the conflict between radio stations to draw and keep listeners spilled over into the studio as the CD loudness war, or Auto-Tune began to be applied to music in increasing amounts, the backlash against digital technology got stronger and led to the creation of determinedly low-fidelity movements. However, the economic changes that digital technology unleashed weren't reversible, and the increasing freedom it gave artists to record anyway for far less money than previously eventually led to waves of legendary studios like Muscle Shoals or the Hit Factory closing. Perhaps even more than in previous eras, the implications of new technologies were transformative. While this isn't a technical book, Milner includes enough background on concepts like clipping, frequency modulation synthesis, and sampling rates to give the reader a solid background in the issues discussed. He's also good about drawing connections between the different eras and showing when the same issues get repeated in new contexts. While it's not strictly a music book either, Milner also has enough passion for what these technologies do for music - his enthusiasm for Led Zeppelin, in particular - that he had me looking up songs to try and hear what he was talking about quite often. Definitely a solid read for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes work of getting music on disc, or, these days, in the cloud. It'll definitely put a smile on your face the next time you hear anyone go off on what a "warm, more human" sound vinyl has.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    I purchased this book probably around 2010. It has a different cover than what is shown here. I wanted to delve more into audiophile topics and investigate technical aspects of recording and Hi-Fi sound production. Parts of this book were fascinating, but in other areas I got lost in detail that seemed too finely grained for the breadth of this survey. It's the kind of detail you have to slog through and will promptly forget. Overall, I found the book rather interesting, but sometimes lost inter I purchased this book probably around 2010. It has a different cover than what is shown here. I wanted to delve more into audiophile topics and investigate technical aspects of recording and Hi-Fi sound production. Parts of this book were fascinating, but in other areas I got lost in detail that seemed too finely grained for the breadth of this survey. It's the kind of detail you have to slog through and will promptly forget. Overall, I found the book rather interesting, but sometimes lost interest and put it down for long periods. Concerning Hi-Fidelity music, I find it essential that everyone do two things in life. 1. Go to some live performances of the classical variety and learn to experience live music at its best: this is a reference point. 2. Invest in some headphones of at least moderate quality - those that cost at least 500 dollars, and listen to quality recordings. You owe it to yourself to experience quality music, both live and recorded, in hour lifetime. This young folks who have not done this - you will thank me later.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lyubomir Vasilev

    Simply brilliant. All the reviews on the covers actually do it justice. Hands down the best non-fiction book I’ve read. It flows week from start to finish and throughly and passionately well researched and explained. Unlike other non-fiction books, even though Greg Milner is a true and opinionated audio geek, he’s done really well to tell the story from all sides and leave room for the reader to think for himself. Long story short, I can honestly say this book changed the way I view recorded mus Simply brilliant. All the reviews on the covers actually do it justice. Hands down the best non-fiction book I’ve read. It flows week from start to finish and throughly and passionately well researched and explained. Unlike other non-fiction books, even though Greg Milner is a true and opinionated audio geek, he’s done really well to tell the story from all sides and leave room for the reader to think for himself. Long story short, I can honestly say this book changed the way I view recorded music and has given an extra dimension of appreciation and understanding of my record collection. If you’re in any way interested in music and recording, read it!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adam Osth

    A really fascinating look at the history of recording and production from the beginning until today. The thesis is that the history of recording has been a tug-of-war between trends of capturing the spirit of a live recording versus making a recording that sounds good in and of itself. While it is a pretty complete history, the author is clearly an indie rock guy - he sure gives a lot of attention to Steve Albini throughout and comparatively much less to pioneers like Phil Spector, Sam Phillips, A really fascinating look at the history of recording and production from the beginning until today. The thesis is that the history of recording has been a tug-of-war between trends of capturing the spirit of a live recording versus making a recording that sounds good in and of itself. While it is a pretty complete history, the author is clearly an indie rock guy - he sure gives a lot of attention to Steve Albini throughout and comparatively much less to pioneers like Phil Spector, Sam Phillips, and Motown.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    There is no denying the author has a great deal of knowledge of music recording, but I do not think he wrote a book that is approachable for a casual listener. I enjoyed the chapter about the Lomaxes and their quest to record the music of different regions, but otherwise I found this book way too technical. I knew I was in trouble when I struggled to understand the concepts in the Thomas Edison chapter, so much of the book was a grind for me to read in the hopes it would become more approachable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vasil Kolev

    This book lacks depth. There are a lot of side stories and distractions, but stuff seems to be missing, or just explained without enough depth, without relevant details, and is mostly someone walking around and talking to people, even the structure is not as good as it should be.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    After an exhaustive survey of the birth of recorded sound, things pick up with modern recording techniques including compression, which explains why music made in the digital era sounds SO BLOODY LOUD.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jehnie

    A very detailed book for a specific and small audience. But enough entertaining and fascinating tidbits woven throughout to keep me reading.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Witt

    Fantastic read for audio nerds. Well-done book on the history of recorded sound. Almost makes me want to get back into the studio. (Almost.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becca Daniels

    Fascinating in some parts, bit of a mansplanation in others

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris Nagel

    The butler did it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edu F.

    A book which talks about the evolution simple and didactically for people not introduced un this magical world. 7.5/10

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    One of the best, most clear set of reasons and reflections I’ve ever read. Everything he writes is brilliant.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    I first came to this book because of Jarvis Cocker's reading of an excerpt about how, physiologically, you perceive the drums in Led Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks'. It was an excerpt - edited, as I've discovered, though not greatly - that ropes physics with the excitement that particular Foot-Of-God drum phrase invokes in a way which makes even non-Zep fans a bit excited. You can hear it here. I'll wait. Basically, if you liked that snippet and the way it conveys SCIENCE stuff in an easy-to- I first came to this book because of Jarvis Cocker's reading of an excerpt about how, physiologically, you perceive the drums in Led Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks'. It was an excerpt - edited, as I've discovered, though not greatly - that ropes physics with the excitement that particular Foot-Of-God drum phrase invokes in a way which makes even non-Zep fans a bit excited. You can hear it here. I'll wait. Basically, if you liked that snippet and the way it conveys SCIENCE stuff in an easy-to-appreciate way, you'll enjoy this book. For a large part, it's set up as a brace of dichotomies - acoustic versus electric, analogue versus digital, CD versus LP, real or Memorex and so on - but it's not just a collection of lists or pros and cons: there's a wealth of interviews, and a suitably peppy commentary about the development of recording and broadcasting technique. Let's face it - a lot of this stuff is dry, but Milner makes it zip by. As a music nerd with pretensions to knowledge about recording (not that it's actually backed up with, yanno, any ability behind the desk) this was right up my alley. It's a history of the process of recording rather than a history of the recorded, though obviously artists do crop up from time to time - particularly when they bear some relevance to the development of recording techniques. Expected figures crop up - the Beatles, Phil Collins, Queen, Def Leppard, Neil Young - though they're used as examples rather than major motivators. It's the dudes behind the scenes - particularly the inventors, from Edison on down - that call the shots. If you've ever wondered what separated a Synclavier from an Emu (not the bird) then there's a chapter here for you. I must give this book extra credit for its excellent description of the loudness wars, first in the FM radio format, then in the CD-mastering stakes. Much bonus points awarded for explaining the terrible-ness of RHCP's Californication by dint of direct comparison with the transients visible in a Shellac song. SHELLAC! (Also, lots of Audacity screenshots - props!) The author's indie-kid bona-fides are all in this book - aside from Shellac, the Ramones, Pavement, Mission of Burma and the Clash are all covered (as is a love of Fleetwood Mac) - but it doesn't stop him from covering the standard mainstream stuff with aplomb, too. I'd known about the genesis of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, say, but Milner's description fills in a lot of blanks. Ditto the escapades of King Tubby in the reggae world, the unplugged-board moments of Stokowski and the in-the-box creation of Ricky Martin's finest moment. Tthis book's a testament to the unachievable - perfect reproduction. If you listen to a lot of music it's instructive in what it means to listen critically, and to be part of the struggle to hear what was in the room at recording. There's a lot of canny writing on the ephemeral, trickster nature of recordings, and in total this reads as a mash note to music. A well-written one, but with that lovely enthusiasm always around the edge. If you're the sort of person who alphabetises their collection and has a stake in the FLAC versus MP3 debate, this is the book for you. It'll make you want to play the records Milner mentions, then it'll make you want to go listen to your collection - or make some of your own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    East Bay J

    Wow. This is a killer read. I could just leave it at that but I’m not known for quite that much brevity, so… With Perfecting Sound Forever, Greg Milner has tapped into the collective recording consciousness through an exploration of recording technology. From the very earliest forms like Edison’s talking machine and those first circular shellac discs, to the conundrum that is modern digital recording, he examines not only those technologies but also the effect they have on us as listeners and tha Wow. This is a killer read. I could just leave it at that but I’m not known for quite that much brevity, so… With Perfecting Sound Forever, Greg Milner has tapped into the collective recording consciousness through an exploration of recording technology. From the very earliest forms like Edison’s talking machine and those first circular shellac discs, to the conundrum that is modern digital recording, he examines not only those technologies but also the effect they have on us as listeners and that we have on them as consumers. Some of these technologies were developed because people were curious, while others came to be to meet a need or desire. Much of it was driven by capitalism and corporations trying to increase their bottom line, but an equal portion, perhaps, has been driven by passion, artistry and love. It makes for a bizarre, puzzling landscape, rife with confusion, subterfuge and rhetoric. And, given that so many music consumers are, in the end, without meaning to be insulting, laymen, the static and disinformation is all the worse. That situation is one of the things that make this book so interesting. Not everyone is a music fanatic, but everyone likes music to some capacity. Music plays a different role in the lives of different people, but it’s always there, whether it’s background noise or our favorite song. The technology dictates the medium through which we are exposed to music and the quality and method of delivery of these media has an effect on how this recorded music is both received and perceived. Personally, my perfect listening experience involves vinyl and a decent stereo system. I don’t listen to audiophile grade music so I don’t assign much value to audio grade equipment. I do believe vinyl offers a listening experience different enough from digital to make a difference to the listener. But, when I’m driving, an MP3 is fine, abominable as it may sound. With the road noise, traffic noise, air conditioner heater noise, etc., so much of the audio spectrum is cancelled out, anyway, that it doesn’t make enough difference to warrant concern. I can hear the song and that’s good enough. Therefore, the issue of relative audio quality is important to me, but it’s not necessarily a cut and dried issue. I love that Milner spends a chapter discussing the “loudness war” from a historical and scientific perspective, because that, more than digital versus analog, seems to be a critical factor. That chapter alone is revelatory in its scope of examining why so much modern music sounds terrible, regardless of what we think of the music itself. This book is so well researched and so well written that I have to imagine anyone would find it interesting. I will acknowledge a prejudice in favor of the topic, however; those interested in recording, recording technology, audio integrity and the like will find more here than the casual fan of music. Likewise, those who are enthralled with the history of recording will get to have their cake and eat it, too. Well done!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    This book describes the history of attempts to produce better recorded sound -- and in doing so, it takes an interesting trip through the history and technology of recording itself. Milner starts off at the beginning of recorded sound. This was the part of the book I found most interesting, and had the most history that was new to me. I think many people are familiar with discussions of the quality of analog or digital sound reproduction -- records or CDs -- but it was fascinating to see how that This book describes the history of attempts to produce better recorded sound -- and in doing so, it takes an interesting trip through the history and technology of recording itself. Milner starts off at the beginning of recorded sound. This was the part of the book I found most interesting, and had the most history that was new to me. I think many people are familiar with discussions of the quality of analog or digital sound reproduction -- records or CDs -- but it was fascinating to see how that argument is an echo of so many previous similar arguments. Should recordings be on cylinders, or disks? Should the groove cut vertically, or horizontally? Are purely mechanical sound reproduction techniques -- a needle attached to a diaphragm, pushing air through a horn -- better than electrical sound reproduction techniques? There were two things I think probably could have been dropped. Milner talks to John Diamond, who attempts to prove that digital recordings are not just inferior to analog recording, but actually harmful to listen to. Diamond uses the same sort of techniques that many sham doctors use, pushing against a "patient's" arm while performing some sort of test. It's pretty pointless -- not worth more than a short mention in the book, and definitely not worth the space given. Milner also goes into some discussion of different musical genres. On one hand, some genres do tend to be connected to different instruments, which are also connected to popularization of certain sound reproduction methodologies. But, the connection there is a little weak. Not a big problem, but it seemed to be a slight distraction from the main theme of the book. Still, all told, this is a great book to read for anyone that is interested in the history of recording, or current trends in recording.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Miles

    This was an interesting non-fiction pick. It started off a bit pretentious, but when it got into the history it really started to shine. There are one or two passages where the author attempts to touch on more scientific aspects and ends up painfully out of their depth, but these are rare exceptions. The vast majority of the book is written expertly, citing examples and providing quotes from the various personalities. The author's voice is entertainingly sardonic when appropriate, and other time This was an interesting non-fiction pick. It started off a bit pretentious, but when it got into the history it really started to shine. There are one or two passages where the author attempts to touch on more scientific aspects and ends up painfully out of their depth, but these are rare exceptions. The vast majority of the book is written expertly, citing examples and providing quotes from the various personalities. The author's voice is entertainingly sardonic when appropriate, and other times reverent. Milner seems to avoid taking sides, and does end up giving equal time to some genuine crackpots, but that too was illuminating; I had no idea people hated digital audio THAT much. I genuinely learned more while reading this book about the craft and evolution of recording than I even knew there was to know. The artists come in, the microphones switch on, albums come out; now I at least have an idea of all the work that happens in between. While reading, numerous examples are provided (e.g. the distinctive sound produced in Motown's studios, or the violent compression-clipping on Red Hot Chili Peppers loudest albums), and I found that putting the book down and searching up the music in question really enhanced my enjoyment of this book. At more than 400 pages, it is a lengthy nonfiction tome, but I'd recommend this book to anyone curious about the culture of recorded sound, or just wanting to rekindle their interest in music.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex Orr

    The chapter analyzing digital compression and the loudness wars is reason enough to recommend this to all serious music fans, though, thankfully, it is consistently entertaining and educational. I think the biggest revelation for me was just how much of a constant flux the recording, mechanical preservation, reproduction, and commercial distribution of sound was in throughout the 20th century. It's easy to think that sudden changes, such as tape over vinyl, digital, and multi-track studios were The chapter analyzing digital compression and the loudness wars is reason enough to recommend this to all serious music fans, though, thankfully, it is consistently entertaining and educational. I think the biggest revelation for me was just how much of a constant flux the recording, mechanical preservation, reproduction, and commercial distribution of sound was in throughout the 20th century. It's easy to think that sudden changes, such as tape over vinyl, digital, and multi-track studios were large game changers in an industry that was otherwise somewhat inert, but the truth is that dramatic change has always been the defining characteristic of sound technology since the first days of wax cylinders. Milner does a wonderful job of tying together cogent explanations of often complex technologies and scientific issues with fascinating stories of the pioneers and inventors who have shaped how music, and just about anything else ever recorded, has sounded for the last hundred plus years.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.