Music Music Technology
by
Mark Katz, Brian Jones
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0111

Introduction

Technology is a broadly applied term that can be taken to mean any practical application of scientific knowledge or any tool used for a practical purpose. Technology in music can refer to instruments, whether acoustic, electric, or electronic; engraving and printing; sound recording and playback; broadcasting; software; and much else. In its most common use, the term music technology tends to evoke images of synthesizers and computer programs used to perform or compose music. This article stakes a middle ground between the broad and narrow conceptions of music technology, focusing on mechanical, electric, electronic, and digital technologies developed since the late 19th century for the purpose of creating, disseminating, and listening to music. The scholarship on music technology is rich and diverse, representing many disciplines, practices, and musical styles. It would be fair, however, to call this scholarship multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary; that is, although scholars from many areas of academia write about music and technology, collaboration and cross-pollination has been modest. However, the recent publication of edited volumes bringing together the work of scholars of widely varying approaches, as well as the development of sound studies—a now robust interdisciplinary field that addresses nonmusical sound as well as music—suggests a trend toward greater collaboration.

General Overviews

The writings discussed in this section cover a variety of issues, approaches, and technologies, although the bulk of the scholarship focuses on electronic music technologies of the 20th century. Braun 2002, Bijsterveld and Pinch 2004, and Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012 are multiauthor, multidisciplinary collections, whereas Albrecht 2004, Nyre 2008, and Taylor 2001 are more firmly grounded in single disciplines (communications studies, media studies, and musicology, respectively). Taylor, et al. 2012 is a reader, collecting documents related to recording, film, and radio. Holmes 2006 is an encyclopedia that covers a variety of technologies, although most of its entries address various aspects of sound recording.

  • Albrecht, Robert. Mediating the Muse: A Communications Approach to Music, Media, and Culture Change. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2004.

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    Posits a communications-based theoretical framework for understanding the technological mediation of music, addressing issues of orality, literacy, and mechanical and electronic mediation. Applies this framework in an ethnography of technological and musical change in a small Brazilian town.

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  • Bijsterveld, Karin, and Trevor Pinch, eds. Special Issue: Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music. Social Studies of Science 34 (October 2004): 634–817.

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    An interdisciplinary collection of articles addressing questions of the materiality of music technologies and their interactions with musical practice. Topics include musical instruments, studio recording practices, and audiophile listening cultures.

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  • Braun, Hans-Joachim, ed. Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

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    A wide-ranging collection of essays on the intersections of music and technology. Broad topics include mechanical and electronic music and musical instruments, sound recording and its influence on musical practices, the representation of technology in music, and the use of technology to analyze music.

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  • Holmes, Thom, ed. The Routledge Guide to Music Technology. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    A concise encyclopedia of devices, techniques, concepts, people, and institutions associated with music technology, with particular attention to sound recording.

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  • Nyre, Lars. Sound Media: From Live Journalism to Music Recording. London: Routledge, 2008.

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    Examines music and sound in modern media, including the Internet, digital music recording, news and talk radio, and publicly disseminated music. Traces a “backwards history” of sound media techniques, discussing multitrack tape recording, live journalism, the electric microphone, and early forms of music recording.

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  • Pinch, Trevor, and Karin Bijsterveld. The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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    Expanding on Bijsterveld and Pinch 2004, the twenty-three essays in this volume cover much more than music, exploring the relationship between sound and technology in, for example, automobiles, hospitals, and video games. Music-centered essays consider a variety of technologies, particularly the Internet, iPod, phonograph, radio, and television.

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  • Taylor, Timothy D. Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2001.

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    A cultural and theoretical study of music and technology in the second half of the 20th century. Case studies address avant-garde electronic music, space-themed popular music, digital sampling, and trance music.

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  • Taylor, Timothy D., Mark Katz, and Anthony Grajeda, eds. Music, Sound, and Technology in America: A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

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    Collects and annotates historical documents—ranging from 1878 to 1944—relating to the early years of recording, sound film, and radio in the United States. Collectively, the documents reveal how these technologies affected the experience of music during this time and how they came to be integrated into American life.

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Periodicals

Periodicals on music technology tend to be geared to consumers, practitioners, or experts; Keyboard is a representative example. This section focuses more on scholarly publications. The Journal of Music, Technology & Education addresses researchers and scholars studying music pedagogy; Leonardo Music Journal, Organised Sound, Computer Music Journal, and Musica/Tecnologia explore the analysis, creation, or reception of electroacoustic and computer music. See also ARSC Journal (cited under Sound Recording).

Mechanical Musical Instruments

Mechanical music is a broad term, and it can include automata, clocks, music boxes, and self-playing instruments dating from Antiquity to the modern day. Most of the literature on mechanical music, however, focuses on 19th- and 20th-century instruments, as is reflected in the writings listed here. Player pianos are the focus of Dolan 2009, Ord-Hume 1970, Roehl 2009, and Taylor 2007; Suisman 2010 historicizes the player piano in the context of the phonograph. Voskuhl 2013 offers a case study of Enlightenment-era musical automata. Bowers 1972 takes the broadest approach, surveying a wide variety of mechanical instruments. Miller 2009 might seem to be out of place here, but video game controllers (e.g., simulated guitars) can fruitfully be studied in the context of mechanical musical instruments.

  • Bowers, Q. David. Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments. Vestal, NY: Vestal Press, 1972.

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    Largely pictorial in nature, this 1,000-page tome documents the history of self-playing musical instruments since the mid-19th century, including cylinder and disc music boxes, player and reproducing pianos, coin-operated pianos and orchestrions, and mechanical organs. For somewhat similar works, see Heinrich Weiss-Stauffacher and Rudolf Bruhin, The Marvelous World of Music Machines (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1976), and Alexander Buchner, Mechanical Musical Instruments (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1978).

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  • Dolan, Brian. Inventing Entertainment: The Player Piano and the Origins of an American Musical Industry. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.

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    A social history of the player piano, with particular focus on its development in the music and entertainment industry of the United States. Covers the decades of the instrument’s initial popularity (1900–1930), but also considers its revival in more recent decades.

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  • Miller, Kiri. “Schizophonic Performance: Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Virtual Virtuosity.” Journal of the Society for American Music 3.4 (November 2009): 395–429.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309990666Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnomusicological investigation of mediated, participatory rock performance in the games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Explores how the controllers in these games are both like and unlike traditional music instruments and addresses questions of authenticity, virtuosity, and intersections between “virtual” and “real.” Argues that such games create new modes of musicality that fit uneasily into the traditional performer/listener dichotomy.

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  • Ord-Hume, Arthur W. J. G. Player Piano: The History of the Mechanical Piano and How to Repair It. South Brunswick, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1970.

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    Chronicles the development of what the author calls “self-acting pianos” since the 19th century. Includes more than two hundred photographs and detailed diagrams along with instructions for repairing and maintaining instruments.

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  • Roehl, Harvey N. Player Piano Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Piano in America. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2009.

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    Collects advertisements, catalogue copy, and other ephemera pertaining to the player piano and related instruments since the 19th century. Originally published in 1961.

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  • Suisman, David. “Sound, Knowledge, and the ‘Immanence of Human Failure’: Rethinking Musical Mechanization through the Phonograph, the Player-Piano, and the Piano.” Social Text 28.1 (Spring 2010): 13–34.

    DOI: 10.1215/01642472-2009-058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for equal historical consideration of the player piano alongside the phonograph—the latter being an analog medium and the former a (binary) digital one. From this perspective, the author reframes historical and theoretical debates regarding music mechanization and reproduction.

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  • Taylor, Timothy D. “The Commodification of Music at the Dawn of the Era of ‘Mechanical Music.’” Ethnomusicology 51.2 (Spring–Summer 2007): 281–305.

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    Examines the development of the player piano as a process of musical commodification. Draws primarily from advertisements and other print media. Emphasizes that commodification consists of complex interactions among social and cultural processes.

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  • Voskuhl, Adelheid. Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226034331.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the cultural contexts and meanings of 18th-century musical automata, including case studies of dulcimer and keyboard playing women androids.

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Sound Recording

The literature on sound recording is considerable, first emerging in the latter part of the 19th century. The earliest writings tended to be media reports of, or technical articles on, the invention and development of early recording devices. Once the phonograph (invented by Thomas Edison in 1877) became a consumer item at the turn of the 20th century, practical guides on the use and maintenance of equipment became increasingly common. Starting in the 1950s, historical surveys came to be a staple of the literature; in recent decades the scholarly literature on recording has broadened enormously, with articles, collections of essays, and monographs appearing regularly. The writings listed here cover broad swaths of recording history and subject matter, either by collecting multiple articles or essays, as in Bayley 2010 and Cook, et al. 2009, or by treating an eclectic array of topics within a single-authored work, as in Katz 2010 and Zagorski-Thomas 2014. Hoffmann 2005 is a useful reference work and the ARSC Journal is a repository of specialized studies and discographies. Hitchcock 1980 may be decades old, but its thoughtful discussions about the impact of recording technology remain valuable. See also Holmes 2006 (cited under General Overviews).

  • ARSC Journal. 1982–.

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    Typically written by archivists, librarians, and collectors, articles in the journal of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections often focus on discography, the history of the recording industry, copyright, and the preservation of sound recordings.

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  • Bayley, Amanda, ed. Recorded Music: Performance, Culture and Technology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    A diverse collection of seventeen essays examining sound recording from four perspectives: the contexts of recording, the recording process, recordings as texts, and the use of recording technology in the creation of music. The essays range among a variety of disciplines, methodologies, genres, and eras.

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  • Cook, Nicholas, Eric Clarke, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, and John Rink. The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521865821Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The items in this collection explore the ways in which recordings both reflect and influence musical life. Scholarly essays alternate with briefer “Personal Takes” that offer personal perspectives on the technology, often from practitioners (performers, recordists, producers, and others).

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  • Hitchcock, H. Wiley, ed. The Phonograph and Our Musical Life: Proceedings of a Centennial Conference, 7–10 December 1977. New York: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1980.

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    Prominent musicologists and composers (along with some industry professionals) discuss the effects of the phonograph on the composition, dissemination, and reception of music in the United States. One of the earlier scholarly explorations of the subject.

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  • Hoffmann, Frank, ed. Encyclopedia of Recorded Music. 2d ed. 2 vols. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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    This 1,200+ page encyclopedia focuses on the history of recorded sound in the United States. Entries cover artists, equipment and equipment manufacturers, genres of recorded music, technical terms, record labels, and more.

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  • Katz, Mark. Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

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    A broad study of the influence of sound recording technology on the composition, performance, dissemination, and reception of music since the early 20th century. Case studies explore early jazz, violin performance practice, the hip-hop DJ, digital sampling, and file sharing, among other topics.

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  • Zagorski-Thomas, Simon. The Musicology of Record Production. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139871846Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Posits a set of categories and methodologies for the academic study of record production, including its processes, products, aesthetics, and cultural effects. Engages issues of technology, cognition, reception, communication, performance, and business.

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Histories and Historical Perspectives

Two types of writings are collected here: broad historical overviews of the development of recorded sound and narrower studies focused on a particular time period. Gelatt 1977 (first published in 1955) and Read and Welch 1976 (first published in 1959) are early but still influential works. A great deal of important research in recent decades has yielded fresh perspectives on the history of recorded sound. Feaster 2007 offers an exemplary study of the early history of the technology; Day 2000, Milner 2009, and Morton 2000 each cover about a century’s worth of history, each from different and valuable perspectives; while Grubbs 2014 focuses on a single decade and genre. Two early and influential articles, Edison 1878 and Sousa 1906, are included here for their historical importance. See also the ARSC Journal (cited under Sound Recording) and the section on the phonograph in Taylor, et al. 2012 (cited under General Overviews).

  • Day, Timothy. A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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    Examines the impact of sound recording on the creation and reception of classical music. Its four chapters focus on the process of making recordings, the recorded classical repertoire, changes in classical performance practice, and the experience of listening to recordings.

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  • Edison, Thomas A. “The Phonograph and Its Future.” North American Review 126 (1878): 530–536.

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    Written shortly after Edison and his team created the phonograph in 1877, this essay discusses the development of the technology, its principles, and possible applications. Edison suggests that the “main utility” of the phonograph was as a dictation device for recording business correspondence. Music placed fourth on Edison’s list of twelve possible applications.

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  • Feaster, Patrick. “‘The Following Record’: Making Sense of Phonographic Performance, 1877–1908.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2007.

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    An exhaustive, thoroughly researched study of early sound recording practices in the United States. Investigates recordings of music, speech, and nonmusical sounds. Argues that from the beginning sound recording was more of a creative reworking of performance than a straightforward reproduction of it.

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  • Gelatt, Roland. The Fabulous Phonograph, 1877–1977. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan, 1977.

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    A general history of the development of sound recording. Accessible and generally reliable; though now outdated, it was for many years a standard text.

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  • Grubbs, David. Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822377108Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the role and influence of commercial recordings on a music scene and genre that was largely antithetical to them: 1960s avant-garde and experimental music. Considers historical attitudes among the composers as well as the effects of the profound increase in availability of recordings in subsequent decades.

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  • Milner, Greg. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. New York: Faber & Faber, 2009.

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    A history of sound recording for general readers, with particular attention given to the development of digital technologies since the 1980s.

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  • Morton, David L. Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

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    A sociocultural study of developments in sound recording in the United States, roughly covering the period between the 1870s and the 1970s. Five case studies explore the early record industry; the use of sound recording in radio, gender and the dictation machine; home recording; and the answering machine.

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  • Read, Oliver, and Walter L. Welch. From Tin Foil to Stereo: The Evolution of the Phonograph. 2d ed. Indianapolis, IN: Howard W. Sams, 1976.

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    A standard work on the business and science of early sound recording. Provides a richly detailed history, but also serves as a sourcebook, reprinting technical drawings, patent applications, and countless photographs. A 1994 edition, published as From Tin Foil to Stereo: The Acoustic Years of the Recording Industry, 1877–1929 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida), is essentially a different book; it treats only the period between 1877 and 1929, expanding on the earlier chapters of the previous editions.

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  • Sousa, John Philip. “The Menace of Mechanical Music.” Appleton’s 8 (1906): 278–284.

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    An influential article in which the famous bandleader and composer rails against the onslaught of player pianos and phonographs. Sousa argues that mechanical music threatens both amateur and professional musicians: the former would have no incentive to make music themselves while the latter would find their livelihoods threatened. Warfield 2009 (cited under the Business of Recording) explores the possible motivations behind Sousa’s article.

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The Business of Recording

An industry surrounding the manufacture and sale of playback devices and records arose in the late 19th century, becoming a powerful economic force in the United States and throughout much of the world in just a few decades. The writings listed below collectively cover more than a century of the business of recording and its influence on music. Warfield 2009 and Thompson 1995 investigate the early days of the “talking machine” and Edison’s marketing campaign, respectively. Wurtzler 2007 considers the 1920s and 1930s, while Anderson 2006 explores the postwar period. Demers 2006 examines recent developments in copyright and digital technology. See also the ARSC Journal (cited under Sound Recording), Read and Welch 1976 (cited under Histories and Historical Perspectives), McLeod and DiCola 2011 (cited under Digital Music Technologies), and David 2010 (cited under Music and the Internet).

  • Anderson, Tim J. Making Easy Listening: Material Culture and Postwar American Recording. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

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    Discusses the processes of record production, distribution, and mediation in the postwar music industry. Case studies include musicians’ recording strikes of the 1940s, multiple “versions” of Broadway recordings, and the construction of sonic spaces in hi-fi recording and playback.

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  • Demers, Joanna. Steal This Music: How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2006.

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    A accessible overview of issues surrounding copyright and creativity in recorded music. Discusses the historical and contemporary legal status of compositions, recordings, musical arrangements, and musical style. Incorporates case studies from classical, pop, rock, and hip-hop. Seeks to distinguish “plagiarism” from the long-established practice of “transformative appropriation,” noting that these notions are often conflated in legal practice.

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  • Thompson, Emily. “Machines, Music, and the Quest for Fidelity: Marketing the Edison Phonograph in America, 1877–1925.” Musical Quarterly 79.1 (1995): 131–171.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/79.1.131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An historical discussion of the marketing practices of the Edison phonograph in the decades before electronic recording. Investigates the discourse surrounding fidelity, critical listening, and authenticity. Gives particular attention to Edison’s public “tone tests,” staged between 1915 and 1925.

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  • Warfield, Patrick. “John Philip Sousa and ‘The Menace of Mechanical Music.’” Journal of the Society for American Music 3.4 (2009): 431–463.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309990678Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides historical context to Sousa’s well-known essay (see Sousa 1906, cited under Histories and Historical Perspectives). Illuminates historical issues surrounding music reproduction by examining Sousa’s long involvement in the legal, financial, and ethical questions concerning composers’ rights.

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  • Wurtzler, Steve. Electric Sounds: Technological Change and the Rise of Corporate Mass Media. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.7312/wurt13676Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the development of electric sound recording and transmission in the 1920s and 1930s in film, radio, and the phonograph. Investigates points of contestation in the establishment of new technologies by considering capitalist processes of innovation, technological rhetoric, social uses of the media, and conventions of sonic representation.

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The Recording Process

The process of recording music is often quite different from the act of live performance, and a number of writers have investigated the distinctive demands and possibilities of the recording studio and the work of “recordists,” a term referring to engineers, producers, and others who facilitate and shape recordings. Horning 2015 and Moorefield 2005 examine the historical development of the recording studio, whereas Meintjes 2003 and Porcello 1996 use ethnography to study interpersonal interactions in the studio. Kealy 1979 and Hennion 1989 consider sociological aspects of studio practice. See also Harvith and Harvith 1987 (cited under Recording and Performance) and the section on the phonograph in Taylor, et al. 2012 (cited under General Overviews).

  • Hennion, Antoine. “An Intermediary between Production and Consumption: The Producer of Popular Music.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 14.4 (1989): 400–424.

    DOI: 10.1177/016224398901400405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the popular music producer as an intermediary between musicians and the public. Draws on sociological and cultural studies methodologies to understand the processes of, and the tensions between, artistic innovation and commerce.

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  • Horning, Susan Schmidt. Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.

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    A technological history of the American recording studio from the advent of mechanical recording to the rise of digital recording. Drawing on oral interviews and written sources, the author argues for a mutual influence between technological and musical/cultural practices.

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  • Kealy, Edward R. “From Craft to Art: The Case of Sound Mixers and Popular Music.” Work and Occupations 6.1 (1979): 3–29.

    DOI: 10.1177/009392857961001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the social processes of record production. Describes three successive phases of “modes of collaboration” in record production from World War II to the 1970s: craft union mode, entrepreneurial mode, and art mode.

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  • Meintjes, Louise. Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822384632Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic study of a studio recording project in early 1990s South Africa. Illuminates how identities and political and social values are established, reshaped, and contested through recorded sound.

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  • Moorefield, Virgil. The Producer as Composer: Shaping the Sounds of Popular Music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

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    Presents a series of case studies from the 1960s to the early 21st century to demonstrate a historical progression in which the record producer gradually assumed the role of composer. Includes accessible analyses of seminal recordings to show how studio production has come to shape the content and meaning of recorded popular music.

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  • Porcello, Thomas. “Sonic Artistry: Music, Discourse, and Technology in the Sound Recording Studio.” PhD diss., University of Texas, 1996.

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    Based on participant observation in an Austin, Texas, recording studio, this study explores the social, economic, and aesthetic relationships among musicians, studio engineers, and record producers.

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Recording and Performance

Sound recording and musical performance have a complex relationship. Although intended and frequently used as a means to document performance, the mediation of the technology has influenced how music is performed and how musical performance is studied. The works in this section explore both of these consequences. Gould 1996 and Harvith and Harvith 1987 present perspectives from the musicians themselves, whereas Philip 1992 and Philip 2004 take a scholarly approach to the influence of sound recording on classical performance practice.

  • Gould, Glenn. “The Prospects of Recording.” In Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music. Edited by Richard Kostelanetz and Joseph Darby, 53–86. New York: Schirmer, 1996.

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    In this oft-cited article, originally published in 1966 in High Fidelity, the famous pianist argues for the legitimacy of technological intervention in musical production and the irrelevance of concert performance.

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  • Harvith, John, and Susan Edwards Harvith, eds. Edison, Musicians, and the Phonograph: A Century in Retrospect. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

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    Collects more than forty interviews with notable musicians, composers, record producers, and scholars about the impact of sound recording on musical performance. Many interviewees had been involved in the early days of the technology, and they provide valuable first-hand accounts. See James Badal, Recording the Classics: Maestros, Music, and Technology (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996) for a similar volume that focuses on conductors.

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  • Philip, Robert. Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance, 1900–1950. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511470271Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of sound recordings as documents of early-20th-century classical instrumental performance practice. Uses recordings to chronicle changes in rhythmic practices and the use of portamento and vibrato. Concludes that there has been a general trend over the course of the 20th century toward more precise, consistent, and less idiosyncratic recorded performances.

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  • Philip, Robert. Performing Music in the Age of Recordings. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

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    Expands on the author’s earlier study of recorded instrumental performance practice by examining ensemble performance in more depth and by exploring the impact of recording on the way classical music is performed and understood.

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The Sound of Recording

Although recording is often thought of as simply preserving performance, the technology can be used to create sonic experiences for listeners that could not exist in a live setting. These works explore the distinctive sonic attributes that recordings impart. Zak 2001 provides a thorough analysis of the elements and techniques of rock recording. Dockwray and Moore 2008, Doyle 2005, and Leydon 2001 each focus on a specific aspect of popular music recording practice; Kelly 2009 uses both popular and avant-garde repertoire to address the broader theoretical concept of malfunction.

  • Dockwray, Ruth, and Allan F. Moore. “The Establishment of the Virtual Performance Space in Rock.” Twentieth-Century Music 5.2 (2008): 219–241.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1478572209990065Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Utilizes a “sound box” model of aural analysis to argue for the development of a “normative positioning of sound sources” in rock recordings between 1965 and 1972. Examines the process by which this norm was established, supplementing music analysis with the historical investigation of the production of individual recordings.

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  • Doyle, Peter. Echo and Reverb: Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording, 1900–1960. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

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    Examines the use of spatial effects in recorded popular music in the decades before stereo recordings. Argues that the creative use of recording technology to represent space and movement was crucial to the rise and meaning of rock and roll.

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  • Kelly, Caleb. Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

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    Explores the unconventional use of playback technologies (especially phonographs and CD players) in creating new music, particularly through the exploitation of traditionally undesirable sounds such as scratches, skips, pops, and clicks.

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  • Leydon, Rebecca. “The Soft-Focus Sound: Reverb as a Gendered Attribute in Mid-century Mood Music.” Perspectives of New Music 39.2 (Summer 2001): 96–107.

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    Examines gendered rhetoric surrounding the use of artificial reverberation in mood music of the 1950s and 1960s. Argues for greater acknowledgment of historically marginalized listening styles and more inclusive attitudes toward listeners’ embodiment and subjectivity.

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  • Zak, Albin. The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520218093.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough investigation of the techniques and aesthetics of rock recording in the second half of the 20th century. Discusses the ontology of recorded popular music and identifies its significant aural and stylistic elements. Provides detailed description and analysis of the techniques and attitudes of rock musicians, engineers, and producers.

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Cultural Studies of Recording

At the end of the 20th century, scholars increasingly turned their attention to the cultural aspects of recording, exploring how the technology has both reflected and shaped attitudes and ideologies about music as well as broader issues of identity. Sterne 2003 is a provocative study of the cultural and conceptual foundations of sound reproduction. Gitelman 2004 and Symes 2004 look at the print sources surrounding the records; Maisonneuve 2001, Keightley 1996, and Frith 1986 each examine particular ideological trends in music and their connection with technological developments; and Ashby 2010 connects broader cultural attitudes of absolute music with the philosophical aesthetics of sound recording.

  • Ashby, Arved Mark. Absolute Music: Mechanical Reproduction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520264793.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that recording technology has transformed the ways in which classical instrumental music is heard and understood. Engages with ontological issues of the musical work, performance, and recording.

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  • Frith, Simon. “Art versus Technology: The Strange Case of Popular Music.” Media, Culture, and Society 8.3 (1986): 263–279.

    DOI: 10.1177/016344386008003002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the role of technological innovation in popular music, contending that music technologies, instead of being antithetical to authentic musical expression, have been central to the development of genre and ideology in rock and pop.

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  • Gitelman, Lisa. “Unexpected Pleasures: Phonographs and Cultural Identities in America, 1895–1915.” In Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power. Edited by Ron Eglash, Jennifer L. Croissant, Giovanna Di Chiro, and Rayvon Fouché, 331–344. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

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    Examines the cultural implications of the early marketing and dissemination of the phonograph. Argues that these activities “morselized” various cultural identities through sound objectification and commodification.

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  • Keightley, Keir. “‘Turn It Down!’ She Shrieked: Gender, Domestic Space, and High Fidelity, 1948–59.” Popular Music 15.2 (1996): 149–177.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000008096Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the gendered context of home audio systems in the mid-20th century. Drawing on contemporary magazine articles, the author asserts that high-end audio equipment came to be seen as a way for middle-class men to claim feminized domestic spaces.

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  • Maisonneuve, Sophie. “Between History and Commodity: The Production of a Musical Patrimony through the Record in the 1920–30s.” Poetics 29.2 (2001): 89–108.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0304-422X(01)00029-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that music came to be understood as both a heritage and a possession through the commodification of the gramophone in the interwar period.

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  • Sterne, Jonathan. The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822384250Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the historical context surrounding the rise of sound reproduction in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Argues that sound reproduction is best understood through the cultural, intellectual, industrial, and ideological formations that shaped its utility and development.

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  • Symes, Colin. Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004.

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    Examines the cultural discourse surrounding recorded classical music from its inception to the present. Gives particular attention to the role of print media—catalogues, record covers, liner notes, magazines, and advertisements—in shaping this discourse.

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Philosophical Perspectives

The 1990s and early 2000s saw the emergence of a distinct category of recorded sound studies. These works have explored epistemology, ontology, and phenomenology in seeking to understand the distinct ways in which music is preserved and experienced through the medium of recorded sound. Although a relatively recent development, this body of writings was preceded and, in some ways, influenced by the work of the German theorist Theodor Adorno. Eisenberg 2005 (first published in 1987) has been influential both inside and outside of academic studies. Dogantan-Dack 2008 provides a recent survey of scholarly perspectives on the philosophy of recorded sound. Gracyk 1997 and Hamilton 2003 engage in specific aesthetic arguments, while Kane 2014 and Smalley 1992 each assert more of a generalized theoretical framework. Evens 2005 presents thought-provoking aesthetic arguments by incorporating technical perspectives on recorded sound, whereas Lacasse 2000 focuses on issues of intertextuality and hypertextuality. See also Ashby 2010 (cited under Cultural Studies of Recording).

  • Dogantan-Dack, Mine, ed. Recorded Music: Philosophical and Critical Reflections. London: Middlesex University Press, 2008.

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    Seventeen scholarly essays address recorded music from a philosophical perspective, with particular attention devoted to aesthetics, epistemology, and ontology. Largely focuses on classical music and jazz, although rock and ethnomusicological recordings are considered as well.

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  • Eisenberg, Evan. The Recording Angel: Explorations in Phonography. 2d ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

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    Part philosophical rumination, part journalistic profile of record collectors, this engaging book explores what the author calls “phonography,” an art of recorded music distinct from that of live music.

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  • Evens, Aden. Sound Idea: Music, Machines, and Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

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    A technical and philosophical discussion of the phenomenology of mediated music. Addresses the perception of music versus noise, notions of time in musical composition, the effects of digital storage and synthesis on musical sound, and musical instruments.

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  • Gracyk, Theodore. “Listening to Music: Performances and Recordings.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55.2 (Spring 1997): 139–150.

    DOI: 10.2307/431260Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that recorded music is not necessarily “aesthetically poorer” than live musical performance, with particular attention to classical music. Addresses issues of ontology, virtuosity, the physicality of gesture, and social aspects of performance.

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  • Hamilton, Andy. “The Art of Recording and the Aesthetics of Perfection.” British Journal of Aesthetics 43.4 (2003): 435–462.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/43.4.345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes opposing aesthetic frameworks of “imperfection” and “perfection” in music recording—the first valorizing the documentation of performance and the latter attempting an ideal musical representation.

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  • Kane, Brian. Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199347841.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the significance of acousmatic listening—in which the source of a sound is effectively separated from a listener—as cultural practice. Kane seeks to move beyond the traditional Schaefferian approach, which privileges the musical and the aesthetic, to consider broader social and historical circumstances and implications.

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  • Lacasse, Serge. “Intertextuality and Hypertextuality in Recorded Popular Music.” In The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? Edited by Michael Talbot, 35–58. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780853238256.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies Gérard Genette’s theories of intertextuality and hypertextuality to recorded music, categorizing and describing practices of sampling, parody, pastiche, covering, and remixing.

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  • Smalley, Denis. “The Listening Imagination: Listening in the Electroacoustic Era.” In Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought. Vol. 1. Edited by John Paynter, Tim Howell, Richard Orton, and Peter Seymour, 514–554. London: Routledge, 1992.

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    Theorizes modes of signification in electroacoustic sound, addressing concepts such as gesture, utterance, energy, environment, and space.

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Mobile Music

One of the distinctive qualities of recorded sound is its portability. This mobility has had important and wide-ranging effects on the experience of music. The works in this section explore the cultural ramifications of two different types of mobile music, the portable cassette player, and the MP3 player. Gopinath and Stanyek 2014 addresses a broad range of topics in mobile music studies. Bull 2007 and Hosokawa 1984 consider how portable music players relate to urban experience; Levy 2006 provides an insightful history of the rise of the iPod; Gopinath 2013 examines implications of the ringtone economy; and du Gay, et al. 1997 lays out various perspectives on the cultural implications of the portable cassette player.

  • Bull, Michael. Sound Moves: iPod Culture and the Urban Experience. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    Examines the mobile digital music player, specifically the iPod, as a means of understanding the changing nature of social space in the modern city. See also Bull’s earlier study of the Walkman, Sounding out the City: Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2000).

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  • du Gay, Paul, Stuart Hall, Linda Jones, Hugh Mackay, and Keith Negus. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman. London: SAGE, 1997.

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    This cultural studies textbook provides a “biography” of the Sony Walkman. Addresses its representation in culture, its role in the signification of identities, contexts of production and consumption, and issues of public regulation.

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  • Gopinath, Sumanth. The Ringtone Dialectic: Economy and Cultural Form. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019156.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the rise and fall of the mobile ringtone, from roughly 1998 to 2010, as a framework for understanding the dialectic relationships among the musical, technological, and cultural frameworks of the ringtones and the commercial, business, and financial realities underlying them.

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  • Gopinath, Sumath, and Jason Stanyek. The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Collects essays on music and mobility from a diverse range of disciplinary perspectives. Includes issues of digital audio, quality of reproduction, political and social uses, national identity, transportation, dance, production, and gaming.

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  • Hosokawa, Shuhei. “The Walkman Effect.” Popular Music 4 (1984): 165–180.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000006218Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Theorizes the effects of the Walkman on the urban experience. Draws on concepts from Deleuze, Lyotard, Baudrillard, and others to consider issues of miniaturization, portability, and autonomy of the musical experience.

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  • Levy, Steven. The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

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    A compelling journalistic account of the rise of the iPod and its effects on music consumption. Addresses issues of product development, corporate culture, digital downloading, listening habits, and corporate and consumer identity.

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Digital Music Technologies

Digital technologies have transformed music recording and music in general. A growing body of scholarship explores the use and influence of digital music technologies and processes. Auner 2003, Biddle 2004, Bradby 1993, and Dickinson 2001 consider issues of digital music making and human identity; Théberge 1997 examines the lives and work of musicians who use digital technologies. Bartmanski and Woodward 2015 and Sterne 2012 each focuses on specific media and formats in the digital age. Sinnreich 2010 contemplates the cultural impact of digital musical practices, whereas McLeod and DiCola 2011 examines the interconnected fates of musical creativity and commerce in a digital age. Laderman and Westrup 2014 and Miller 2008 each provides wide-ranging essays focused on digital sampling.

  • Auner, Joseph. “‘Sing It for Me’: Posthuman Ventriloquism in Recent Popular Music.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 128.1 (2003): 98–122.

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    Applies concepts of the posthuman and the cyborg to the music of Radiohead and Moby, analyzing vocal tracks that are digitally created, sampled, or modified. Argues that such technological mediation allows for new means of expression by transgressing traditional notions of gender, race, and persona.

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  • Bartmanski, Dominik, and Ian Woodward. Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2015.

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    A sociological study of the post-digital resurgence of vinyl as a culturally relevant material object. Draws from interviews with musicians, engineers, collectors, and industry figures. Addresses technological history, material aspects of the medium, and cultural and economic logics of reception.

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  • Biddle, Ian. “Vox Electronica: Nostalgia, Irony, and Cyborgian Vocalities in Kraftwerk’s Radioaktivität and Autobahn.” Twentieth-Century Music 1.1 (March 2004): 81–100.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1478572204000076Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kraftwerk’s techniques of electronic vocal manipulation engaged with contemporary political and cultural developments to shape an aesthetic of strategic human withdrawal. Draws on theoretical discourse to examine notions of expressivity and subjectivity in the electronically altered voice.

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  • Bradby, Barbara. “Sampling Sexuality: Gender, Technology and the Body in Dance Music.” Popular Music 12.2 (1993): 155–176.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000005535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Within its discussion of tropes of femininity in rock music, this article examines the reembodiment of a musical sample in the music video for Black Box’s “Ride the Time.” Claims that dance music reshapes discourses of female sexuality and identity by recontextualizing female sound.

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  • Dickinson, Kay. “‘Believe’? Vocoders, Digitalised Female Identity, and Camp.” Popular Music 20.3 (October 2001): 333–348.

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    A feminist analysis of the effects of digital pitch modification in Cher’s “Believe.” By addressing issues of authenticity, corporality, power relations, and camp, Dickinson suggests that Cher’s use of the vocoder potentially disrupts traditional notions of reality, the body, and female capability.

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  • Laderman, David, and Laurel Westrup, eds. Sampling Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    A collection of essays exploring sampling across audio and visual media. Incorporates a wide array of disciplinary and media perspectives, including historical developments, social and subcultural implications, and in-depth discussion of film and the Internet.

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  • McLeod, Kembrew, and Peter DiCola. Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822393528Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates the creative, economic, and legal issues surrounding the practice of digital sampling, with proposals to reform the current system of sample licensing. Based on extensive interviews with musicians, lawyers, and music industry insiders.

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  • Miller, Paul D., ed. Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.

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    An eclectic collection of short essays by musicians, artists, academics, and others addressing issues connected to digital sampling. Topics include creativity, musicianship, originality, technology, religion, and media.

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  • Sinnreich, Aram. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010.

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    Considers the artistic and cultural ramifications of configurable music, such as mash-ups and remixes, in which digital technologies are used to fashion works that are recognizable as permutations of existing sounds and compositions.

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  • Sterne, Jonathan. MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822395522Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A cultural history of the MP3 sound storage format. Connects developments across the 20th century—including psychoacoustics, data transmission, compression theory, and perceptual coding—to more recent frameworks and characteristics related to MP3. Demonstrates essential influence and connections with related media and formats.

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  • Théberge, Paul. Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1997.

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    Examines the role of digital technology in the creation and performance of popular music from the 1970s and 1980s. Gives substantial attention to the design, mediation, and practical use of digital music and synthesizer technologies, ultimately arguing that current industry structure puts popular musicians in a position that straddles production and consumption.

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Radio and Broadcast

Although the literature on radio is vast, a relatively small portion of it focuses on music, a good deal of which considers matters of format and programming. In the sampling cited here, Berland 2009 takes a theoretical approach and Biocca 1990, DeLong 1980, Douglas 1999, and Fisher 2007 offer historical perspectives. Chase 1946 and Adorno 1994 (written c. 1940) offer historically valuable perspectives on the way musicians and listeners, respectively, interact with radio. Baade and Deaville 2016 focuses on interactions among radio and television technologies. See also Taylor, et al. 2012 (cited under General Overviews); Morton 2000 (cited under Histories and Historical Perspectives); Wurtzler 2007 (cited under the Business of Recording); and Greene and Porcello 2004 (cited under Ethnographic and Ethnomusicological Perspectives).

  • Adorno, Theodor. “Analytical Study of the NBC Music Appreciation Hour.” Musical Quarterly 78.2 (Summer 1994): 325–377.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/78.2.325Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written c. 1940. A harsh critique of the music appreciation radio show hosted by conductor Walter Damrosch, which Adorno argued promoted a superficial relationship to music.

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  • Baade, Christina L., and James Deaville. eds. Music and the Broadcast Experience: Performance, Production, and Audiences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

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    A collection of essays examining developments between music and the broadcast technologies of radio and television. Seeks to bring music and media studies into greater dialogue. Case studies include issues surrounding orchestral music, opera, musical theater television, dance music, musical celebrity, format, and listeners’ communal participation.

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  • Berland, Jody. “Locating Listening.” In North of Empire: Essays on the Cultural Technologies of Space. By Jody Berland, 185–209. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

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    Reflects on the electronically mediated space of radio and the complex relationship to place that it engenders among listeners of music on the radio.

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  • Biocca, Frank. “Media and Perceptual Shifts: Early Radio and the Clash of Musical Cultures.” Journal of Popular Culture 24.2 (Fall 1990): 1–15.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.1990.2402_1.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the rise of radio and its effects on American attitudes and habits of music listening. Focuses specifically on the division between classical and jazz.

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  • Chase, Gilbert. Music in Radio Broadcasting. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1946.

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    A collection of essays compiled from a “Music for Radio” course at Columbia University. Discusses techniques of composing, arranging, conducting, and producing music for radio. Contributors include prominent musicians, arrangers, broadcasters, and academics.

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  • DeLong, Thomas A. The Mighty Music Box: The Golden Age of Musical Radio. Los Angeles: Amber Crest, 1980.

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    A wide-ranging popular history of musical radio from the 1920s to the 1940s. Recounts the stories of influential singers, conductors, on-air personalities, programs, and stations. Addresses related developments of commercial structure and musical style.

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  • Douglas, Susan J. Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination. New York: Times, 1999.

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    A cultural history of radio in 20th-century America for general readers. Although it does not focus solely on music, it includes chapters on jazz and rock.

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  • Fisher, Marc. Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution That Shaped a Generation. New York: Random House, 2007.

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    An engaging journalistic account of the history of rock on American radio since the mid-20th century.

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Electronic and Computer Music

Although radio and sound recording can be classified as electronic technologies, the term electronic music (sometimes referred to as electroacoustic music) generally refers to music in which electronic technology is used to generate and manipulate sound materials, and in which loudspeakers are the prime medium of transmission. Electronic instruments and technologies include the telharmonium and theremin, synthesizers and oscillators, magnetic tape and computers. The writings in this section are divided into two categories, one that includes general overviews and the other that offers practical guidance on the creation of electronic music. See also Computer Music Journal, Leonardo Music Journal, Musica/Tecnologia, and Organised Sound (all cited under Periodicals). Chadabe 1997, Holmes and Pender 2012, and Manning 2004 are histories of electronic and computer music; while Patteson 2016 provides closer historical focus to Weimar-era Germany. Collins and d’Escriván 2007, Dean 2009, and Emmerson 2000 are multiauthor works that collect a wide range of essays and entries on the subject. Butler 2014, Pinch and Trocco 2002, and Tompkins 2010 each explores specific technologies of performance and production.

  • Butler, Mark J. Playing with Something That Runs: Technology, Improvisation, and Composition in DJ and Laptop Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393613.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Closely examines DJ and laptop performance from ethnographic, analytical, and theoretical perspectives. Focuses on Berlin-based artists from the mid-2000s. Ultimately addresses fundamental questions of musicality in the age of sound recording by considering dialectical relationships among four basic terms: recording, performance, composition, and improvisation.

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  • Chadabe, Joel. Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997.

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    Chronicles the development of electronic music in the 20th century, covering tape music, computer music, synthesizers, and experimental electronic instruments. Unusually for a textbook, it draws liberally from interviews the author conducted with more than 150 figures in the field of electronic music.

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  • Collins, Nick, and Julio d’Escriván, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521868617Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A volume of essays discussing historical and contemporary concepts and practices in electronic music. Coverage includes interactive music, multimedia work, analog technologies, computer music, and music psychology. Provides statements from numerous prominent composers of electronic music.

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  • Dean, Roger T., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    A wide-ranging collection of twenty-six essays by scholars and computer music creators. The volume’s five main sections address history, composition, performance, cognition, and culture.

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  • Emmerson, Simon, ed. Music, Electronic Media, and Culture. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2000.

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    Nine essays examine the implications of electronic sound media. Considers modes of listening and perception, cultural implications of audio sampling, and the constructed spaces of electronically mediated sound. Reprints Chris Cutler’s influential essay “Plunderphonics.”

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  • Holmes, Thom, and Terence M. Pender. Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    This textbook chronicles the history of electronic music from its 19th-century predecessors to the analog era of tape music and synthesizers of the mid-20th century to the digital synthesis and computer music of the late 20th century and beyond.

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  • Manning, Peter. Electronic and Computer Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195144840.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A history of electronic and computer music, covering major trends in European and American music pre–World War II to the present. Examines the complex intersections between composers and performers and the technologies they use.

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  • Patteson, Thomas. Instruments for New Music: Sound, Technology, and Modernism. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016.

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    A history of electronic music instruments and practice among art music composers of Weimar-era Germany. Explores ideological and aesthetic attitudes of futurism, technological progress, and modernism.

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  • Pinch, Trevor, and Frank Trocco. Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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    Examines the iconic and influential synthesizers created by Robert Moog starting in the mid-1960s. Chronicles the development of the analog synthesizer and explores its impact on music and culture, including its use in rock and its role in popularizing Baroque music in the hit record Switched-On Bach (1968).

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  • Tompkins, Dave. How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop. Chicago: Stopsmiling, 2010.

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    An engaging and eccentric historical and cultural survey of the vocoder, an electronic technology designed for voice analysis and synthesis, with particular attention to its use in popular music.

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Practical Guides

The textbooks and tutorials listed here are meant primarily as practical guides, but they can also serve as valuable sources of information on history and aesthetics. Collins 2009, d’Escriván 2012, Hugill 2008, Martin 2009, and Roads 1996 are textbooks that cover software and hardware; Collins 2009 focuses on hacking everyday objects. Note that Nick Collins and Nicolas Collins are two different authors.

  • Collins, Nick. Introduction to Computer Music. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2009.

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    An introductory text on the principles and techniques of computer music.

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  • Collins, Nicolas. Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    A practical guide to electronic music composition through the creative repurposing of everyday technologies. Includes a DVD with tutorials and audio tracks.

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  • d’Escriván, Julio. Music Technology. Cambridge Introductions to Music. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    A conceptual and practical introduction to electronic technologies of music recording, performance, and production. Addresses technical aspects of recording studios, sound synthesis, sampling, live amplification and mixing, and experimental sonic creation.

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  • Emmerson, Simon. Living Electronic Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Written by a composer, this scholarly monograph considers electronic music from the standpoint of the listening experience. Chapters address the issue of liveness in electronic music and the role of microphones and loudspeakers in understanding music.

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  • Hugill, Andrew. The Digital Musician. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    This accessible academic textbook explores the world of digital music from the perspective of the practitioner. Includes interviews with digital musicians and suggested projects. A companion website can be found online.

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  • Martin, Russ. Sound Synthesis and Sampling. 3d ed. Oxford: Focal Press, 2009.

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    A thorough introduction to the principles, techniques, and applications of sound synthesis, covering analog and digital approaches and software and hardware.

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  • Roads, Curtis. The Computer Music Tutorial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.

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    A comprehensive guide to computer music composition, with step-by-step instructions and numerous charts and diagrams covering sound synthesis, mixing and signal processing, and the use of music interfaces (MIDI, software, etc.). Includes discussion of the history of, and important figures in, the field of computer music. Intended mainly for musicians without extensive mathematical or engineering knowledge.

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Music and the Internet

Since the late 1990s, music has had an increasingly prominent place on the Internet, and, as a result, the Internet has come to have a tremendous influence on the way music is created, disseminated, and experienced. The works discussed in this section explore this new relationship between music and technology from a variety of perspectives. Duckworth 2005 and Hugill 2005 focus mostly on composition; Burkhart 2010 and David 2010 examine the impact of file sharing on the music industry; Jennings 2007 addresses the Internet’s impact on music composition; and Bargferde and Mak 2009 focuses on legal issues. See also chapter 20 of Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012 (cited under General Overviews), chapter 8 of Katz 2010 (cited under Sound Recording), and chapter 2 of Lysloff and Gay 2003 (cited under Ethnographic and Ethnomusicological Perspectives).

Ethnographic and Ethnomusicological Perspectives

Unlike the other main categories in this article, the writings here are grouped not around a particular type of technology but by their approach or methodology. Among music scholars, ethnomusicologists have been the most active in their investigation of the cultural meanings and ramifications of sound technologies and have written extensively on a variety of technologies. Brady 1999, Krehbiel 1958, and Lomax 1937 discuss field recordings; Seeger 1986 considers the role of ethnomusicological archives, and Shelemay 1991 explores the impact of recording technologies on the field of ethnomusicology. Lysloff and Gay 2003 and Greene and Porcello 2004 collect essays that offer a variety of ethnomusicological perspectives on technology. See also Albrecht 2004 (cited under General Overviews) and Meintjes 2003 and Porcello 1996 (both cited under the Recording Process).

  • Brady, Erika. A Spiral Way: How the Phonograph Changed Ethnography. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

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    Surveys historical attitudes toward the phonograph among ethnographers and informants, assesses the impact of the phonograph on ethnographic practices, and examines specific cases of collectors and singers to explore the cooperative process of ethnographic sound recording.

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  • Greene, Paul D., and Thomas Porcello, eds. Wired for Sound: Engineering and Technologies in Sonic Cultures. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004.

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    Like Lysloff and Gay 2003, this volume is a collection of ethnomusicological essays on music and technology, though with particular attention given to recording practices. (Two contributions address radio, one considers the electric guitar.) Includes essays focusing on Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, and the United States.

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  • Krehbiel, Henry. “The Phonograph and Primitive Music.” Ethnomusicology 2 (September 1958): 116–117.

    DOI: 10.2307/924655Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early academic account of the possibilities and drawbacks of the phonograph in ethnographic work. Originally published in Musical Visitor 20 (October 1891): 256–257.

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  • Lomax, John A. “Field Experiences with the Recording Machines.” Southern Folklore Quarterly 1 (1937): 57–60.

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    Explains the logistics of the author’s recording experiences in the field, describing equipment and practices. Discusses both acoustic and electric technologies.

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  • Lysloff, René T. A., and Leslie C. Gay Jr., eds. Music and Technoculture. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.

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    A collection of fifteen scholarly essays taking an ethnomusicological approach to music and technology. Essays examine sound recording technology, electronic instruments, and music publishing in Colombia, Singapore, the United States, and cyberspace.

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  • Seeger, Anthony. “The Role of Sound Archives in Ethnomusicology Today.” Ethnomusicology 30.2 (Spring–Summer 1986): 261–276.

    DOI: 10.2307/851997Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses issues surrounding recorded sound archives in ethnomusicology. Discusses their utility, the limitations of the medium, questions of proprietary rights, and postcolonial power relations.

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  • Shelemay, Kay Kaufman. “Recording Technology, the Record Industry, and Ethnomusicological Scholarship.” In Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music. Edited by Bruno Nettl and Philip V. Bohlman, 277–292. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

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    A brief essay discussing developments of recording technology in relation to ethnomusicological study. Examines changes in scholarly attitudes and practices due to the introduction of three specific technologies: phonographs, LPs, and cassette tapes.

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Area Studies

The studies in this section focus on specific communities or regions and the ways in which musicians in them interact with technology. Gay 1998, Greene 1999, Marcus 1995, Sutton 1996, and Wang 2015 look at cultural attitudes and practices among specific groups of musicians and listeners; while Bates 2016, Farrell 1993, Qureshi 1999, and Scales 2012 examine historical developments in particular segments of the record industry. Dolan 2012 and Henson 2016 look at technological perspectives in specific areas of the European classical tradition. Mitsui and Hosokawa 1998 investigates local and transnational aspects of karaoke culture and practice.

  • Bates, Eliot. Digital Tradition: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul’s Recording Studio Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190215736.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic study of contemporary recording studio culture in Istanbul, Turkey. Addresses how the technological and social processes of digital music recording and production relate to notions of musical tradition, aesthetic meaning, and the establishment and proliferation of local and diasporic markets.

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  • Dolan, Emily I. The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Explores key developments in notions of timbre and orchestration in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, focusing on the role of music instrument technologies and the conceptual establishment of the orchestra. Follows the career of Haydn to examine effects in compositional practice and aesthetics.

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  • Farrell, Gerry. “The Early Days of the Gramophone Industry in India: Historical, Social and Musical Perspectives.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 2.1 (1993): 31–54.

    DOI: 10.1080/09681229308567211Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the introduction of the gramophone to Indian musical practice in the first decade of the 20th century. Discusses sociocultural context, strategies of marketing, and resulting changes to musical form and practice.

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  • Gay, Leslie C. “Acting Up, Talking Tech: New York Rock Musicians and Their Metaphors of Technology.” Ethnomusicology 42.1 (Winter 1998): 81–98.

    DOI: 10.2307/852827Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses New York musicians’ use of technology to establish meaningful practices in rock music, including issues of musicianship, social inclusion, and gender. Argues for broader consideration of music technology in ethnomusicological study.

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  • Greene, Paul D. “Sound Engineering in a Tamil Village: Playing Audio Cassettes as Devotional Performance.” Ethnomusicology 43.3 (Fall 1999): 459–489.

    DOI: 10.2307/852557Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic account of cassette-based musical practices in a Tamil village. Applies a performance theory framework to the use of audiocassettes, addressing issues of liveness, devotional style, ritual significance, and sociocultural meaning.

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  • Henson, Karen. Technology and the Diva: Sopranos, Opera, and Media from Romanticism to the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139031240Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essay collection examining the effects of modern technologies on the idea of the operatic diva. Includes consideration of print, technical, phonographic, photographic, film, televisual, and digital technologies. Argues technology is a fundamental component of public perceptions, myths, and fantasies of the diva for the past two centuries.

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  • Marcus, Scott L. “On Cassette Rather Than Live: Religious Music in India Today.” In Media and the Transformation of Religion in South Asia. Edited by Lawrence A. Babb and Susan S. Wadley, 167–185. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

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    An ethnomusicological examination of the effects of recording technology (particularly cassette recording) on religious music in India. Discusses changes in traditional contexts, instrumentation, audience/performer interaction, music dissemination, notions of the celebrity artist, musical style, popularity, and industry structure.

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  • Mitsui, Toru, and Shuhei Hosokawa, eds. Karaoke around the World: Global Technology, Local Singing. New York: Routledge, 1998.

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    Explores the cultural meanings of karaoke. The volume’s nine essays explore the rise of karaoke in Japan, the spread of karaoke to other Asian countries and Asian-diasporic communities, and karaoke scenes in Europe and South America.

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  • Qureshi, Regula. “His Master’s Voice? Exploring Qawwali and ‘Gramophone Culture’ in South Asia.” Popular Music 18 (January 1999): 63–98.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000008734Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the interactions between recorded and live Qawwali music in South Asia from the introduction of the gramophone in the 1930s to the present. Focuses on structures of dissemination and the cultures and subcultures that form around them.

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  • Scales, Christopher. Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern Plains. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822395720Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic examination of contemporary powwow culture, specifically as it has developed and proliferated through urban recording studios and record labels. Explores connections between notions of traditional culture and modernity through the commodification and dissemination of recorded products.

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  • Sutton, R. Anderson. “Interpreting Electronic Sound Technology in the Contemporary Javanese Soundscape.” Ethnomusicology 40.2 (Spring–Summer 1996): 249–269.

    DOI: 10.2307/852061Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnomusicological discussion of mediated sound in Java, arguing that the adoption of Western technologies does not necessarily “Westernize” the adoptive culture, but rather opens new possibilities that are used to reinforce indigenous values. Addresses attitudes surrounding distortion, multiplicity of sound stimuli, and Javanese conceptions of foreignness.

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  • Wang, Oliver. Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

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    A sociological history of mobile DJ culture in the San Francisco Bay Area from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. Focuses on how the culture’s technological frameworks and practices relate to formation of ethnic and racial identity, social scene, and community.

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