From Edison to Marconi: The First Thirty Years of Recorded Music

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Like any profound technological breakthrough, the advent of sound recording ushered in a period of explosive and imaginative experimentation, growth and competition. Between the commercial debut of Edison's "talking machine" in 1889 and the first commercial radio broadcast three decades later, the recording industry was uncharted territory in terms of both technology and content.

This history of the earliest years of sound recording—the time between the phonograph's appearance and the licensing of commercial radio—examines a newly created technology and industry in search of itself. It follows the story from the earliest efforts to capture sound, to the fight among wire, cylinder and disk recordings for primacy in the market, to the growth and development of musical genres, record companies and business practices that remain current today. The work chronicles the people, events and developments that turned a novel, expensive idea into a highly marketable commodity. Two appendices provide extensive lists of popular genre and ethnic recordings made between 1889 and 1919. A bibliography and index accompany the text.

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Editorial Reviews

highly recommended
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786420612
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/10/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

David J. Steffen lives in Gualala, California. He has spent nearly three decades in the music industry.

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Table of Contents

1 The ancients and the jukebox phenomenon 15
2 Inventing the music industry 20
3 Edison's invention 23
4 Cylinders, discs, and vision 26
5 A consumer business or a business technology? 31
6 "A&R" : artists and repertoire 35
7 Speaking of money, and the jukebox 42
8 Toward mass production 48
9 Recording and recordings 52
10 Sound, quality, and topicality 59
11 A popular product and a consumer market 66
12 A&R in the early years - styles and genres 73
13 Of places, performers, and songs 75
14 Type, style, genre, tempo 84
15 Most of the music 92
16 Immigration and recordings 109
17 Culture swing - the ethnic recordings 125
18 Images, music, and the inevitable transition 159
19 The Caruso effect 165
20 Enter Marconi 174
App. 1 Recordings in popular non-ethnic genres, 1889-1919 179
App. 2 Ethnic recordings, 1889-1919 185
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2006


    The book has an interesting premise but it fails to live up to it. Rather than focusing on the invention and development of the phonograph, the author continually digresses to digital technology and compact discs. The early phonograph history is fascinating and has been explored in depth which Steffan ignores. He also implies the book includes infomration on Marconi and how the radio evolved from sending Morse code to words and music. He doesn't. The final chapter is all that's devoted to Marconi and is a few pages of only the most basic early history. Very disappointing!

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