Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording

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Record albums are more than records; they include covers and liner notes, catalogs, magazines, and advertisements. In this fascinating study of the materials that surround LPs and CDs, Colin Symes undertakes a cultural history of the record, looking specifically at the way the phonograph helped democratize classical music by enabling it to be heard at home, away from the concert hall. Symes argues that the listening habits associated with classical records and recording were produced and naturalized through a magazine culture, which conveyed the idea that collecting and listening to records were legitimate pastimes for the general public. The first chapter lays out a textual theory of the phonograph and compact disc, while subsequent chapters look critically and historically at the different components of the recording process: covers and cover notes, the rhetoric of the record review, the influence of recording on performance, the domestication of the concert hall, advertising in the record industry, and even the architecture of record shops. Symes’s path-breaking history will engage anyone with an interest in classical music and recording.

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What People Are Saying

Susan McClary
"We like to think that we receive music directly from the composer, despite the obvious interventions of a complex industry. Symes's book sets the record straight on many scores. It is meticulously researched, lucid, and persuasive."
Susan McClary, Professor of Musicology, University of California, Los Angeles
Susan McClary
“We like to think that we receive music directly from the composer, despite the obvious interventions of a complex industry. Symes’s book sets the record straight on many scores. It is meticulously researched, lucid, and persuasive.”
Mark Katz
“Symes’s point—that the cultural, social, and aesthetic meanings of recorded sound arise not from the sound itself but from the discourses surrounding it—is an important one.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567215
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2004
  • Series: Music Culture
  • Edition description: Audio CD.
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

COLIN SYMES is Lecturer at the Australian Center for Educational Studies at Macquarie University.

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Table of Contents

Playing by the Book: Towards a Textual Theory of the Phonograph
Disconcerting Music: Composers and Performers on the Record
The Best Seat in the House: The Domestication of the Concert Hall
Creating the Right Impression: An Iconography of Record Covers
Off the Record: Some Notes on the Sleeve
Just for the Record: The Narrative Architecture of Gramophone Magazines
Compact Discourse: The Review of the Gramophone
Keeping Records in their Place: Collections, Catalogs, Libraries and Societies
Coda: The End of the Record

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