Perfecting Sound

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Scott Rosenberg has posted a review of Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever: an Aural History of Recorded Music:

“Milner’s tale starts with Edison’s famous “sound tests” (where they’d pit live vs. recording in front of an audience) and carries through to our MP3-muddled present. It’s fascinating to see how certain threads follow us from the days of sound cylinders up to the iPod era. Each successive generation of technology promises — and, for everyday listeners, seems to deliver — the utopia of perfect, life-like sound, sound captured so well that you cannot distinguish the recording from reality. But you soon realize a truth that Milner elegantly excavates: this “reality” is a chimera — an unobtainium of the ear. Our norms for “realistic sound” are hopelessly subjective. If Victrola recordings that crackle in our ears today sounded like “reality” to 1920s listeners, what will music-lovers of the 2120s think about the over-compressed recordings our culture is now producing?”

Happily, Rosenberg says he’s going to start posting reviews of books directly on his blog. Looking forward to them!


Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →