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Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music [Paperback]

Greg Milner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2010
From our CD collections to iPods bursting with MP3s to the hallowed vinyl of DJs, recordings are the most common way we experience music. "Perfecting Sound Forever" tells the story of recorded music, introducing us to the innovators, musicians and producers who have affected the way we hear our favourite songs, from Thomas Edison to Phil Spector. Exploring the balance that recordings strike between the real and the represented, Greg Milner asks the questions which have divided sound recorders for the past century: should a recording document reality as faithfully as possible, or should it improve upon or somehow transcend the music it records? What does the perfect record sound like? The answers he uncovers will change the way we think about music.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 July 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1847081401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081407
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'[A] breathless, surprisingly thrilling rollercoaster ride through the history of recorded music - a-tour-de-force of fascinating anecdotes, lucidly expounded science, witty asides, stylistic verve, and page after page of 'gosh, I never knew that' facts' Mail on Sunday 'Greg Milner tells the story of recorded music with novelistic verve, ferocious attention to detail, and a soulful ambivalence about our quest for sonic perfection. He shows how great recordings come about not through advances in technology, but through a love of the art, and that same love is the motor of his prose' Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise 'This engrossing book is a history of recording technology and an examination of the high-fidelity fallacy - This is an interesting, largely untold history of the medium, not the message, and simultaneously, a history of human credulity. Perfecting Sound Forever is an unashamedly anoraky book. As an unashamed anorak, that's high praise' Literary Review "Greg Milner's work dispels much of the mystique of recording, but its true worth lies in its articulate, thoughtful raising of questions concerning philosophy and aesthetics - Perfecting Sound Forever is a marvellous story told with passion and genuine, original insight' Sunday Herald 'Milner's appreciation of music is wide and deep - [his] passionate love of music resonates throughout, and he provides illuminating answers to questions that are poorly understood. The blurb claims that Perfecting Sound Forever "will change the way we think about music" and, when the din dies down, you find that it has' Guardian


'An epic study ... Greg Milner has been nothing if not meticulous' - The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Point proven, but no alternative given 7 Sep 2009
By Klingsor VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Greg Milner is very passionate about music he likes and how he likes to listen to it. The (unfairly) simplistic premise of this book would be "Analog/LP = Good, Digital/CD = Bad". And he turned almost every stone around America to prove his point, from Edison's single minded-obsession with improving the recorded sound quality to explaining in detail how modern, internet based compression formats are destroying the sound we now listen on a daily basis.

It is rather obvious that he had his mind made up long before he started researching for this book. Warmth, wittiness and houmor of his writing about early days of cylinders and vinyls turns quickly into bitter sarcasm every time he mentions CDs, and Digital seems to be a dirty word for him. Artistic and technological advancements in Europe are largely overlooked, except when they are either nicked or exported over the Atlantic. I couldn't stop wandering, if by any chance CD wasn't invented by an European and a Japanese company, would it fair a bit better in his views?

Accounts of audio developments are detailed and to the point, but some might find them too technological. Milner wastes no efforts to prove his point - that since the 80s over-produced and over-compressed rock and pop music doesn't sound 'natural' any more, exclusively due to digital recording technology and digital sound processing. But when he gets to explain why do we suffer from a digital fatigue, he is still exclusively focused on rock and pop. Classical music is barely mentioned, and even then, Leopold Stokowsky is painted as a charlatan and Herbert von Karajan wrongly(!) labeled as 'Hitler's favorite conductor'. And that's it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but not for all 1 Jun 2011
Excellent overview of the development of music recording technology. The chapters on psychoacoustics, digital compression and the loudness wars are particularly good in aiding an understanding of where popular music has ended up today and why. Your average joe who picks up the odd CD at Asda or i-tunes is not probably not going to know or care about this but for those who are passionate music fans this is a great book on a less covered subject.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling though flawed 1 Jan 2010
By Jon P
An excellent, compelling read for anyone interested in the process of recording music and capturing sound. It does seem that Milner has really told the story that he wants to, focusing on the areas that interest him while making some quite surprising omissions. The front cover shows a vinyl record, an audio cassette and CD, yet the whole story of the audio cassette is missing; only mentioned in a couple of sentences in passing as he describes the birth of the CD. This is astonishing, given its popularity as a playback mechanism in the 70s and 80s and the destructive effect home taping had on the music industry. Similarly, Milner tells us how at the beginning of the magnetic tape era of recording, one of the first engineers struggled to effectively splice tape, trying scotch tape amongst other things but never succeeding. A few pages later, Milner is telling us how splicing revolutionised music production, without ever telling us how anyone figured out how to do this. Nevertheless, it is a great read. Milner's attention to detail is admirable, and although sometimes he does get over-technical and risks alienating the reader, he usually pulls it back as he is never short of interesting studio anecdotes. He interviews a range of people intricately involved in the history of music recording, whose views are forthright and deeply revealing. Although some reviews here accuse Milner of having an "analogue good - digital bad" agenda, this is not quite true. Although Milner clearly has an analogue bias, he tests his prejudices along the way and often admits that the distinction is not clear-cut, as when he struggles to distinguish compressed and non-compressed audio in a 'blind' sound test.

The main point about this book is that it is a fairly technical tome and the sub-title does not lie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and educational 6 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a fascinating and well researched history of sound recording dating back to Edison and bringing us up-to-date with the compressed music formats we all download. There are lots of anecdotes as well as sidetracks from the main theme but they're always interesting.

If you want to be well-informed about everything from the introduction of magnetic tape through the loudness wars to the introduction of sampling then this book is a must read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A perfectly pitched marvel! 1 July 2009
By Apollo 11 VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Books like Perfecting Sound Forever don't come around very often. It dances in perfect step between a potentially dull, scientific subject, and the bizarre (when you think about it), yet utterly life affirming human past-time of recording music for pleasure, to present a highly readable book that is hugely informative, yet never ever dull.

Within about ten pages, I couldn't believe that no-one had ever quite written this book before, so obvious was the deep world of marvel that recorded sound has provided over the last century or so.

If, like me, you've tipped enthusiastically into the recent trend for books on the human act of enjoying music, led by This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel J. Levitin, you'll know that the idea of a book on the notion of hearing music can be far more exciting than the actual book itself.

However, that is far from the case with Perfecting Sound Forever. Milner pulls off the trick of balancing his musical nerd passion with genuine fascination, and driving it all home on a prose that's easy on the cranium, but nevertheless electric and ceaselessly compelling.

As Bono once said, we don't buy stereos to play our records - we buy records to play our stereos. And for once, he was absolutely, 100% on the money.

Kicking off with a crackling state of our musical nation address, Milner quickly rewinds to the time of Edison's first forays into recording to evoke base-wonder at the very notion of trapping sound with machines, and more importantly achieving playback, before cutting a natty groove through the rest of the 20th century and beyond.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
Greg Milner knows his stuff, but far from an academic text, this book is a story shared between music lovers. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars what a fantastic book
Very well written and highly educational. I learned so much from this book. If you're an aspiring engineer or producer you will gain a great deal.
Published 4 months ago by S. Luke
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Perfect
I have borrowed this fascinating book from the Library and I am reading it for a second time as there is so much in it. There's no mention of the Cassette or Minidisc! Read more
Published 8 months ago by wilbobp
2.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves
For me the first half of the book was absolutely fascinating. It told a great story of how the recording industry came into being, the key players and the format wars that has been... Read more
Published 9 months ago by D. Eves
5.0 out of 5 stars For those just interested in who recorded music has changed
You don't need to be a music geek or audiophile to find this book fascinating. This is a great read, with Greg Milner's writing and passion for his subject carrying you along - so... Read more
Published 12 months ago by P. Wilkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable read
I really enjoyed this one. I've always been a HiFi/audio fan so found this a fascinating and insightful read. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn about sound
Great book for those who care about sound production and the dangers of a purely digital future. Best read it!
Published 16 months ago by William Roger Hancock
5.0 out of 5 stars good read
not finished it yet, bit biased in the beginning towards Edison with not much mention of the Victor system which superseded Edison's system, but it's a good read.
Published 16 months ago by M. Willoughby
5.0 out of 5 stars great talk on recording media
This is one of the most fascinating reads on recording history. The author regularly goes of on a tangent which is a good thing talking the people involved with recording and the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by M. Newlove
5.0 out of 5 stars Really fascinating book
As someone who has long been interested not just in the music but also the sound (and how it gets there in the first place) this book was quite fascinating. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr. John T. Clark
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