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Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music Hardcover – 6 Jul 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (6 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862079420
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862079427
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.8 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 260,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A superbly researched book, an absorbing historical narrative' - Metro -- Review

'An engrossing history of recording technology' - Literary Review -- Review

'An epic study ... Greg Milner has been nothing if not meticulous' - The Times -- Review

'Milner has done such a terrific job, he is laudably lucid on the technicalities of how music works' - New Humanist -- Review

'The story of recorded music has perhaps never been so captivatingly told as in this history' - Waterstone's Books Quarterly
-- Review

`An amiably garrulous and discursive guide to the development of recorded sound' -Classic FM magazine
-- Review

Review

'An epic study ... Greg Milner has been nothing if not meticulous' - The Times

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Karura VINE VOICE on 27 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this hefty tome, Greg Milner carries us through the history of sound recording, from Edison's early forays into the world of the wax cylinder, right through to modern day storage formats such as AAC and MP3. Along the way, we are treated to anecdotes and insights into the lives of some of the people who shaped the industry, all the while addressing the question as to what the recording of music should achieve- should we set out to store and recreate authentic sounds as faithfully as possible, or turn to synthesisers and clever editing tricks to create something entirely new?

Although it is not a subject that will appeal to everyone, there is no doubt that this book is packed with interesting titbits and pieces of information, both about the people and technology who, at various points in history, helped to shape and define the world of music recording. Unfortunately, it just hasn't been put together that well, with its flawed writing style meaning that the book is as often a slog as it is a pleasure to read. The narrative frequently jumps around, starting a chapter with a particular event and then, without warning, going back in time and building up to the same event as if it hadn't already been discussed. The book is also far too littered with dry technical details to make it an easy ride, but at the same time it never really explains the physical principles clearly or satisfactorily enough.

Overall, if you have any sort of interest in learning about the history of recorded music, then this book is certainly worth looking into- just be warned that you will have to invest quite a bit of time and effort in extracting the really good stuff from its drier and less enthralling surroundings.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Klingsor VINE VOICE on 7 Sept. 2009
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jon P on 1 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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