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Setting the Record Straight
A Material History of Classical Recording
Colin Symes


2004 • 340 pp. 41 illus., 2 tables 6 x 9"
Music / Popular Culture / History

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6721-5

Audio CD.

The words surrounding music influence how we listen to it.

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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Reviews / Endorsements

“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

“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.”Mark Katz, author of Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music


Winner of the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers' (ASCAP) Deems Taylor Award (2005)

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

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:52:31 -0500