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Echo and Reverb
Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording, 1900-1960
Peter Doyle


2005 • 304 pp. 6 x 9"
Music / Popular Culture / History

$26.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6794-9

The untold story of acoustic effects in popular music.

Echo and Reverb is the first history of acoustically imagined space in popular music recording. The book documents how acoustic effects—reverberation, room ambience, and echo—have been used in recordings since the 1920s to create virtual sonic architectures and landscapes. Author Peter Doyle traces the development of these acoustically-created worlds from the ancient Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus to the dramatic acoustic architectures of the medieval cathedral, the grand concert halls of the 19th century, and those created by the humble parlor phonograph of the early 20th century, and finally, the revolutionary age of rock ’n’ roll.

Citing recordings ranging from Gene Austin’s ‘My Blue Heaven’ to Elvis Presley’s ‘Mystery Train,’ Doyle illustrates how non-musical sound constructs, with all their rich and contradictory baggage, became a central feature of recorded music. The book traces various imagined worlds created with synthetic echo and reverb—the heroic landscapes of the cowboy west, the twilight shores of south sea islands, the uncanny alleys of dark cityscapes, the weird mindspaces of horror movies, the private and collective spaces of teen experience, and the funky juke-joints of the mind.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“A bracing book that made me realize I'd never really ‘heard’ so many records I had listened to for decades. It is chiseled, lucid, beautifully written, and so vivid it somehow lets you hear every example without benefit of audio.”—Luc Sante, author of Low Life and The Factory of Facts

“Reading Peter Doyle's new book is a great cruise through a sea of music familiar to those who grew up in the monaural sound era.”Neil V. Rosenberg, author of Bluegrass: A History and Transforming Tradition


Winner of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections' (ARSC) Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research (2006)

Author Photo

PETER DOYLE is a mystery writer, lecturer, and musician. He lives in Australia and works at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:28 -0500