Sat. Dec. 07, 2019

Technology: Look wot you dun (to music)!

Look wot you dun to me
Dear me, look wot you dun (to me)! Such a long way I’ve come though. Can you believe it? I was already there during the Antique times. Thus punctuating the main events in the lives of the sovereigns and seigneurs. When not lulling their courts later on. With the minstrels using me as a tool to report if not caricature what was going on from a place to another. Meanwhile I would get people together as one in the name of the Creator in religious edifices. Or under the same banner when adopted as an anthem. When not accompanying the combatants on the battle fields around the world…

As a latter of fact, I could express any sort of feeling with sky being the only limit. I would be transmitted from a generation to another in Africa, land or oral culture, to depict the habits and customs. I would come along with the incantations of the Shamans from Lapland to Tibet and South Africa. But also with the prayers by the populations under slavery, givin’ birth to Gospel and Blues later on. With my creation eventually getting its first form of sponsorship ever when financed by the monarchs, starting from the Renaissance!

Strangely enough and unlike any other art forms, I would be the very last in the series to be given a medium. This along with the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison back in 1877. A device that initially worked on the same principle (the cylinder) as a music box. With Emile Berliner turning it into a flat disc a few years later…

From then, everything would be done to increase the performances of my sound. From the countless devices to record it. To the no less numerous ones to reproduce it. I would run at a speed of 78RPM for quite some time. Until the end of the 40’s to be more precise. With Columbia Records launching the LP record (a 12 inch disc to welcome various songs under the form of an album) in 1948. RCA following the year after, with the first ever 45RPM (a 7 inch disc that became the home of the single format)…

I then would be graced with a stereophonic sound starting from 1958. With thanks to Sidney Frey‘s Audio Fidelity Records. This, some 31 years after the invention of the process by Alan Blumlein at London famous Abbey Road studios. And I eventually appeared as a 12 inch single back in the Disco days under the influence of legendary remixer Tom Moulton. Meanwhile one would be able to adjust my speed with the arrival of the first vari speed pitch controlled turntables.

As for my look, designers would rival to embed me in outstanding arty sleeves. Themselves making full face on the rear for the credits. Thus giving an idea as to what to expect from there while having a look at the list of my contributors. From the producers to the musicians, singers and background vocalists. If not sound engineers or whoever…

Man, that period was just like so incredible. Top musicians from all horizons would come from all over the world during my recording sessions. Jewish, Italians, Blacks, Red Necks… Altogether giving birth to the memorable Philadelphia Sound. With some producers eventually spending up to US$ 35,000 just for one piece of mine!

I would be the subject of remixes by the likes of key DJ’s. Some would test me via limited acetates given to a handful of them during the weekends before eventually getting on air the Monday after. With eternal thanks to Frankie Crocker (to whom I owe so much) on WBLS in New York. Meanwhile BBC Radio 1 would fight hard to air the best of me in England.

In addition to this, I would be the subject of heavy promotion by record pools before getting an official release. I would give the will to countless people to create their structures. Putting out absolute jewels that contributed making this period with no equivalent in terms of excitement as far as both the creators and the consumers were concerned. Nothing seemed to be in the position to stop me then. With the more they got, the more they wanted!!!

Technology: Look wot you do (to music)!
Although the first magnetic sound recording tape was first developed by Valdemar Poulsen in the 1890’s, the first clouds in my sky would appear back in 1963. And this with the introduction of the compact cassettes by the likes of Dutch manufacturer Philips. A way more handy and less expensive format as compared to the real to real band as a matter of fact. And although they were initially meant to be used in offices as dictating machines, the increase of the quality of their recording got improved to such a point that they became acceptable for music listening. Despite constituting an attempt against the principle of the reproduction ban. Even though nothing back then could equal the performances of the vinyl in terms of rendition of the sound.

That said, the arrival of the Walkman – the first form of portable device as we know yet – which Sony in 1980 marked another step. Meanwhile allowing people to listen to music in the streets. The Japanese manufacturer pushing the things forward. This with the launch of the portable D.A.T. (Digital Audio Tape) recorder 7 years later. Although more destined to professionals, at a price turning around US$ 2,600…

And things would get more serious with Sony (again) dropping the first CD player in Japan ever back on Oct. 01, 1982. Combining two cutting-edge technologies – the laser and the digital computer – into a relatively inexpensive consumer product with capabilities unsuspected just a decade before!
Philips responding soon after with their first device in the series. Thus coinciding with the launch of the CD format both in the US and Europe. And therefore allowing them to be the first, as a music label, to come up with their artist roaster fully reconditioned.

And, as if it wasn’t already enough, 14 years later and ony a few weeks after havin’ sold their catalogue (as Polygram) to MCA, they would come up with the ultimate weapon… The CD Recorder which allowed consumers to record their own compact discs. This, soon after the launch of the mp3 format which would mark the progressive dematerialization of the object back in 1995. With the rest being now history…

Here’s pretty much what I’ve been goin’ thru. Reduced along with time to the rank of an accessory. With anyone able to whatever he/she wants of me without caring about my financial health. Itself being, like any economy, in the obligation to generate viable resources.

More than 20 years have gone and look wot you dun! With lesser and lesser of you willing to paying for me. No later than yesterday, when talkin’ to a teenager, he said to me there was no way he would pay for me. That music was meant to be free. Although and ironically you’ve never ceased investing in more performing tools to listen to me in the meantime. From portable devices to computers and headphones. Oh my God, look wot you dun to me!

Should I be available as an mp3 on legal platforms, I most often appear before on illegal ones. And now, more and more of my creators get their music on streaming platforms in exchange of ridiculous license-fees.

“I say I know just what I want to be. You say what’s it all supposed to mean. What’s it mean. But we don’t agree. Just exactly what’s it all supposed to mean. Hey, Hey, Hey, look wot you’re doin’ me. Hey, Hey, Hey, look wot you dun…”

Leavin’ you on these words from UK glamour Rock band Slade as a part of their ‘Look Wot You Dun’ 1971 single.
With thanks for your attention…

Editorials – (Music): Look wot you dun (to me)!

Previously in the series…
And you… What were your Happy Days?

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Story teller, record pusher, compiler & web designer...
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