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Welcome To Recordings & recording

In these pages, Electricka and her muses explore the world of recordings and recording. They describe the nature or recordings and recording, explore their significance for the arts, and pay homage to the achievements of people who work or have worked in the field.

about This feature

Mankind's ability to record is one of the greatest, most enriching gifts possessed by civilization. But the majority of us take it for granted or don't event think about it. This feature will dispel that oversight.

In these pages Electricka and her muses jointly explore the state, nature, and practices of recordings and recoding fields, past, present, and future. They conduct this exploration together because recordings and recording are vital and common to all the arts.

The scope of the muses' interests range widely:


the Old & the new

At the left is an artist's rendering of the phonautograph, the earliest known sound transcription device.

The phonautograph, patented in 1857, was invented by a Frenchman named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. It could transcribe sound onto a medium such as glass coated with lamp-black to make it visible.

The recording device consisted of a horn or wooden barrel that focused sound waves onto a membrane to which a hog's bristle was attached, causing the bristle to move back and forth and enabling it to trace the shapes of sound waves on a recording surface as a hand crank was turned. It was the first device to do this.

These early transcriptions, known as phonautograms, were successfully played back for the first time in 2008 with the aid of computer technology.

The phonautograph was a laboratory curiosity designed for the study of acoustics; it was used to determine the frequency of a given musical pitch and to study sound and speech.

Sadly, in the 1850s and 60s there were no means to play back the sound after it was recorded. It was not understood at that time that the waveform recorded by the device was in fact a representation of the sound wave that only needed a playback mechanism to reproduce what had been recorded.

Sound recording and playback had to wait only 20 years until Edison put it all together in 1877 with the invention of the phonograph, which completed the recording-playback loop by both recording sound and playing it back.

Pictures (in the form of photographs) were already on stage when the phonautograph came along. They, too, had been invented by a French gentleman, one Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who took his first practical photograph in 1827. Here, too, Edison put it all together around the turn of the century when he invented the first practical motion picture camera and projector. A practical way to put sound on film didn't come along until 1927.

The images of a professional hand-held video camera (above, right), a Hollywood-style movie camera (right), and a flat screen HDTV (below, right), accentuate the distance we've come in under 200 years. And the pace of change in recordings and recording technologies is accelerating ever faster.

the intersection of the arts with recordings and recording

Of course, not all the recording that goes on in this modern day and age involves the arts, not by a long shot. Our culture does an immense amount of recording and has made amazing progress in many other technical and artistic aspects of this very broad field, not just in the arts.

Naturally, Electricka and her muses are interested only in those aspects of recordings and recording that relate to the arts. Even this limited portion of the effort and resources being expended by society on recording is immense; and the allied technologies and artistic techniques are themselves a major topic for exploration.


about terminology

As used in English, the term recording has multiple, sometimes ambiguous meanings. To avoid possible misunderstandings, here the muses clarify what they mean by the term recording and by other closely related terms.


explore recordings, recording, and playback now

Join the Muses in exploring the nexus of records, recording, and playback:

  • Explore recording and playback technology. Visit the page called Recording & Playback Technology: click here.
  • Explore the history of recordings, recording, and playback. Visit the page called Welcome To the History Of Recordings And Recording: click here.
  • Explore the the nexus of Recordings, Recording, and Playback. See an event-by-event history of the evolution of recordings and recording. Visit the page called the History Of Recordings And Recording—An Account: click here.
  • Explore a typical commercial record grading system. Visit the page called Record Grading Systems For Used Commercial Sound Recordings: click here.

ETAF Recommends

Introductory books on the subject of recording, recordings, and playback abound.




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