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Chasing Sound

, 320 pages

16 b&w photos

October 2013



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Chasing Sound

Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP

In Chasing Sound, Susan Schmidt Horning traces the cultural and technological evolution of recording studios in the United States from the first practical devices to the modern multi-track studios of the analog era. Charting the technical development of studio equipment, the professionalization of recording engineers, and the growing collaboration between artists and technicians, she shows how the earliest efforts to capture the sound of live performances eventually resulted in a trend toward studio creations that extended beyond live shows, ultimately reversing the historic relationship between live and recorded sound.

A former performer herself, Schmidt Horning draws from a wealth of original oral interviews with major labels and independent recording engineers, producers, arrangers, and musicians, as well as memoirs, technical journals, popular accounts, and sound recordings. Recording engineers and producers, she finds, influenced technological and musical change as they sought to improve the sound of records. By investigating the complex relationship between sound engineering and popular music, she reveals the increasing reliance on technological intervention in the creation as well as in the reception of music. The recording studio, she argues, is at the center of musical culture in the twentieth century.

Susan Schmidt Horning is an assistant professor of history at St. John’s University in New York and a contributor to Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century, also published by Johns Hopkins.

" Chasing Sound is a rich account of the development of recording studio technology and musical culture. It offers captivating new material and is a valuable contribution to scholarship in sound studies."

"This 292-page hardbound book goes back to Edison’s invention, moves through the electrical recording era and brings us to the end of the analog recording studio."

"Schmidt Horning's excellent dissertation... provides us with valuable and well-founded information of the recording music business from its early beginnings until the rock music era. This book can be recommended to all not only interested in the technological development of sound recording, but also in the sociological change of the recording profession from the 1890s to the late 1960s."

"[ Chasing Sound] does more than traverse the technology of sound recordings: it provides a history on the evolution of sound recording, quality, and even popular music movements, and is a 'must' for any music history or music technology library."

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