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Perfecting Sound Forever ~ A Review

Perfecting Sound Forever – The story of recorded music by Greg Milner

A wonderful impossibility?

If you have even a passing interest in Sound, Recorded Sound, Music and the technologies developed to both record and play sound back to us then you may well be enthralled by this book, as I was.

The book takes us through the main developments in recording and reproducing sound from Edison’s experiments with various formats of Cylinder and Disc, the equipment to record sound to them and that needed to reproduce the results for the public’s consumption. He guides us through the moment when the purely Acoustic model of Edison and the early pioneers gave way to Electric recording and reproduction, the invention of Magnetic tape, the development in studio of the use of tape and then multi-tracking. He takes us through the format wars of Long Player and Single, the competition between the Globo Conglomerates Columbia and RCA. All the time he somehow manages to keep this dry subject matter liquid and interesting, engaging and entertaining.

Throughout the book Milner assesses the various merits or failings in his and others eyes of formats and processes and the equipment used to reproduce sound. In fact, though the book traces all the temporal developments in sound technology throughout there is a deep discussion about what sound is to us human beings, how we perceive it, what it means, and so what makes for a successful recording.

For those of us who love to hear our music on records he dispels myth surrounding analog technologies and describes wonderfully the problems inherent with Cd audio, moving on finally to an assessment of compressed digital audio such as ACC and MP3. He takes us through studio technologies and practice, tape splicing/editing, the art of re-mixing and the art/science of mastering, and finally he describes the demise of the studio and the growth of what he calls ‘In The Box’ recording and editing, the relatively recent development of digital recoding via software like Logic and Pro Tools.

He answers questions that you may have, if you’re an obsessive like me, asked yourself for years. Like, why do I hear a quiet version of the intro to a song when I listen intently on my earphones to a vinyl record? It turns out that if the original cutting needle has too much energy in it’s lateral movement this can be transferred through the wall of the groove into the preceeding groove, thus creating an audible echo of what is ‘about’ to happen. Where else but a book like this would you get to hear about the natural harmonics of a valve and why when mixing desks converted to solid state circuitry the sound suffered through the lack of these natural elements of Analog recording.

Plain Speaking

He explains as plainly as anyone possibly could and in doing so has answered so many questions I had not managed to answer elsewhere before reading this book. Greg Milner is a ‘bit of a genius’ I think and the depth of work and effort he has put into this project, for it’s more than just a book, is obvious to all that read it.

The level of Technology vs. Storytelling within the book is set perfectly too. If you are already involved in the world of sound, it is interesting, entertaining and informative. I imagine that those who are not would find it accessible and relatively easy to understand given Greg Milner’s excellent powers of explanation, the text is clear as are his thoughts on the subject.

Reading this book was so enjoyable that I found myself delaying ending by finding something else to do rather than read it! Strange, but true.

I couldn’t praise it enough.

Thank you Mr. Milner

Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Granta Books (6 July 2009)
ISBN-10: 1862079420
ISBN-13: 978-1862079427

Available for between £10-£20 at many online Book Stores.