Thursday, February 2, 2023

Book Review: Into the Groove

In Into the Groove, vinyl collector and music buff Jonathan Scott dissects a mind-blowing feat that we all take for granted today--the domestication of sound. Thomas Edison's phonograph, the first device that could both record and reproduce sound, represented an important turning point in the story of recorded sound, but it was only the tip of the iceberg, and came after decades of invention, tinkering and experimentation. Scott traces the birth of sound back to the earliest serious attempts in the 1850s, celebrating the ingenuity, rivalries and science of the modulated groove.

He examines the first attempts to record and reproduce sounds, the origins of the phonograph, and the development of commercial shellac discs. Then he divulges the fascinating story of the LP record, from the rise of electric recording to the fall of 7-inch vinyl, the competing speed and format wars, and an epilogue that takes the story up to the present-day return of vinyl to vogue.

Into the Groove: the Story of Sound From Tin Foil to Vinyl will be released on May 9, 2023. Bloomsbury USA provided an early galley for review.

From a very young age, recorded music has been a part of my life. The earliest record I remember listening to was Meet the Beatles when I was still under four years old back in the late 1960's. I remember my father's stereo record player that would occasionally shock me if I wasn't careful. He even had a set of classical records on 78rpm. Even then I was still fascinated how sound was captured on these disks and how it then could be released with a needle and amplifier.

This book dives into all the history of this music medium, going back to the days when sound could be recorded long before anyone figured out how to play it back. Scott's delivery of the history and the science is very accessible and easy to follow. He unfolds the story chronologically and provides some very deep-cut details into this area of the audio technology. He even explores the overlap between recorded sound and recorded images and the relationship between recorded sound and radio broadcasting. I learned quite a few things from this read.

One of the lines in the last paragraph of the last chapter really resonated with me. Paraphrasing, Scott reminds the reader that the format one listens to isn't important; instead it is what one listens to and how it makes one feel that is most important. I very much agree with this sentiment.

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