(Roughly) Daily

“You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is”*…

 

Left: Advertisement showing Regency amplifier, ca. 1954. Right: Living room stereo, ca. mid 20th century.

 

In 1954 House & Home reported that “half a million new hobbyists joined ranks of Hi-Fi enthusiasts last year”; by 1955, one authority noted that “High Fidelity at low cost is available to everyone.” (The rise of specialized publications catering to the new audiophiles is another indicator of the trend.) In fact, although stereo technology had been developed in the 1930s, it was not until February 1954 that RCA made the first commercial recording (a performance of The Damnation of Faust, by Berlioz, at Symphony Hall in Boston). Toward the end of the decade one observer would declare that “1958 will be remembered in America as the year when Stereo arrived.”…

Radios and phonographs had been around since the 30s, but with the rise of stereo…

Listening to music on hi-fi systems was not only central to music culture but also an accepted part of domestic culture — a complementary activity to almost anything else that could be done at home, from housework to recreation to eating to sex. As the cultural critic George Steiner wrote, in 1961, “The new middle class in the affluent society reads little, but listens to music with knowing delight. Where the library shelves once stood, there are proud, esoteric rows of record albums and high-fidelity components.” Listening to music was fast becoming one of the most important shared experiences in the American home…

More on the huge impact of the hi-fi at “A Tiny Orchestra in the Living Room.”

* Rebecca West

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As we load the changer, we might send sonorous birthday greetings to Robert Williams Wood; he was born on this date in 1868.  A physicist and inventor, Wood made substantial contributions to optics and to the development of infrared and ultraviolet photography.  He is probably best remembered as the first to photograph the reflection of sound waves in air, and for his investigated the physiological effects of high-frequency sound waves.

Wood, R. W. (1900) “The photography of sound waves and the demonstration of the evolutions of reflected wave fronts with the cinematograph.” Nature, 62: 342-349

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Written by LW

May 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

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