(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘records

“I rather think that archives exist to keep things safe – but not secret”*…

Brewster Kahle, founder and head of The Internet Archive couldn’t agree more, and for the last 25 years he’s put his energy, his money– his life– to work trying to make that happen…

In 1996, Kahle founded the Internet Archive, which stands alongside Wikipedia as one of the great not-for-profit knowledge-enhancing creations of modern digital technology. You may know it best for the Wayback Machine, its now quarter-century-old tool for deriving some sort of permanent record from the inherently transient medium of the web. (It’s collected 668 billion web pages so far.) But its ambitions extend far beyond that, creating a free-to-all library of 38 million books and documents, 14 million audio recordings, 7 million videos, and more…

That work has not been without controversy, but it’s an enormous public service — not least to journalists, who rely on it for reporting every day. (Not to mention the Wayback Machine is often the only place to find the first two decades of web-based journalism, most of which has been wiped away from its original URLs.)…

Joshua Benton (@jbenton) of @NiemanLab debriefs Brewster on the occasion of the Archive’s silver anniversary: “After 25 years, Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are still working to democratize knowledge.”

Amidst wonderfully illuminating reminiscences, Brewster goes right to the heart of the issue…

Corporations continue to control access to materials that are in the library, which is controlling preservation, and it’s killing us….

[The Archive and the movement of which it’s a part are] a radical experiment in radical sharing. I think the winner, the hero of the last 25 years, is the everyman. They’ve been the heroes. The institutions are the ones who haven’t adjusted. Large corporations have found this technology as a mechanism of becoming global monopolies. It’s been a boom time for monopolists.

Kevin Young

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As we love librarians, we might send carefully-curated birthday greetings to Frederick Baldwin Adams Jr.; he was born on this date in 1910.  A bibliophile who was more a curator than an archivist, he was the the director of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City from 1948–1969.  His predecessor, Belle da Costa Greene, was responsible for organizing the results of Morgan’s rapacious collecting; Adams was responsible for broadening– and modernizing– that collection, adding works by Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Willa Cather, Robert Frost,  E. A. Robinson, among many others, along with manuscripts and visual arts, and for enhancing the institution’s role as a research facility.

Adams was also an important collector in his own right.  He amassed two of the largest holdings of works by Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as one of the leading collections of writing by Karl Marx and left-wing Americana.

Adams

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“All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling”*…

Alvin and the Chipmunks– a group of three anthropomorphic singing chipmunks named Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, managed by their human adoptive father, David “Dave” Seville– came to life on a 1958 novelty record created by Ross Bagdasarian (who also wrote and recorded Witch Doctor). They were such a hit that they spawned three animated television series, several specials, a series of video games, a feature film– and a number of albums.

During the 80s a few of those albums featured the Chipmunks singing rock tunes. You Tube creator Lunar Orbit (@LunarOrbit_) has taken tracks from several of those cover-fests and recorded them at 16 speed (roughly half the speed of a 33 1/3 LP)… resulting in what @EsotericCD calls “the most important postpunk/goth album ever recorded,” Sludgefest

* Blaise Pascal

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As we wonder what it sounds like backwards, we might recall that the #1 song on the Billboard Singles chart for the week beginning on this date in 1988 was Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” You’ve been Rickrolled!

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“Technology makes everyone feel old”*…

Cassette tapes, the fax machine, overhead projectors… Adrian Willings catalogues some transitional technologies that, he suggests, are headed for the dust bin of history…

… we’re… looking at some of the biggest, best and most memorable gadgets from the last century that have been outdated, outmoded or just forced into irrelevance by better, modern technologies.

You might remember many of these, but there are plenty of the younger generation that don’t…

… and won’t? “39 obsolete technologies that will baffle modern generations,” from @Age_Dub in @Pocketlint.

* Jennifer Egan

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As we mosey down memory lane, we might send electronic birthday greetings to David Sarnoff; he was born on this date in 1891. An early employee of Marconi Wireless Telegraph, he befriended its owner, and began a a long career in broadcasting.

Unlike many who were involved with early radio communications, who often viewed radio as a point-to-point medium, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to– inform, entertain, sell to– many. When Owen D. Young of General Electric arranged the purchase of American Marconi and turned it into the Radio Corporation of America, a radio patent monopoly, Sarnoff got his chance.

His colleagues were wary, but in 1921, Sarnoff arranged a broadcast of a heavyweight boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. An estimated 300,000 people heard the fight, and demand for home radio equipment bloomed that winter. As head of radio broadcasting for RCA, Sarnoff was instrumental in building and establishing the AM broadcasting radio business that became the preeminent public radio standard for the majority of the 20th century.

In that late 1920s and early 30s Sarnoff (who had become RCA’s President) drove the company’s push to develop television. In April, 1939, regularly scheduled television in America was initiated by RCA under the name of their broadcasting division at the time, The National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The first television broadcast aired was the dedication of the RCA pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fairgrounds and was introduced by Sarnoff himself.

Along the way, Sarnoff led the formation of RKO (in which the “R” stood for RCA) and bought Victor Talking Machine Company, the nation’s largest manufacturer of records and phonographs, assuring RCA a piece of the content business.

Sarnoff in 1922

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“Every record I put on was like a baptism”*…

The sensation of being “in the groove” is the holy grail of jazz. As the renowned drummer Charli Persip described it, “When you get in that groove, you ride right down that groove with no strain and no pain—you can’t lay back or go forward. That’s why they call it a groove. It’s where the beat is, and we’re always trying to find that.”

This expression from the Roaring Twenties is an allusion to an insect secretion. The close fit between a phonograph needle and the grooves in early shellac 78 rpm records determined the quality of the playback. Shellac—a resinous, amber-colored secretion of the tiny scale insect Kerria lacca—served as the key ingredient in the first generation of phonographic disks. Odd as it may seem, a gummy substance manufactured by bugs and their human hosts in South Asia was the pioneering medium for the transmission of recorded sound.

The curious story of how a sticky discharge from billions of insect bodies became a vehicle for the globalization of audio culture spans millennia and crosses oceans…

The miraculous properties, and fascinating history, of shellac: “Like Jazz, Bowling, and Old Hollywood Hairdos? Thank Insects.

* Questlove, Mo’ Meta Blues

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As we gently lower the needle, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix; he was born (Johnny Allen Hendrix) on this date in 1942. Though his career as a front man lasted only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. Indeed, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 27, 2020 at 1:01 am

“So sa-a-a-ad that you’re leaving”*…

 

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It happened exactly 36 seconds into the song—a glimpse of the shape of pop to come, a feel of the fabric of the future we now inhabit. The phrase “I can’t break through” turned crystalline, like the singer suddenly disappeared behind frosted glass. That sparkly special effect reappeared in the next verse, but this time a robotic warble wobbled, “So sa-a-a-ad that you’re leaving.”

The song, of course, was Cher’s “Believe,” a worldwide smash on its October 1998 release. And what we were really “leaving” was the 20th century.

The pitch-correction technology Auto-Tune had been on the market for about a year before “Believe” hit the charts, but its previous appearances had been discreet, as its makers, Antares Audio Technologies, intended. “Believe” was the first record where the effect drew attention to itself…

And an era was born.  We’ve looked at Auto-Tune before (see here for an example of the difference the technology can make, here, and here); now, from our friends at Pitchfork, an in-depth history of the most important pop innovation of the last 20 years: “How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music.”

* Cher, “Believe”

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As we pine for authentic imperfection, we might recall that it was on this date in 1901 that the Victor Talking Machine Company was incorporated.  A phonograph manufacturer and record company, it operated on disc record patents that it soon licensed to the Columbia Record Company as well (reinforcing Victor’s position as the leading phonograph manufacturer).  In 1929, Victor was merged into RCA.

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 3, 2018 at 1:01 am

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