Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 1st marks the anniversary of the release of Sony's "Walkman" - the iconic little "personal stereo" released in 1979 - whose brand name became synonymous with the technology itself, no matter who the maker. For those too young to remember, and we know you are out there, the Walkman was the portable cassette player that first made it fashionable to wear headphones as an accessory, that single-handedly killed the sales of vinyl albums, and that made it possible to enjoy your own intimate musical world no matter where you were. To commemorate this anniversary, Polley Music Library offers a few more interesting facts about how the way we listen to music can be as influential as the music itself.

1880s - The phonograph is developed and mass produced.
1902 - Opera tenor Enrico Caruso becomes the first recording superstar. Other vocal ranges sound terrible with the recording technology of the time.
1910s - Playback time on discs was brief so popular songs had to become instantly recognizable.
1917 - First jazz recordings released; large numbers of people exposed to new music.
1940s - Sound recording quality improves due to technology used during WWII.
1950s - Some recording artists fight for the right to receive royalties when their songs are played on the radio.
1954 - Pocket transistor radios allow teenagers to listen to rock 'n' roll wherever they went.
1965 - 8-Track players became popular due to their ease of use in cars.
1976 - Hip-hop culture embraces the "Ghetto Blaster" - turntables and microphones can be plugged in to make every street corner a place to mix records, rap, and dance.
1979 - The Walkman allows people to choose their music everywhere they go.
1980s - The Discman appears on the market. CDs create a boom in the music industry as people replace their music collections with the new technology.
1990s - MP3 technology becomes accessible to the masses. Some recording artists fight to punish anyone who "pirates" their music.
2000s - The iPod. Now capable of storing up to 30 days of music.

Before the invention of the phonograph, listening to music was a fleeting experience, enjoyed in the moment and never repeated. During the 20th Century, we music listeners have demanded more and more control over our musical environments - in our homes, in our cars, and eventually, everywhere we went. The way we listen to music has an impact on the music industry itself, on fashion, on vocabulary, and perhaps most importantly, on the way we interact with and experience the music itself.

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