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Setting the Record Straight. A Material History of Classical Recording – Colin Symes (2004)


Author(s): Colin Symes
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Date: 2004

Record albums are more than records; they include covers and liner notes, catalogs, magazines, and advertisements. In this fascinating study of the materials that surround LPs and CDs, Colin Symes undertakes a cultural history of the record, looking specifically at the way the phonograph helped democratize classical music by enabling it to be heard at home, away from the concert hall. Symes argues that the listening habits associated with classical records and recording were produced and naturalized through a magazine culture, which conveyed the idea that collecting and listening to records were legitimate pastimes for the general public. The first chapter lays out a textual theory of the phonograph and compact disc, while subsequent chapters look critically and historically at the different components of the recording process: covers and cover notes, the rhetoric of the record review, the influence of recording on performance, the domestication of the concert hall, advertising in the record industry, and even the architecture of record shops. Symes’s path-breaking history will engage anyone with an interest in classical music and recording.

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