(above, a photo I took in Ramsgate for no particular reason)
Zoolon’s brief take on, ‘From Echoes to Downloads’.
We all take for granted that we can download whatever music we like. Even vinyl has made a spectacular comeback, plus CD’s are still selling well. What interests me is just when was it the case that perfection in the eye of the composer could be preserved forever and listened to time and time again? How did that unfold?
We know that from the day human consciousness evolved, humans would have been aware of the sound of the elements; the pulse and noises of things like wind, thunder claps, running fresh water, the rhythms of the sea, birdsong and the sound of their own voices. But what made them eventually want to control sound to create music and turn it into an art form?
I think it is likely the discovery of the acoustics created by certain places, like the caves early man lived in, as well as the spaces they hunted in, the moods of the oceans, the plains, the forests made them subliminally think they were onto something. It was probably that they were just not sure what it was at first. Couple natures acoustics with raw human emotion as an inspiration and they would also have concluded that they had made a major discovery. Basically, through playing around with the acoustics of the environment, using things like conch shells and hollow bones, rudimentary music was born – even if our knuckle dragging forefathers would have not necessarily seen it as art just yet. Early cave paintings support the theory that acoustics prompted the making of music. Imagine stone age human hearing an echo for the first time? They’d just have to play around with its source and their own voice, or get spooked beyond belief. Cave paintings of gatherings suggest that caves were not just places to sleep and keep safe in, but also places of tribal rituals and celebrations. With the unique acoustics to be found in caves, plus the shells and hollow bones instruments, sounds that fitted the mood of an occasion or event would be the icing on the cake. From there, controlled sound evolved into organised melody. Acoustics however, remain the key. For example, it is impossible for an orchestra to perform a symphony in an unsuitable venue. It would just sound rubbish. Good acoustics or no performance.
(cave art containing at least four different instruments)
Then there is the human voice to consider. We know that the Greeks and Romans used horn-like contraptions to enhance and project voices, thus applying a different man-made take on controlling acoustics. A well-fed baritone could sing to a crowd and get heard. The birth of operatic possibilities? Whatever, the rest is history, mankind’s intuition saw to that.
Quantum leap moment! It wasn’t until we learned to capture sound that perfection could be preserved. Enter, Thomas Edison, because he started what would just get better and better for in 1877 he invented the phonograph, a device that not just recorded sound (others had already invented plain recording kit) but could also, importantly, reproduce it. From Edison’s invention, an embryonic music industry began life.
As the quality of sound capture technology improved the situation, as of now, arose whereby a musical composition of the perfect studio recording or live gig could be kept safe and sound forever and be listened to time and time again by anyone, anywhere, exactly as it was when first performed. Before this, the work of the great composers could never be heard the same way twice. Imagine that!
The only downside to having an artist capture her/his perfect composition and have it played time and time again is that when I was in a store last week they were playing Adele. Not good.
Below, a first capture and replay of sound. Not a great start on the face of it – even though it’s still better than Adele – and some thought Edison a crooked tealeaf, but this was where our ‘take for granted’ downloads all began.
Should want to check out the Zoolon Audio website, we are at www.zoolonaudio.com