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The narrative history of playback technology, from the Victrola to MP3: how the technology shapes the music, how the music changes the technology, and how technology drives the business. Suddenly, popular music resembles an alien landscape.
The great common ground of 45s, LPs, and even compact discs is rapidly falling by the wayside to be replaced by binary bits of sound. In the 21st century, radical advances in music technology threaten to overshadow the music itself. Indeed, today the generations divide over how they listen to the music, not what kinds of music they enjoy.
Playback is the first book to place the staggering history of sound reproduction within its larger social and cultural context. Concisely told via a narrative arc that begins with Edison's cylinder and ends with digital music, this is a history that we have all directly experienced in one way or another. From the Victrola to the 78 to the 45 to the 33 1/3 to the 8track to the cassette to the compact disc to MP3 and beyond (not to mention everyone from Thomas Edison to Enrico Caruso to Dick Clark to Grandmaster Flash to Napster CEO Shawn Fanning), the story of Playback is also the story of music, and the music business, in the 20th century.