Connections to 21st Century Phonographia


PhonoLinks 2010

NPR article from The Record, November 30, 2010

How Can You Tell When A Song Is A Hit?

Starting tomorrow, in this space and on All Things Considered, we're going to spend a month talking about the songs you hear on the radio or watch over and over again on YouTube. We'll talk with songwriters, producers, chart experts and maybe even a strip club owner or two. The kind of people who spend their lives trying to figure out what qualities, what audience, what elixir distilled from's tears turns a collection of musical notes into an inescapable smash.

We've thought about this a lot over the last few months, and now we want to hear from you. So we have two questions:

1. How can you tell when a song is a hit?

2. Are there qualities that all hits share?

Do you watch the charts? Is a song a hit when you hear it more than twice a day? Is it the presence of auto-tune? Does your 12-year-old niece's iPod hold the key?

Light up that comment section, or send us an email at And stay tuned. You may hear next summer's big single here first.

The gold record for Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock".

Image: the prodigal untitled13/




PhonoLinks 2010

As seen in the NY Times, September 12, 2010

Why can't you listen to music?

This article by Steve Guttenberg proposes that music, "by itself, can't hold the audience's attention anymore; it's just a nice backdrop to other activities. Is there another explanation? I swear I don't remember it always being this way.

Bringing it all back home, I wonder: can you listen to music without doing something else? In the pre-digital age, when most people listened to LPs at home, the disc's shorter playing times--20 minutes per side--required more hands-on attention. My Mom was no audiophile, but when she listened to her Frank Sinatra records, she really listened!

So I blame digital for weaning people off active listening. The transition from listening to background listening didn't happen overnight, but CDs were so convenient, you'd put one on and then immediately do something--read, clean, work--anything but listen. Three decades into the digital age it may be too late to reverse the trend.

Click here to read the whole article.


PhonoLinks 2010

NY Times, August 11, 2010

Quick Change in Strategy for a Bookseller by JULIE BOSMAN (excerpt)

"Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital."


PhonoLinks 2010

Listening to albums is 'virtually extinct" - April 23, 2010 from PC World

What has (and hasn't) the Internet killed?

From sex to Nigeria to Chuck Norris, the Internet has affected them all

10 things the Net is making virtually extinct, plus five that have flourished.

Introduction By Dan Tynan

For some people, the Internet is the killer app -- literally. From newspapers and the Yellow pages to personal privacy and personal contact, the Net has been accused of murdering, eviscerating, ruining, and obliterating more things than the Amazing Hulk. Some claims are more true than others, but the Net certainly has claimed its share of scalps. Here are 10 things the Net is making virtually extinct, plus five that have flourished.

5. Listening to albums

Remember putting "Dark Side of the Moon" on the turntable or slipping "Graceland" into your CD tray? Your kids won't. Not only will the concept of music delivered via molecules -- hard media -- seem totally 20th century, but the entire concept of an album (let alone a "concept album") will be lost on them. Over the past decade, sales of complete albums -- even the nonmolecular versions -- declined 55 percent to less than 400 million in 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan. During roughly the same period, sales of individual digital tracks have soared from zero to nearly 1.2 billion. Apple iTunes and file-sharing networks have nearly obliterated the notion of listening to more than one song by one artist in a row. "Gee Dad, what did you do before Apple invented 'shuffle'? God, you're so old."


PhonoLinks 2010

Word of the Day for Monday, February 1, 2010

mondegreen \MON-di-green\, noun: A word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.

Mondegreens can be found in every area of the spoken word, from the record buyer who asks for a copy of the Queen single "Bohemian Rap City" to the schoolchild who is convinced that the Pledge of Allegiance begins "I led the pigeons to the flag." -- Gavin Edwards, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics.




PhonoLinks 2010

How to break up with a stylist in record time

The Final Word by Craig Wilson, USA Today (Photo by Suzy Parker)

January 27, 2010 (excerpt)

A new hair salon opened in New York last Friday. It's called Graceland Brooklyn and boasts the "grooviest groomers in Williamsburg."

The salon is housed in a renovated motorcycle garage on Lorimer Street and boasts four vintage barber chairs, three tattoo stations and a turntable, complete with record collection. (For those under a certain age, a turntable is what "records" were played on.)

Clients are being encouraged to bring in their old vinyl albums and 45s to play, according to Bethany Paul, who along with a guy named Corvette — "like the car" — are the salon's co-owners. There's even a piano, which they hope will also be a constant source of music.

I might just make the trek. Yes, haircuts run $50 to $70, but listening to Elvis on a vintage turntable might just be worth it..

"Grooviest groomers" hair salon features 45 rpm turntable and records for your listening pleasure







PhonoLinks 2009


Vinyl Culture - The Temporary Soundmuseum

Munich, Germany - The vinyl record is an "historic document, a vehicle for time-travel and an inventory of the second half of the 20th century..."

Serendipity struck during our Christmas visit to Munich when we went to a concert at the Gasteig and saw a poster for "Vinyl Culture The Temporary Soundmuseum". This exhibit was on the second and third floor foyers of a building next to the concert hall and ran from December 12, 2008 to January 20, 2009. It included 500 objects (mostly phonograph albums and records) displayed in 20 cases. After returning home I found its website which displays over 80 record players and many of the records. The following introduction was written for the exhibit:

Along with the disappearence of the vinyl record a special part of our culture is vanishing, normally disregarded and not found worth of preserving. Being part of pop and mass culture, records (and their relatives) are not seen as a valuable cultural expression. And belonging to the still neglected world of sound does not help either. The exhibition Vinyl Culture tries for the first time to introduce the record as a historic document, a vehicle for time-travel and an inventory of the second half of the 20th century, unrestricted by borders drawn by genre or nostalgia.

Click here to view the soundmuseum's exhibition index

Click here to view the soundmuseum's turntables collection



PhonoLinks 2008



The Phonograph EVENT of 2008!

Sound Recording Predates Edison Phonograph

All Things Considered, NPR, March 27, 2008

Thomas Edison wasn't the first person to record sound. A Frenchman named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville actually did it earlier.

He invented a device called the phonautograph, and, on April 9, 1860, recorded someone singing the words, "Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit." But he never had any intention of playing it back. He just wanted to study the pattern the sound waves made on a sheet of paper blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp.

A group of researchers found some of his old phonautograph papers and used a computer program to play the recording. They are presenting it publicly for the first time on Friday at Stanford University.

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville invented the phonautograph in 1857. National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


Leon Scott's Phonautograph and Phonautograms

The Phonautograph of Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville has always been recognized as a scientific device that was able to capture sound for observation. But there was never any evidence that his machine could make recordings that could be played back and actually heard...until now. With the use of computer technology and with the demonstration of someone (perhaps Scott's daughter) singing the words "Au clair de la lune, Pierrot respondit" on a blacked sheet of paper, the history of recorded sound has been redefined.

Scott's goal of visualizing sound that resulted in the creation of his paper "record" (which he called a phonautogram) should not take away from Edison's invention of the phonograph. The fact remains that Edison was the first to record and reproduce sound. The remarkable recording of Scott's, however, should now be considered the birth of the record and his machine at the very least recognized as preliminary work for Edison's Phonograph even though it took nearly 150 years for Scott's record to "speak".

The birthday of "sound writing" on April 9, 1860 has now become one of the Friends of the Phonograph's Red Letter Days. Friends will now have the opportunity to blow out candles, eat cake and listen to recordings at birthday parties for both Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville's 'Au clair de la lune" and Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb" (December 6, 1877).

Put those dates on your calendar...they are events worth remembering, and celebrating!

Thomas Edison's original tin foil Phonograph, 1877 ( Courtesy of Edison National Historic Site)


Click here to listen to NPR's "All Things Considered" for their story on this event, including a digital rendition of Scott's paper recording.

Click here to listen to NPR's "Day to Day" for their story on this event, including a digital rendition of Scott's paper recording.

Click here to listen to the BBC News reporting of this event.





CBS Face the Nation, December 7, 2008

'Let's give money to make RCA Victor record players in the world of iPods"

Thomas Friendman, NY Times columnist, included an interesting analogy of bailout rationale with host Bob Schieffer when explaining the Big Three Automaker's failure to be innovative and adapt to new technologies. Friedman used the music business as an example of how the introduction of MP3 players, computer programs, Napster and iPods changed the way music was generated, distributed and consumed, forcing an entire industry to adapt, and said Detroit must adapt to advancing auto technologies as well.

"If we give money to these people and it is not with a plan to take advantage of this revolution, it would be, Bob, as if, today, we said, 'Let's give money to make RCA Victor record players in the world of iPods,' OK?"



2008 Biden v. Palin Vice Presidential Debate

Palin, coffee and the Phonograph!

For her closing remarks in the VP debate, Sarah Palin paraphrased Ronald Reagan. Who would have guessed that the source of Palin's words were from a Reagan Phonograph record. Did Sarah Palin listen to this recording when she was in Sedona for her debate boot camp? Paul Krugman wrote the following in his October 3, 2008 NY Times column:

It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.

When did he say this? It was on a recording he made for Operation Coffeecup — a campaign organized by the American Medical Association to block the passage of Medicare. Doctors’ wives were supposed to organize coffee klatches for patients, where they would play the Reagan recording, which declared that Medicare would lead us to totalitarianism.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Tapestry of the Times - iTunes Store banner ad

WYPR's Podcast of The Smithsonian's record label Fokways Recordings


Tapestry of the Times is a weekly show exploring The Smithsonian's record label Folkways Recordings including some of the original names like Lead Belly and Woodie Guthrie. We'll also hear blues from Warner Williams and Robert Jr. Lockwood, gospel music old and new, and international folk songs from Columbia, Cuba and Iran. Real music. real people, and the stories behind the sounds...on Tapestry of the Times.


"Going on Record" July 2008, Diablo Magazine By Justin Goldman

Wondering if you’ll ever be able to listen to your classic LPs again? Thanks to a few scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, you may sometime soon.

Carl Haber was conducting physics research that required precision optical measurements in 2000, when he heard that the Library of Congress was having problems preserving delicate sound recordings in its archive. He thought it would be possible to make an optical image of a record and then convert the data into a digital recording. Haber teamed up with Earl Cornell, a nuclear physicist with expertise in bioinstrumentation, to create a machine that would do just that.

In 2004, IRENE (Image, Reconstruct, Erase, Noise, Etc.) —named after the first record they imaged, a 1950 Weavers’ cover of the Lead Belly song “Goodnight Irene”—was born. The machine, which looks like a turntable attached to a microscope, makes a map of the grooves in the record’s surface. Using a computer, Haber and Cornell delete imperfections from the map, creating impressively clean digital recordings from records that are scratched or even broken.

In addition, Haber and Cornell are working on a version of IRENE that would allow researchers to retrieve data from three-dimensional wax recording cylinders that anthropologists often used in fieldwork in the early 1900s. Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum has about 3,000 of these cylinders that contain song and speech from Native Americans.

“These are languages that are dying out,” Haber says. “Having better access to the primary existing recordings may help preserve them.” And, someday, you may be able to use an IRENE machine to put your beat-up 45s onto your iPod.

This article appears in the July 2008 issue of Diablo Magazine

Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to Diablo Magazine

Illustration by Christoph Nieman



Hammacher Schlememer Catalogue - 2008

Summer Supplement features Gramophone "PhonoArt"

The iPOD Gramophone was the cover picture for the summer catalogue, clearly displaying the continued iconic power of the Phonograph. The handcrafted ceramic was said to be designed to replicate the French horn. "The gramophone projectis music using authentic horn acoustics." Designed to augment sound from the iPOD, this modern piece of sculpture resonates with history and sound.

Only $499.95 - order yours at




Retailers give vinyl another spin

Associated Press, June 10, 2008

Read here how a mistaken order for vinyl records instead of CDs helped retailer Fred Meyer in Portland realize there is still a small market for vinyl records.

Click here for the article

The best-seller so far at Fred Meyer is The Beatles album "Abbey Road."



A Record Find

How The Phantom of the Opera led me to a long-lost musical treasure in Paris

By Michael Walsh Smithsonian magazine, February 2008

The following article is an excerpt from Smithsonian magazine about a treasure trove of gramophone records found in the Paris Opéra. Click here for the full article at

With 20 years' hindsight, it's easy to see that it was right there on the page, hiding in plain sight: "It will be remembered that, later, when digging in the substructure of the Opéra, before burying the phonographic records of the artist's voice, the workmen laid bare a corpse." Thus wrote Gaston Leroux in his horror classic, The Phantom of the Opera, first published in 1910.

As readers, we are naturally drawn to the last words of that sentence: "a corpse." Dead bodies—fact or fiction—get our attention. Based on the author's clues, the mind races to the crime scene: "the substructure of the Opéra." And so, in our haste to discover this poor unfortunate's identity, we overlook the most important words of the sentence: "before burying the phonographic records."

Few readers pick up a novel, especially a thriller, expecting a guidebook. They want to be swept away by plot and character; the story's setting is usually an afterthought. Novelists, however, know better. The best fiction is grounded, made real, by its sense of place.

So the question is not, what corpse?

It is, rather, what records?

Click here for a continuation of the article



Comedy Albums

Southwest Airlines Spirit, May 2008

Brad Garrett, star of Fox's 'Til Death and CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, picked four phonograph albums that influenced him "as a kid and still make him crack a smile." Garrett gives credit to phonograph records for his comedy success sayinig 'My roots are in stand-up, and I've been influenced by some of the greatest in the business through these comedy albums." His picks:

The Night Club Years 1964-1968, Woody Allen

Hello Dummy!, Don Rickles

Why is There Air?, Bill Cosby

DYN-O-MITE, Jimmie Walker

Click here for the complete Comedy Albums article


Vinyl Is Back In The Groove

Audiophiles Shun MP3s and CDs For "Old-Fashioned" LPs, And Companies Meet The Demand

NEW YORK, Feb. 10, 2008

(CBS) Remember turntables? They were used to play LP's, those long-playing records developed by Dr. Peter Goldmark of CBS Labs. They spin at 33-and-a-third revolutions per minute. Even in these digital days, true believers have never given up on analog vinyl LPs, and today they're enjoying some vindication. Thalia Assuras examines an audio counter-revolution:

Click here for the complete segment transcript.

What's the difference between vinyl and digitized music?

"I think it's got to do not only with the sound but the ritual of playing the record, and also just the whole packaging. It's like a gift every time you open it." -- Jason Durham

CBS Sunday Morning broadcast this segment on vinyl records on February 10, 2008, and it raised the flag of hope for audiophiles that the sun has not yet set for vinyl.

Buying LP records isn't just for nostaglia buffs, as more and more contemporary artists are releasing their work on vinyl - AP




February 4, 2008

NASA and The Beatles Celebrate Anniversaries by Beaming Song "Across The Universe" Into Deep Space

"I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe," she (Yoko Ono) said.

It is not the first time Beatles music has been used by NASA; in November 2005, McCartney performed the song "Good Day Sunshine" during a concert that was transmitted to the International Space Station. "Here Comes the Sun," "Ticket to Ride" and "A Hard Day's Night" are among other Beatles' songs that have been played to wake astronaut crews in orbit.

Feb. 4 has been declared "Across The Universe Day" by Beatles fans to commemorate the anniversaries. As part of the celebration, the public around the world has been invited to participate in the event by simultaneously playing the song at the same time it is transmitted by NASA. Many of the senior NASA scientists and engineers involved in the effort are among the group's biggest fans.

"I've been a Beatles fan for 45 years -- as long as the Deep Space Network has been around," said Dr. Barry Geldzahler, the network's program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "What a joy, especially considering that 'Across the Universe' is my personal favorite Beatles song."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., operates the Deep Space Network. For information about the Deep Space Network, go to:

Excerpt from PR NewsWire, January 31, 2008

Click here to see the following YouTube performances of "Across the Universe"

Fiona Apple




NASA to beam Beatles song to North Star


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Beatles are about to become radio stars in a whole new way.

NASA on Monday will broadcast the Beatles' song "Across the Universe" across the galaxy to Polaris, the North Star.

This first-ever beaming of a radio song by the space agency directly into deep space is nostalgia-driven. It celebrates the 40th anniversary of the song, the 45th anniversary of NASA's Deep Space Network, which communicates with its distant probes, and the 50th anniversary of NASA. "Send my love to the aliens," Paul McCartney told NASA through a Beatles historian. "All the best, Paul."

The song, written by McCartney and John Lennon, may have a ticket to ride and will be flying at the speed of light. But it will take 431 years along a long and winding road to reach its final destination. That's because Polaris is 2.5 quadrillion miles away.

NASA loaded an MP3 of the song, just under four minutes in its original version, and will transmit it digitally at 7 p.m. EST Monday from its giant antenna in Madrid, Spain. But if you wanted to hear it on Polaris, you would need an antenna and a receiver to convert it back to music, the same way people receive satellite television.

The idea came from Martin Lewis, a Los Angeles-based Beatles historian, who then got permission from McCartney, Yoko Ono and the two companies that own the rights to Beatles' music. One of those companies, Apple, was happy to approve the idea because is "always looking for new markets," Lewis said.

Perhaps coincidentally, the song's launching comes a day before the release of the DVD of the Julie Taymor movie named after the Beatles hit.

Associated Press 2008. All Rights Reserved - February 2, 2008

To Listen to this song and for more information on "Across the Universe' Click here



Another example in the Phonograph Continuum - February 16, 2008

"Tug of wars" are nothing new for the "recording" industry.

The battle between cylinder records and disc records was probably the first of the 'disc' wars, with major phonograph makers like Edison and Columbia on the cylinder record side and the Victor Talking Machine Company leading the charge for disc records. This advertising battle was prominent in the early years of the 20th century and when company's like Columbia tried supporting both formats, it was only a question of time before a choice had to be made.

When Edison was essentially left alone with the cylinder format he decided that he too would produce a disc, the Edison Diamond Disc. Once again, however, the war of 'discs' began as Edison's Disc was a proprietary format that could not be played on a Victor machine, requiring a 'diamond' stylus instead of the steel needle.

In 1949 another war began over the record format and record speed - this time it was Columbia's 33 1/3 Long Playing (LP) record vs. RCA Victor's 45 RPM. Record Players eventually added both speeds and the 45 RPM spindle to phonographs to accommodate both...but again, it was a fierce and competitive battle in the market place over format.

In the 1980's RCA Victor tried to introduce a Video Disc Player to compete with Pioneer's Laser Disc technology. RCA lost over $1 Billion dollars in their failed attempt to create a competing format and a new market.

Sony's Betamax vs. the VHS format is another famous war of formats in the 1980's with the same arguments again focused around who had the superior technology, best picture, best sound, etc. Like the cylinder record, the technology of the Betamax may have been superior but the marketing of VHS and the "software" of what was available to see and hear proved to be too much for Sony.

Many examples could be given for other format wars including the wars of tape (reel-to-reel vs. cassette vs. 8 Track) and the other laser playing devices (CDs, mini-discs, MP3, iTunes). But in the end, these are simply additional chapters of the Phonograph's story. Sounds will continue to be stored with new devices and different media but the goal is always the same - to provide someone with the ability to listen anytime, anyplace and for as many times as they want.

This is the legacy of the Phonograph.



Is the tug of war over high-def DVD format over?

By David Lieberman, USA TODAY, February 16, 2008 - Excerpt

NEW YORK — Peace may be at hand in the nearly three-year battle to provide HDTV owners with an affordable DVD player that can handle any movie that shows off high-def's vivid video and rich surround sound.

During the last six weeks, Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies and retailers have given Sony's (SNE) Blu-ray format a seemingly insurmountable edge over its rival high-definition DVD format: Toshiba's HD DVD.

Best Buy (BBY), the No. 1 consumer electronics chain, said that it will feature Blu-ray players and software and will advise customers to buy them instead of HD DVD products.

Separately, online rental firm Netflix (NFLX) said that it will buy only Blu-ray discs and phase out HD DVDs by year's end.

And on Friday, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), the world's largest retailer, said it will exclusively sell DVDs in the Blu-Ray format. The companies acted after Warner Bros. (TWX), the No. 1 video distributor, announced that beginning in May it will drop HD DVD and sell its high-def movies and TV shows only on Blu-ray — joining a group that includes Disney (DIS), Fox, Lionsgate and Sony's film studio.

"Warner's jump was the last straw to break the camel's back," says Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment President Bob Chapek. "The format war's over."

Well, maybe. The HD DVD camp — which includes Universal, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation and Microsoft (MSFT)— hasn't raised a white flag yet.

But it also isn't predicting victory. "There are a lot of other product areas where different formats coexist," says Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing for Toshiba's digital AV group. "Look at gaming (where Nintendo and Microsoft compete with Sony). There are discs that won't play in each other's machines. Apparently that is the current scenario" for high-def DVDs...


FOOTNOTE: The Death of HD DVD - Tokyo, February 16, 2008

On February 19, 2008, Toshiba announced it would stop making HD DVD "products by the end of March, bringing an end to the high-def DVD format war."





USB Turntable with Pitch Control and Universal Dock

RECORD YOUR FAVORITE VINYL RECORDS TO YOUR COMPUTER OR iPod Legendary Numark turntable performance, USB connectivity and the convenience of your iPod are fused together for the first time in the Numark TTi. This USB turntable with built-in universal dock for iPod easily transfers your old vinyl collection to your iPod. Included software archives your records to CD or MP3. TTi's integrated line-level output allows quick, easy connection to any mixer for instant playback from your iPod or vinyl records and ±10% pitch control is included to enable adjustment of playback speed. TTi includes EZ Vinyl Converter 2 (PC) and EZ Audio Converter (MAC); the simplest way to record and convert vinyl directly to iTunes. EZ Vinyl Converter 2 features Gracenote® MusicID technology, which analyzes your vinyl and automatically retrieves album, artist and song information for you. EZ Audio Converter lets you easily enter track information. On Mac or PC, you can now digitally archive your collection in just a few mouse clicks. TTi is ideal for first-time DJs or anyone who wants to archive their vinyl to MP3.

iPod and iTunes are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the U.S. and other countries. Gracenote® is a trademark of Gracenote, Inc.

January 2008 Internet Ad for Numark


Avantegarde Acoustics Display in Frankfurt, Germany Airport

I love these hi-fi speakers as they clearly echo back to the glory days of open horned phonographs. This display was in the Frankfurt airport in January 2008. If I could afford them, they'd be in my home today. If you go to their website you can read the following, and more:

"Avantgarde Acoustic speaker systems are the combination of a timeless idea and innovative technical solutions. The acoustical principal of the horn is our foundation, the transformation into modern and innovative products is our great challenge."



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