Imagine having silent films as the norm for today’s entertainment.  The music and film industry would be very different.

Fortunately enough, the rise of sound emerged and shaped the 20th century as the stepping stone to evolutionary technologies.  For filmmakers, sound shaped the way the film was to be made.  “Talkies” a.ka. talking films had dialogue and music in the film.  It was very popular when it first appeared in society.  It gave Hollywood a profitable period of time.  The two major companies for film were WB and FOX.  Each were acquiring chains of theaters in preparation for exhibition.  I found it interesting that after they acquired the chains, they had rapid profits the following years.  I thought it would take a few more years before any noticed gains.

With the Great Depression entering the scene in America, and around the world, the music industry was feeling the effects which would last throughout the duration of this historical event.  Honestly, I don’t think we can survive today if there were to be a big of a depression they experienced, even though we came close roughly 2-3 years ago with our “mini depression”.  Anyways, with everything in decline, movie theater attendance was on the rise.  This was just one of the few exceptions during the Depression that didn’t feel adverse effects.  Many were going to the theaters for cheap entertainment which they could afford.  When I read this, I felt the pains they had to endure.  At least they had one good source of entertainment that was outside their homes.

When radio entered the scene, many companies were forming including RCA’s merger with Victor to become RCA Victor.  Their rival would eventually be Columbia which was known as CBS later on in 1929.  Radio stations eventually grew bigger and added local affiliates from state to state, coast-to coast.  Each provided the comfortable feeling when you come home from a hard day’s work.  Radio was the home entertainer and most would spend quite a bit of time (~5 hours) near the radio to hear music, musicals, shows, and even propaganda from the wars (e.g. WWI and WWII).  Like most people today who would spend a good portion of their week watching TV, and going online, the people back then had the time to sit down and listen to the radio.  This must’ve been a cool thing to do back then.  It makes me want to travel back in time to be a part of music history and hear the live entertainment and “fireside chats”.

Swing was one of the most popular crazes which gave rise to many big bands.  It enveloped many musical styles from fast and rowdy to sweet and soft playing.  Count Basie’s blues band and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were just some of the famous musicians/bands who entered the swing era in full force.  Their music appealed to both the young and the old.  Swing was for all ages and was thoroughly enjoyed by the masses.  Swing was more of a fad back then as it impacted youth culture; music, dance, fashion, language, and social practices.  What was neat to hear was that every band had their own uniform.  So even back then they had coordination amongst their image and appearance.  It would be dull for bands to be subjected to one direct image, or the image the record companies all designate.

After the Depression, life returned back to normal, maybe even better.  With rising sales of machines and records by the end of the 1930’s, it seemed the music industry was ready to flourish once again.  Though WWII was starting, the music industry kept striving.  Patriotic songs inspired many musicians to write songs for the troops serving for our country.  I find that with today’s society too, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has inspire many artists to write songs for the troops for example John Mayer’s Waiting on a World to Change.

Recording studios were first developed back in the later years of the 19th century with Thomas Edison’s West Orange Lab.  I thought it was kind of funny to hear that Edison calling the recording studio a lab. But seeing that it was a place for experimentation I see where he came up with his notion of the recording studio.  Reading about the studio and different kinds of positions the people held inside the studio/soundstage was really intriguing.  I didn’t knew that certain roles had more power over one another.  For example the musical director was in charge of hiring performers yet they can’t do a recording manager’s job where they set the schedules for the studio.

Many musicians (pre-Microphone days) had to crowd around a horn to record their songs. I feel for them because the studios back then were much too crowded and had to be balanced or else retakes were forced upon them.  The same for noise in the studio.  If the recording was “perfect”, it wasn’t good enough to distribute if you heard someone cough.  Luckily the microphone eventually became ubiquitous, but that had to be developed to what it is today.  Not until the 1950s I feel is when the microphone had no troubles.  All sorts of microphones like the condenser, and the multi-mic were developed in the 1940s.  It was a period of testing, and evaluation, but ultimately the successes eventually became known.  For example, with sound films.  Recorded sound was cut and mixed onto films.  Processes of dubbing, compression, and equalization would give the music/film industries better products (records, talking films) to distribute to the mass audience.  When the audience viewed the sheer quality, it was like music to their ears.

So in conclusion, I feel without the advancements of the recording studio, and the developments of sound, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Some questions to think about:

What do you think, would today be the same without the microphone?  What do you think we would use if microphones didn’t exist?

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