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Playback: From the Victrola to MP3, 100 Years of Music, Machines, and Money Paperback – February 1, 2005


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Playback: From the Victrola to MP3, 100 Years of Music, Machines, and Money + The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution (Berklee Press)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813900
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This short and sweet historical overview of the connection between music, technology (primarily the "playback" function) and the "systematic marketing of recorded music" is the perfect gift for aging boomers who, like Coleman, were caught "completely unawares" by the Internet and related developments such as the MP3 file-sharing format and Napster, which brought MP3 file sharing to the world. Coleman, however, has the advantage of being a rock critic who brings a formidable range of knowledge about his subject. He is as comfortable writing about how pioneers such as Edison and Bell were "blind to the full significance" of their sonic inventions as he is about lesser-known luminaries such as Dr. Paul Goldmark, who invented the "microgroove" LP for CBS. He is also consistently excellent and authoritative on the myriad ways over the decades that the art of making music has shifted away from audio documentation and moved toward "aural creation." While his survey of '60s rock and radio trends will be familiar to any fan of pop music, it provides numerous interesting related observations, such as how the LP "stands as the most enduring cultural legacy bequeathed to baby boomers by their parents." The highlight of the book is its final section, a near-definitive review of recent trends in computer-based listening habits that persuasively argues that "the seductive allure of the MP3 format is all about selection and portability, not thievery and deceit."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The history of recorded music (all 126 years) is brought together succinctly in Mark Coleman's Playback." -- Goldmine 5/27/05

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bob Stahley on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because the subject matter, sound recording, fascinates me. And Coleman's style is wonderfully readable and consistently interesting--believe me, any subject, no matter how interesting one may find it, can be make painfully tedious with bad writing (as I learned trying to read a recent biography of Michael O'Donoghue). However, as entertaining as this book is, I have to question its accuracy, with the howlers that turn up practically on every other page.

Famous DJ Murray "The K" Kaufman's name is misspelled as "Kaufmanns." Four simultaneous Top 10 hits from the "Saturday Night Fever" LP is said to be "equaling the Beatles' British Invasion coup" (in fact, the Beatles held the top five spots on Billboard's Hot 100 on April 4, 1964). And in his discussion of the RCA/CBS "Speed Wars," Coleman seems to have missed, ignored or chose not to explain the entire reason for the "big hole" in the middle of 45 rpm records: it was specifically designed to accommodate RCA's "quick-change" automatic turntable that was supposed, as they were marketed, to make the change from one side to the next virtually seamless and therefore, so they expected the consumer to believe, be a viable alternative to LPs. This seems a strange omission given that his claimed original intention was to detail the history of the turntable. He also manages to mangle the early history of magnetic tape recording in the U.S. (failing to mention John T. Mullen at all!). And these are only the most obvious boners!
Coleman's insights and speculations on the present and future of music transcription and consumption are interesting, to be sure, and, again, his writing is lively and appealing, but, given the questionability surrounding the facts as he presents them, I must therefore question his conclusions as well as the validity of this history as a whole.
But it is a fun read with a good beat and it's good to dance to, so I'll give it a sixty-three, (...)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By thomas in NJ on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book quite a lot.
It's a small but concise volume, and it offers the reader a good bit of information quite economically. It is also somewhat of a walk down memory lane for technology buffs and people who grew up listening to music in general..in whatever format. It is in some respects a natural history of heard media. Mr. Coleman erects a sturdy platform from which to observe the cluttered landscape of failed and outdated technologies.
His occassionally arch commentary on the actual music that some of these great technological leaps forward produced is amusing and produced more than one audible chuckle. I think that his background as a music reviewer serves him well in this respect. He clearly loves music, and has obviously found himself responding to these new technologies and sounds like all of the rest of us.
In particular, his chapter on the confluence of the Beatles genius and George Martin's technological savvy (Chap. 6- Dreaming in Stereo I think), and the epochal music that emerged from their propitious alliance is brilliant. Absolutely the most clear eyed analysis I've read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Mark Coleman has certainly packed plenty of information into this little volume about the history of recorded music. The primary focus of "Playback: From The Victrola to Mp3 100 Years of Music, Machines and Money" is how the technology has evolved from the days when Thomas Edison presented the world with the phonograph. It is critical to understand that from the earliest days of recorded music there were always competing technologies. This continues to be the case today. Coleman does a great job of explaining why particular formats won the day and why others simply did not cut the mustard. He also discusses at length the resistance inventors encountered from the musicians who feared that these emerging technologies would cost them their livelihoods.

From the cylander to discs to the LP, from 45 rpm records to 8 track tapes, cassettes, CD's and MP3's, Coleman covers just about all of the formats that have emerged over the past 125 years. For a young person eager to learn all about what came before this is an excellent read. Likewise, for older folks like myself the book gets us up to speed on what is going on out there today. I found "Playback" to be very well-written book. However, I must admit that when I got to the chapter on hip-hop and mixes and club DJ's etc. I felt like I did the first time I walked into a CompUSA store many years ago.....like I was on another planet!!! All in all, "Playback: From The Victrola to Mp3 100 Years of Music, Machines and Money" is well worth your time and attention. Highly recommended!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "coles227" on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found Playback to be not only an excellent journey through both the nuts & bolts technical history of music reproduction but an enjoyable reflection on the music of the time(s). Mr. Coleman finds a comfortable blend of business, technology and musical genealogy that reinforce the clear picture he has constructed of the music industry. With many of the questions asked or implied, I think Playback accelerates our awareness of the astonishing rate through which we are directly affecting our society with technology.
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