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The History of Recorded Music

1800's | 1900's-1920's | 1930's-1950's | 1960's-1980's | 1990's

1931 The Gramophone Co. (HMV) and the Columbia Graphophone Co. combined to form Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI). Alan Dower Blumlein (EMI) was granted a patent for a stereo recording technique that provided the basis for present day techniques. Edison died aged 84.

1934 BASF manufactured 50,000 metres of magnetic recording tape for use by AEG for large scale experiments.

1935 AEG-Telefunken gave the first public demonstration of the Magnetophon tape recorder at the Berlin Funkausteilung.

1936 BASF engineers, using a Magnetophon, recorded Mozart’s Symphony No.39 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. The first tape recording of a full symphony orchestra, it still exists and is of surprisingly good quality.

1938 Experiments were being carried out on the problems of multi track optical and magnetic recording onto 35mm film stock.

1941 Leopold Stokowski, who since 1917 had shown an interest in musical techniques to improve recorded performance, conducted the recording sessions for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney film ‘Fantasia’. The result was a technical and artistic triumph.

1942 RCA Victor presented the first ever ‘Gold Disc’ to Glenn Miller for the million selling ‘Chattanooga Choo-choo’.

1945 The immediate post-war release of research facilities to peaceful purposes gave tremendous impetus to sound quality improvement. The frequency spectrum covered by recording increased dramatically. During the war years background music came of age. By decreasing fatigue and raising morale, it contributed significantly to wartime productivity. Some estimates found it increased output by as much as 25%. This revelation had an enormous impact on the history and development of recorded sound.

1948 The oil industry had developed a multi purpose thermo plastic, polyvinylchloride (PVC), suitable for making recording tape and gramophone records with very low surface noise. The flow characteristics of PVC made possible the pressing of microgroove long playing records developed by a CBS team headed by Dr Peter Goldmark. Edison had released ‘Long Playing Discs’ with a duration of twenty minutes per side as early as 1926 but they could not be fairly compared with the CBS microgroove LP.

1949 The first demonstration of the transistor by Shockley, Brittain and Bardeen caused a revolution in recording equipment design and performance parameters, and was to have the same effect on domestic equipment. With the release by RCA of the first 7 inch diameter, 45 rpm microgroove discs, a short lived and good tempered battle to establish a new standard, 10 inch (or 12 inch) diameter records at 33.33 rpm or 7 inch (or larger) diameter records at 45rpm, commenced. In the event, both existed happily side by side each serving a particular purpose.

1952 Cinerama presented multi sound track replay to the public for the first time. This stimulated public interest in the possiblility of stereo recordings and research was stepped up.

1950 The record companies generally adopted the new standards with the vast improvements in sound quality. Production of the 78rpm shellac disc began to be discontinued.

1954 The companies began to provide the equipment for stereo recording in major studios. The possibility of recording ‘right hand’ and ‘left hand’ signals simultaneously on separate tracks on quarter inch magnetic tape had already been demonstrated and some of the major problems inherent in transferring both signals to one groove of a disc had been solved by Baumann in 1930.

1956 Stereo LPs became available and new releases were issued in both mono (monaural) and stereo (stereophonic) versions. The Philips original cast recordings of ‘My Fair Lady’ was one of the first million seller LPs together with Van Cliburn playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.

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Last Update: April 2, 2000