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Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century.

edited by Hans-Joachim Braun. The Johns Hopkins University Press (2715 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-4363), 2002. 256 pp. Contact publisher for price.

A welcome addition to the technology field, this book offers a wealth of well-written articles by internationally known scholars. It would be particularly useful as a supplemental text in a college-level course, with its focus on selected areas in the development of technology in music from the 1850s through today. The book's origin is interesting: In 1996, the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC) held its 23rd Symposium in Budapest, Hungary, for scholars in the fields of musicology and technology. From that gathering emerged the idea for the book, in an effort to remove the "departmentalization" that often occurs between the two fields.

Here is a sampling of what the book offers: Hans-Joachim Braun, in his article, "Trains and Planes as a Theme in Music," discusses the emergence of the railroad in the early nineteenth century and its subsequent effect on music. He discusses compositions that use the railroad theme or imitate the railroad sound, including from Berlioz's Song of the Railway (1846), Honegger's Pacific 231 symphonic movement (1923), Billy Strayhorn's Take the A Train (1941) and Steve Reich's Different Trains (1988). Braun then follows with the impact of the "aeroplane" on music, with examples ranging from George Antheil's Airplane Sonata to 1950s jazz musician Sun Ra's We Travel the Spaceways." What makes this interesting reading is Braun's well-researched anecdotes, quotes and paraphrases of the words of well-known composers.

My favorite article was by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco: "The Social Construction of the Early Electronic Music Synthesizer." I remember being a student in the preparatory department of the Peabody Institute in Baltimore in the late 1960s, seeing the electronic music studio and being amazed that it took up an entire room, with so many electrical wires and plugs. Reading about R.A. Moog's development of the synthesizer recalled that time clearly. The article is written in an engaging manner, with pictures of Moog and direct quotes from interviews with Moog, Jon Weiss, Dave Borden, Don Buchla and Linda Fisher.

Guitarists will enjoy the article by Rebecca McSwain, in which she discusses the initial "loss of control of sound a guitarist experiences with electrification," leading to the idea that "what had been `noise' became `music.'" McSwain refers to this process as the "reverse salient," postulating, that a reverse salient often occurs during times of "social flux." McSwain presents a brief history of the electric guitar, feedback and the 1969 performance by Jimi Hendrix in which his "howling feedback" eventually became "reconceptualized as music."

Other titles include "Music and the City," "From Polka to Punk: Growth of an Independent Recording Studio, 1934-1977," "Sound Sampling: An Aesthetic Challenge" and "Aesthetics Out of Exigency: Violin Vibrato and the Phonograph." Authors include composers, performers and professors of technology, musicology, anthropology and science. This collection is a stimulating read for musicians in any field, but particularly useful for those involved in the fields of technology and musicology.

Sara Krohn, Manchester Center, Vermont.
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Author:Krohn, Sara
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:512
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