Friday, October 31, 2014

Additional LIS Courses for Spring 2015

The Division of Library and Info Science is offering one course on grant writing and one course on web-site development. Consider these as electives!

Contact Dr. Szylvian at

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Faculty Book Review: Susan Schmidt Horning, Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP

 Book Review by Christopher Pataky

(Doctoral Student, St. John's University)

Susan Schmidt Horning, Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording   from Edison to the LP. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2013). ISBN: 9781421410227. 320pp. $45.00 hardback or eBook.

Many millennials have not even seen, let alone have listened to, a vinyl record, eight-track, or cassette tape.  Listening to music has become as simple as putting in one’s ear-buds and playing streamed music from an iPod.  The recording of music has also become less physical and more digital, improving sound quality, reducing recording time, and allowing musicians to explore genres that would have been impossible to create less than fifty years ago. 
In Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP, Susan Schmidt-Horning masterfully presents the often overlooked history of the technology of sound recording and its impact on popular culture.  Schmidt-Horning breaks the widespread and misleading notion that words and music are the most important parts of any record.  The soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and the revolutionary music of The Beatles would not have been possible without advances in recording technology and recording engineers, whose growing contribution made music icons possible.  As a former performer, Schmidt-Horning draws from a generous amount of oral interviews with musicians, recording engineers, producers, and major recording labels to deliver a gripping account of the various talents that came together to create music history.
Schmidt-Horning begins with the earliest of recording studios in the Acoustic Era,  when the capturing of sound moved from laboratories and small machine shops to professional recording networks.  The technological advances of the First World War and the dance craze of the 1910’s ushered in the first “golden age” of recording music as radio created a huge demand for the new blues and jazz music of the day.  Records became the most popular form of entertainment and the industry changed almost overnight as small recording studies emerged in the hopes of cashing in with the next hit song. 
Chapter Three focuses on the forgotten amateurs of the 1930s who contributed a great deal to music recording in their efforts to “chase sound.”  Home recorders like Les Paul, helped to propel the music recording industry to new summits with new techniques.  As Chapter Four explains, the years leading up to World War Two saw a rebound of record sales and thus a renewed interest from companies in improving sound quality.  In the 1940s, a new emphasis on record production marked a shift toward a greater focus on the studio and those who recorded rather then played the music.  Chapter Five tells the story of how the tape, LP, and stereo took recording to new levels of editing, allowing for not only greater sound quality, but greatly reduced production times as well.  In Chapter Six we see how large recording studios could not keep a monopoly on recording as new technology helped smaller studios produce non-mainstream music such as rock ‘n’ roll and hillbilly/country, which inevitably replaced the more conventional big band music of the 1940s.  Finally, in Chapter Seven we see how technology came to play such an important role in music development.  Recording engineers, as an example of the growing importance of sound technology, came to be called “the sound-man artist” surpassing the orchestra conductor and becoming as important to music as the songwriter or lead singer.

Schmidt-Horning’s Chasing Sound serves as a wonderful reminder of the history behind our popular music.  Chasing Sound is a brilliant read for both academic and general audiences of cultural and technological history.  After reading Chasing Sound it would be hard for any reader to not appreciate the many technological steps that led to the sound quality and electric beats that comprise modern music.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Please Join SJU Public History Students On These Upcoming Trips

Please Join SJU Public History students at the National Archives-NYC on Wednesday, 10/23 at 6:00pm and at Old Mystic Seaport in Mystic,CT on Friday, 11/14 at 12:30pm
For details email: Kristin M. Szylvian, Ph. D.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Events for the rest of Fall 2014

Tuesday 10/28     Movie Night    Gang of New York

Saturday  11/1      Manhattan Historical Walking Tour "Gangs of New York" with Joyce Gold

Tuesday 11/18      Games Night

Dec 15,16 or 17??? End of Semester Pary - To be determined

Seventh Annual St. John’s College
Dean’s Interdisciplinary Symposium
Please join us on Thursday, November 20,
2014 from 1:50-3:15 pm (Common Hour) in
D’Angelo 206 as four distinguished scholars
from St. John’s College discuss food

Symposium Participants
Dr. Robin Wellington (Psychology): “The Hunger Games: The
Neuroscience Underlying Eating and Satiety”

Dr. Tracey-Anne Cooper (History): “Feast and Fast In
Medieval Europe: Marking Extraordinary Time with Food
and Abstinence” 

Dr. Robert Fanuzzi (English): “From Pigsties to Parks and
Back Again: Food Politics and the Sustainable City”
Dr. Barrett Brenton (Anthropology): “From Paleodiets to
Molecular Gastronomy: The Global Health Paradox of Food
Systems Sovereignty and the Right to Food”

Admission is free and open to the public

Welcome to St. John's University, History Department's Blog.
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