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Just in the middle of the 20th century, in the1950s, the world was introduced to a brand new trend in music. That was rock N roll. Rock N roll seriously changed the concept and image of popular music. This new trend originated from rhythm and blues of 1940s together with jazz, swing, boogie woogie, blues, gospel, western, country and traditional country music. With so many old genres being emerged and mixed, there was also a need for a new sound, for a new power of music reaching as many ears and hearts as possible. Thus, technological advancements were just at the service of rock ‘n’ roll.
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One of such crucial advancements was the development of stereophonic sound: at least two separate audio channels were used to transfer sound through two or more loudspeakers. This technology provided the illusion performance heard from different directions and audible perspective. In this way, reproduced sound became closer to natural hearing. The principle of stereo typing looks like putting two microphones in specially defined locations. Both microphones are recording at the same time, synchronously. In fact, stereo sound was invented already in 1881 when the visitors of Paris Electrical Exhibition could here the performance from the stage of Paris Opera due to the 2-channel audio system presented by Clement Ader. The exhibitors were given two telephonic receivers, independent for each ear and could experience the presence effect.
In 1931 multinational music company, the EMI Group and specifically Alan Blumlein special two-channel system and in 1933 patented stereophonic recording technology cutting a stereo disc carrying two channels by means of two walls of the groove put t right angles. But only in 25 years this method was fated to become a standard one for stereo phonographs. To make stereo available for public, Emory Cook introduced a binaural recordings for commercial reproduction as the interest to such recording and demand for proper equipment was growing. By autumn of 1957 stereo recording became really widespread through the United States. It gave vast opportunities for experiments with sound, so the musicians could not help using them actively. Consequently, both African American Blues and rock ‘n’ roll music were highly varied after stereo was introduced. By that time, the same stations broadcasted both mono and stereo sound sources. As Deanna R. Adams states, stereo recording of contemporary music was becoming more common, providing yet another reason that made FM more attractive and by different reasons high-fidelity stereo transmission was becoming more and more popular (Adams 102).
Further, there were crucial shifts in the quality of music delivery. Rock ‘n’ roll opened the new era with stereo vinyl becoming the prevailing media for all the recorded music. Meanwhile, the Germans invented magnetic type and this was a new word to high fidelity recording with synchronized multichannel method. Hereby, tape recorders came from technological experiments conducted in Germany of the World War II times. In the United States, in turn, a high-quality tape recorder was installed by Ampex Corporation. Plastic tape was perfected by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M), and better sound was also reached through the invention of condenser microphones (Biagi 92). Recording was invariantly important because, certainly, not everyone could attend stage concerts or shows. Magnetic tape made the recordings more long-term in use and easier to spread; so, more and more people could here the same music in different corners of the country and were more and more stimulated to buy tapes and tape recorders. Thus, it was a continuous process of scaling: “It’s interesting to note that with the growth of popularity in music spread, brought about largely by the hysteria surrounding Rock ‘n’ Roll, so the technology to support music picked up the pace too.” It means that it was a reciprocal exchange of benefits. Technologies provided new opportunities for sound recording and distribution as well as quality of sound, while better sound influencing the rating of rock ‘n’ roll resulted in boom in production of those technologies. This is how music started the way of becoming a kind of business.
Still, rock ‘n’ roll was not as commercial as it may seem; on the contrary, musicians were really working hard in search of something new and fresh. Among other techniques, they directed their attention to various electronic effects. Electric guitar was one more gripping innovation of those days; Charlie Christian was first to record the instrument as a virtuoso, thus driving the whole nation mad. Electric guitar made the world of sounds richer, and what is more, it provided much louder sound so that more people could here it in the distance. Musicians exploited various amazing effects like distortion, fuzz and overdrive, all noisy and buzzy so much that even called doubts on whether it still was music. Guitar extortion was not accepted affirmatively; the ear was to get adjusted to it. But that was an era of “sensory explosion”; young people were actively experimenting with sensory-enhancing drugs, so that music was accepted as being right on the wave.
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Distortion in guitar was produced by transistor and diode clipping. While at first distortion was natural because amplifiers were low-fidelity and primitive, further, when rock was conquering the world, inventive musicians learnt to turn weaknesses of the instruments into virtues. Thus, intentional distortion was applied by poking strings or speakers with pencils, screwdrivers and even blazes. Shocking sounds, often reminding some voices like wolf howling or alarm, provided a special charm for rock music. Distortion gained mad popularity after Dave Davies (The Kinks) recorded the single You Really Got Me through a small amp with speaker cone cut with a razor blade. Later distortion became used on purpose and became commercial and contributing essentially to the popularity of rock ‘n’ roll music.
Finally, one more influential advancement to contribute to the history of rock culture was television. In 1950s it experienced essential growth and was revolutionized by the presentation of color broadcasts. Color television without any doubt brought a huge gamma of new impressions to the viewers, and by 1955 half of the households in the United States had applied a TV set. Before creating something original, television air was mostly filled by programs modified from radio shows. Consequently, music shows were also among the most called-for, and rock star producers actively used this opportunity. Now the fans could not only here their favorite bands and singers in records, but they could also watch them with their own eyes. Television broadcasted concerts and gradually video clips were rising; musicians were giving interviews and millions of fans throughout the country could stick their noses to the screens and enjoy show programs as well as an imitation of personal communication with stars. It is obvious that color television provided much more realistic image. Television industry, on the one hand, became a home for rock to live in and to address from, and on the other hand it soon provided the songs with a new context. Television was a solid and inherent part of popular culture, while rock, by its mission, was to oppose to popular culture and found a new shooting mark for its sharp sting. Television together with radio made rock ‘n’ roll a groundbreaking body in mass communication. Since the rise of color television, it was no more music only. Now it became a new media of manipulating people’s conscience and tastes. TV presented a new method for encoding and decoding information, developing absolutely new system of motivations and preferences. Inexperienced audience was ready to believe everything coming from the screens of their home TV sets, and their unprecedented interest gave birth to demanded activity (Miller, ed. 36). The more active they were, the more popular were those who managed to get to the back side of the set. Rock became the music of performance, not only listening.
All in all, there was a great number of factors defining and enhancing the fate of rock ‘n’ roll culture. Apart from some inner reasons, advancements n technologies were among the most shifting stones that assisted rock and roll to spread throughout the world. All points of the research considered, it is easy to make a conclusion that the effect of technology progress on rock culture was truly overwhelming and did revolutionize the way we produce, distribute and consume music.
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