The Evolution of Music – How music devices came about

Considered a crowning glory across cultures & traditions, like most things beautiful and ancient, the origins of music are shrouded in a thick fog – one which even the most powerful searchlights of intuition and thought may never be able to penetrate or permeate. It is this very intuition that sets music apart. When one speaks of music, it is natural to be prejudiced to consider the evolution of music with respect to the development of civilization.

A sound transcription device, the
phonautograph, is invented by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in the
late 1850s, a precursor to Edison’s phonograph, invented in 1877. Edison
notices a speech-like noise as he accidentally runs indented tin foil
under the telegraph stylus. By the end of the year, he records “Mary Had
A Little Lamb” on the first working phonograph, becoming the first
inventor to successfully record the human voice. Inventors continue to
produce devices that can record and playback sounds. In 1888, Emilie
Berliner invents the disc phonograph, aka the gramophone, which becomes
the dominant audio recording format for the early 20th century.

Radio
is developed during the cusp of the 19th & 20th centuries,
beginning with Nikolai Tesla’s work in 1893 which lays the foundation
for later scientists. The radio becomes the first device to allow true
mass communication, and is instrumental in transferring information far
& wide. FM Radio becomes a reality due to Edwin Armstrong in 1933,
offering higher fidelity sound with less static than the regular AM
radio.

Electrical recording and amplification improves, and
developments are made in disc technology, which bring to light the
inferiority of cylinder playback, and the jukebox is invented. Nathaniel
Baldwin invents the first truly successful set of headphones, making
them by hand in his kitchen in 1910, and by 1943, stereo headphones are
invented. Both catapult to instant fame and become key factors in
shaping music & culture in modern times.

1948 marks the
beginning of the Battle of the Speeds, and the audio cassette – slow to
enter the recorded music industry in 1944 – soon begins to gain
traction. The biggest upswing comes in 1979, when Sony introduces the
Walkman, and cassettes gain improved sound quality. Suddenly, the
cassette is the only format you can use at home, in your car, and in
your pocket.

1990 marks the birth of digital audio, creating a
massive boom of digital songs through the birth of the Moving Pictures
Export Group-1 Layer-3 format, better known as MP3. The internet takes
off, and RealAudio launches the first internet streaming audio format,
which becomes hugely popular in comparison to the long wait associated
with downloading music files, the initial poor audio quality
notwithstanding.

The growth in music is not limited to physical
devices like audio cassettes and CDs, but grows with software like Alda,
Chuck, Lilypond and many more. They allow one to create music across
genres even if you are unaware of how to really programme computers.

What
sets Man apart from others, even amidst the turmoil of life, putting
him on top of the evolutionary ladder, is the power to think, analyse,
understand and assimilate for his own benefit and pleasure. Philosophers
opine that as man toddled towards becoming a human being, his wonder of
the universe and his own capabilities gave birth to one of the most
sacred things – music. Music has grown in the past decades mainly due to
the inventions that man has been able to bring through. The earth is
but an echo of spheres, where music & language are two sides of the
same coin. Man couldn’t have evolved to where he is today without
language, and language reaches its pinnacle in music. It is the best way
to gauge how the future will be and where it will take us…

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