Project Proposal

Columbia Records first unveiled their new long-playing (LP) record at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in June 1948. This “revolutionary new product” could play for a total of twenty-three minutes per side. This was an improvement on two prior types of records: the ten-inch 78 RPM record, popular in the 1920s, which only play a total of three minutes of music per side, and the twelve-inch 78 RPM, created in the 1930s, which could play up to four-and-a-half minutes per side. Since 1904 record companies had come precariously close to creating long-playing discs, but Columbia Records, who had closely guarded the secret development of their LP, was the first to succeed. The LP was a major improvement on the two previous record types because listeners no longer had to deal with bulky boxes of four or five records for one set of music. The invention of the LP allowed people to buy whole albums on one record.

The successful invention of the LP record can be attributed to a CBS electrical engineer, Peter Goldmark, and several co-workers who were given the job of creating a slow-speed microgroove record. A prototype made of non-breakable plastic and containing 224 to 300 groves per inch was created in 1947. Although the LP record quickly became the industry standard, there were people who continued to use the old 78 RPMs. Record players already existed that could stack the 78 RPMs on top of each other so that they would play continuously which made them less inconvenient to some people, but the LP was widely regarded as better. 

The invention of the LP record ushered in a revolution in the record industry because it was the first time that record companies could produce full albums on one record. This also began a cultural revolution because now consumers could buy all the songs of an album together on one record instead of spread out across multiple records. This trend of one album per record or disk continued through the 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs. Presently, we are noticing a return to the break-up of songs from albums through the use of iTunes and other online music purchasing sites.

            Our blog site will be organized by categories with a page for each section (Antecedents, Invention/Manufacturing, Possible Alternatives/What Came After, and Interaction with American Society and Culture). Each group member will be assigned a section of the site and will be the main person responsible for the information and design of that section. We will meet altogether at various points throughout the project to review the information and progress of each section. Our main goal is to create a site that combines historical and culturally interesting facts to educate people about the LP record.

            We plan to use iMovie software to create a documentary that is fun and educational. By combining stills, interviews and video clips we will tell the story of the evolution of the LP record and the impact it has had on the American music industry and society. Much of our audio will be music that was originally produced on LP records. We will accomplish this by using an LP record player and various records from 1950s and 60s. Our interviews will be composed of questions concerning the role that the LP record played in the expansion of the record industry and the impact it has had on the daily lives of Americans.

            We chose to do this project because we thought it would be interesting to explore how the culture of the American record industry began and grew over time. This expansion was helped in leaps and bounds by the invention and adoption of the LP record. This record set the standard for the way Americans would listen to music for the latter half of the twentieth century. Music is one of the most integral parts of American culture and the LP record was a major advancer of that culture.

Annotated Bibliography

Borroff, Edith. Music Melting Round: A History of Music in the United States. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 2003.

This book has a brief section on the evolution of discs (records) from the original ten-inch 78 RPMs in the 1920s to the long-playing (LPs) 33 RPMs in the 1950s. This will be useful in describing the antecedents and alternatives of the LP.

 Chavez, Carlos. Toward a New Music: Music and Electricity. New York: Da Capo Press, 1975.

 This book discusses the technology of musical production from the early instruments to radio and film. It is a good source for our project because it contains a section about the beginnings and development of the phonograph, including a couple of diagrams showing how records are created and how that sound is reproduced.

 Dell, Kristina. “Vinyl Gets its Groove Back.” Time, January 10, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702369,00.html (accessed February 12, 2013).

This TIME Magazine article traces the social popularity of the record, as well as its fall, and discusses the recent surge in record sales within the last few years. The article discusses sales percentages throughout various years and also explains the pros of records versus other forms of music media.

Gelatt, Roland. The Fabulous Phonograph. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1954.

This book gives a comprehensive history of the invention of the phonograph. It will be useful for our project because it gives the history of the phonograph which we can use when we discuss the invention and antecedent of LPs. It also has a section on the evolution and rise of the LP record.                           

 Grubbs, David. “Remove the Records from Texas”: Parsing Online Archives.” American Music Review 40, no. 2 (Spring2011 2011): 1-14. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 12, 2013).

In this article published in the American Music Review, David Grubbs explores the opposition against recorded music in the 1960s and explains why, in fact, this form of music became even more important in the digital age. The article would be used for the social aspect of the project.

Hochman, Steve. “Will Those Vinyl Records Be All Played Out by 1990?” (Los Angeles) Los Angeles Times, October 8, 1988. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-10-08/entertainment/ca-3116_1_vinyl-records (accessed February 12, 2013).

This article, published in 1988, was a debate over the popularity of the record and attempted to predict its future, specifically the time in which the record would cease to be in use. This is an important source for understanding the continual social significance of the record.

Holmes, Gillian S. “LP Record.” How Products Are Made, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/LP-Record.html (accessed February 13, 2013).

This website discusses how records are produced. It will be useful for the invention/manufacturing part of our project because it goes into detail about the processes used to manufacture records.

James, T., and A. Grogan. “Back in the groove.” Engineering & Technology (17509637)6, no. 11 (December 2011): 50-53. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 12, 2013).

This article describes the record manufacturing processes of the past and today. It also uses the differences in listening to records or listening to CDs or MP3s to argue that records are not going away, but are in fact making a comeback. This will be useful in helping us describe the various record making processes and in our argument that records have not been completely replaced by other types of music media.

 “Leslie Gerber rejects the term “vinyl” as a synonym for Long-Playing Records.” Classical Recordings Quarterly no. 65 (Summer2011 2011): 57. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed February 13, 2013).

In this article, classical music critic, Leslie Gerber dismisses the use of the term “vinyl” for a substitute for “LP”. This article will provide a cultural aspect and help provide a differentiation between the two.

Library of Congress, “The History of the Edison Cylinder Phonograph:” http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/edhtml/edcyldr.html, accessed 2/12/13

This website states the history of the phonograph and provides an example of one of the forms of recording technology that preceded the LP Record

Millard, Andre. America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

This book follows the history of the technology of recorded sound in American. This is useful for our project because besides giving a detailed history of the invention and rise of phonographs and records, this book also explores the cultural impact that records and recorded sound had and still has on American culture.

 Osborne, Richard. “The record and its label: Identifying, marketing, dividing, collecting.” Popular Music History 2, no. 3 (December 2007): 263-284. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 12, 2013).

This article, written by Richard Osborne was published in 2007, traces the history of the manufacturing of vinyl and long-playing records, particularly the use of record labels. It will be helpful in learning the history of the LP record.

 “Rise and Fall.” Classical Recordings Quarterly no. 71 (Winter2012 2012): 57. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 12, 2013).

Rise and Fall gives a firsthand description of how Leslie Gerber facilitated his own small LP selling business. It contains collections of small catalogues beginning with his personal records. Gerber sold his records out of small bookstores until the use of the LP almost completely died out.

Sear, Walter. The New World of Electronic Music. New York: Alfred Publishing Co., 1972.

This book details the basic principles of electronic music. It will be useful in understanding the science behind the invention of the LP record and what made it different from the records that had come before.

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