Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Single

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is SINGLE.

Early mass-produced music recordings were made of shellac, which was brittle and heavy. They were played at a speed of 78 revolutions per minute. Each 10" disc could only hold 3 or 4 minutes of music. Although inventors fiddled around with the technology, by 1925, the 78 rpm disc became the standard in the United States. Professional musicians and composers soon adapted, limiting their songs to fit a single disc so that they would sell easily.

A new innovation in 1948 was the twelve-inch LP, or "long playing" disc, made of more durable vinyl, revolving at a speed of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.

This worked well for symphonies and the soundtracks of Broadway musicals. But for popular music, people were used to hearing and dancing to songs that were 3 to 4 minutes long. What had started out as a technological limitation had turned into custom. Even now, most popular music cuts are 3 to 4 minutes long - people just felt that was the right length. After all, it had been that way for thirty years.

In 1949, RCA Victor Corporation developed a smaller vinyl record that could hold just one song. It was seven inches in diameter, and revolved at a speed of 45 rpm. You could just buy the song you liked, instead of a whole album of songs. You could buy a "single."

Another technological innovation allowed you to play your songs in any order you liked. A detachable spindle allowed you to stack several records. A spring mechanism held the stack above the turntable, dropping each record down to be played after the first was done. Because the spindle was wide, to accommodate the mechanism, 45s were bored with a wide central hole.

In England, 45s were pressed with a smaller hole to accommodate the traditional spindle, but you could punch out the central insert to play them with the stacking spindle.

45 rpm discs were also inexpensive, compared to albums, so they were affordable. And because people could buy only the songs they liked, and play them in any order, it was kind of like the first customizable play-list.

Selling music by the song also made it possible for record companies to track the most popular songs, and the best sellers came to be called Hit Singles.

I have to thank someone for this idea, and another someone for the subject of the picture. The author of this book, which talks about American popular music, its culture and the business of music, happens to be [The Man I Love]. And my son provided the records for me to photograph.

16 comments:

mo.stoneskin said...

Interesting, but 3-4 minutes just feels right! When a song is longer than that - unless it is an exceptionally good song - I always feel a bit annoyed. Just a little bit.

Life with Kaishon said...

Very interesting post today! Great way to get an outside the box idea for a topic!

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

great post - one would think that I should have known that stuff (since I grew up with vinyl!), but I didn't. Thanks for the background!

kcinnova said...

You do think outside the box!

maidenshade said...

Good Morning,

Oh how well I remember all of those records. Growing up, we even owned a cranking phonograph and the big heavy records that it played. Oh to have That relic now!

It's been a very challenging week here at MaidenShade. Working through blog issues, thinking of possible posts - and rueing the fact I'm not visiting everyone. Please, don't forget about me; )

Today's post is on some basics of HTML just in case that is something you're interested in. It does come in handy for working in blog posts, webpages, and listings if you have a store.

xJ
MaidenShade.wordpress.com

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

I always wonder if I should get a turntable then collect vinyl...

Carmi said...

Coolest take I've seen on the theme yet! You've made me hanker for another spin of my old vinyl. I know the crates are here somewhere...

Tracy said...

what a great idea for a blog post! and it was fun to read about the history of records. :)

i miss the static-y sound of the needle on vinyl.

*sigh*

Mingus said...

Thanks for the leg up, Cookie!

blognut said...

Educational! I remember buying 'singles' but then everything went to tape. 8-track tapes!

aguthrieimages said...

G,
I am so glad I stopped by here before I posted my "Hit single idea" great minds think alike! I can't wait to see if you have any other ideas!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Oy. I remember 45s and 78s and LPs and Oy.

momemts in time said...

Booker T and the MGs !! Takes me back...

Beverly said...

Terrific post. A subject near and dear to my heart.

Briget said...

My Grandmother still had her old windup phonograph when my brother and I were kids (he has it now). And you could still wind it up and play her records - Enrico Caruso and recordings of symphonies (5 or 6 records per symphony) And the collection also had my Dad's stuff - "Yes, We Have No Bananas" and "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" were my favorites!

dennisthemennis.co.uk said...

Great IDEA!!