If you are new to the “acoustic era” of recording, a word of explanation may be in order. “Acoustic”
does not refer to un-electrified instruments—“unplugged” sessions, if you will—but, rather, to the un-
electrified method of recording.
In the beginning, long before the microphone, there was the horn. Recordings before 1925, when the
industry switched to the electrical process, were made using nothing but mechanical energy. Singers and
musicians played directly into a horn attached to a diaphragm, in turn attached to a cutting stylus. The
sound waves vibrated the diaphragm and caused the stylus to etch sound into master media (cylinders
and discs), and copies were made from those masters.
The sound was crude, by modern aesthetics. High and low frequencies were largely absent. But the
sound that *was* there was focused and powerful. Listen to a cylinder played on a period machine and
be amazed—but make sure to stand back! These are the sounds that our grandparents and great-
grandparents grew up listening to if they had the money for a talking machine in their homes.
One of the key reasons that the “Big Bang” recordings are so celebrated today is because they were part
of “the new.” The recording industry was reinventing itself. That meant, in large part, repudiating its