"Vinyl Book", my labour of love, was written in 2019 as the culmination of an ardent writing . The book is in Polish only. It was officially published in the twilight of 2022. The intention to produce its English equivalent remained in my plans, but time, that elusive artist, always seemed to paint my hours with other commitments. Combining my enthusiasm for the written word with the soulful world of vinyl, I decided to embark on a journey to present extensive excerpts from my book, translated by hand. In this endeavour, I am accompanied by Chat GPT, my digital companion, whose command of the English language surpasses my own. I look forward to your insights, not only on the narrative, but also on the nuances of its translation. So, dear reader, I extend an invitation to you - immerse yourself in these pages. Let's embark on this vinyl odyssey together. Enjoy!
Chapter I Part I
They Laid Down the Tracks: The Architects of Our Vinyl Journey
THE INTRIGUING WORLD OF SOUND
From the dawn of civilization, our fascination with sound and acoustics has been omnipresent. Echoes stand as humanity's earliest encounter with an external source of reproduced sound.
Sound, in its enigmatic and elusive nature, is akin to air and water – ever-present and vital. It's a staple in our daily lives, a continuous backdrop; utter silence is something our psyche simply can't tolerate. Sound is not just an ambient presence; it's instrumental in our orientation and a wellspring of joy. While it's often said that 90% of communication is non-verbal, try convincing a traffic cop to let you off with just body language – good luck! Sound remains a cornerstone in our interaction with the world.
The serenade of birds, the gentle whisper of waves, the rustling of leaves in the wind – these are sounds that innately soothe the human soul. Despite the cacophony of urban living, the resonance of nature's symphony still manages to transcend the chaos. The influence of sound is profound and far-reaching.
Our intrigue with acoustics predates the industrial revolution, the era that birthed the first sophisticated apparatus for sound recording and playback. These inventions were the culmination of years of relentless curiosity and experimentation.
Our auditory journey begins at infancy, where sounds take precedence over visual stimuli like colors or shapes. Childhood is marked by a playful exploration of sound and rhythm, be it through the simple act of banging a spoon on the table or dropping a plate on the floor.
Ancient Chinese scholars, millennia before our time, were already deep in contemplation over the mysteries of sound. In Egypt, the science of acoustics held significant reverence, particularly in the realm of religious ceremonies. Even the Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Euclid, in the 4th century BCE, were captivated by the enigma of how sound travels.
The sheer power of sound waves has been harnessed by great leaders throughout history. Take Joshua in the biblical tale, who with seven trumpets, brought down the walls of besieged Jericho. Alexander the Great, in a similar vein, employed a horn akin to those fitted in the earliest gramophones for battlefield communication.
Practical uses of sound wave propagation have always captivated the human imagination. Musical notes, the alphabet of sound, and the visual dance of waves on an oscilloscope illustrate the tangible aspect of sound. Yet, the essence of sound remains invisible, elusive – it can't be captured or poured like water into a bowl, though history has seen such attempts.
Words, once spoken, defy containment. They're not like frozen moments in a photograph. Spoken, they resonate, impact, and then fade – becoming history the moment they're heard. Perhaps nothing illustrates the fleeting nature of our existence more starkly (or should I say, more audibly). When a poet utters "moment, stay," it has already passed. Is there anything more tragically human? We ebb away with every uttered word, making our frantic attempts to capture time through sound all the more poignant.
The quest to freeze time – whether in an image or in sound – has likely been an eternal endeavor. Writing has allowed us to capture fleeting words, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that we succeeded in preserving the actual sound of those words.
What sparked the drive in humans over 40,000 years ago to etch the first images on cave walls in Thailand? I believe that at the dawn of humanity, there was a profound desire to capture the fleeting reality. Archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and scientists from various fields have their explanations and theories for this.
In my view, humans have always been haunted by the dreadful sense of transience, and perhaps it's this attempt to cheat time – to seize what is ephemeral – that underlies all efforts to capture reality in static art forms. Painting, monuments, stories passed down orally and those written, photography, film, and recordings – all are manifestations of different approaches to 'freezing time'. Attempts to immortalize ourselves for future generations. To mark our presence, to eternalize it.
My musings might not be grounded in scientific fact, but I believe many inventors creating their works would resonate with this theory.
Today's smartphones with music apps are the culmination of scientific and often philosophical reflections of many individuals. Nowadays, no one marvels at how, with a single swipe of a finger on a music app, we can access music with a quality incomparably superior to what was available a century ago. Countless contributors throughout human history have added their bricks to this edifice, leading to the inventions at the end of the 19th century, whose descendants now provide us with emotions, joy, reflection, and entertainment.
Sławomir Wątkowski wrote in his essay: "The history of [...] recordings is foremost about the people who create it – their knowledge, creativity, and commitment. Then, the primary material for 'processing': beautiful voices, exquisite arias and songs, magnificent music, great composers, and other eminent creators of this cultural domain. And then the technology that 'captures' in the transient flow of time, in the form of black discs, the greatest and most beautiful values of our [...] culture, making them accessible to a wide audience."
So, let's delve into the figures without whom our 'home concert halls' might never have existed.