Recorded sound has become a central part of our culture, affecting the ways we make music and remember the past.
The word “culture” refers not only to high culture, such as art, music, and literature, but also to the practices of daily life. Therefore the history of sound recording culture includes not only the history of recorded music, but also the ways recordings were made, and the ways recordings influenced other aspects of society (and vice versa). In the case of music, especially popular music, the interactions between music-making and recording technology are so well-studied that I cover them only briefly on this site. For a deeper and better understanding of the subject, consult the bibliography at the ends of the “Cultural Influence of Recorded Music” and the “Musical Influence of Recording Technology” sections.
Recording has had numerous other influences on our culture and society. It is, for example, the least-studied aspect of motion pictures and television, which are usually thought of primarily as visual media. Recording is also more than simply an entertainment technology. It is a part of doing business in many industries, for example. The making of sound recordings is even a part of the unfortunate modern tendency toward surveillance, a topic that is discussed today in terms of the internet. Those interested in the business side of the sound recording story should check out the business history part of this site.