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1.6: Transmission of Music and Knowledge

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    The process by which music moves from between one person to another, between generations, and between communities is called musical transmission. Since Edison’s first recording in 1877, recording technology has transformed music performance and transmission. The process of change from recording sound on tin foil, wax cylinders, vinyl, magnetic tape, to the digital revolution that brought about compact discs and now streaming has drastically changed how music is transmitted. In the current world (2016) it is possible to hold more music on a device small enough to keep in one’s pocket than a major library could physically contain in 1976. This has changed how much humans consume and value music. When combined with video recording and the Internet, recording has become the primary way to transmit music between people, cultures, and generations. The technical revolution has facilitated cross cultural exposure and exploration that is unparalleled in human history. This has ramifications that are yet to be discovered and/or understood.

    Before modern recording technology the only ways to pass down a work in an original state were to notate it on paper or to pass it down orally. Many cultures continue traditions that have been ongoing for centuries of passing down music orally/aurally. While new performers are part of a continuing lineage and tradition it is likely that the music that they inherit continually evolves. The oldest extant written notation that gives complete instructions on how the music is to sound originated with Medieval European monks. This is now the staff notation that is fast becoming a global standard for music notation.