Tim J. Anderson (Old Dominion University, USA)


When discussing recording music and sound the typical theorization of the record as it relates to the experience of time that of a “time container” technology. While Jonathan Sterne refers to the MP3 as “a container for containers of sound” (2006, p. 194), Jacques Attali sees sound recording media as an investment in “Stockpiling memory, retaining history or time” (1985, p. 87). Closely following from this investment in containment, numerous “record theorists” argue that records effectively reify sound and music. These theorizations are useful, however, they do not engage a once-primary appeal of the modern high-fidelity, long play record: its investment in the elongation of play to generate optimal experiences. This paper draws from trade literature and records/albums released in the early high-fidelity period of 1948-1964 to provide examples of these engagements. These include automatic record changers, “continuously-mixed” records, and recordings dedicated to creating “second-person listener positions”. The paper argues that these examples exist as technologies and techniques of play that are engaged in developing optimal listening experiences. As such, long-play records, while conventionally understood as investments in extending dynamic range, frequency response, and duration were also dedicated to generating optimal modes of play-based “flow states of time” that are discussed in the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2008). Finally, this research is dedicated to reinvigorating an understanding of long-play records with a once-vital understanding of the terms “long” and “play” which have long gone dormant.