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Author Greg Milner documents the not-always-harmonious history of recording in Perfecting Sound Forever.


GREG MILNER has always listened to music in a different way than most people. “Ever since I can remember, I would try to think not in terms of lyrics or hooks, but sonics,” Milner says. “[I’d ask myself,] ‘What is it that makes a record good, and what is it that people like about it?’ “ Milner, a former editor at Spin magazine and the coauthor of Metallica: This Monster Lives: The Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster, explores those questions in an insightful new book called Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music (Faber & Faber, $35).

Milner’s book isn’t intended to be a comprehensive study but rather a dynamic journey through a century of recording that captures the flash-point moments and technological innovations of the past 100 years as well as the philosophical and aesthetic debates that have cropped up in the wake of those occurrences. While artfully tracing the evolution of recording from the days of Thomas Edison to the dawn of the digital age, Milner reveals that in the music world, history often repeats itself.