Rock and roll and consumer audio technology have evolved on a virtually parallel timeline over the course of the last century. Thomas Edison made the first audio recording on a cylinder in 1877, and the development of radio in the 1920s and 1930s introduced tens of thousands of people to blues and country, and jazz music. Two technological developments in the mid-1950s cemented the popularity of a new and distinct form of music – rock and roll. The transistor radio and the 45 rpm record player enabled teenagers to listen to their music of choice in the car, on the beach or in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Over the next four decades, the music and the technology continued to evolve hand in hand, from the 33 1/3 rpm long-playing record and the eight-track tape to the Walkman and the MP3 player.
The exhibit Listen to the Music examines these technological developments and their impact on the evolution of rock and roll and its roots and on the experience of listening to rock music. The exhibit includes such artifacts as a RCA Radiola III radio (1923), Ampex reel to reel recorder (c. 1945), Westinghouse stereophonic record player (c. 1967), Sony Discman CD player (1983), and Sirius Satellite radio system (2005). In addition, a graphic timeline highlights the milestones of this technological progression, and listening kiosks enable visitors to hear 18 recordings made by Thomas Edison from 1877 to 1929.