All the old Classical composers. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, others. It just occurred to me that they didn't have any way to record sound. The only recorder was in their minds.
I wonder how much this did to develop music in their minds. They couldn't be lazy and listen to any recording. They had to play it. Otherwise it was only in their minds.
That is an interesting question!
I'm going to take an educated guess
I would think that they must have developed really really good listening skills! And of course, they had notation for "hard copy". They might also have had really good memorisation skills, perfect pitch, stuff like that. Some composers might have had unusual brains like musical savants while others were exposed to music from babyhood having been born in musical families. All that must have helped and compensated for lack of recording technologies.
From what I recall, most composers could also play their instrument so they were able to immediately listen to what they were creating. Maybe they also had music "assistants" that played for them from the sheets and acted as "human recorders"?
You could also address this question to the composer's forum, some of them may tell you how they create, evolve and "hear" their compositions in their mind and imagination before turning it into something concrete and materially "real"; and if recording is a help or a hindrance to the creative process.
I also wonder how listening to recordings. Even being able to listen to our own recordings. How this has effected us musically.
Those guys only had feedback from others. Or listening to themselves while they performed.
Has this dumbed us musically? Made our minds lazier?
I'll take another educated guess here. The older composers might not have had the luxury of "listening on demand" as we do because of the lack of technology but I'm sure that they had access to interact with other musicians that could reproduce their creations fairly regularly. So this was their means of "listening to recordings". They just had less access and exposure time to music.
I think there is an upside to recordings and current technologies that makes us "intuitively smarter": listening over and over and over probably reinforces our memory and our ability to identify things. We also have access to so much music, in so many styles, forms, etc and we absorb all this, day in, day out. I know from experience that out of all this music that sits in memory, my mind is regularly sifting through it all and trying out a ton of combinations and permutations. At times, out comes something original that I try out on the piano and it works, even from my limited understanding of composition.
Recording technology is great in so many ways but it certainly does not dismiss us from developing memory and listening skills.