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Author Topic: "THE RECORD EFFECT"  (Read 5000 times)

zmix

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"THE RECORD EFFECT"
« on: June 06, 2005, 11:27:19 am »

There is a fantastic article in the New Yorker this week by critic Alex Ross:


THE RECORD EFFECT
by ALEX ROSS
How technology has transformed the sound of music.
Issue of 2005-06-06

Ninety-nine years ago, John Philip Sousa predicted that recordings would lead to the demise of music. The phonograph, he warned, would erode the finer instincts of the ear, end amateur playing and singing, and put professional musicians out of work. “The time is coming when no one will be ready to submit himself to the ennobling discipline of learning music,” he wrote. “Everyone will have their ready made or ready pirated music in their cupboards.” Something is irretrievably lost when we are no longer in the presence of bodies making music, Sousa said. “The nightingale’s song is delightful because the nightingale herself gives it forth.”

Before you dismiss Sousa as a nutty old codger, you might ponder how much has changed in the past hundred years. Music has achieved onrushing omnipresence in our world: millions of hours of its history are available on disk; rivers of digital melody flow on the Internet; MP3 players with ten thousand songs can be tucked in a back pocket or a purse. Yet, for most of us, music is no longer something we do ourselves, or even watch other people doing in front of us. It has become a radically virtual medium, an art without a face. In the future, Sousa’s ghost might say, reproduction will replace production entirely. Zombified listeners will shuffle through the archives of the past, and new music will consist of rearrangements of the old.

Ever since Edison introduced the wax cylinder, in 1877, people have been trying to figure out what recording has done for and to the art of music. Inevitably, the conversation has veered toward rhetorical extremes. Sousa was a pioneering spokesman for the party of doom, which was later filled out by various post-Marxist theorists. In the opposite corner are the technological utopians, who will tell you that recording has not imprisoned music but liberated it, bringing the art of the

ted nightshade

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2005, 12:28:02 pm »

Quote:


Is there any escape from the "feedback loop"? Philip, having blamed recordings for a multitude of sins, ends by saying that they might be able to come to the rescue. By studying artifacts from the dawn of the century, musicians might recapture what has gone missing from the perfectionist style. They can rebel against the letter of the score in pursuit of its spirit. But there are enormous psychic barriers in the way of such a shift: performers will have to be unafraid of indulging mannerisms that will sound sloppy to some ears, of committing what will sound like mistakes. They will have to defy the hyper-competitive conservatory culture in which they came of age, and also the hyper-professionalized culture of the ensembles in which they find work.


Interesting stuff! Thanks for posting this.
Quote:


The fact that the Beatles broke up three years after they disappeared into the studio, and the fact that Gould died in strange psychic shape at the age of fifty, may tell us all we need to know about the seductions and sorrows of the art of recording.

That however is very funny indeed! That's the reviewer's little editorial, as far as I can tell, not the author's idea necessarily. It is entertaining though to hear such strong language on the subject!


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maxdimario

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2005, 02:36:43 pm »

The more things change..

great article.

The whole degeneration is caused by not having a 'relationship' between artists and audiences.


The Beatles were the 'first' to exploit the studio and therefore integrate electronics with music in a public way, but the success they had was primarily due to their excellence as entertainers and as positive spiritual role models.

Music is not electronics. Electronic music stimulates the mind and senses but cannot communicate human emotions and experience like humans can, in fact it can be misleading.

Electronics can amplify and project music, but in the wrong hands it kills music.

Speaking of nuances, there are some circuits that capture the nuances of performance reasonably well and others that kill it..

Whenever you say something can't be done, there will always be a movement of people who try and prove the opposite. This is human nature, or better, the desire to overcome human limitations.

There are plenty of people who feel a machine can, in the right hands, produce better music than a musician.
These people are spiritually weak, and/or have never had to do with (or are incapable of understanding) a real artist, in my opinion.

to better something which exists is one thing, but to create an original artistic statement is another.

In the end all original creative thought comes from that unknown territory which is closer to the spirit than the ego.

The ideal is not to fight human nature but to get the most out of it.

Machines (reproducers included) have no spiritual identity, do not think, feel, or adapt themselves to the moment, or the times.

there is nothing wrong with records or machines per se'. Records are a great form of entertainment and a document of performance and culture of the times, provided they are based on performance and not abstract 'soundscapes'.

But It's all just a matter of proportion. Most of the attention should be focused on the human element and not vice-versa.

The damage occurs when the emphasis is to take advantage of cheap technology and marketing 'strategies', and stop investing and/or give due respect to the creative human element, and what stands behind it....

There are some things that money just can't buy...

We need to remove the 'causes' that created degeneration in music and let it breathe and grow once again.










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zmix

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2005, 11:20:59 am »

The only minor issue I take with Alex Ross's article is the following passage:

"Philip, at the end of his masterly thesis, is left with an uncertainty. No matter how much evidence he accumulates, he can’t quite prove that classical playing became standardized because the phonograph demanded it. Records cannot be entirely to blame, he admits: otherwise, similar patterns would surface in popular music, which, whatever its problems, has never lacked for spontaneity."

Au contraire!
Does he mean to imply that pop music is a pure art form, devoid of reference and without standardization? It's quite obvious that various eras in pop recording had a signature sound, and that this sound was derived largely by referring to other recorded examples, i.e. Allison's invention of the Kepex at Philadelphia's Sigma sound in 1971 (TSOP) and the eagles highly gated tubby drums five years later in LA were certainly the result of cultural migration through recorded example, no?

ted nightshade

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2005, 12:44:38 pm »



zmix wrote on Wed, 08 June 2005 08:20

THe only minor issue I take with Alex Ross's article is the following passage:

"Philip, at the end of his masterly thesis, is left with an uncertainty. No matter how much evidence he accumulates, he can't quite prove that classical playing became standardized because the phonograph demanded it. Records cannot be entirely to blame, he admits: otherwise, similar patterns would surface in popular music, which, whatever its problems, has never lacked for spontaneity."

Au contraire!
Does he mean to imply that pop music is a pure art form, devoid of reference and without standardization? It's quite obvious that various eras in pop recording had a signature sound, and that this sound was derived largely by referring to other recorded examples, i.e. Allison's invention of the Kepex at Philadelphia's Sigma sound in 1971 (TSOP) and the eagles highly gated tubby drums five years later in LA were certainly the result of cultural migration through recorded example, no?


Indeed!
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Ted Nightshade aka Cowan

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Bob Olhsson

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2005, 03:01:29 pm »

Technology probably plays a much more minor role than most of the techno-centric care to admit. I think most recordings lose their meaning when taken out of the context of live performance as part of the audience's experience. The Beatles also weren't nearly as innovative as the pop-culture pundits would have people believe. They expanded the pallet of what could get radio which was a big deal but this was a product of their unprecedented celebrity rather than of their technology.

Level

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2005, 03:19:15 pm »

Quote:

The Beatles also weren't nearly as innovative as the pop-culture pundits would have people believe. They expanded the pallet of what could get radio which was a big deal but this was a product of their unprecedented celebrity rather than of their technology.



In 1974, it would be hard to say the same...about "the Floyd"

Fine article!
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J.J. Blair

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2005, 04:13:15 pm »

You know, before the phonograph, and even still through much of the first half of the 20th century, if you wanted to hear a hit song, you went out and bought the sheet music.  
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David Schober

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2005, 08:05:05 pm »

Great article!

I've thought about this a good bit myself.  

As much as I love recording, I simultaneously feel guilty about it.  Years ago when someone had a jones to hear music they either made it themselves or had to wait until a live performance was in town.  I imagine the anticipation of a great  concert made the performance even sweeter.  After the concert, one had to savor the memory until the next time.

Today we have at our fingertips recordings of some of the greatest performers of all time.  At any moment....made even easier on my iPod I can hear musical perfection at the slighest whim.  But none of it as satisfying as experiencing it live.

Every time I attend a live performance I'm struck by how much more powerful it is than anything we can do in the studio.  The experience of community, hearing sound in three dimensional space, and the tension, release and joy of live performance (not knowing what may happen next) beats even the best of recordings.

In some way I wonder if the ability to reproduce a live musical event is helping or hurting music.  I agree with the writer...it can't be denied that hearing performances back has an effect on performances (especially for the purpose of recording)  Ross's analogy of the Uncertainty Principle is right on.  But I wonder if the real issue is a bit more of the order that we don't value live music as we once did.  As I said before, now when a musical itch needs scratching we don't have to make it ourselves or head out for a live performance.  In a matter of seconds we can pull out Callas, Leadbelly, the Beatles...whoever, and have that itch scratched.  Would we probably enjoy hearing some live music more than listening to that CD?  Most likely.  Sure the local scene may not have the likes of these geniuses, but at least it's live.

I wonder if this easy access of recorded music makes the value of music less.  In the plain old law of supply and demand, when there's a surplus in supply, the value of the item drops.  Today we have an unlimited supply of music available to us.  It's wonderful that I can hear Callas, Leadbelly and the Fab Four.  But at the same time, I can't help but wonder if with this great supply, the value of music is diminished.
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Barry Hufker

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2005, 09:29:44 pm »

I would surely say music making and recording are much more commerce than art.  That music is so common has made it a commodity and has rendered it close to valueless in many ways.  Who now makes money at recording or performing?  Very few.  In my extensive experience with high-caliber classical musicians, a great many of them look at performance strictly as a business.  In fact their economic expectations are not anywhere near the reality of the music business.

All that aside, recording has been a great equalizer.  People without any musical training or ability could regularly have music in the home through recordings.  And those who couldn't afford a gramophone or record player have always had radio as the medium bringing entertainment and culture.

All that aside it is the player piano that may actually be the greatest digital recorder.  Punched holes in a role of paper brought real music into the home straight out of the instrument itself.  And because of that, real music could be in everyone's home.  And because George Gerschwin and so many others decided to record this way, we have recording so life-like it is as tho' they are seated at the piano.

Whether recording "ruined" music or not, one thing is for sure -- the invention of television killed off any remaining cultural brain cells, so we wouldn't be playing charades and music in our parlours anyway!  ;>)

Barry
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compasspnt

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2005, 09:40:23 pm »

video killed the radio star...
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maxdimario

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2005, 03:44:58 am »

MTV did degenerate music quite a bit.
I wonder what rec companies used to do with the money now spent on videos.

Mp3's and cd files are technically 'perfect' sounding, but probably the furthest from what 'live' sound is.

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cantgetnosleep

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2005, 07:57:09 am »

Ironically, the 90's underground dance music scene was exciting, in part, because of this very phenomena.  Most all pop music is available in a CD, take-home format.  Top-40 pop music inundates your life, regardless of whether you want it to or not.  Most indie rock bands sell CDs at their performances.  Almost every form of music is available on demand and at home.  

For years, underground dance music was not easily available in a take home format (at least in the states).  Many of the best songs and biggest summer hits were released as a few thousand pieces of vinyl.  If you weren't lucky enough to catch the record when it came out, or you didn't have a record player, you just didn't get to hear it - unless your favorite DJ happened to play it during a night out.  

That's where much of the magic in the scene was hidden.  A DJs collection of vinyl was an invaluable asset because the music was not available for performance anywhere else.  This situation is, of course, how the experience of music was before recording technology; if you wanted to hear music, you had to get out and experience it with other people.

This time has passed for the dance scene.  Records are still used, but CD technology has caught up with vinyl.  I can now download the newest tracks on-line in mp3 format days after they have been released.  It's funny that even techno can be passed over by technology.

Andrew
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zmix

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2005, 07:58:51 am »

J.J. Blair wrote on Wed, 08 June 2005 16:13

You know, before the phonograph, and even still through much of the first half of the 20th century, if you wanted to hear a hit song, you went out and bought the sheet music.  


JJ: Look up some of the debates on this in the archives of  the "Gearsluts" forum from the turn of the last century... apparently the cheap and readily available 20 lb cotton fibre watermarked paper was really pissing off the quill and parchment crowd.


J.J. Blair

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Re: "THE RECORD EFFECT"
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2005, 09:25:40 am »

Z, you're killin' me.

Oh, and I think if MTV had existed in the '70s, we never would have had bands like Bachman Turner Overweight having huge hits.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham
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