Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Ontology of Recapitulation

Once again facing the final days of the attempt at Capturing, of Recording that which was never intended to be so. For those of you following along, see to the right what has become the Realization of Music in its Quintessential Reified Embodiment as Object.

Here before, trying to decide what is OK and what is not OK in this transition from performance to recording to mastering to releasing. Unlike pop musicians, who are faced with the odd difficulties of reproducing onstage their meretricious fabrications, those consumable objects brought into being using the gizmos available to the modern recording assemblist, we in the world of scribbled and unlovable scores are faced with the inverse problem, attempting to create a series of numerals that is something akin to the excitement of the live event, a will of a wisp of an ephemeral evanescence, skin and voice and membrane and eye and string and movement. 

Even the most basic capture, even after a long hunt with horses and trumpets and hounds baying, is weak and fraught with error, and performers are weak and fraught with error, and what really does one want anyway in the prey beheaded and stuffed and glass eyes put in and nailed to the wall with all the others undusted for so long: the excitement, the errors, the feeling, the greasepaint, the score, the threesomes and intrigues, or none of the above? Well, the score, who gives a shit? And as those much greater than me have pointed out long ago, the recording studio is an instrument in itself, and recordings are not and should not be performances, but something quite different. So maybe it isn't a capture at all, but rather a creation of its own, plucked ab nihilo from the bits of heaven that have floated too low and into our modest grasp. 

When I was young and foolish and wrote electronic music, the recording was all there was, and I would tinker and meddle with each small event and each change of parameter, longing for perfection but at the same time fearing a disinfected and insipid and infertile pulp. And now that we find that acoustically captured music is subject to the same endless tweaking of pitch and time and sound and place, we find ourself at the same crossroads. Looking at the guideposts up ahead we see one in particular: Classical Music, which brooks no error, which allows only the subtlest variations from the received wisdom of performances past, which has been extreme in its annulment of reality, which is filled with edits and cleaned of noise until little is left. And I worry: because of that expectation of perfection, mustn't I do the same if I wish to be valid? And I reply meekly: isn't there some power in mistakes, isn't there something there which makes us undeniably human?  But that meek voice is shouted down by others who, having done so, lead me back to the the flashing lights of the plug-ins and the lasso cursor.

So I adjust here and there, a few milliseconds added to a late entrance, a few Hertz raised on the flattened pitch, and during this tedium my mind drifts. I think: hey, what was wrong with Joyce Hatto anyway? When everyone is creating something false, why not go all the way and create something sincerely and truly false?  It's clear why no one noticed her falsehoods for some time, since all expected the next recording of the Messiaen or the Godowsky to be more-or-less like the last anyway, taking one step further Rob Haskin's interpretation of Cage's statement that he had no personal use for recordings:
... the implications of the remark are unclear. He possibly meant that the false objectification of music through recorded sound discouraged difference: the ideal state of societies comprising many individuals. A recording foreclosed a multiplicity of performance interpretations, since it was itself a finite object, and it effectively turned the act of audition into an essentially private action. Cage saw performances of music as a metaphor for social action: the audience who attended to the music as it occurred in acoustic space was just as necessary for the metaphor as the musicians who actually brought the music into existence.
Gracenote's CDDB tipped the scales on Ms. Hatto, but we see the loss of variation everywhere at my day job, the tunes from far-flung orchestras that match ever-so-closely, the live pop / rock / hip-hop recordings from Milan and New York City and Tokyo, that, sequenced and lip-synced on stage, vary only in the time placement of the internationally varied audiences' varied whooings.

And each step in that direction takes us one step further away from the days when musical experiences were real musical experiences of sight and sound and smell and parlor pianos, when we fell in love helping another reach a difficult chord, and then, laughing and falling against each other, we tumbled to the floor where real creation took place, that of love and life and music infinitely sweet.

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