Today has been an interesting day for me because I attended two lectures, one regarding recordings and another one regarding performance styles which in a way relates to music recordings. It got me thinking, and got me to wonder about how much things have changed because of recordings. The light bulb moment definitely came during the lecture on performance style by Prof. Kenneth Hamilton, mainly because it relates back to the first lecture on recordings and just gave me a mind-blown experience. Let me summarize it in this way:
Before Recording Technology was Invented
During this time, which is 19th century and earlier, musicians were trained to perform. The idea of perfection in performance was not really a huge thing. I mean, I'm sure it's important to achieve your best possible performance back then, but if you didn't get it right, who cares, do better next time. Not like people can remember exactly how you played it the previous performance. So, musicians work for the art of performing on stage. For a very long time, this was the practice, until about late 19th century to the early of 20th century. This was when recording technology was invented, it was obviously not as clean and clear as recordings today, but for that time, it was revolutionary. Even though you can't really hear a certain range, but nevertheless, it was a big thing. It means that people can begin to immortalize performances.
Unedited Musical Recording
After people can start recording performances, the direction of musical performance definitely took a different direction as well. First, we need to understand that people of those days, they learn music mainly to perform live, no one knows how to perform for recordings. No one has ever experienced performing in front of a giant cone-like shape that's supposed to immortalize their playing. On top of that, there were no editing technology at the time. Just record, and whatever you play, that's what you get. Because of this, performers of that time began to get anxiety of recording their own performance. They became so nervous of recordings. Why? Because that sound will last forever, it will be archived and this whole concept of "perfection" began to unravel. Performers of the early recording times probably prefer to perform in front of a live audience rather than in front of a giant cone. Oh, to those of you who might get confused on why I say "in front of a giant cone," it is because that's how it looks like back then. You stand in front of this cone that's suppose to capture your sound wave on a wax or something. That's how people do acoustic recordings back then.
|*taken from Google Image|
So, when you listen to music recordings before 1945, you need to realize that the technology of editing doesn't exist, and this caused performers to have the pressure of being "perfect" for something that is going to last forever. Surely, a lot of considerations need to be in your mind before judging an old performance recordings.
Edited Musical Recordings
After 1945, people can start edit the music. Probably a lot of musicians will be cheering and wiping sweats off their eyebrows. Also, by this time, a new generation of musicians emerge, one that are raised in the technology of recordings. So, by that time, people can start to get closer and closer to a "perfect" playing. And that's good right? You get to put your performance out as a reference for other aspiring young musicians, and you can do it in many takes until you are happy about it. However, how does this change the concept of music expectation today? Well, let's say everything is on the flip side now. Audience can get access to recordings, and they enjoyed this idea of perfection and when they want to watch live performance, they will expect the same level of perfection from a live concert. This is where the table has been flipped. From the time where musicians were more fearful to recordings because they want their best playing to be immortalized, to musicians who are more fearful of live audience because you only have one chance to live up to the expectation of that idea of perfection from recordings, which are obviously done in many takes and got edited to perfection.
It is an interesting revolution, I must admit that, because I do feel that pressure. Fortunately, now we are living in the era of people realizing this and are more accepting to the imperfections of musical performances. Although, there are still people out there who ignorantly still expects the same level of accuracy in live concerts such as in edited music recordings. I'm not suggesting anything bad about music recordings because I do refer to them to help with my understanding of whatever music I'm working on. But I am intrigue on how much things have changed in our practices as musicians throughout time. It also makes me wonder on how much more things will change 20 to 50 years from now. What more revolution will come to shape the direction of music recordings?
Just a thought. Nothing to debate, but interesting to discuss ^_^
Have a nice day.