Photo by Sabine Bolk

Something has changed in how we relate to music and recordings of music. Nowadays we can hardly imagine a world without recordings of music. And because there are so many of them we simply divide the music into genres and buy, download and consume it in every other way as if it were “the soundtrack of our life”. The distance between the moment of creation and the experience of listening seems almost unbridgeable when only a century ago we would have to go out of our homes to a venue with actual live human beings playing actual instruments to hear music. But something changed when the reproduction of recordings became common in the late 1930s. We gained something equal to a time machine, an independent memory for sound. We no longer depended solely on other people if we wanted to listen to music, although I suspect that at first we used recorded music more truthful and nostalgic. Now it seems as if we can no longer distinguish a reproduction from authentic reality. We have ongoing discussions about the fidelity of recordings, wipe away mis-takes, overdub and ‘master’ sound into something different than when it was recorded. Hopefully we value the moments along that path in which we are actually and fundamentally creative and keep connected to the roots and history of every single recording.

 

Having said that I am instantly reminded of what really good sound-engineering can add to a recording – of course! I would be the last to say otherwise. For me personally the paradox lies in experiencing a recording in a different timeframe, with an other mindset. Sometimes it helps when the direct perspective I had of when I made the recording has faded and the distance gained provides another. I am certain everyone who has ever created something shares this fascination in one way or another. The moment in which what you have created starts to live a life of its own beyond your influence. I suppose this humbles me when listening to recordings I selected to be ‘good’, for with only few exceptions it takes much longer than ‘the present’ to appreciate what I played. But it is also interesting to listen to the influence time has, the role it plays in your judgement, your inconsistencies, contradictions. It feeds the ever important mystery. In a “the more we know, the less we understand” and “the question is more valuable than the answer” kind of way. And from a more practical point of view the recording of sound and music gives us an entire new instrument to play with, to communicate with. I suppose that as long as we remember or at least try to envision the moment in which a recording was made, by whom, where and when we can all hear some excellent stories. And why? So that we might appreciate the present even more vigorously, for the time is now.

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