Sunday, May 21, 2006


What do you capture when you record audio or video of something?

This is the question that Ruth Zaslow asked me today. While I have not thought long on it yet I want to record my initial thoughts and see where it goes.

1. You have an average of the sonic or visual events that occured that will convince a human that they are "hearing" or "seeing" what occured. In reality audio recording only catures what the machienes allow it to capture and the machiens are built by people who assume that humans can only hear so much and that audio is all that accounts for hearing. Of course there are so many other things, the temperature of the room, the pheramones floating about, the small of your neighbor. In fact, even the audio spectrum is incomplete in an audio recording. (in most cases)

2. A recording is for the person who recorded it, a reminder of what transpired. A record of a portion of what occured that can remind the person of the thoughts that they had or the emotions that they experienced. It also serves as an entity in and of itself. A new piece of media or a new composition as it now staticly redoes what it is again and again.

So those are initial thoughts and there is more thinking to be done.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

but what happens when a recording transcends what is possible in the physical world?

and what of the temperature of the room, the pheramones floating about and the smell of the neighbor in the environment where the recording is being played back.

don't you feel that the genius of recordings is more in their ability to convey audio in a transient way than they are "reminders". What's the difference between listening to a recording of Lassus motets on your ipod while on the bus (where lots of noise that is not necessarily linked tangibly to the recording in effect bleeds in and merges) and listening to Lassus motets on a state of the art hifi system with acoustic conditioning of the room? The music will hit you in very different ways I believe.

Recordings are portable and timeless and that is their value. When one wants to hear the subtle treatments of counterpoint in a given piece of music live performances come short in being able to guarantee the flawlessness in every repetition. That's why I believe people are more prone to keep a piece in their repertoire when they play it live than they are when they record it. Why keep playing it that way when it already exists in a fixed portable and transient form.

Going back to the original would be very stale and boring were recordings nothing more than "a reminder" - sub bass anyone? show me an acoustic instrument that can produce 30hz frequencies that literally shake the structures that are blocks away.

I think we do ourselves a great disservice when we start to see recordings as storage and not see them as instruments. Speakers produce vibrations in the air the same way a violin does. And all speakers are different...just like a strad is different from a student model...and further the way these instruments interact with their acoustical environment further complicates the equation.

So next time you're picking up some new speakers ask yourself "If I were to translate the price spectrum of a violin to these monitors should I buy the 50$ xbrands or the 2000$ Mackie's?
And for god's sake kids...encode at 192 at least!

5/25/2006 10:38:00 AM  
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