Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Music is not Just about the Ears

One of my former colleagues reminded me today of the debate that still rages over what is the "best" bandwidth for recordings of music. I use the scare quotes because I persist in believe that, while recordings may help orient the mind when preparing to listen to an actual performance, no recording is a substitute for the experience of physical presence. To "review the bidding" on this argument, my current position comes down to two points. One is that any performance has a strong spatial factor. Even when it involves only one performer, there is still the relationship among performer, instrument, and physical setting in which the performances is taking place, all three elements of which play a role in how listening is experienced. The second is the issue of engagement. For multiple performers this involves the extent to which performance cannot take place without communicative actions among those performers. However, there are also factors of communicative actions between performer(s) and audience. Both of these points are abstracted out of the picture when a recording (even a "live" recording) is substituted for an actual performance. Arguing over whether or not a recording would benefit from wider bandwidth is a bit like arguing that the Taj Mahal could do with another window.

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