- As distant and close as can be: lo-fi recording: site-specificity and (in)authenticity
- The Fifth Annual Art of Record Production Conference
- Book/source title
- ARP 2009 proceedings: the Fifth Annual Art of Record Production Conference hosted by the Division of Music and Sound, ATRiuM, University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, S. Wales on November 13th-15th 2009
- Association For The Study Of The Art Of Record Production
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
In the paper I elaborate on the music studio as a conceptual frame for the cultural, aesthetic and above all ideological meaning of popular music. I do this by focussing on the phenomenon of lo-fi music production and the way it expresses ideas about the space and place in and of music and related questions regarding (musical) authenticity and inauthenticity. While, as Philip Auslander writes in his book Liveness, it is indeed true that ‘the live performance is a recreation of the recording, which is [...] the original performance,’ the aesthetics of hi-fi recording are still attached to an ideal of unmediated authenticity. Whereas the actual recording almost always takes place in the specific, standardized space of the studio (somewhat equivalent to the famous ‘white cube’ - the white walls of a gallery or museum - in the visual arts), it aims for the eradication of specific place and the construction of idealized space and imagined authenticities, which are nevertheless accepted as real by the general audience.
Since the advances of digital technology made it possible to make relatively professional sounding recordings with the use of affordable consumer electronics, the studio became a conceptual place through the design and workings of audio hard-, and software: every place can be transformed into a studio - a tool for the eradication of that place and the construction of innumerable other ‘spaces.’ In a reaction to these developments, some artists stick with lo-fi production aesthetics while the means for making hi-fi recordings are at hand. On the one hand, through the use of inferior recording techniques and recording outside of a studio lo-fi presents a different, supposedly more sincere, authenticity related to place and physicality: the musical equivalent of site-specificity. On the other hand, it is just as well an explicit ‘represented performance,’ an attempt to consciously reflect on the representational nature of recording and its inherent inauthenticity.
In the paper I elaborate on lo-fi recording and its relation towards its hi-fi counterpart, using literature on (the history of) audio recording, the concept of noise - one of lo-fi’s most distinctive features in opposition to hi-fi - and the conceptualization of spatiality and physicality in and of music. Since, as Stan Link points out, there now exist ‘some very high-tech means to achieve "lo-fi" ends,’ I focus on whether lo-fi is or isn’t moving away from the hi-fi aesthetics of the music studio, what meanings are actually performed through lo-fi aesthetics as a strategy for authenticity, relying on site specificity and physicality, and what this might mean for the construction of the music studio as a conceptual framework in the study of popular music.
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