The Ontological Status of Sound Recording: An Artistic Blend between Documentation and Sonic Aesthetics
This paper discusses how different ways of defining the ontological status of recorded sound have developed throughout the 20th century. My claim is that even within the period of analog technology, sound recording was moving away from its purposes of preserving and documenting real life musical performances. I will illustrate this by using three different examples. First, I will look at how John and Alan Lomax´s folkloristic documentation of blues music in the 1930s changed the very culture they documented by introducing a new medium that enabled the sharing and dissemination of music beyond the word of mouth. Secondly, I will look at how the producer John Culshaw redefined the recording of classical music in the 1960s by moving away from the ideal of documenting an actual performance and towards the use of technology to brake previous constraints imposed on the musicians and create an improved version of the musical work. Lastly, I will look at Brian Eno and David Byrne´s My life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981), which utilized tape splicing technology to create a blend of western funk and pop with field recordings of non-western folk music and various other sound sources.