September 21 Reading Ch4, Question 2(Jeffrey Chiou)

When reading Ch 4, I cannot but think about my prior experience receiving a prize winning album of Glen Gould’s playing on Bach’s Goldberg Variation. I was so excited to get ready to listen to his famous humming along with the playing, but then quickly got so disappointed because the sound engineer did a great job eliminating most of his humming. From various program notes I also saw sound engineers complaining about Gould’s humming because it was a challenge for them to isolate the humming from his piano playing while keeping the “high fidelity” of the piano playing.
In Chapter 4, Attali mentioned that although in repetition, the performer remained the relative master of what to bring out to the listener, his playing is actually very different from presentational in the sense that his playing is only “one element contributing to the overall quality(of the album);” only “part of the recording process” (p105-106). The sound technicians (recording engineers) use his/her own production criteria, very different from the performer and composer, to reconstruct what the performer recorded by altering the sound pitch, deleting background noise, perhaps adding new background effect, cutting and pasting together “perfect” musical phrases to make the recording a final product of “abstract perfection,” which revealed a “new aesthetic of performance (which) excludes error, hesitation, noise.” Furtheremore, Attali pointed out that this process suggested that we should value “a virtuoso of the short phrase capable of infinitely redoing takes that are perfectible with sound effects.”
What is your opinion about what “high fidelity” means? What are the criteria in your mind to evaluate an album? Is it against the professional ethics for the performer, and the sound engineers to alter, and gather perfect musical phrases to deliver the audience a performance of “abstract perfection?”


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