Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration

By Stephen Davies | Go to book overview

7 Recordings

I thought John [Lennon] had liked all the production techniques we had pioneered on Pepper, but no sooner was it finished than he rebelled against them. He wanted to get back to what he called 'honesty', in recording—in other words, he wanted to make them as near to live performances as possible. I reckoned we were making little movies in sound, not stage plays. If a little artifice gave a better result, why not use it? After all, we were honest and up front about the tricks we used.

(George Martin 1994 : 139)

Most musical works are created for live performance and most live performances are of works, yet most people experience music via electronic mediation and, hence, at a remove from the playings that are done. They listen to the radio or to tapes or discs. In Chapters 1 and 4 I outlined some of the ways in which what occurs in the recording studio is unlike what happens on the concert stage. Despite these differences, we talk of the performances that are found on tapes, vinyl records, CDs, videos, and DVDs. Apparently we regard recorded performances as fair substitutes for live ones.

Though I will consider the social impact of the prevalence of recording technology and electronic transmission later, I begin by discussing how recorded performances differ from live ones and the significance of this, both for the way music is played and for the experience of the listener. The topic is important because most philosophers of music assume the paradigm—that is, real time playing before an audience—when they discuss musical performance. 1 Yet, in practice, most of the music heard by most people comes to them via the TV, the radio, the record player, or other electronic playback devices. The paradigm is such, that is, because of its historical importance. It does not represent the kind of performance most often encountered now. The significance of this technologically facilitated shift in the means by which

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Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Musical Works and Performances iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Part One Works, Their Instances, and Notations 1
  • 1: Musical Works 6
  • 2: Elements of Musical Works 45
  • 3: Notations 99
  • 4: Performances 151
  • Part Two Performance, Culture, and Recording 199
  • 5: Authenticity in Western Classical Music 206
  • 6: Authenticity and Non-Western Music 254
  • 7: Recordings 295
  • References 341
  • Index 362
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