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Performing Music in the Age of Recording

Performing Music in the Age of Recording

Robert Philip
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Performing Music in the Age of Recording
    Book Description:

    Listeners have enjoyed classical music recordings for more than a century, yet important issues about recorded performances have been little explored. What is the relationship between performance and recording? How are modern audiences affected by the trends set in motion by the recording era? What is the impact of recordings on the lives of musicians? In this wide-ranging book, Robert Philip extends the scope of his earlier pioneering book,Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance 1900-1950. Philip here considers the interaction between music-making and recording throughout the entire twentieth century.The author compares the lives of musicians and audiences in the years before recordings with those of today. He examines such diverse and sometimes contentious topics as changing attitudes toward freedom of expression, the authority of recordings made by or approved by composers, the globalization of performing styles, and the rise of the period instrument movement. Philip concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of the future of classical music performance.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16152-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    If you walk into any large music shop in the early twenty-first century you find the racks full of historical recordings. They have become so commonplace that they are no longer in a separate section of their own, but side by side with the latest digital recordings. The popular cheap label Naxos has a growing catalogue of historical recordings by great pianists, violinists, conductors and singers. In the modern marketing world this can mean only one thing: that people are buying historical recordings in large numbers.

    When I first became interested in historical recordings in the late 1960s, and began...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Life before Recordings
    (pp. 4-25)

    During the course of the twentieth century the world of music underwent great change. For performers of music, and those who listen to them, the change that had a more profound effect than any other was the development of recording. Invented twenty-three years before the start of the twentieth century, it was at first an expensive and insignificant part of a small minority’s musical experience. As the record industry became more successful, and recordings became better (particularly with the advent of electrical recording in 1925), playing music on the gramophone became a widespread and popular pursuit. With the coming of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Experience of Recording
    (pp. 26-62)

    The ‘Classical’ sections of large music shops are now full of CDs spanning a hundred years of recording, from opera arias recorded at the very beginning of the twentieth century to the latest digital releases. These recordings were made to be enjoyed by those who buy them, and to give them the illusion in their own home that the musicians are actually there, performing just the other side of those mysterious black boxes. The illusion has become more complete as sound-reproduction has improved, but illusion was always the point, even in the most primitive recordings.

    Perhaps it is not necessary...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Ensemble and Freedom: Orchestras
    (pp. 63-103)

    Anyone who listens to recordings of the early twentieth century very quickly becomes aware that standards and styles have changed greatly over the last hundred years. Some of the reasons have been touched on already: different levels of rehearsal, different expectations from audiences, the lives musicians lead, and the contrast between habits before and after the birth of recording.

    In this chapter and the next, some of these changes will be looked at in more detail, first in orchestras, then in smaller ensembles and soloists. The chapters focus on a subject that is at the heart of changing practices over...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Ensemble and Freedom: Chamber Groups and Pianists
    (pp. 104-139)

    A chamber group is in some ways simpler than an orchestra, in some ways more complicated. There are fewer people involved, but each musician is separately audible. In an orchestra, it is impossible to know whether an individual string-player is using vibrato on a particular note, or playing a portamento over a particular interval, or phrasing in a particular way. What one hears is the combined effect of what everyone in the section is doing. In a string quartet everything that any individual does can be heard.

    A chamber group is therefore open to a far greater range of subtle...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Questions of Authority: the Composer
    (pp. 140-182)

    Problems of how to interpret notation, and how to deduce what was meant by the composer, should have become much simpler when composers began to make and supervise their own recordings early in the twentieth century. Surely, one might think, if a recording exists of the composer’s performance, it is a straightforward matter for other musicians to listen to the recording, and to do what the composer does. But composers are not necessarily the best performers of their own works, and even if they are, their views may not be fixed. A composer’s recording gives us only what was done...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Questions of Authority: Schools of Playing
    (pp. 183-203)

    Recordings of the composer, or of musicians in some way linked to the composer, will always hold a particular fascination, even though their claims to be authoritative are sometimes exaggerated. There is a broader category of performers for whom great claims are made in CD booklets. These are musicians who were representative of important schools of performance. Some of these schools were themselves directly linked in their origins to composers of the past, others were not. But the ability of a performer to state that he or she was taught by a famous teacher, or even by the pupil of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Questions of Authority: the Archaeological Approach
    (pp. 204-230)

    From the second half of the twentieth century onwards, a major focus for thinking about what gives performers their authority has been the field of ‘Early Music’ and its associated period instrument movement. Asked to name pioneers in the field, many people today might think of David Munrow’s Early Music Consort and Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata, which were both active from the 1960s. Before that there were famous recordings by the Swiss group Schola Cantorum Basiliensis directed by August Wenzinger, and the New York Pro Musica with Noah Greenberg and Russell Oberlin. From the 1970s onwards the period performance movement...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Listening Back: Lessons from the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 231-252)

    For the first time in history, we have a vast archive of recorded performances stretching back over a century. We can hear how very different music-making was in the early twentieth century compared with now, and we can find in the recordings everything from broad trends to tiny details. ‘Everything’ is an exaggeration: there is a lot that is not preserved on records. The musicians themselves are missing and we do not see the expressions on their faces, how they move around the instruments, or their physical responses to the music and to each other. Though there are films of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 253-265)
  14. Index
    (pp. 266-293)