Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Excess or Overdose

Int., Night. A Paris Salon, sometime in the 1870s.

The room is crowded and hot, and we are pressed close up against the daguerrotypes mounted eclectically across one wall of the Salon. What a marvel it is, a scene composed from sunlight and science, preserved in a landscape of salt and silver...

Whereas both the visually minded "art critics" and the newly established bourgeoisie of the late 1800s may have found photography "excessively detailed" , "too faithful" and "lacking in focus"; a medium of "inhuman precision" and "artless mechanics", those involved in the acoustic realm apparently thought otherwise. Rather than lamenting the razing of visual hierachies, the figure over ground protocols that traditionally governed painterly composition, the thoughts of modernist inventors strayed elsewhere. Suddenly, the background became of immense interest, and the capturing of "fugitive" previously hidden phenomena appeared immanently possible: especially, it seems, in the world of sound.

Hoping to emulate some of the "qualities" of detailed, impervious photographic inscription, sonic scores were produced whereby every element was miked up, amplified, and recorded on site, before being mixed together to create what was intended to be a recording of "absolute acoustic fidelity". But whereas the photograph proferred a uniquely detailed composite of all elements in front of the lens, in acoustic terms there was no such equivalent, and no such legibility. To the phonographers' great disappointment, when they played their recordings back they found nothing but noise.

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