A certain David Byrne has written a long and fascinating response to my "Record Effect" piece on his eponymous website. I'm thoroughly flattered by the attention. In passing, Mr. Byrne calls me a "classical guy" who's broadened his field to include John Cage. Wait, isn't John Cage a "classical guy"? Not to many people in both classical and pop, I suppose. Interesting how certain postwar composers such as John Cage, Stockhausen, and Philip Glass have secured honorary coolness in the pop world, to the point where they are considered "classical guys" no longer — more like kindred spirits on the horizon. The classical world needs to show somehow that all the great composers are kindred spirits. In any case, Mr. Byrne offers many rich thoughts on the changing and multiplying roles of recording in pop. Arresting idea: "When music as a product, as a consumable object, is subverted and undermined by technology and by its own success, then maybe we have come full circle. Maybe if music is no longer seen as an object, but as pure information, data, sound waves, then the object becomes at best a mere delivery device, and we’re back to viewing music as an experience, albeit still one that other people produce."
Also, reader Charles Andrews writes: "The hype around the Edison Tone Tests is not as improbable as it might seem. The Edison Diamond Disk player was a miracle of fidelity. If you've ever heard one of the big ones in good working order, with a clean disk, the sound can be amazingly life-like. It would not surprise me at all if people couldn't tell the difference in a darkened hall, given the right circumstances. The player probably came closer to capturing the live sound of a singer than any other medium before or since. Edison's ideas were really brilliant, and resulted in a remarkable piece of technology." Perhaps the old man wasn't putting us on after all. For more, see Emily Thomspon's excellent article "Machines, Music, and the Quest for Fidelity: Marketing the Edison Phonograph in America, 1877-1925," in The Musical Quarterly, Spring, 1995.
Coming soon, a note on Evan Eisenberg's important book The Recording Angel, newly reissued by Yale University Press.