Wallach invited to speak on the continued relevance of recording studios

Newswise — In today’s world of tech-infused art production, music can be composed and recorded without the musicians ever being in the same room. However, there is undeniably something ineffable that happens when they are together that cannot be achieved separately, according to Bowling Green State University professor Dr. Jeremy Wallach. popular culture and specialist in popular music and globalization.

Wallach was recently invited to discuss this phenomenon in Venice, Italy, at the annual “Music and Musicology in the 21st Century” conference of the Giorgio Cini Intercultural Institute for Comparative Musical Studies, a humanities research foundation. This year, the focus was on “recording studio ethnography”.

“You might ask, now that everything is digital, why even talk about recording studios?” Wallach said. “But recording studios are still a very important site for music production and people want to use them. They’re still there because of the interactions that happen there.

He was surprised and flattered to learn that the organizers knew of his early work on the poetics of recorded sound. And his first book,Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997-2001”, has been included in the conference bibliography due to its coverage of recording activity. Conference attendees were also familiar with his extensive work on the heavy metal genre. He was among three Americans attending the conference, and his was one of only four papers given in English. The other seven were in Italian.

Wallach presented an article on the moving experience of the recording studio. He argues that “the most successful recordings are based on an actual social encounter, and that’s what engages the listener, as the listener responds to a social interaction already going on between the various musicians playing on the track. . In a studio, there is always an audience. That’s also one of the reasons people like live albums, because they’re like a movie with a laugh track – they have an audience telling you how to react to the performance, and it kind of becomes of social encounter. It’s irresistible, it’s pleasant. It’s akin to “reaction videos” on YouTube, the mock social encounter.

“While all of our modern, what I call ‘prosthetic technologies’ like Garage Band that we have on our phones and computers allow one person to do an entire composition, and we can simulate that quasi-social atmosphere, they don’t can’t really replicate the collaborative, face-to-face aspect of making music together.

“My presentation explores a crucial enigma,” he said. He had previously explored how the immediacy of live performance and the authority of text are attributes of sound recordings. His current research deals with how the intensely social process of sound recording is encoded in such a way that it produces what might be called a quasi-social encounter with real listeners. How does this happen? Can it be studied by observation and conversation?

He did not, however, rule out the need for remote music recording. While playing together or in the studio is ideal, the ability to record and share music, even individually, has been important in spreading culture and ideas, Wallach said. During the apartheid era and the South African embargo in the late 1980s, for example, musicians would create tapes to send to each other which could then be added to.

“In the 1980s, it was very common to ship music around the world so people could add tracks to it. It was still analog tape, but copies could be made that people could add their parts and then they’d mix it all together. It was an unwieldy process, but they could do it. Today, with digital technology, it’s much easier to email audio,” he said. -he declares.

The trip to Venice was an unexpected break in Wallach’s faculty development leave plan. Along with a wide variety of writing projects, he is conducting research for a book on popular music and ethnomusicology, examining the state of the field over the past 30 years. Wallach described ethnomusicology as “the study of people who make music – how it relates to their culture, and how it expresses their culture and how they feel about their culture. Most contemporary ethnomusicologists regard musical creation as a creative enterprise. It not only reflects culture but actively constructs it. And popular music, which emphasizes novelty, is a creative enterprise.

Spending long days in the library and on e-mail is not the usual method of investigation for a cultural anthropologist.

“As a tribe, we are field research oriented,” he said. “We want to go out there and talk to people. But this project is about being in the library. This is a meta-study of the literature. Ethnomusicology is a very young field and no one has investigated it before.

He attended the November annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Albuquerque, where he conducted an interview with senior ethnomusicologist Steven Feld, whom he credits, along with Charlie Keil, with laying the groundwork for the modern approach to popular music and ethnomusicology – not just collecting but also analyzing music and its social context, Wallach said.

Wallach has authored or co-authored over two dozen research articles and co-edited, with Esther Clinton, a special issue of Asian Music in 2013. In 2011, he co-edited, with Harris M. Berger and Paul D. Greene, the collection “Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music around the World”, edited by Duke University Press. He has given research presentations all over North America and Indonesia, as well as in Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. A founding member and former president of the popular music section of the Société d’ethnomusicologie, he sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of World Popular Music Studies and Journal of Metal Music Studies, and is editor of the Music/Culture series at Wesleyan University Press. His writings have appeared in numerous journals and edited volumes.