Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, March 04, 2005


Last night I wrote that the spacial projection of the fade-out suggestion an immaterialization of the musical performer, as if the musician were fading away with the music, or floating into the heavens on a bubbly musical cloud. Today it occurs to me that such a fantasy-image is possible only after recordings have been thoroughly naturalized into daily life. Such an image would never have suggested itself to music consumers who had to deal with living drooling musicians -- well, not all drooling, I was thinking of wind instruments -- living breathing musicians in order to hear music. Before the advent of recording, music was a social event, unless you were very wealthy and had an inclination to hire musicians for entirely private performances -- and even then, you had to deal with the musicians. The naturalization of record consumption has made the majority of musical experiences for most people private. Earphones accelerate the tendency, so that now we have in Seattle a museum devoted to the experience of music, where people walk around the place with headphones on. Entirely interior. The musicians float away on a musical cloud.

Last week I wondered whether fade-outs happened before 1939, the date of a Count Basie recording of a tune called “Dickie’s Dream,” that ends with a fade-out. (Dream -- more interiorization.) My friend Jay sent me this link to a lively internet discussions of the question. A few records pre-dated this one, but not many. Though jazz records were hugely popular, so were jazz dances with live jazz bands. The primary experience of music was shifting from live to records, but live music was still the norm and the standard. Music was earthy and live, baby, live.
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