Original Machines + Contexts

Taking up Christine Mitchell’s question, “How important is it to access sound through ‘original’ machines and contexts, whether technological, architectural or other?” and Shannon’s point that while we can emulate certain aspects of an original listening experience, it might be impossible to recreate its climatic conditions, social context, and ‘appropriate modes of listening,’” I wonder what counts as ‘original.’ While, as Shannon notes, this question might not be relevant if differences in recording and playback don’t actually matter for the researcher or listener, I find it interesting that what constitutes an original experience for a given listener might have nothing to do with what constitutes an original experience as understood by the media historian or archivist.

What contributes to someone’s perception of a ‘sonic archival document’ as original? Even if we can’t recreate the social context, could the use of an original machine be sufficient? Is it ever valid to say that there is only one possible original experience for a given recording? Considering that there might be multiple speakers/performers, recorders, and listeners, whose experience is the ‘original’ one we’re trying to emulate?

One Reply

  • Excellent, Layne. “Originality,” like “authenticity,” is certainly a fraught concept. Your queries — “whose original?” and “is there only one original?” — would be great questions to pose to Rachel in class tomorrow.

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