Blog #1. Sight and Sound

6 Apr

Sight and Sound

            Katz explains the process of  how the emergence of sound recording technology dramatically made the value of sight in music to wither, but he also claims the importance of  visual performance. “Edison’s Realism Test” is one of the examples (Katz 23). Edison gives steps of directions to compensate the major shortcoming of phonograph, the lack of visual performance, by training listeners to imagine themselves as if they are in some concerts. His effort to revive the visuality in music may seem questionable to some people. Today, people enjoy having their own private time by listening to music with their own electronic device and headphones and assign their own contextual meanings to music depending on situations and emotions. However, before the emergence of phonograph, music was not solely interpreted by oneself, but it had formed its meaning through the communications between performers and audience.

When Phonograph was just introduced by Edison, people were excited by the novelty and the convenience, but some also expressed their anxiety for invisibility of the actual source of music, the musicians.   McGurk’s finding provide very intriguing evidence of how what we hear is influenced by what we see (Katz 25).  McGurk Effect reflects people’s tendency of determining what they hear by what they see. It would also apply to music apprecit ation. Without seeing the performance, it is very unlikely for listeners to recognized the emotional message that performers intended to transmit to them. Performers’ intense or gentle facial expression, gestures, and technical motions during the performance were important factors that enable audience to be absorbed to music and makes audience easy to understand the nuance too.

Performers also felt anxious about invisibility of audience. Although audience had caused fear and tension among performers, performers were able to express their sincerity and love of music toward the audience directly, but LP was a huge barrier to them to learn the impression of the listners after they were done performing. Some musicians said that they take inspiration from audience during their performance and said that they had enjoyed the claps and cheer when they finished performances (28). On the other hand, some good-looking singers took advantage of invisibility of performance through lip-synch and obtained huge popularity by releasing albums with someone else’s voice recorded (26). Invisibiliy of performance brought frustration to some artists and also provided a dishonest way to become famous and popular.

Recorded sound was a great source of music that enable people to enjoy unlimited service of music performance without actual musicians’ presence. However, lack of visuality brought anxiety to both audience and performer’s many aspects. Although people are now quite comfortable with invisibility of performances, I think, it was quite natural for many to felt anxious considering those inconvinient features that Katz pointed out.

-Hannah Kim


One Response to “Blog #1. Sight and Sound”

  1. brenna01 11 April 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    I think it is interesting that you initially identify Katz’ paradoxical views in his article: sound availability withering the value of sight in music as well as its inability to entirely replace performance. Perhaps it need not be one or the other. Sound recording availability can be seen as adding to or complementing visual performance. This is the lesson I drew from the McGurk Effect video: the sounds and sight were not in sync and, therefore, the experience was disorienting. This sensation can be applied to the idea of listening to music and seeing music: sight and sound at once make an experience whole, yet senses can still function singularly.
    I do not think Katz needs to “revive the visuality of music”; as you point out, I too find this questionable. As the McGurk Effect demonstrates, sight and sound exist naturally to complement one another. The invention of the phonograph does not change the way human senses work in harmony. Though people have the ability to listen to music without seeing it, the art of performance is still required to make the music initially. It is for this reason that performance did not die with the phonograph (or iPod).
    I disagree that the lack of vision of a performance makes music incomplete. Capturing sound has given music greater availability to those who cannot attend a concert. As discussed in class, the implications of what is readily available and what is not are subjective to the media. Despite this downfall, greater exposure is still achieved by capturing sound. While I do not think the art of performance will die as long as people can see, I also do not think the art of capturing sound will die as long as people can hear. I found Katz’ article to miss this point.
    The anxiety with the coming of the phonograph is what I found most interesting in Katz’ article. This reaction to a new technology shows how far society has come. While with the invention of the phonograph, people were scared of what new technology would do to their society; today’s mentality is one of coveting the next-best technological device. As you point out, people are now comfortable with the idea of capturing sound; Katz’s article does succeed at addressing the potential follies of capturing sound, even if most of these never arose major problems.

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