Friday, January 21, 2011

Frankenstein-level editing

At the FT (site registration required), Shirley Apthorp on two men's quest to reproduce Grieg's performances of nine of his own works:
And so Harrison, who harbours a lifelong fascination with old recordings, embarked on a project to reconstruct Grieg’s playing to the point that it was comprehensible for the modern listener. Digital remastering, he decided, would not do.

“When you first listen to it, all you hear is noise. There are various software solutions for noise reduction. But in the end, you can’t have your cake and eat it. When you take out noise, you also take out tiny bits of information, and it’s incredible how sensitive we are to that kind of information. The best computer we have is the human brain. So I decided to find a low-tech solution to a complex problem.”

In an age before mechanical repetition, before constant noise, before continuous acceleration, did people have a different sense of time? Grieg’s playing is a glimpse of an utterly different approach to sound in space. Pianists today are nowhere near as free with tempi, as improvisatory yet structured, as subtle.

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