Location:Room 303, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9DF
I was born in Rochdale - home of Gracie Fields, Autechre, and the co-operative movement in Britain - and have degrees in Popular Music from the University of Liverpool, and Musicology from the University of Edinburgh.
Re-Sounding the Nation: Field Recording in Postwar Britain
Vast numbers of historic field recordings are being digitised and disseminated online; but what are these field recordings—and how do they resonate today? The interrelation of this musical past and present is examined in my research through a number of projects that ran concurrently in 1950s Britain. Each case study—the Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music; the BBC Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme; the founding of the sound archive at the University of Edinburgh; recordings released by the EFDSS for the Festival of Britain—asks how traditions are assembled, how nations are defined through international cultural production. For behind the encounter between recordist and recorded lies a complex and variegated mess of technologies, cultural politics, institutions, copyright laws, mediality, aesthetics, energy policies, commercial interests, and music formats.
These networks were set against a backdrop of postwar recuperation, a developing consumer society, and heady cultural arguments over activity and passivity; processes of preservation, dissemination, and reception were bound to patterns of rationalisation, repetition, and consumption. My study plugs the history of field recording into these patterns, offering a reassessment of the ways in which musical traditions have been constructed and reconstructed, rendered material, and circulated in the twentieth century. These 1950s projects are considered alongside their musical contemporaries (from Elvis to Berio) who are usually kept apart, but shared time, technology, production techniques, sonic space. And field recordings are heard throughout as compressed performances—entextualising various agencies into their audible exteriors; suffused with theory and ideology; concealing material and institutional labour—that continue to sound and resound in unpredictable ways in the digitised present.
This article was published on Sep 16, 2010