A 78rpm Recording Brings Louis to Tears

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2018

Authors

Dunn, Isabel

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This submission won first place in the 2018 Images of Research competition. The competition celebrates undergraduate contributions to research at the University of Texas. This submission was selected for the way the image and narrative work together to create a compelling narrative. The following caption accompanied the image submission: "American Epic: Sessions” (2017, dir. Bernard MacMahon), and my thesis film “Once & Again” (2018) illustrate a recent trend of hybrid documentary films about phonography. Hybrid films depict phonography by combining a variety of fiction and non-fiction modes. This hybridization implies that contemporary human understanding of this technology is equal parts historical fact, subjective experience, and cultural imagination. "Sessions” explores the implications of analog music recording in the digital era. “Once & Again” can be viewed as a response to “Sessions,” since it explores the implications of analog music listening in the digital era. Both films attempt to immerse viewers in the phonography process. Through their representation of performance, re-performance, tactile engagement, and heightened listening practice, these films re-presence the music and voices of the past. Conceptually, these films convey the human impulse to engage with a technology that evokes the voice, touch, and presence of those that came before us. In “Once & Again,” subject Louis Waldman reflects, “How can I get closer to the past, which moves always farther and farther away?” In this screenshot from a four-minute long take, shot at a distance that is “so close and yet so far,” viewers watch as Louis listens. By allowing listening to feature as the “event” in the film image, this shot suggests that phonograph listening requires patience and active listening.

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