Wide open studio spaces : analyzing the spatial codes of recorded late- and post-countercultural pastoral music

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Date

2009-08

Authors

Kalra, Ajay

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Abstract

In mid- to late-1960s America and Britain, against the backdrop of escalating socio-political disappointment, countercultural ideologies and fantasies of a musical youth dovetailed with improvements in recording technologies to generate new sonic languages of limning in sound utopian pastoral spaces to which recordists and listeners could escape, virtually. Seeking alternative spaces that their alternative identities could more comfortably inhabit became a central project of many progressive groups and individuals, often, but not always, hailing from middle-class white society. The cultural and musical trends did eventually have a global sway. Coeval advances in sound recording and reproduction technologies made musical recordings a major avenue through which the sought spaces were limned and even materialized sonically, but other media, especially album cover art and film in conjunction with musical soundtracks, provided additional avenues for pastoral spatial projects of this generation and afford us ancillary resources for better understanding these projects. While the specific utopian spatial projects and the underlying ideologies of musicians working in various branches of country rock, soft rock, progressive country, progressive bluegrass, art rock, Afrocentric avant-garde jazz, and proto-New Age music were not always exactly the same, there were considerable overlaps in the societal sources of their disaffections, the wellsprings of their inspiration, and in the textural sonic languages they developed in the recording studio. Unlike music with overtly spatial projects, the sonic aspects of music that subtly captures a hyper-real sense of the natural have remained underconsidered and their contribution to the aesthetic and psychological impact of music has slipped by under the radar of most listeners' conscious attention. This dissertation, then, is an attempt to analyze the subtle acoustic and musical communicative codes devised by musicians and recordists that do inform later music. Through close listening and textual analysis, this dissertation identifies the different levels at which spatial allusions are encoded into a musical product. Ethnographic interviews help distinguish between deliberate manipulations of studio technology and responses based in tacit understandings thereof. An overall cross disciplinary approach, borrowing especially from acoustics and psychoacoustics, aided me substantially with the analyses.

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