Recommended Reading: The Recording Angel

It started innocently enough—I’d responded to an odious email from an angry and obnoxious reader who was responding to my Stereophile AWSI but asked JA and Stephen to give it quick read-through before I hit send to make sure I was being clear. I have a tendency toward brevity especially when returning odious emails (and responding to like forum posts) but I didn’t want to sacrifice my point for the sake of a quip.

JA responded in part ‘A good response, and a subject that was covered by Evan Eisenberg in his “The Recording Angel”’.  Covered?

I immediately ordered from Amazon—Only 1 left in stock–order soon (more on the way)—and devoured it whole in two days. As I said to Stephen reading The Recording Angel felt like someone took a cold, clean sponge and wiped my brain clear of all the forum muddled nonsense. If you are so inclined and interested in this topic of why records are not concerts, I highly recommend this book.

Of course I’m kidding in my summary and not only does Evan Eisenberg dig so very much deeper, he unearths a few earth shattering thoughts (relatively of course). I don’t want to give them all away but he suggests, “And so the ten-inch, 78 r.p.m. disc gave birth to the classic blues.” Eisenberg’s point was the format with its necessarily limited time forced blues performers to tighten up their lines and licks.

And here’s another tiny tasty morsel “And in general, motoric music, music with a steady, mechanical beat, works better on record than any other kind. When there is no live performer to fasten on, the mind tends to wander from recitative and wispy impressionism. A beat rivets it, rock steady. This helps explain why American popular songs have sloughed off the Broadway-style slow introduction. It helps explain the success of recorded jazz and rock (as Chuck Berry says, ‘It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it’) and the rolling over of Beethoven in the LP era to make way for the concerti grossi.”

Evan Eisenberg “studied philosophy and classics at Harvard and Princeton and biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He lives in Manhattan.” He’s also very funny when he wants to be and heavy when he needs to be:

[Schopenhauer] manages to explain how it is that when we listen to music most deeply we seem to trace with one hand the furrows of the mind, with the other the folds of the universe. In other words, music is not just about people. It is bigger than that.