The cultural politics of using technology to support the aesthetic in jazz record production

This paper discusses the attitudes some contemporary jazz musicians have toward the use of technology and the thresholds of studio ‘intervention’ they are willing to cross in order to achieve their preferred studio recording aes- thetic. The discussion draws upon personal experiences of mainly free jazz production, and also the returns of a pilot survey of jazz musicians, who were polled on the subject of the use of technology in the production of jazz re- cordings. Grounded theory was utilised as a methodology to code the survey responses into two main categories of ‘idealistic’ and ‘pragmatic’ responses. This coding enabled a discussion of the themes which were evident in the re- sponses. This limited study found that clear consensus on the extent to which studio techniques should be used in the production of jazz recordings was not apparent in the data. There were instances where some studio techniques were considered acceptable, whilst others which were as similarly technically invasive as the acceptable, were not acceptable. It also appeared that it was generally acceptable to edit pre-composed elements of the musical perfor- mances, but not acceptable to edit improvisations. This perhaps reinforces the notion that for the jazz performer the ephemeral ‘moment’, which many stu- dio productions aim to represent, occurs when they are improvising. Finally, it appears for these participants, whether a studio intervention such as an edit is audible in the final recording is irrelevant. The fact that a studio interven- tion was required or occurred due to perceived deficiencies in the recorded performance, crosses the boundary of acceptability in terms of their own in- terpretation of ‘authenticity’ in jazz recordings.