My presentation discusses how recording technologies have opened new perspectives on musical talent. More specifically, it will address two recording devices: the phonograph and the wire recorder. Between 1900 and 1920, Berlin-based psychologist Otto Abraham recorded singing individuals on wax cylinders and discovered that subjectively correct interpretations of the pitches in the same melody vary greatly among individuals. Using a specific manipulation of wire recording, Nikolai Garbuzov from the State Institute for Musical Science in Moscow later specified that for each note a zone of correct interpretations could be identified, even for individuals who have absolute pitch. I will trace these differences between “felt” and “measured” musicality (Musikalität, muzykal’nost’) and relate them to the technology in use.
Julia Kursell is a professor of musicology at the University of Amsterdam. Before coming to Amsterdam, she worked at Bauhaus University, Weimar, and as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. Her research interests include the history of the physiology and psychology of hearing, as well as the relation between music, media, and technology in Western composition after 1945. She has published widely in these areas in journals such as Configurations, Grey Room, and OASE. Most recently, the volume Music, Sound, and the Laboratory, co-edited with A. E. Hui and M. W. Jackson, appeared with the University of Chicago Press.