classical music; sound recording; virtual orchestras; YouTube ensembles; performance

Performing Nostalgia On Record: How Virtual Orchestras And YouTube Ensembles Have Problematised Classical Music

The purpose of this article is to discuss how nostalgia for classical music performance traditions has shaped classical recording practice, and also how the use of sound recording technologies is challenging these same nostalgic tendencies. It does so by drawing together key academic literature on classical music recording practice and classical music performance in order to demonstrate their interrelationship. In particular this article looks at how virtuosic live performance is used to reify the tradition of classical music itself, and how this has oriented twentieth century classical sound recording practice around a single aesthetic paradigm, the reproduction of a “concert hall”-like listening experience. An equivalent acoustic construction does not exist in popular music genres, which have adopted variable mix aesthetics in recordings since the 1960s. The article then examines two case studies, and uses them to illustrate the tensions that arise when performance and technology intersect within the classical genres. The case studies are virtual orchestras and YouTube ensembles, each of which problematise traditional notions of classical music performance. What these case studies show is that performance virtuosity, as a marker of quality, has been unsettled by the accessibility of orchestral sonorities and the drive towards participatory cultures of classical music.