Tuesday, July 14, 2009

IASPM: The Reception of the Use of Technology in the work of Jimi Hendrix

By Jan Butler

Yesterday Jan Butler gave a great presentation on the construction of authenticity in the record industry in the 1960s.

At that time rock was in a state of flux with neither the industry nor consumers knowing exactly what rock and roll was or what would constitute a hit. In order to address this lack of certainty, the institutional structures of the industry and the roles and activities of members of the bands had to adapt in order to continue to make money. Changes to technology contributed to the ambiguity of the content and style of the music at that time as well as the stability of the industry itself. Furthermore, changes to the participants in the music industry were also important with the rise of rock culture intermediaries such as rock documentary makers, tour managers, and critics taking on the role of helping the public to mediate the changes that were taking place. These changes resulted in a change in market share between major record labels and independents which went from around 50% each to 60% for the major labels and 40% to independents.

Jan then went on to discuss Jimi Hendrix and how the gate keepers, particularly rock journalist and critics, focused on his recordings rather than live performances. While today Hendrix is remembered one of the greatest guitarists of all time and a fantastic showman, he was also a keen user of technological recording equipment. Indeed it was stated that his main motivation for live performances was to pay for recordings and the use of technology. Interviews and articles in the rock press in the USA were consistently positive with respect to his recordings however little commentary was provided with respect to his live performances.

For example, the Rolling Stone Magazine coverage of Hendrix's performance at Woodstock described the time of day when he performed, the names of two of the songs that he performed and what he wore however there was no mention of the quality of his live performance and no mention of his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

I found this presentation to be very interesting, particularly the discussion relating to how changing recording technologies drove alterations to the industry.

No comments: