Listening for the hiss: lo-fi liner notes as curatorial practices

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Abstract

Lo-fi music is commonly associated with a recording aesthetic marked by an avoidance of state-of-the-art technologies and an inclusion of technical flaws, such as tape hiss and static. However, I argue that lo-fi music is not defined merely by the presence of such imperfections, but by a discourse which deliberately draws attention to them. Album liner notes play an important role in this discourse, as they can function as curatorial practices, through which lo-fi artists give an appropriate frame of reference to their recordings. By highlighting the honest' character of the recordings, the intimate recording spaces, the materiality of the equipment and its ambiguous character as machine/instrument/performer, they invite listeners to adopt a genre-adequate mode of listening. Rather than listening past hiss and other recording artefacts as undesirable qualities, listeners are asked to listen for these qualities as an essential element of not just the recordings, but the music itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-270
Number of pages18
JournalPopular Music
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • MUSIC
  • SOUND
  • AUTHENTICITY
  • TECHNOLOGY
  • CULTURE
  • ROCK

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