Perception of music performance on historical and modern commercial recordings.J Acoust Soc Am. 2007 Nov; 122(5):2872-80.JA
Performing styles as well as recording styles have changed considerably within the 20th century. To what extent do the age of a recording, the unfamiliarity with performing style, and the quality of a reproduction of a recording systematically influence how we perceive performances on record? Four exploratory experiments were run to formulate an answer to this question. Each experiment examined a different aspect of the perception of performance, including judgments of quality, perceived emotion, and dynamics. Fragments from Die junge Nonne sung by famous singers from the start, middle, and second half of the 20th century were presented in a noisy and clean version to musically trained participants. The results show independence of perception of emotional activity from recording date, strong dependence of perceived quality and emotional impact on recording date, and only limited effects of reproduction quality. Standards have clearly changed, which influence judgments of quality and age. Additionally, changes restrict the communication between early recorded performers and modern listeners to some extent as shown by systematically smaller variations in communicated dynamics and emotional valence for older recordings.