Air Flows: Breath, Voice, and Authenticity in Three Recordings


  • Gregory Weinstein Davidson College


Record Production, Breath, Voice, Authenticity, Embodiment


Miley Cyrus inhales audibly before launching into the final chorus of “Wrecking Ball”. Cellist David Soyer grunts as he tears through the Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Saxophonist Colin Stetson’s loud circle breathing on “Hunted” pushes the limits of the physically possible. These recordings all contain traces of the musicking bodies that they purport to represent. This article will treat the breath not as excess, but rather as part of the core musical content of recordings. The breath and the grunt are sounds are often considered excess – not properly musical – yet they are crucial to the affects of these tracks. They validate the recorded performance by pointing to the lingering aura of the musicians who produced them, even while they reveal the ways in which the recording studio can reconfigure, extend, and naturalize these mediatized musicking bodies. On recordings breath becomes a tool through which musicians and recordists can construct the embodied authenticity of the recording. This article argues that the sound of breath is essential to the perception of embodied authenticity on recordings – evidenced by the development of genre-specific conventions for treating breath and constructing the body on recordings.



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