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Message 127: The Fundamental Paradox of Recording

An excerpt from the August 2, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone:

Amnesiac‘s “Like Spinning Plates” is the track from another, unreleased song, “I Will,” run in reverse. “Thom learned to sing the backward melody forward,” says Colin. “You can hear what the words are, but they sound like they’re backward.”

In a related quote, Slavoj Zizek writes in On Belief (Routledge 2001):

In “The Curves of the Needle,” a short essay on the gramophone from 1928, Adorno notes the fundamental paradox of recording: the more the machine makes its presence known (through obtrusive noises, its clumsiness and interruptions), the stronger the experience of the actual presence of the singer–or, to put it the other way round, the more perfect the recording, the more faithfully the machine reproduces a human voice, the more humanity is removed, the stronger the effect that we are dealing with something “inauthentic” (44).

Following Adorno’s thesis above, and given the amount of technological intrusion between Thom Yorke’s actual voice and its final representation, the song “Like Spinning Plates” would be considered more authentic. Put another way, the song is more true to the unmediated human voice by acknowledging and foregrounding its unavoidable mediation in the recording process.

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