Technology and Spectatorship
GABRIELA CRUZThe Fairy Tale of Bel Canto: Walt Disney, Theodor Adorno,Kurt Weill Play the Gramophone 13
The Fairy Tale of Bel Canto: Walt Disney, Theodor Adorno, Kurt Weill Play the Gramophon GABRIELA CRUZ This essay explores bel canto (re)formed by phonography and ad- dresses lyrical apotheosis as an effect of the materialities of recording, transmission, and reproduction.1 Bel canto is understood here as a form of lyrical beauty somewhat unhinged from operatic history, as an ideal of song and of singing implicated with a modern poetics of won- der. Fin-de-siècle inventors and fabulists first conceived of the prom- ise of reproduction – the historical and technical domain of recorded sound – as one of enchantment, formed in magical intercourse with the inhuman.2 They thus inaugurated an influential line of discourse about recorded song, one echoed most recently in Christopher Morris’ discussion of lyrical song in the digital age as a hybrid form, an ex- pressive moment forged in the encounter with the radical otherness of technical mediation, grounded in the pleasures of “dispersion, distri- bution, and blurred boundaries” or, as Morris puts it, “of transmis- 1 An early version of this essay was presented at the International Workshop on Opera and Video, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia/Instituto Valenciano de la Música, held on the 22–23 March 2010. I am grateful to Héctor Perez Lopez, the conference organizer, and to all the conference participants for the generosi- ty of their reactions to the initial paper. Thanks also to Roger Parker, Dana Goo- ley, and Alessandra Campana, who read the later version of the essay,...
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