Published: 22 June 2023

David Milsom records Beethoven’s Minuet in G major, WoO 10, no. 2

David Milsom (violin) recorded Beethoven’s Minuet in G major, WoO 10, no. 2, during the first symposium of the network, held in Huddersfield on 12th September 2021, under the supervision of recording engineer Duncan Miller.

David's commentary on the experience

Did you have any experience of using mechanical recording technologies before?

Yes. Two sessions, the first quite brief and experimental, the second a more detailed follow-up session. One easily becomes accustomed to it, and for most musicians, adapting to the strange and far-from-ideal is a fact of life. Actually, I find it liberating, oddly: there is little possibility of neurotic pursuits of so-called ‘perfection’, so one simply plays as best one can, and as one means it. The discomforts help one concentrate.

How did you like the experience of recording on a phonograph?

Not as much as making discs. I found that it was surprisingly sensitive to the granularity of tone. I was surprised at how different this was as a technology, and it makes one realise how little one can or should generalise about ‘acoustic recordings’. Perhaps there needs to be more of a meeting of minds between technical experts and analysers of so-called ‘early recordings’. It makes me wonder how stable many observations of what one hears on such recordings – including my own – stand up to close scrutiny. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate a lot of current scholarship and revisit conclusions which, to date, seem to have been made with a degree of certainty perhaps not deserved…

Did you need to change certain aspects of your playing/singing? 

Yes. After I heard the first tests, I realised that I would need to play in a more refined and less avowedly ‘projected’ way. In other words, I ended up playing more ‘as normal’ for the phonograph than in making the acoustic discs.

Did this experience influence the way you will listen to phonograph recordings in the future?

Yes, although most recordings of violinists of note are not phonograph recordings. I think, almost inevitably, the experience of doing something changes how you hear others having done the same or similar thing. It is a very different form of understanding, and, I would argue, a deeper one.

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