Inja Stanovic

The Creative Processes in (Re)construction of Early Recordings

Historical performance research is inherently complex; not only are instruments and playing styles relative to specific cultural, social and historical contexts, literary sources are often highly subjective and, as with the performances that they describe, a product of their time. Fortunately, such research may be supported through the use of early recordings, which serve to illuminate stylistic conventions of past eras; through their examination, the principles of previous performances and interpretations can be systematically studied and understood.

Early recordings do not merely offer a window into the sound-world of past performances; they also offer a wealth of information about the physical nature of performance itself. As such, they may serve as a model, or exemplar, for contemporary performances of the same works. Despite this, contemporary performers should not merely copy and paste what they hear through such recordings; the interpretative choices made by recording musicians were likely to have been specific to both the recording medium and the instruments of the time. Since many of the physical, haptic and proprioceptive cues employed by those musicians cannot be abstracted from, or identified through, listening alone, one must instead strive to understand the stylistic conventions in the context of the recording medium originally employed.

To demonstrate how this might be achieved, this paper introduces a Leverhulme-funded research project “(Re)constructing Early Recordings: a guide for historically-informed performance”. The first two years of the project will be presented, focussing on reconstruction and simulation of the mechanical recording processes (both wax cylinders and records), whilst being simultaneously captured using contemporary digital recording techniques. By comparing and contrasting the mechanical and digital recordings, research findings showcase the value of early recording techniques and technologies, in terms of their capacity to preserve forms of performance practice.

By presenting an overview of the creative processes involved, this project proposes new research method in studies of early recordings and showcases how technological and reconstructive contexts form a redefinition of strategies of documentation, thus influencing future reading of early recordings and historically informed practices.


University of Huddersfield, UK

Is a Croatian pianist and researcher, currently residing in Sheffield, UK. As a pianist, Inja has performed in Croatia, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She finished her PhD at the University of Sheffield, focusing on nineteenth-century performance practice relating to the work of Fre!de!ric Chopin. Inja has published articles in HARTS and Mind Journal, Swedish Musicological Journal, and Nineteenth Century Music Review. Inja has held various academic posts, including research fellowship at the Sydney Conservatoire and visiting lectureship at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Most recently, she has won the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, hosted by the University of Huddersfield. Inja is conducting a three year research project under the title “(Re)constructing Early Recordings: a guide for historically informed performance”.