Paul Thompson (Leeds Beckett University, UK)


Archaeological researchers are finding new ways to explore historical events, practices and processes. A particularly potent method is experimental archaeology, which involves controlled experimentation in order to answer specific questions. For researchers working in the fields of music performance and music production, this approach can help to gain new insights into what happened during a recording session, and more importantly, why certain decisions were made. The starting point, or the archaeological data here, are the recordings that were produced in Havana and New York in the late 1950s and late 1960s. A method of working backwards from the finished product, or reverse engineering, can only reveal some information of the processes involved however. Recreating the conditions of a recording session as closely as possible can provide an additional direction of analysis (Ingold, 2009) as the creative process is examined forwards. 

Bringing together performers, producers and engineers to record Cuban dance music repertoire from the late 1950s to mid 1960s, the following study offers another take on the aesthetics of engineering, production and performance (both inside and outside the recording studio) through the use of experiential archaeological methods to further examine the contributing factors of performance and production within the genre. Elements of the recording context for the original repertoire were recreated to investigate the influence of earlier recording technologies and studio practices. and to gain some insight into the interaction between musicians within the recorded Cuban Charanga tradition.