Facing Digital Realities: where Media do not Mix

David J Trippett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Wagner’s vaunted model of artistic synthesis persists in scholarly assessments of
his work. But at its centre, the composer argued that the media of voice and orchestra do not mix: they retain their identities as separate channels of sound that can neither duplicate nor substitute for one another. Taking as a starting point Wagner’s claims for the non adaptability of media, this article addresses the adaptation of Wagner’s music to the modern digital technologies of HD cinema and video game. Drawing on a wide circle of writers, from Schiller and Žižek to Bakhtin, Augé, Baudrillard and second-generation media theorists, it interrogates the concept of ‘reality’ within live acoustic performance, both historically, as a discursive concept, and technologically, via the sensory realism of digital simulcasting and telepresence. The philosophical opposition of appearance and reality fails when reality is defined by the intimate simulation of a sensory event as it is registered on the body. And by contrasting the traditions of high fidelity in (classical) sound recording with that of rendering
sound in cinema, I suggest ways in which unmixable media appear to have an afterlife in modern technologies. This raises questions – in a post-Benjamin, post-McLuhan context – about our definition of ‘liveness’, the concept of authenticity within mediatised and acoustic sounds, and our vulnerability to the technological effects of media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41
Number of pages64
JournalCambridge Opera Journal
Issue number1
Early online date19 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2014


  • Richard Wagner
  • simulcast
  • opera
  • convergence cultre
  • computer games
  • simulation
  • baudrillard
  • reproduction paradigm


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