The introduction to “The Politics of Recorded Sound,” this special issue of Social Text, lays out the unifying mission of the diverse essays: to study sound recording within a wide-ranging, historicized understanding of mediation as a process embedded within networks of power. A significant objective is to bring attention to the ways modalities of social difference, such as race, gender, class, and ability, structure the practices of making and listening to recordings as well as the manners in which we think about those practices. Another purpose is to implode the ultimately ahistorical narrative of sound-recording technology as driven by ever-improving “fidelity” in the reproduction of music. The introduction also explores the diverse ways in which sound recording plays a part in contemporary life and argues that each of these is centrally shaped by politics of corporeality, economics, or culture.

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