Acousmatic Fabrications: Les Paul and the Les Paulverizer. Journal of Visual Culture 10:2 (August 2011): 212-231.
Abstract: Acousmatic sound—a sound that one hears without seeing the causes behind it—creates situations where visual contributions to auditory experience are diminished. I theorize that acousmatic separation unsettles the relationship of the source, cause and effect of sound. To draw out the consequences this theory, I examine Les Paul and Mary Ford’s multi-tracked recordings and live performances.
First, I argue that Paul’s turn to multi-tracked recording was motivated by mimetic rivalry when his “sound” was imitated on the radio. Second, I show how Paul misdirected listeners of his radio program by creating scenarios that depended on false attributions of source and cause. Third, I address the problems that faced Paul in live performance of his multi-tracked hits. Finally, I argue that Paul’s creation of the “Les Paulverizer” afforded the maintenance of acousmatic spacing during live performance but also forced him into the unusual position of ventriloquizing his own voice.