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Musical Space

How To Turn A Studio Session Into Art

londonist.com / Google Images / Creative Commons

There is a raw honesty about the music of PJ Harvey, and that is probably the reason she’s the only person to twice win England’s Mercury Prize for best album of the year.

Now, she has figured out a way to make her next album a much more intimate and meaningful experience for the listener: she is treating the recording as an art exhibit.

A specially designed recording studio has been built into Somerset House gallery in London, with one-way glass so a paying audience can watch her at work. The project, which Harvey calls “Recording in Progress,” is under way right now.

I applaud PJ Harvey for her fearlessness. So often the work of the studio is to hide the missteps and flaws inherent in the process. Here the audience is allowed to hear all the takes, not just the good ones, and see the artist in an unstaged setting. The studio is decorated with lyric sheets and line drawings by Harvey herself. In a way, she has figured out how to combine the art of recording with the immediacy and riskiness of live performance.

PJ Harvey’s “Recording in Progress” is showing through February 14, although I’m sorry to report that tickets are sold out.