The Performance of Remastery in Theatre and Media

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Within the field of mediatized performance, there are many terms that rely upon the “re-” prefix. Terms like remediation and remix have been utilized for the last two decades in discussions of how digital media has affected our perceptions of live performance. This dissertation analyzes the potential of a third “re-:” remastering. Remastering refers to the act of “touching up” older mediums, mostly vinyl discs and reels of film, digitizing the media they contain while improving the overall quality of sounds and/or images. With this sort of digital augmentation affecting the audience reception of media, the question emerges: how can we think of the remastering process as performative?This project centers on the notion that performance studies provide an excellent template to begin to answer the questions that arise surrounding remastering. It explores technical acts of remastering through the lens of performance and performativity to develop a working theory of remastery. This theory draws upon and expands previous conversations surrounding both digital media and performance. Starting with a discussion of the technical requirements that go into remastering in general, I develop a working understanding and theory of remastery. This theory centers remastery as a performative action that can shed light on the power dynamics that underpin our cultural interest in obsolescence, nostalgia, and technology. In discussing this theory of remastery, four case studies of remastered media are analyzed, each providing a different facet of my theory. The first is The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records: a remastered collection of work from a defunct inter-war recording company that produced a wide variety of African American Artists and performers. The second is the various remastered versions of Star Wars and their effect on the prospects of authenticity and alteration within remastering. The third is Warcraft III: Reforged, a remastered videogame from 2020 that was met with critical and commercial failure. The fourth is Elements of Oz by The Builders Association, a live production of multimedia theatre that demonstrates the usefulness of remastery as a theoretical concept to bridge the gap between performance and technology.