The Journal on the Art of Record Production (JARP) is an international double-blind peer reviewed open access online journal promoting the interdisciplinary study of music production. The term ‘record production’ is to be interpreted in the broadest sense as the production of recorded music. 

JARP was founded in 2006 by Simon Zagorski-Thomas and Katia Isakoff. JARP has published eleven open access electronic issues, and a twelfth in book form.  Interviews with GRAMMY nominated and award winning musicians and record producers can be found on our website and published in our books.

Editors-in-Chief: Katia Isakoff (Founding Editor) and Richard James Burgess MBE

Editors: Shara Rambarran and Brandon Vaccaro

Guest Editors: Please see individual journal issues.

Peer Reviewers: Please see Reviewers listing: here

Articles Editorials Provocations Conference Papers


The State of the Art and the State of the Discipline – Featured Monthly Retrospective

Seven years ago I traveled to London to speak at a conference convened by a couple of new outfits—one calling itself the Center for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) and the other, simply, the Art of Record Production (ARP). Now called the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, […]

The Art of Record Production

The title of this journal and organization asserts the notion that record production is a mode of creative expression. And indeed, turning musical utterance into electrical current requires, by the project’s very nature, an intervening aesthetic sensibility which may, in turn, impinge on the final result. Recording does not simply capture sound, it transforms it […]

Record Production in the Internet Age

The ninth Art of Record Production Conference, “Record Production in the Internet Age,” hosted by the University of Oslo, aimed to illuminate the ways in which contemporary culture is characterized through changes and new modes of music production, distribution and consumption as a consequence of digital technology and the new musical arenas opened by the Internet. Four general fields of investigation were identified: “Recording aesthetics”, “Musical ownership and authorship”, “Virtual archives and new platforms for distribution” and “Music production in a transcultural space.” “Recording aesthetics,” sought to address the question of the intimate relationship between recording technology and the finished sound recording in light of the new context of digital technology and the Internet. In particular the emphasis was placed on the ways in which digital technology and the digital audio workstation (DAW) has made its mark on the sound of popular music from the 1980s onwards: How has the DAW audibly affected recorded and live music during the last thirty years?

Technostalgia and the Cry of the Lonely Recordist

Timothy Taylor wrote of a “scientific imaginary” (Taylor, 2001), a period in mid 20th century culture seemingly obsessed with futurism, as the world rebuilt itself following the second world war. For Taylor and others, the utopian and dystopian visions of the era’s literature, films, and music say more about their time than the futures they portended. But this reflection of the contemporary in dreams of the future was inadvertent, an unconscious residue of the past clinging to the bright shiny objects of the science fiction age. The science fiction of current pop culture now looks to the past with a sad, longing eye – a tacit acknowledgement that the best is not yet to come; it is already come and gone. Note the overt nostalgia at the core of Christopher Nolan’s recent film, Interstellar, a movie whose central conceit is that only the past can save the future.

Technology, Time and Place

Our original call for articles suggested a broad topic scope, from philosophical considerations of determinism to scientific approaches to technological change; a diverse set of propositions representational of our interdisciplinary area of discourse. The resulting articles, whilst by no means a narrow reflection of the subject area, consider the relationship between technology, time and place from four key perspectives: history, analysis, environment and dissemination.

Change and continuity: transformations, innovations and tensions in the art of record production

There is a strong probability that the last conference you went to was the best you have been to, at least that is, until the next one. The sixth annual Art of Record Production Conference which we had the privilege to host was very much a case in point. With a record number of papers submitted to the conference it proved to be a stimulating event building on the thinking and experience of five previous conferences while opening up new avenues of thought for our field. In this way, there was an element of continuity between this and previous conferences while, at the same time new presenters provided fresh perspectives on the issues concerning those of us interested in the Art of Record Production. Change and continuity is an inherent feature of any annual conference and the same theme provides the focus for the papers in this edition of JARP.

A Journal on the Art of Record Production

The first issue of a new academic journal is if nothing else an exciting moment in the sociology of knowledge! Why this particular set of interests now? Why can’t they be expressed in existing publications? Is this the first map of a new field or just another subplot on an existing disciplinary site? What does this journal mean for the development of new concepts and methodologies?


Recording Studio as Space/Place

The most significant and far-reaching change in musical culture worldwide over the past twenty years has been the emergence and rapid evolution of the project studio. Along with their offer of independence from the music industry establishment, project studios have brought about new modes of composition and production, and an upending of all manner of […]

The Record Producer and the Law (DJ Danger Mouse)

Having been the subject of cyber activism himself, it is still a sore subject for Brian Burton, also known as DJ Danger Mouse—one of the successful producers of today.  Three years ago, he was in the news for an artwork that was roundly condemned by a certain record company.  Well, if you had the extraordinary […]


The Definitive Edition (Digitally Remastered)

Digital recording technologies have not only transformed the sonic quality with which studio engineers can capture and reproduce music, but we the listeners, have also benefitted from an audio clarity and dynamic range never before accessible from previous (pre-CD) deliverable media formats.
With this in mind the motives behind delivering a reissue are explored, and whether there be genuine sonic improvements in the many anniversary re-releases of artists’ back-catalogues.
What factors determine a ‘definitive edition’ of a recording? The research is aimed at inspiring debate about recordings with a sonic fingerprint that anchor the music to a particular time in history, and whether they should be altered to suit any requirements beyond their preservation and archiving. One may also consider through historical context and drawing parallels with other art forms, that revisions of production sound is merely an extension of existing artistic practice.
The research references album tracks from various remastered and/or remixed editions of works by David Bowie and Jeff Lynne’s ELO which are considered objectively by spectral analysis tools, as well as drawing on subjective issues and direct interviews with Jeff Lynne and Ken Scott.
Further contextual references are made with recordings from artists ranging from The Beatles, Genesis, Yes, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Rush. Proposed possible rationales for the sonic changes are made, whether they are regarded as an improvement or a deterioration of the original productions.

Analysis of Peer Reviews in Music Production

The mix is an essential part of the music production process, which has an important but poorly understood impact on the perception of a record. Little is known about which aspects are the most important, and how to acquire such information. In this work we collect, annotate and analyse over 1400 reviews by trained listeners on 98 mixes. We assess which instruments, types of processing and mix properties are most apparent when comparing mixes, and explore which challenges arise when interpreting these comments. The benefits of using such unstructured data are discussed and a methodology for analysing it is proposed.

Mastering Kurenniemi’s Rules (2012): the role of the audio engineer in the mastering process

In this paper the audio mastering process and the role of the audio engineer are studied from two viewpoints. Firstly, the mastering engineer’s stance towards music technology is described with the concepts of aesthetic and technical use of technological artefacts as well as the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of sound recording. Secondly, the relationship between the musical work and its medium is described with several examples encountered in the mastering process of the album Rules (2012), which consists of ten works from the 1960s and 1970s by the Finnish electroacoustic music composer and instrument designer Erkki Kurenniemi.

Crowdsourcing, Jamming and Remixing: A Qualitative Study of Contemporary Music Production Practices in the Cloud

In 2014, music creation in the cloud is defined by access to sophisticated production tools aided by a number of social networking options. This enables interaction between global communities of musicians across transcultural and transnational spaces. Examining practices within contemporary music production enables a new perspective on remixing and studio jamming filtered though the lens of crowdsourcing. There are multiple challenges associated with this mode of work, and while acknowledging them, this paper argues that there are numerous benefits of engaging in crowdsourcing within the context of Internet-based music production. Drawing on my creative practice and work with three online systems (Audiotool, Blend, Ohm Studio), I analyse the various characteristics of production practices in the cloud engaging international collaborators in a transcultural, transnational space. By examining phases of user-instigated collaborative asynchronous project development, this paper traces how shifts away from traditional studio settings have redefined notions of remixing and jamming, and how new technologies have impacted on interaction between users of remote music collaboration software. In doing so, it makes broader points about how social networking combined with cloud-based music production technologies can lead to new and alternative approaches to music production in international contexts.

Following the Instruments, Designers, and Users: The Case of the Fairlight CMI

The focus of this article is the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI), which is generally regarded as the first commercially available digital sampler. However, its designers, Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, were primarily interested in the use of digital synthesis to replicate the sounds of acoustic instruments; sampling was a secondary concern. Users of the Fairlight CMI began to use it to sample the sounds of everyday life (Richard Burgess, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel) and create the sounds of new instruments (Peter Howell and Roger Limb at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). To develop a conceptual framework for understanding the historical and contemporary uses of musical instruments such as the Fairlight CMI, it may be useful to enter the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and engage with the work of scholars such as Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch. Their focus on the ‘user-technology nexus’ initiates a shift in the writing of histories of technologies from a focus on the designers of technologies towards the contexts of use and ‘the co-construction’ or ‘mutual shaping’ of technologies and their users. As an example of how musicians use instruments in ways unforeseen by their designers, my argument is that a history of music technologies such as the Fairlight CMI and other digital sampling instruments needs to be a history of the designers and the users of these music technologies.

An invisible network: Music consumption and the construction of the Portuguese popular song

Music production involves coordinating efforts among diverse experts, namely recording engineers and musicians. Each contributes specialized work to the production by utilizing shared resources such as music, recorded sound and technologies. To coordinate their efforts, a producer provides information about the production and resources as pertinent to individual contributions. Similar modes of communication and coordination have been studied in scientific research communities. In cognitive science and the sociology of science, “boundary objects” (Star and Griesemer: 1989) and “trading zones” (Galison: 1999) are concepts used to explain how this coordination is enabled and has relevance for music production.

Future Music Formats: evaluating the ‘album app’

Analogue and digital music formats each bring unique benefits for the consumer, the artist and the commercial record industry. Digital formats allow rapid and mobile access to an unlimited database of music, and bring valuable marketing opportunities on a global scale. Physical formats, such as vinyl, are more representative of an art piece, which may include cover art, photographs, descriptive texts, song lyrics and production details. There is however no current format for music delivery that maximises the experience for all of the stakeholders involved.
The emerging ‘album app’ format is a rich multi-media artefact that can be downloaded to a digital device. In 2011 Bjork released the first album app, Biophilia, which included a new unique interface for music listening as well as custom visual animations. Bjork’s cutting-edge approach however brought a number of unresolved challenges with respect to consumer adoption, design costs and chart eligibility.
The research presented in this paper evaluates the album app format and resolves some of the previous functional issues. Working with the band Francois and the Atlas Mountains, this project has realised the first ever chart eligible album app, Piano Ombre, which includes detailed artwork, song lyrics, guitar chord charts, production credits and access to exclusive bonus music material. The app has been evaluated by a number of consumers and industry representatives; in particular it has been observed that prior to seeing the app only 34% of those asked saw the format as having future potential, whereas, after seeing a demonstration of the app, 77% of participants said they would purchase music in this way. This paper therefore discusses the limitations of existing music formats, provides a case study overview of the developed album app material, and evaluates the consumer, artist and industry response to the proposed new format.

“That extra thing”- the role of session musicians in the recording industry

During the golden years of the recording industry, music production justified the emergence of professional musicians whose expertise was performing in the studio – the session musicians. After the digital revolution, different models for record production emerged.
This article aims to reflect upon the agency of session musicians. Questions of musicianship, authorship, listening and gender will be highlighted. My methodology involves research on concepts, and the comparison between behaviours pre and post digital era. I make use of ethnographic interviews with studio musicians, and research collected in documentary films, as well as books and articles focused on the recording studio setting.

Unheard Sounds: The Aesthetics of Inaudible Sounds Made Audible

The article reports on Unheard Sounds, a project exploring extreme transpositions of sounds containing frequency material above the human hearing threshold. The authors demonstrate how using 192 kHz sampling rate and a 4 Hz – 100 kHz frequency range microphone results in sound files that can be transposed at least 2-3 octaves down without significant degradation in sound quality and presence compared to using conventional microphones and/or conventional sampling rates (48 kHz). We then demonstrate how these transposed sounds can present interesting sonic material for composition and improvisation.

The Development of the ‘Epic’ Queen Sound

One of the defining features of Queen’s output in the 1970s was the group’s signature ‘sound’. This paper documents four studio-related techniques that contributed to the ‘Queen sound’, with a particular focus on how these traits conveyed a sense of ‘epic’ size in the group’s songs. The second section of this paper examines the ‘Queen sound’ from a diachronic perspective, demonstrating how the group’s changing studio practices between 1974 and 1975 resulted in the complete realisation of the ‘Queen sound’.

The Sound of Coordinated Efforts: Music Producers, Boundary Objects and Trading Zones

Music production involves coordinating efforts among diverse experts, namely recording engineers and musicians. Each contributes specialized work to the production by utilizing shared resources such as music, recorded sound and technologies. To coordinate their efforts, a producer provides information about the production and resources as pertinent to individual contributions. Similar modes of communication and coordination have been studied in scientific research communities. In cognitive science and the sociology of science, “boundary objects” (Star and Griesemer: 1989) and “trading zones” (Galison: 1999) are concepts used to explain how this coordination is enabled and has relevance for music production.

Music Archives in Higher Education: A Case Study

In September 2014, the School of Music at the University of Victoria launched a digital archive of all student, faculty and guest concert recordings presented at the university. A case study of this archive, its design, implementation and subsequent use, adds to the dialogue (Seay: 2011, Strauss & Gregg: 2008) surrounding audio archives in an institutional setting. If we are to see more institutions develop this resource and more industry collaborations with institutions for the purpose of “provide[ing] primary sources while preserving culturally significant recording collections” (Seay: 2011) then a better understanding of how users and contributors interact with the archives is essential. What are the attitudes towards who can have access to the archive? What are the file sharing habits of the users? What is the level of copyright knowledge? This paper uses a web-survey and web site usage data to explore these questions and to develop a better understanding of what the users expectations are from this type of archive.

Composing and Recording for Fluid Digital Music Forms

Digital technologies have brought a new set of issues to musicians and the music industry, transforming potential income streams and the traditional recorded music market. Changes in consumer and fan behaviour in online environments and market decline due to internet file sharing brings a corresponding need to reassess the way in which recorded music is presented to audiences.

Tradition and Innovation in Creative Studio Practice: The Use of Older Gear, Processes and Ideas in Conjunction with Digital Technologies.

The necessity of using traditional tools and pre-existing knowledge is part and parcel of the process of being innovative. Rather than being diametrically opposed, tradition and innovation are complementary to each other. For Negus and Pickering ‘creativity doesn’t emerge out of a vacuum…creative talent requires a tradition so that it can learn how to go further within it or beyond it. Innovation should be understood by rejecting those approaches which set it squarely against tradition and established cultural practice’ (2004, p. 91). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi supports this idea by asserting that ‘new is meaningful only in reference to the old. Original thought does not exist in a vacuum’ (1999, p. 315). He goes on to state that ‘without tradition there can be no novelty’ (ibid). One could then argue that a desire to use older technology for certain sorts of creative practice in the studio may not be fully explained solely in terms of technostalgia, sentimentality or a simple desire to return to a glorified past. It may be that older technologies and methods of working have an important place in informing innovative practice in the studio. This paper will present evidence to demonstrate that understanding the basis for [re]appropriating technologies and practices of a previous era informs current innovative studio practice.

Technostalgia in New Recording Projects by the 1980s ‘Dunedin Sound’ Band The Chills

This article explores the confluence of nostalgic discourses about popular music and recording and production in practice. It draws on the authors’ involvement in recent recording projects by the band The Chills, whose 1980’s and early 1990’s outputs are credited as being highly influential in the indie rock genre. The article offers new perspectives on the broader context through which technical decisions are made in recording processes, and articulates how these decisions can be understood as compromises that reflect tensions between nostalgic ideological rhetoric, and the demands of production practices in contemporary commercial contexts.

Beyond Skeuomorphism: The Evolution of Music Production Software User Interface Metaphors

For the first two decades of digital audio, interface metaphors were drawn from their analog ancestors, primarily the multitrack tape recorder, the mixing console and outboard signal processors. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) design incorporated a high degree of skeuomorphism to help transition users from their analog equipment to their digital devices. However, as DAWs evolve new functionality undreamt of in the analog era, new interface metaphors are needed. Designs emanating from the gaming industry provide a glimpse into the future of how users will control DAWs, disposing of the current dominant design motifs of the DAW in favor of more immersive experiences.

Performing Nostalgia On Record: How Virtual Orchestras And YouTube Ensembles Have Problematised Classical Music

The purpose of this article is to discuss how nostalgia for classical music performance traditions has shaped classical recording practice, and also how the use of sound recording technologies is challenging these same nostalgic tendencies. It does so by drawing together key academic literature on classical music recording practice and classical music performance in order to demonstrate their interrelationship. In particular this article looks at how virtuosic live performance is used to reify the tradition of classical music itself, and how this has oriented twentieth century classical sound recording practice around a single aesthetic paradigm, the reproduction of a “concert hall”-like listening experience. An equivalent acoustic construction does not exist in popular music genres, which have adopted variable mix aesthetics in recordings since the 1960s. The article then examines two case studies, and uses them to illustrate the tensions that arise when performance and technology intersect within the classical genres. The case studies are virtual orchestras and YouTube ensembles, each of which problematise traditional notions of classical music performance. What these case studies show is that performance virtuosity, as a marker of quality, has been unsettled by the accessibility of orchestral sonorities and the drive towards participatory cultures of classical music.

Resonances Through Urban Non-Space: Shifting Mediums and Retained Practices of Sonic Mediation

Modern practices of isolated listening manifest of mobile creation of privatized sonic worlds speak to and of a history of audile techniques conforming to larger social narratives of societal segregation. Today, we experience headphone and iPod culture as systemic echoes of past private listening techniques manifest in radio and made mobile initially via the automobile. This study argues modern private audile techniques to be self-references of past private listening practices, and in effect, become temporal echoes resonating through the dissemination and cognition of culture. Moreover, within the widespread assimilation of privatized listening, emphasis on record production ‘fidelity’ has suffered as a result of the portability afforded by modern privatizing media experiences.

The Sooy Dynasty of Camden, New Jersey: Victor’s First Family of Recording

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Very few know it wasn’t a record player. Discs, not cylinders developed into a major twentieth century industry, but its inventors and developers stand in the shadow of Edison’s PR canon. There is significant ignored history on the Gramophone/ Victrola side of the recording and playback story. Their flat round “records”, catalyzed popular music by professionals as American home entertainment.

A tale that deserves to better known is that of Harry, Raymond, and Charles Sooy, brothers who worked for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the acoustic era. Harry, the eldest did early experimental work on recording materials and processes for company President Eldridge Reeves Johnson. He became Director of Victor’s Recording Laboratory, and Raymond succeeded him upon his death. These men were pioneers in developing the techniques that brought sound into the company’s acoustical horns to be recorded. In 1925, Raymond helped urge the company to license new electric recording technology, even though it made everything he and his brothers achieved obsolete overnight. Victor Talking Machine Company is justly proud of the wealth it created for its owners, investors, and key employees. When Mr. Johnson sold his company shares in 1927, all others were permitted to do so. There were over thirty millionaires created including Johnson, several members of his family, key executives and factory employees. But, not the Sooys. The article then jumps trenchantly and wittily to the conclusion that record producers have been underpaid since day one.

An audience in the studio – the effect of the Artistshare fan-funding platform on creation, performance, recording and production

Before the era of recorded music, performer and audience connected as they existed within the same space and time. The Phonogram changed this and introduced isolation between artist and audience. New technological platforms are now rebuilding the link between performer and audience. This paper looks at the effect of one such platform, Artistshare. Through research with recording artists, it examines who is using the platform and why they opted to use it. It then goes on to examine the effects of its use, before summarising how this has changed the relationships and the process of writing and recording music.

The Meaning in the Mix: Tracing a Sonic Narrative in ‘When the Levee Breaks’

This article closely examines the recorded sound of Led Zeppelin’s song, ‘When the Levee Breaks’, from the landmark album Led Zeppelin IV. Though the song has appeared in academic discussions of authenticity (Headlam: 1995), gender studies (Fast: 2001), and rhythm (Brackett: 2008), none has examined in detail the relationship between the song’s unusual production—arguably one of the most significant factors in its popularity and longevity—and its reception. Through the recorded sounds, I will outline a sonic portrayal of the levee breaking, a ‘sonic narrative’ that complements the lyrical narrative.

A Studio of One’s Own: music production, technology and gender

Although the question of women’s minority status in music production has been raised in scholarship, it has not been accompanied by a detailed study of women working in the field. This article hopes to address this by examining the self-production practices of a study group of female artist-producers. The study is placed within a feminist framework and draws parallels between a feminist response, in the early part of the twentieth century to the woman novelist, who accesses available tools within a domestic environment to create literature, and a feminist reading today of the woman artist-producer, who accesses available technological tools in a domestic environment, to create and produce music.

Endless Analogue: Situating Vintage Technologies in the Contemporary Recording & Production Workplace

This paper illustrates a range of contemporary contexts where technological precursors are regularly applied in recording sessions by renowned practitioners and/ or studios. Such applications are commonly attributed to nostalgia, fashion or ‘retro’ aesthetics; these issues are critically deconstructed. Implementing a largely critical ethnographic methodology to incorporate interview material with UK practitioners in 3 case study examples, the main investigative foci concern issues of source, practicality, iconicity, context, sonic quality and authenticity.

Soundstream: The Introduction of Commercial Digital Recording in the United States

Developments in digital technologies during the last 35 years have had arguably the most profound effect on the sound recording and music industries since the invention of the phonograph record. Digital audio recording is now ubiquitous, inexpensive, and available to anyone with access to a computer and a basic audio interface. However, this was not always the case. During the 1970s, designers of emerging digital recording technologies collaborated with sound engineers, producers and artists, helping to establish standards for the capture, editing, playback and storage of digital audio; paradigms that would come to govern much of modern recording. This article takes the form of a case study, examining the introduction and development of commercial digital recording technologies in the United States between 1975-1983, through the experiences of an early innovator in the field.

SMiLE: Brian Wilson’s Musical Mosaic

The story of Brian Wilson’s aborted Beach Boy’s album SMiLE is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Firstly, it pioneered a non-linear approach to pop record production decades before digital editing became the norm for record makers. Interestingly, this approach was not just a functional necessity of production, but was inseparable from its compositional process and overall aesthetic quality. Perhaps more importantly, SMiLE arguably became popular music’s first interactive work, with fans making their own linear assemblies of various bootlegged (and released) ‘modules’ long before Wilson ever got around to sequencing them into a final concrete form.

What Studios Do

This essay is focused around a seemingly simple question – what do recording studios do? First, a clarification. I am not primarily asking “what are studios” or “what do people do in studios,” two comparatively straightforward questions that are tangentially addressed in academic and trade writing. Rather, I wish to consider some of the ways in which the studio itself shapes the kinds of social and musical performances and interactions that transpire within. I contend that studios must be understood simultaneously as acoustic environments, as meeting places, as container technologies, as a system of constraints on vision, sound and mobility, and as typologies that facilitate particular interactions between humans and nonhuman objects while structuring and maintaining power relations.

Examining the Impact of Multiple Technological, Legal, Social and Cultural Factors on the Creative Practice of Sampling Record Producers in Britain.

This paper presents evidence to suggest that, despite the obvious emphasis on the impact of the technologies of sampling and their influence on music producer’s cultural output, there is not one single causal mechanism which can be isolated as the major determining factor in sampling producers’ creative output. Instead, the interplay between a number of factors both constrains and enables their creative practice. These include not only important technological factors but also social, cultural, economic, legal, historical and geographical ones. Sampling producers bring to this complex world their own idiosyncratic social and cultural trajectories and act as agents predisposed to choose what they do within the constraints and possibilities afforded them.

The Discourse of Home Recording: Authority of “Pros” and the Sovereignty of the Big Studios

This article proposes a critical analysis of the discourse of home recording. Driven by enunciations regarding home recording’s accessibility and democratization, it examines the power/knowledge relations that have been produced and legitimized within the discourse. This work shows that the government in home recording seems to be exerted by recording professionals and home recording “pros”. It suggests that the enunciation of democratization legitimizes the discourse’s elitist and excluding aspects. This notion functions as a tool for the exercise of power within the discourse of home recording, one that is intrinsically connected to the norms of the professional studio.

Can We Fix It? – The consequences of ‘fixing it in the mix’ with common equalisation techniques are scientifically evaluated.

This article describes some common equalisation techniques which are regularly employed and discusses their impact on the overall reproduced sound. Sample waveform studies and published recommendations are used to highlight ways to avoid the incorrect and over-use of both analogue and digital equalisation. This article extends further to give scientific explanations as to what effects can be heard and seen at the waveform level when equalisation is incorrectly implemented.

‘You’re Not A Real Dj Unless You Play Vinyl’ – Technology And Formats – The Progression Of Dance Music And Dj Culture

Introduction Drawing on ethnographic research I conducted into the Sydney commercial house music scene between 2002 and 2007, this article explores some of the issues that have arisen in recent years in regard to the changes in technology that have brought about shifts not only in the way DJs play music while performing, but also […]

The Systems Model of Creativity: Analyzing the Distribution of Power in the Studio

It has been proposed that creativity comes about as result of a system in operation rather than, as a Romantic ethos would have it, being the result of the action of single individuals alone. Furthermore, Pierre Bourdieu has argued that the field in which cultural production occurs can be described as an arena of social contestation. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests, as well, that conflict within a field may also have an effect on that creative field’s output. If these statements are true then questions of power relationships become important in any analysis of creativity. In particular, analyzing Csikszentmihalyi’s systems approach to creativity and Bourdieu’s understanding of cultural production and what these conceptions have to say about the distribution of creative power in the studio may reveal important truths about creativity itself. It may also shed some light on the nature of the collaboration that occurs within creative groups; in this case those that consist of musicians, producers, record companies and technicians.

Waveform Pirates: Sampling, Piracy and Musical Creativity

“Thou shalt not steal” – the (uncited) admonishment from Exodus 20:15 opened Judge Kevin Duffy’s judgment in Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records, Inc. 780 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1991); a case concerned with two words that have become very familiar in the post-Napster world: music and piracy. But Grand Upright was neither […]

Producer Compensation: Challenges and Options in the New Music Business

The music business is in a transitional phase as the emphasis moves from physical to virtual distribution. There is increased competition for consumer entertainment dollars from many sources including video games and inexpensive DVDs and most music is still available online for free. The industry continues to experience a serious downturn in revenues with US […]

A Multi-Tiered Music Industry?: intellectual property rights, open access and the audience for music

In the recorded music sector, the era of the majors is unlikely to suddenly end; rather what we may see is an enhanced pluralisation of the market for recorded music, which while not being a radical reordering, nevertheless suggests some interesting shifts in the way we enjoy music. In the past the music industry has […]

Nile Rodgers: Navigating Production Space

Nile Rodgers is one of the few black producers to achieve creative and commercial success across multiple genres and decades, but the scope of his contributions rarely attracts detailed analysis despite an enduring influence, partly evidenced by significant sampling of his work in the digital era. This paper focuses primarily on the aesthetics of Rodgers’ production style, encompassing economic realities and ways in which focused creative experimentation can produce both artistically and commercially satisfying results.

Take The Last Train From Meeksville: Joe Meeks’s Holloway Road recording studio 1963-7

Writer and record producer Irwin Chusid called Joe Meek “The Ed Wood of Lo-Fi”[1] and Andy Partridge of XTC commented, “Meek spoke to the dead and heard music from other planets, making number one hit records in his kitchen.”[2] Joe Meek made some great records although I would argue they were not always his most […]

From the Scientific Revolution to Rock: Toward a Sociology of Feedback

For many people, rock’s primal scene is set in a recording studio, in Memphis, in 1954. There, three musicians (Scotty Moore, Bill Black and Elvis Presley), a producer/engineer (Sam Phillips) and a tape recorder (Ampex) create a song (‘All Right Mama’) that durably transforms the physiognomy of music. In this article, I examine the technological, political and intellectual circumstances that made this event possible. One word holds pride of place in my discussion: feedback, a mode of organisation that originated in British scientific laboratories of the eighteenth century.

Divide and Conquer: Power, Role Formation, and Conflict in Recording Studio Architecture

Throughout the history of recording studios, divisions of space have exerted a tremendous influence over the recording process, and have helped to shape the experiences of every recording participant, from the technicians behind the control room window, engineers and producers, to the musicians on the performance space floor. This article combines historical research with ethnographic inquiry in an attempt to analyze how power is enacted in the studio, and how studio design facilitates and maintains recording studio hierarchy.

Conference Papers

Sam Phillips’ Slap Back Echo; Luckily in Mono

Abstract ‘Slap back echo’ was created by Sam Phillips for Elvis Presley’s Sun recordings and later simulated by RCA. Using cepstrum and autocorrelation, we find that the tape delay used in Sun Studios was 134 – 137 ms, which is so long that the echo is perceived mainly as a distinct echo in the time […]

The creation (and re-creation) of virtual spatiality: Surround sound mixing in King Crimson’s back catalog box sets

Abstract The article analyzes surround mixing of King Crimson’s analog recordings. “Lizard,” “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part 1),” “The Night Watch,” “Trio,” and “One Time” are analyzed using the theoretical perspectives of the music recording as representation and spatial design. There is a difference between live and studio recordings in surround: live recordings tend to […]

Listening to virtual space in recorded popular music

Abstract Research on virtual recorded space manifests a division between production and reception based approaches. I address a number of issues which complicate discourse across perspectives and outline why a convergence may be beneficial to research in various disciplines. I consolidate previous models of listening, including Moore (2012) and Zagorski-Thomas (2014), and argue that the […]

A ‘Service’ Model of Creativity in Commercial Pop Music at P&E Studios in the 1990s

Abstract Producers in pop and dance music genres have a significantly different role to music producers in other music genres such as rock (Frith in Frith & Zagorski-Thomas: 2012). A prominent difference is that pop music producers are often part of a production team that involves direct collaboration and participation with songwriters, programmers, musicians, artists, […]

Creating an Immersive Fold-Out – Look Ahead

Abstract A comprehensive autoenthnographic case study, detailing the practice, engineering science and research used to create a stereo to 5.1-fold-out of the Canadian piano and bass jazz duo recording, Look Ahead. This paper asserts that a stereo to 5.1-fold-out, rather than fold-down is a preferable method be- cause it affords each version a creatively distinct […]

Bass | The Wider Frontier: Low-end Stereo Placement for Headphone Listening

Abstract The placement of low-end spectra in popular mixes has ranged from dogmatic centrality to extreme staging, but current developments in production workflows, stylistic evolution and increasingly personalised modes of consumption have resulted in alternative—if less polarised—approaches to low- end production. The authors question how contemporary practitioners ‘sculpt’ bass in their mixes, the strategies that […]

“It’s kind of in the middle”: The ‘Mid-Fi’ Aesthetic: Toward a New Designation of Black Metal Aesthetic of Recording. The Case of the Quebec Black Metal Scene

Abstract The designation of the black metal sound as “lo-fi” by academics is problematic, since it doesn’t reflect the contemporary black metal production. Field- work in the Québec scene show that the members designate their sound as being “in the middle” – or mid-fi as I advocate it. In this paper, I first define “hi-fi”, […]

The Tactile Evolution — Electronic Music Production and Affordances of iOS Apps

Abstract In this paper, grounded in my music production practice, I investigate the various affordances of iOS apps in the field of electronic music production. Drawing on affordance theory and notions of portability and performativity, I consider how contemporary technologies have generated renewed approaches to electronic music production and performance. My analysis shows that portable, […]

Multi-Channel Sound Design: Instruments for 360-Degree Composition

Abstract The continuing development and industry uptake of multi-channel audio is creating new potential for sound designers. This paper presents research that provides a new approach to designing sound for spatial audio applications, by investigating the potential of combining sound creation and spatialisation through performance. The research uses a practice-based approach, involving the design, development […]

The incursion of stereo into Spanish popular music: the English influence in the definition of a local sound through the professional exchanges between Madrid, Barcelona and London

Abstract n Spain, the role of the engineer and the music producer emerges at the be- ginning of the 60s from the “imitation” of the Anglo-Saxon model. The English professional experience of producers and engineers such as Alain Milhaud and Pepe Loeches, helps to import some of the technical methodologies used in English recording studios […]

The Uncertain Future of the Large-Format Recording Studio

Abstract This paper investigates new spatial relationships in music production triggered by the proliferation of low-cost digital music production tools and how they have changed factors of time and creativity for the record producer. We address the problem through a focused set of production projects and the peer review of those projects by seven well […]

Enhancing creativity through automatic mixing research: testing spectral clarity predictors in the mix process

Abstract As established in a prior research study, spectral clarity is an important parameter of high-quality mixes. Two predictors for this are the harmonic centroid (a weighted centre mass of energy of a sound spectrum) and spectral in-consistencies related to sharp peaks roughly in the middle of the frequency spectrum (Hermes et al., 2017). The […]

The sampling aesthetic of Bon Iver’s “33 ‘God’”

Abstract This paper explores the various types of sampling and digital manipulation used within “33 ‘God,’” the fourth track on 22, A Million. Within this track, Vernon utilizes unique modes of musical and vocal expression, featuring samples as symbols of otherness — other times, other places, other emotions — presented through the timbre of others’ […]

Transnational Flow in Cloud-based Music Production: Organisational Communication and Collaboration Between Australia and America

Abstract In this paper, we take three researchers from different parts of the globe and experiment with long-distance songwriting through a sociological and organizational lens. During this process, we combine production expertise and facilities into a networked recording studio environment with expanded toolsets centred on songwriting production. We investigate a new flow concept that we […]

Life In Between Phase: Understanding and Manipulating Microphone Relationships With Visualisation Tools

Abstract Phase relationships are a complex and mystifying phenomenon for early stage recording engineers and university students. In this paper, we take the analytical capabilities of time shifting plugin Auto-Align and use it to develop new methods of understanding phase interaction. We utilise the visualisations and time shifting features to assist in recording a multi-miked […]

The Recording and Sound Aesthetics of Tropical Music in Colombia

Abstract The record production made in Colombia during the boom of danceable tropical music between the 1960s and the 1970s had a prominent transcendence in the historical development of the Colombian music industry. On the other hand, the phenomenon of tropical urban music of today is similar to that of more than 40 years ago, […]

Surround Sound Auteurs and the Fragmenting of Genre

Abstract Multi-channel sonic experience is derived from a myriad of technological processes, shaped by market forces, configured by creative decision makers and translated through audience taste preferences. From the failed launch of quadrophonic sound in the 1970s, through the currently limited, yet sustained niche market for 5.1 music releases, a select number of mix engineers […]

The cultural politics of using technology to support the aesthetic in jazz record production

Abstract This paper discusses the attitudes some contemporary jazz musicians have toward the use of technology and the thresholds of studio ‘intervention’ they are willing to cross in order to achieve their preferred studio recording aesthetic. The discussion draws upon personal experiences of mainly free jazz production, and also the returns of a pilot survey […]

Differences and Similarities in the Role and Creative Agency of Producers in Pop, Rock and Classical

Abstract Differences and similarities in the creative agency of the producer in the production process of urban pop music produced in a home studio, rock music produced in a conventional studio facility and classical concert hall music produced in a concert hall setting is explore in this paper. Starting from the premise of record production […]

ARP Conference Host Proceedings Editorial

Cultural Intersections The 10th Art of Record Production Conference took place on 6-8 November, 2015 at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Three packed days saw 64 paper presentations, two panels, and two keynotes. The delegation came from every continent with the exceptions of Africa and Antarctica. The 10th Conference felt like a milestone as the study of […]

Mixing as a performance: creative approaches to the popular music mix process

A common goal when mixing popular music is to entice an emotional response from the listener, this is intriguing as the actuality of mixing is varied and dependant on personalised technological preferences. This paper theorises that a mix as a performance practice facilitates a connection to more creative paradigms of mixing, and technological development influences possible creative practices. Subsequently, historical and professional evidence of the mix as a performance state is presented and the reader is informed of process via videos of the author’s professional mixing practice. To triangulate the approach, rationales regarding creativity and kinaesthetic imagery are referenced throughout.

A New Breed of Home Studio Producer?: Agency and the Idea ‘Tracker’ in Contemporary Home Studio Music Production

In this article my aim is to explore the creative and collaborative agency of an aspiring Finnish Helsinki-based pop-music producer Mikke Vepsäläinen. In a detailed ethnographic case study of the home studio production of a song published in April 2016, I discuss the producer’s agency through the idea of being a “tracker” or “tracking”. This terminology is commonly used in contemporary pop music production to describe the agency and role of the producer. Yet it has not yet been addressed in studies or written accounts on music production that I’m aware of.

A Musician’s Engineer: Best practices for teaching music proficiency at formal audio recording and production programs in the USA

Music proficiency is an important part of audio recording and production (ARP) education and is an essential part of an aspiring recording engineer’s development. However, because music proficiency is not a well-defined concept in ARP programs, it has been delivered to students in a variety of ways via disparate materials and methods. Therefore, this paper asked educators from 25 different ARP programs in the USA to identify best practices for the inclusion and integration of music skills into formal ARP programs. Educator’s responses, collected via initial phone interviews and an online survey instrument, were analyzed via descriptive statistics and organized via an initial coding method. The educators reported that the integration of musical skills and proficiencies within coursework and assignments enabled them to enhance musical and technical skills simultaneously. Additionally, educators cited keys to improving and nurturing a student’s music proficiency: student ensembles, real-world exposure to performances, and higher-level coursework. Based on the best practices offered by the educators, this paper outlines the content for a music proficiency text specific for ARP students and educators as foundational material for course-learning objectives. Sections include (a) keyboard basics, (b) basic theory, (c) performance reporting, (d) music rehearsals, (e) technical ear training, (f) composition, and (g) genre specific techniques.

The Ecological Approach To Mixing Audio: agency, activity and environment in the process of audio staging

This paper relates to a research project on Classical Music ‘Hyper-Production’ And Practice As Research: a project that seeks to create radical reinterpretations of the classical repertoire through record production. Our approach to mixing audio for this project is based on a theoretical model that explores the links between the perception and cognition of recorded music, our musicological analyses of the pieces and how that translates into staging and processing decisions. While taking into account Schaeffer’s theories about the ‘Objet Sonore’ and Smalley’s work on spectromorphology, we are utilizing the ecological approach to perception to examine mix decisions in terms of agency, activity and environment.

We will discuss the notions of foreground and background, thematic material, contrapuntal lines and other musical features in terms of the number and type of perceived agents, the types of activity that are involved and the nature of the environment within which the activity occurs. This will be explored through both literal and metaphorical interpretations of the musical activity. These analyses will then be used to explain the decisions that were made during the mix process. Placing the perceived agents on different parts of the sound stage, highlighting or inhibiting various aspects of the energy expenditure involved in the perceived activity and determining the type and character of the environment within which this activity occurs will be further deconstructed in terms of the specific processing decisions that were made in different instances. The paper will conclude with a discussion of how this approach to mixing is being developed into a book project that seeks to apply these techniques across a whole range of musical styles and types of recording.

Creating A Rubato Layer Cake: performing and producing overdubs with expressive timing on a classical recording for ‘solo’ piano

The path to recording for composers of concert hall acoustic music is quite different to that of popular, media, electroacoustic or electronica composers. The common model involves the creation of the work; performance(s); only then, perhaps, recording. This paper looks at the relationships of contemporary composers to the recorded medium drawing on a series of one to one interviews. Research to date concludes composers face issues common to other genres, and most are keen to develop recordings. Barriers include finances, lack of opportunity, confidence and previous bad experience. Building composer-performer-producer-engineer networks based on mutual trust is a helpful model.

Analog Distinction – Music Production Processes and Social Inequality

Analog audio technology has not only survived the techno-cultural turn of the late 20th century but regained a somewhat mythological strength. Nevertheless, the discourse in this field is mainly limited to technical functionalities, workflows and sonic images, while social inequality stays out of the discussion. This paper offers a status question on social inequality in music production. I develop working hypotheses from Bourdieu’s model of distinction and Boltanski/Thévenot’s argumentation in favor of practices of classification and competition through principles. I apply these perspectives on the current discourse and describe certain social aspects of the use of analog equipment as analog distinction.

Meanings of Spatial Formation in Recorded Sound

This paper investigates the importance of forming the virtual space in recorded music. With a production-analytical model called the sound-space I seek to draw attention to the ways in which spatiality in recorded sound affects interpretation of meaning in music. The sound-space comprises both the four-dimensional spatiotemporal organization of previous models for sound analysis, and the ways in which that organization emphasizes meanings in recorded music. In order to demonstrate how the sound-space can be applied in production I have recorded and mixed a song and compared it to a previous version that was produced before the work on the sound-space concept started.

Hyper-compression in Music Production; Agency, Structure and the Myth that ‘Louder is Better’

Producing ‘loud’ recordings is a prevailing expectation within music production via the process known as hyper-compression; associated with the ‘louder is better’ paradigm. Despite tensions between the empirical evidence of science and the subjective interpretation of creative agents, the use of hyper-compression continues unabated. This paper proposes an examination of these tensions from a systemic perspective; agency, and symbolic and social structures. A synthesis of both objective and subjective viewpoints of this creative system is presented, coupled with theories of habitus and capital, to expose the relationship between agency and structure in the use of hyper-compression as a creative tool.

Perspectives from the spatial turn on the analysis of space in recorded music

The so-called spatial turn in philosophy, cultural studies, geography, art history, and literary studies has not been connected with the analysis of space in recorded music. This article reviews a number of the most influential concepts of thinkers’ associated with the spatial turn (Foucault, Harvey, Soja, Cosgrove, Jameson, Bachelard, Lefebvre) and connects them with the literature on space in recorded music. This can offer new insights to the understanding of space in music, particularly by helping us address questions of the ontology of recorded music and explaining the social production of space in music.

New and Old User Interface Metaphors in Music Production

This paper outlines a theoretical framework for interaction with sound in music mixing. Using cognitive linguistic theory and studies exploring the spatiality of recorded music, it is argued that the logic of music mixing builds on three master metaphors—the signal flow metaphor, the sound stage metaphor and the container metaphor. I show how the metaphorical basis for interacting with sound in music mixing has changed with the development of recording technology, new aesthetic ideals and changing terminology. These changes are studied as expressions of underlying thought patterns that govern how music producers and engineers make sense of their actions. In conclusion, this leads to suggestions for a theoretical framework through which more intuitive music mixing interfaces may be developed in the future.

Automatic Description Of Music For Analyzing Music Productions: A Case Study In Detecting Mellotron Sounds In Recordings

Introduction The invention and expansion of sound recording technologies, the development of computers and the subsequent digital revolution, radically transformed the way music is currently conceived, created, produced, distributed and experienced in different cultures around the world. Nowadays, music is almost completely dependent on technological processes and its access is frequently mediated by digital technologies. […]

The ‘Brazilian Electronica’ Of César Camargo Mariano And Prisma (1984-7): Hybridization Or Tradition?

Mixing Synthesizers and Brazilian Music This paper discusses the work of the Prisma project, which happened between 1984 and 1987 and whose main purpose was to introduce synthesizers and MIDI technologies to the tradition called música popular brasileira (‘Brazilian popular music’; the anacronym ‘MPB’ is widely used as well) as a significant purpose of their […]

Rethinking Creative Practice In Record Production And Studio Recording Education: Addressing The Field

Introduction Traditionally, Western notions of creativity have been viewed from a Romantic perspective where often the moment of insight or inspiration is considered to be the point of creativity (Boden, 2004). Modern popular representations of musicians, engineers and record producers in the media also serve to support these notions. Most strikingly, the common sense representations […]

Recording as Social Practice

On college campuses across the United States, Canada, England and parts of Asia and Europe, ensembles of student singers regularly enter recording studios with the goal of creating not only a musical product, but also a musical and social experience.  As a genre of amateur, peer-led musicians who arrange, perform and record mostly popular songs […]

Rock Production And Staging In Non-Studio Spaces: Presentations Of Space In Left Or Right’s Buzzy

Introduction This paper discusses the use of non-studio recording practices in the staging of ensemble vocal performances in contemporary rock music production. The paper analyses the production process and resultant audio examples from a record produced by the author in 2011-12. The methodology for this research is practice-led, and at times auto-ethnographic, drawing on similar […]

The “Virtual” Producer In The Recording Studio: Media Networks In Long Distance Peripheral Performances

Introduction The producer has for many years been a central agent in recording studio sessions; the validation of this role was, in many ways, related to the producer’s physical presence in the studio, to a greater or lesser extent. However, improvements in the speed of digital networks have allowed studio sessions to be produced long-distance, […]

Creativity And Home Studios: An In-Depth Study Of Recording Artists In Greece

Introduction The aim of my research is to identify whether the use of DAWs in home studios has influenced the way Greek artists produce music and if so, in which ways this medium can influence creativity. The nature of the topic dictates the full understanding of how musicians and producers in Greece work, what are […]

What is a Jazz Record Anyway? Lennie Tristano And The Use Of Extended Studio Techniques In Jazz

Introduction In 1956, jazz pianist Lennie Tristano released an eponymous LP on Atlantic Records that for the first time made use of overdubbing and the manipulation of tape speeds in a jazz context. The resulting tracks “Line Up,” “Requiem,” “Turkish Mambo,” and “East Thirty-Second Street” created a watershed moment for the creative use of extended […]

On Critical Listening, Musicianship and the Art of Record Production

Introduction The idea of a ‘record producer’ is a slippery one. As Mike Howlett tactfully puts it, “at its simplest, the producer’s task is to produce a satisfactory outcome” (2012, p.190). Elsewhere more noisily described as arranger, co-writer, industry interface, mix engineer liaison, mentor and more – a producer at the helm of a team assumes […]

A Semantic Approach To Autonomous Mixing

1 Introduction “There’s no reason why a band recording using reasonably conventional in- strumentation shouldn’t be EQ’d and balanced automatically by advanced DAW software.” Paul White, Editor In Chief of Sound On Sound magazine There is a clear need for systems that take care of the mixing stage of music production for live and recording […]

“You Won’t See Me” – In Search Of An Epistemology Of Collaborative Songwriting

Introduction This paper proposes an observational methodology by which we may gain deeper understanding of the creative processes used by collaborative songwriters. Almost every aspect of popular music production and consumption has been discussed and analysed in scholarly work, but the creation of the song itself has rarely been subject to scrutiny. This is perhaps […]

The perception and importance of drum tuning in live performance and music production

Abstract Intricate tuning of acoustic drums can have a significant impact on the quality and contextuality of the instrument when played live or in the recording studio. Indeed, many musicians and producers will spend a number of hours achieving a preferred drum sound prior to a performance. Drum tuning, however, is a rather subjective matter, […]

How to Reformat the Planet: Technostalgia and the “Live” Performance of Chipmusic

“It looks like you’re just pressing buttons.” It is perhaps the most common audience feedback received by the 8-bit chiptune composer, who uses vintage video game consoles to create original music. At a basic level, the chipmusician is “just pressing buttons,” as they control the various parameters of the sound chip using the same equipment […]

Recreating an Unreal Reality: Performance Practice, Recording, and the Jazz Rhythm Section

This paper discusses the effect of jazz recordings on the expectations and performance practice of jazz rhythm section players, especially bassists and drummers. Both aural/traditional and notated/academic approaches to jazz pedagogy rely heavily on recorded examples from the full history of record production. These recordings present a wide variety of perspectives on the sound of the jazz rhythm section, many of which are highly distorted and unreal. Close microphone placement, bass proximity effect, musician placement and other factors will be discussed vis-à-vis jazz rhythm section musicians and their goals as performers and recording artists. The highly developed rhythmic language of jazz will be problematized through direct engagement with the singular perspective and deceptive authenticity of ‘acoustic’ recordings, which can seem real but are actually recorded interpretations of acoustic events from remote, and often forgotten or lost, times and places.

Performance Recordivity: Studio Music in a Live Context

Introduction The paper seeks to examine the relationships between the gestural, performative and technological practices of the recording studio and emerging performance practices in the 21st century and propose an initial taxonomy of the major developments in the last 20-30 years.  In terms of scope, our focus is on music performance models outside the ‘playback […]

Creative Conflict in a Nashville Studio: A Case of Boy & Bear

This article examines the issue of conflict in the studio environment, addressing the question of whether conflict in creative groups is necessary for generating artistically successful outcomes. Sawyer’s (2007) notion of group flow will be applied in a case study concerning Australian band Boy & Bear’s debut album recording sessions at Blackbird studios in Nashville, USA that took place in April 2011. This album was produced by 10 time Grammy award winner Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The Shins, Elton John, U2, Beck, Frank Zappa, The White Stripes, Young the Giant, The Strokes). The resulting album, Moonfire, won 5 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards in November 2011 including: ‘Album of the Year’, ‘Best Group’, ‘Breakthrough Artist (Album)’, ‘Breakthrough Artist (Single)’ and ‘Best Adult Alternative Album’.

From LA to Lisbon: the “LA Sound” as a referential production sound in Rui Veloso’s recording career

In the 1980s, a distinctive production sound came to be associated with musicians, producers and sound engineers working in Los Angeles, including, notably, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan. The “LA Sound” became a reference for musicians and sound technicians around the world. Rui Veloso, a Portuguese singer/song-writer, tried to emulate it in his records over three decades, facing several difficulties because of the lack of studio technology and professional experience. This article regards performance in the studio and the relations involved in the construction of distinctive conceptualizations of production sound in popular music when displaced.

Putting It On Display: The impact of visual information on control room dynamics

1. Introduction In contemporary recording sessions, digital technology mimics that of older analog tape-based processes, so that for the performing musician the experience is nearly indistinguishable. In either case, takes are recorded, overdubs and punches are executed, and the results are auditioned. However, the clearest indication of a computer at work is the presence of […]

Achieving Intelligibility whilst Maintaining Heaviness when Producing Contemporary Metal Music

Common denominators and central attributes of contemporary metal music are the intensity and energy of performance, which usually feature aggressive rhythm structures and techniques, and the depth, and density, of the tones involved. These characteristics can present numerous challenges to achieving heaviness and sonic weight, which is the defining feature of this form of music, as well as definition and intelligibility, which are fundamental to providing a high level of sonic clarity for these often-complex performances. Heaviness and intelligibility are the principal objectives of a high commercial standard of contemporary metal music production, and are the focus of this paper.

Capturing That Philadelphia Sound: A Technical Exploration of Sigma Sound Studios

Sigma Sound Studios was founded in 1968 by Joseph D. Tarsia and was the site of most major record production originating from Philadelphia, PA during the 1970’s and 1980’s. As a creative environment, Sigma was instrumental in the production of “Philadelphia Soul” music. While larger markets such as London, New York or Los Angeles have a plethora of recording facilities influencing music production, the recording facilities in smaller markets such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Muscle Shoals can have a greater influence in developing an identifiable sonic character. The musical output from these cities are often associated with their pool of musicians, such as MFSB, The Funk Brothers and The Swampers. However, the creative and technical environment provides its own impact on each city’s identifiable sonic character. Such is the influence of Sigma Sound Studios on record production in Philadelphia.

Using materials from the Sigma Sound Studios Collection in the Drexel University Audio Archives and exclusive interviews with Joseph Tarsia, this paper will describe the early technical design that shaped Sigma’s environment and recording techniques developed and used by Tarsia and how this environment and these techniques supported the creative musical community. This paper will refer to select recordings that demonstrate the sonic influence of Sigma Sound Studio’s creative environment.

The Record Producer As Nexus

1. Introduction In this paper I propose the concept of the record producer as a “nexus” between the creative inspiration of the artist, the technology of the recording studio, and the commercial aspirations of the record company. In much of the published discussion of the producer’s role the term “mediator” is preferred, however, I argue […]

All Buttons In: An investigation into the use of the 1176 FET compressor in popular music production

This paper focuses on the use of the 1176 in popular music production. While this compressor is regularly discussed by engineers in magazines and online forums, there is no academic research into the workings of this famous piece of studio equipment. The first part of the paper investigates the various hardware compression types and goes on to present an overview on the development of the first Urei 1176s. Subsequent chapters investigate the 1176s characteristic sonic identity and research into the approaches engineers and producers use when applying the device in their productions. To test their suggestions a series of short experiments are made using a variety of sound sources. The results are observed using audio analysis tools and subjective observations from aural tests.

Toward a musical monograph: Working with fragments from within the improvisation-composition nexus

This paper examines the pre-production stages of a new album of original music entitled Monograph. The project firstly uses the recording studio as an resource analysis device to interrogate a database of live improvisations which have been collected over time. The following phase of the project orients around the research question: how to best move beyond in-the-moment improvisation, to being able to distil, refine, arrange and orchestrate the essence of attractive ideas in fixed recordings? This paper details emergent methods as part of an overarching practice-based research approach to the problem.

Manwel T meets King Tubby & Marshall McLuhan – Dub Music in a virtual age

This paper explores Dub music as a medium of production, from its inception, through reference to King Tubby, and more contemporary virtual re-mixers, such as Manwel T. Central to the argument in the paper are the ideas that production convergence between analogue and digital methods needs to be contextualised into the broader changes that occurred in Reggae music with regard to studio technology and production. This process, it will be argued was slow and evolutionary. Through this contextualisation, the paper concludes Dub is like a tree with many branches, firmly rooted and ever changing.

Celluloid Heroes: Fictional Truths of Recording Studio Practice on Film

In the post-war era, many Hollywood films have utilized the recording studio as the setting for decisive dramatic action. For most viewers, these scenes serve to advance the plot. But for aspiring musicians, glimpses into the recording studio provide access to an otherwise closed world, a place where the music they know and love is created. When the protagonists struggle, their lack of experience is revealed, just as the hopeful musicians in the audience fear would occur to them in such a foreign environment. And when stars onscreen overcome their fears, the audience experiences the moment vicariously – their idol’s triumph is their own triumph.
Film representations of recording studio practice are important precisely for this reason. The actions depicted and the narrative tropes enacted on screen served to help formulate the novice’s conception of recording practice. Such movie scenes serve as a cornerstone for recording studio mythological narratives, and result in a number of assumptions regarding conflict and power struggle among recording studio participants. Inspired and intimidated by the images of studio work they have digested from adolescence through early adulthood, many recording participants utilize practices and enact mythologies first encountered through film representation. This paper [presented as a video] examines the formulation of film narrative tropes and mythologies, and the impact of these mythologies on recording studio practice.

Creation of Media Based Learning Material for Audio and Music Technology

Audio and Music Technology courses have become well subscribed in UK Higher Education, but, being a rather modern academic field, these courses have not benefited from substantial research, analysis and development of learning and teaching strategies. Furthermore, a successful career in this industry relies on a number of cross-disciplinary academic skills coupled with entrepreneurial ability and professional experience, which makes effective learning and teaching a considerable challenge. This article explores the particular education strategies which can effectively promote deep learning in Audio and Music Technology. The article further describes developed media based learning materials for assisting teaching in Audio and Music Technology and discusses their merits for enhancing the student learning experience.

Remixing Modernism: Re-imagining the music of Berg, Schoenberg and Bartók in our time

This paper examines the recent recording of solo piano music composed in 1908. The project offers the premise that there are liberating and research-worthy possibilities for combining the two traditions of Western art music performance and contemporary sound manipulation as a compelling language to amplify artistic interpretations. This challenges a predominant approach to the recording of Classical music which promotes the illusion of capturing a concert experience and that the production decisions appear to be transparent. The paper concludes that these new recordings offer a promising route for audiences to experience the music as a virtual artwork in its own right, where the creators interrupt production conventions and otherwise spontaneous assumptions. In documenting these processes in an ongoing way, the authors seek to contribute to the understanding of artistic practice as research within the contemporary academic landscape.

Primary Sources in Music Production Research and Education: Using the Drexel University Audio Archives as an Institutional Model

With Drexel University in Philadelphia acquiring the Sigma Sound Studios Collection in June 2005, an opportunity arose to establish this resource as a basis for research into modern music production techniques, recording technology and archival techniques as they relate to multi-track audio recordings. Sigma Sound Studios was the paramount recording studio in Philadelphia from 1968 to 2003 and was instrumental in the creation of what became known as the ‘Sound of Philadelphia’. Using this example as a model, this paper will outline how an educational institution can best preserve and use multi-track collections for music production research and will include examples from the collection as well as discuss the complications of keeping a commercial recording collection.
The Sigma Sound Studios Collection consists of 6119 magnetic tape-based recordings in twelve different recording formats. These differing formats represent the evolution of modern music production. The collection starts in the late 1960’s with analog 4-track and progresses through the 1990’s to digital 48-track. With this breadth of formats, it is possible to study how advances in technology may have influenced the creative process of musicians, engineers and producers as they performed and adapted their art. Researchers of musicology and popular music will find having access to such a collection a valuable resource for the study of music, music technology and culture. With changes in the music industry and recording media, this paper will show how having primary sources for research can enhance the connection between music production and music technology.

The Cultural Economy of Sound: Reinventing Technology in Indian Popular Cinema

Scholarship on record production has largely neglected non-Western music practices and their products. In particular, the countries in which most technological devices are invented and patented still exert hegemony over the music market and over discourse about music; consequently, alternative sound aesthetics are often disregarded. More recently, ethnomusicology has paid some attention to marginal areas of production, especially in relation to digital technology; in order to fill this gap in the scholarship, however, it is necessary not only to recognise the role of user agency but also to acknowledge that technology is better understood as a process rather than an object. For this purpose, I will focus on the use of the Clavioline by the Indian musician Kalyanji in the film ‘Nagin’ (1954), as an instance in which the potential of an instrument is redefined according to local aesthetics, arguing that regional record production practices are more noteworthy than conventional theories about them seem to imply. More precisely, I will analyse the microeconomic context in which Kalyanji operated, and then propose a cultural explanation of his aesthetic choices from the point of view of the participants (desi) and within the specific mode of production of the Hindi film.

Adult MP3 Users’ Perspectives on Past and Present Consumer Audio Technology: Does the Music Still Matter?

Now that MP3 has established itself as the primary means by which music fans consume their programming, what shifts in consumers’ perceptions about the listening process, if any, have occurred? Do today’s listening experiences with MP3 technology differ from listening experiences of the past?
This exploratory study investigates adult audio consumer culture using in-depth qualitative interviews. Adult MP3 users who have used older audio technologies (such as phonograph, 8-track, cassette, and compact disc) discussed their past and present listening habits. The study found that adult MP3 users perceived today’s listening experiences as similar to those they had with older consumer technologies.
The paper also introduces the new theoretical concept of “experiential peripherals,” which refers to experiences connected to but not directly involved with the listening function in audio consumption.

‘Working out the Split’: Creative Collaboration and Assignation of Copyright across Differing Musical Worlds.

It has been theorised (e.g. Hennion 1990, Wicke 1990, Zak 2001), and there is mounting empirical evidence (e.g. Davis 2008, McIntyre 2008, Moorefield 2005, Howlett 2008), that record production is a highly collaborative process. When records are made producers, engineers, musicians, programmers and A&R personnel all cooperate in a creative process that can be characterised using a number of models (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, Paulus and Nijstad, 2003). Songwriters, however, are an ever present but little mentioned presence in the studio, although their work is crucial to studio output.
It can be claimed that the development of technological possibilities within the studio has afforded collaborative songwriters an increasing variety of creative methods, and this has led in turn to a range of views concerning the kind of contributions that can be considered to be songwriting among music creators. Calculating the ‘split’ or financial remuneration for the work involved, then, depends upon a set of complex commercial, legal, moral, social, cultural, ideological and discursive factors coupled with certain common sense myths. This paper presents empirical evidence of how current practice compares to some of the older models of creativity that still appear to predominate in the promotion and consumption of recordings.

Sound at Source: The creative practice of re-heading, dampening and drum tuning for the contemporary metal genre

A review of academic literature on drum recording and production will reveal significant discussion of microphone choice and placement. However, there is little presented that specifically relates to the studio production of contemporary metal, and even less concerning the concepts and techniques to achieve the genres drum sound at source. This can be problematic due to the often dense and complex performances involved, and the very specific weight, clarity and definition required of these drum tones.

This paper will firstly focus on the physicality of drums, their components and their impact on timbre. The nature of drumheads, re-heading, dampening and tuning, which is at the core of the drum sound producers endeavor to capture, will then be explored. Discussion will be provided throughout as to broad principles that can be applied to gain the most appropriate tonalities, at source, for the genre.

Drum tuning can therefore be seen as an art in itself and its importance cannot be overlooked, as even the best quality drum kit is still going to sound poor unless properly tuned.

This body of work will reflect the author’s nine years experience producing within contemporary metal production, including releases through Sony and Universal, and working alongside some of the most successful and respected producers from the genre, including Colin Richardson, Andy Sneap and Jens Bogren.

Virtual Oasis – thoughts and experiences about online based music production and collaborative writing techniques

This paper explores the dynamics of online music production through a case study analysis of the CD release ‘Virtual Oasis’ (2010), made entirely online by producer/author Dub Caravan, and poet/author, Haji Mike. It will be argued that for this process to develop and succeed the authors used the tool of the Internet to engage in continuous, constructive rhetorical and creative exchange/dialogue. This happened over a period of 8 months in 2010, which eventually led to meeting physically for the first time and touring live in Cyprus and UK. Such collaborations are now occurring throughout the world as a by-product of the Web 2.0 and virtual digital audio revolutions which have impacted music production and the music industry world-wide. While it is made clear one case study is not all embracing methodologically, it is argued that this kind of ethnographic work which focuses more on the actual ‘culture of production’ (rather than the production of culture) is important in understanding key changes and shifts in processes of music creation and communication online.

Fine tuning percussion – a new educational approach

The tuning of acoustic drums rarely has a formal education method yet the quality of drum sound can have a significant effect on the success of a recording project. Drum tuning is a largely subjective matter and is often considered something of a ‘dark art’ amongst emerging drummers.

One popular method involved in drum tuning is to ‘clear’ or ‘equalise’ the drumhead, to ensure an even response by tapping the drumhead around the perimeter of the drum and checking that a consistent sound is achieved at all locations. This technique is discussed in a number of popular texts and magazine articles, but to date has not been evaluated in a scientific context. Thus, no formal or quantifiable method of educating a technician in clearing the drumhead has previously existed. It is shown that it is possible to quantify how uniform the drumhead tuning is via simple acoustic analysis; i.e. with a drumstick and microphone. Furthermore, a drumhead with a non-uniform response exhibits beat-frequencies, producing an uneven profile to the drum response decay envelope.

It is apparent that while many expert musicians have the ability to tune drums by ear, an intelligent tuning aid provides benefits to those who are still learning their trade. The visual feedback produced by the novel and bespoke analysis software used in this paper can help musicians and producers make more informed choices with regards to their drum sound. Furthermore, the developed methods for drum tuning allow the development of a standardised education method for assisting and accelerating the learning of this skill.

The effect of spatial treatment of music on listener’s emotional arousal

An experiment was carried out to discover whether altering the spatial attributes of recorded music resulted in a measurable difference in the Electro-Dermal Activity (EDA), and therefore the emotional arousal, of listeners. A recording of Schubert’s Ständchen D920a was made in a recording studio. Two mixes differing only in their spatial treatment were produced from this recording. These mixes were presented to a sample of listeners under experimental conditions, in a repeated measures design experiment. The EDA of the listeners was recorded. Statistical comparisons of the number of EDA change events, and the strength of EDA events at cluster points was made. This comparisons failed to demonstrate statistical significance, however the results were encouraging enough to warrant a rerunning of the experiment with altered methodology to compensate for ordering effects which contributed to large standard deviations in the statistical analysis. Analysis of the musical triggers for EDA changes helped support results from previous studies on the musical sources of the chills/thrills response.

Collaborative songwriting – the ontology of negotiated creativity in popular music studio practice

The relationship between songwriting practice and song product is an under-explored one in popular musicology, still less so in a studio-based environment. Our research sources are accordingly limited, drawing mainly on first-hand retrospective interviews with artist-songwriters, who may have an incentive for self-mythologising, or at least romanticising their songwriting methods to preserve fan perceptions of authenticity. There are no available real-time observations of the collaborative processes involved in creating popular song, despite the huge economic and artistic successes of songwriting partnerships throughout the history of our field. Sloboda (1985) identifies the reluctance displayed by composers of any sort to participate in detailed analyses of their processes; these difficulties are exacerbated further by some songwriters’ apparently deliberate mystification of their craft. Attempts to analyse processes of musical composition have generally focused on single-composer models (Nash 1955); even studies relating to collaboration remain concerned with instrumental art music (Hayden & Windsor 2007) or educationally-based observation subjects (Burnard & Younker 2002).
This paper builds on the single-songwriter research of McIntyre (2009) and the theoretical definitions of creativity provided by Csikszentmihalyi (1996). It explores, through analysis of ‘hits’ and examples of emerging practitioner-based research, the inferences that can be made by comparing historical and current songwriting practice with the finished product, and attempts to identify commonly-used collaborative models, including a discussion of the effect of the presence (or absence) of studio technologies as mediator of the songwriting process.

Modes of production, modes of listening: alternative realities and the sonic divide

Bob Katz suggested that while the 20th century concentrated on the ‘medium’ our 21st century concerns should more profitably focus on the ‘message’. Discourse around the medium and the message have focused and polarised debate on sound recording since the 1960s. This paper continues this debate in the context of the tensions that develop not only in the processes of creating a recording, but in the reception of the recorded product.

The discussion draws on semiotic theory to explore the nature of the message, how it is communicated and what it means. In doing so, the paper formulates ways of thinking about the codes involved not only in the production process but also in their reception. The discussion looks at the tensions created through extensions to the sonic bandwidth, especially frequency, volume and timbre, and modes of listening. From a semiotic perspective, the paper asks if these tensions are representative of codal confusion, competence or indifference and draws on concepts of reality and hyper-reality to provide a way of understanding our engagement with recorded music.

Artist Co-Management for the World: Building a Platform for the Facilitation of Song Writing and Record Production

This article draws an analogy between open-source software development and artist co-management networks. While co-management and team management are not new to the music industry, new technologies such as the Internet, and all this enables, present artist managers with new possibilities regarding the potential of international co-management networks. These networks can be used to facilitate artists’ song writing and record production efforts. The argument here is that traditional split-territories co-management deals are more fallible than co-management agreements that involve co-management for the world. This is because the latter is more likely to generate group creativity and group flow than the former because it generates a culture of collaboration that is based on flexibility, connection, and conversation and makes improvised innovation standard business practice.

Experiencing musical composition in the DAW: the software interface as mediator of the musical idea

My paper discusses the effect of the DAW environment upon student attitudes to musical composition with reference to pedagogical research that I have conducted over the past two years at Leeds College of Music. I focus in particular upon nature of the graphical interfaces provided by certain DAW platforms, considering their relationship with the ‘traditional’ media they are often modeled upon, and their impact upon the conceptualization of musical ideas. Much of the discussion is focused upon the musical thought processes that users of DAWs bring a priori to their chosen platform and how contact with the software both modifies these ideas and impacts upon creative flow. The issues arising from the paper have interesting implications for ideologies of composition teaching per se and aim to raise debate in regard to the special challenge presented by new technologies to received ideas in this area.

Jazz/Hip-Hop Hybridities and the Recording Studio

Since the first jazz/hip-hop collaborations in the early 1980s (Max Roach w/Fab 5 Freddy, Herbie Hancock w/Grandmixer D.ST), and the flowering of the so-called ‘jazz rap’ subgenre in the early 1990s (A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Guru’s Jazzmatazz), a new generation of young jazz musicians have responded to this unique marriage of African-based genres. My paper engages with two twenty-first century jazz musicians who attempt to merge jazz and hip-hop styles in strikingly divergent ways: U.S. trumpeter Russell Gunn and U.K. saxophonist Soweto Kinch, two contemporary artists that fuse hip-hop and jazz but contrast in terms of recording studio practices, marketing/promotion, and their intra- and extra-musical discourses on genre. For example, Russell Gunn adopts a style of jazz that incorporates hip-hop, dance music, and overtly celebrates the recording studio as musical instrument. The use of trumpet and rap vocal effects demonstrates what I call ‘studio consciousness’, aspects of a recording which draw attention to its studio source rather than stage an illusion of ‘liveness’. Kinch, in contrast, arguably does stage a form of ‘liveness’ on his first album Conversations with the Unseen (2003), whether the individual tracks reflect jazz or hip-hop. Using this particular comparative case study, I propose that an investigation of studio techniques may be an additional way to categorize and analyse genre and its fusions in popular music.

Microphone Practice on Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”

“Record making is a recent art form,” writes Albin Zak (2001: 26), “and many of its artistic roles belong to no prior tradition – we know what songwriters do, but what about sound engineers?” This paper attempts to answer Zak’s question, if only in part. Specifically, it addresses microphone practice, and the role it plays in the creation of the sonic character of a record. The analytic model used in my master’s thesis, titled Towards a Model for Analyzing of Microphone Practice on Rock Recordings (Lewis, 2010) will provide a structure with which to outline and analyze a case study of the microphone techniques used on Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago (2007).

Reducing comb filtering on different musical instruments using time delay estimation

Comb filtering occurs when a signal and a delayed version of the same signal are mixed, for example when the signals from two microphones reproducing a single audio source are summed. This effect can be reduced by applying a compensating delay so there is ultimately no delay between the audio signals. This can be made automatic by using time delay estimation. This paper explores the effect on the accuracy of the time delay estimation when using bandwidth limited source signals, such as a variety of musical instruments with different frequency content. It is found that the smaller the bandwidth of the source signal, the less accurate the time delay estimation and comb filter reduction.

Lateral Dynamics Processing in Experimental Hip Hop: Flying Lotus, Madlib, Oh No, J-Dilla and Prefuse 73

This paper is part of a broader ongoing effort to elucidate signal processing as musical communication. In it, I draw an aesthetic distinction between three species of lateral dynamics processing which regularly recur in modern experimental hip hop, specifically, side-chain pumping, ducking and envelope following. I explain how these techniques relate on a procedural level, even as they serve different musical functions; and, finally, I consider why so little is written about these techniques in current research on popular music recording practice.

Ron’s right arm: tactility, visualization, and the synesthesia of audio engineering

Most scholarship on audio engineering analyzes practices and practitioners in terms of musical and technical knowledges. The few references to sensory perception typically center on critical listening practices (“golden ears” engineers), audiophilia, and technologies of audition. However, particularly in light of computer-based workflows, the practice of audio engineering features carefully developed synesthesias of critical listening, visualization of digital audio, and tactile manipulations of interfaces, which can’t adequately be explained as cognitive processes or as conscious knowledge.

I draw on literature in the emerging field of sensory scholarship, in particular Brian Massumi’s theorization of synesthesia and affect and Charles Hirschkind’s analyses of cultivated “sensoriums” in order to show how practices of audio engineering can be productively theorized as a strategic retraining of the senses. I draw diverse examples from field research conducted in the US and Turkey. One example – Ron’s right arm – explores how one audio engineer uses his right arm to “feel” when the bass is right in a rock mix. Another example explores the creation of “büyük ses” (big sound) in Anatolian “ethnic” music and the use of the Protools edit window to “visualize” bass. In both cases, bass is something that is felt or seen, but not immediately audible. Through an attention to differing kinds of synesthesias, we can better understand how audio engineers perform their craft.

Considering Space in Music

This paper is offered to propose basic theoretical framework and to initiate a methodology of context for inquiry and for discovery of how space functions in recorded music. This is a beginning to seek a greater understanding, and not intended to offer an overview of practice, or a theory of principles.

This paper will examine the spatial elements of music recordings and begin to consider how they impact the music itself. It will examine several recent and historically significant recordings to define broad concepts, and will then focus on a single recording and its use of space to enhance its musical materials and relationships.

Space in music can be profoundly important. These qualities can create a context for the song and its materials, be used to enhance musical ideas and the instruments and voices that present them, can even function as musical materials, and much more. Still, the breadth and the significance of their role in recorded music is not defined or fully understood.

Arctic Monkeys – The Demos vs. The Album

Arctic Monkeys first album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ (2006) was prefigured by a collection of demos, which was widely circulated by fans on MySpace and other social networking sites, and which created not only a substantial audience for the first album, but one which was already familiar with alternative versions of a number of the album tracks prior to its release.

In this paper it is proposed to investigate the qualitative differences between the demo and the commercial releases, from the point of view of both the listener and the producer. The paper will also explore how the technical and creative process and environment of the demo studio differ from that of a larger commercial facility, and how this impacts on the finished record.

It will be suggested that a range of research methods is an appropriate way to gain a useful perspective on a recording or series of recordings. As such it is proposed to highlight the variety of approaches taken in the course of this research, including comparative technical analysis, interviews with the producers, and analysis of reception. The latter approach leads to a discussion of questions of authenticity, in particular whether there is such a thing as an authentic recording process, and how far this can be perceived by an audience. It is proposed to develop these areas more fully in future research.

Creative Ownership and the Case of the Sonic Signature or, ‘I’m listening to this record and wondering whodunit?’

Listening to recordings can be something akin to reading a detective story; you know what happened but you don’t know whodunit. Moreover, the recorded sounds not only invite you to consider who did what but how it was done. Over the past few years a number of academic detectives have begun to develop frameworks for approaching recordings as a musical or performative text. The recording therefore stands as an object and embedded in this object are the multifarious processes that went into its construction which we, as academics, would wish to reveal.

This paper looks at the current work of academic detectives in the field of the sonic arts to consider if the current frameworks hold up to close scrutiny. A key consideration in this paper will be to investigate the ways that these frameworks help us understand how the creative power is distributed between musicians, producers, record companies and technicians. In addition, we consider how the text reveals, retrospectively, the processes behind this creative power and in particular, the role of the artist-producer who seems to be the leading suspect in the creation of an identifiable sound or sonic signature. The investigation looks in particular at working practice in the studio of a particular generation of producers from the mid 1970s until the 1990s to see if any of the frameworks offer a real insight into the creative processes of the studio. In conclusion, the paper argues that in developing systematic frameworks, we may undervalue the power of the hermeneutic hunch in solving the problem of creative ownership in the case of the sonic signature.

Magical Mystery Tour: Mono or Stereo?

In December 1967, The Beatles released Magical Mystery Tour, an EP that contained six new songs written as the score for an original Beatles film. Author Mark Lewisohn has pointed out that until Abbey Road, all Beatles recordings were released in mono and stereo. The Beatles themselves were only directly involved in the mono mix, while producer George Martin and EMI staff engineers would typically create the stereo version at a later date. However, it seems that as early as Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles and their collaborators were actively exploring the aesthetic potential of stereo sound. The following discussion will examine selected tracks from the stereo version of Magical Mystery Tour in order to highlight the peculiar aesthetic qualities created by stereo mixing. Using the work of Marshall McLuhan as a guide, it will pay particular attention to the ways in which the stereo versions create a context in which the listener has the option of choosing from various musical elements in the mix.

The Medium In The Message: Phonographic staging techniques that utilize the sonic characteristics of reproduction media.

A recurrent theme is emerging in scholarly activity relating to record production: the description and analysis of mediation techniques used in the recording process that produce sonic characteristics with culturally constructed, associative meaning. This paper examines how the aural ‘footprint’ of particular forms of mediation associated with audio reproduction media have been used to generate meaning within the production process. The postmodernist slogan ‘The Medium Is The Message ’ is stretched a little further to accommodate the fact that the medium is continually referenced within the message itself and becomes part of the creative palette of meaning creation.

“I’m Not Hearing What You’re Hearing”: The Conflict and Connection of Headphone Mixes and Multiple Audioscapes

Technologically imposed division inherently sets up oppositional binaries between recording studio participants. The performance space/control room divide pits musician against technician, and isolation places musicians in conflict with one another, whether physically imposed by baffles and booths, or psychologically imposed in the form of multiple headphone mix audioscapes. This paper, based on field research, will address how technological mediation creates these oppositional binaries, as well as the potential for a collectively experienced and heightened performance made possible by the enhanced connection provided by headphones in recording studio practice.

Undervalued Stock: Britain’s most successful chart producer and his economy of production.

This paper explores the production practices of Mike Stock, the most successful producer/songwriter in British chart history. He is perhaps more familiar when addressed within the context of his two business partners Pete Waterman and Matt Aitken. Under the SAW (Stock, Aitken and Waterman) partnership the three men dominated the British charts during the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s. The contribution of Stock’s production style, to the overall commercial success of SAW’s operation, will be examined. From the direct targeting of the Gay club scene, with Stocks mix of HI-NRG and Tamla Motown, to his no-demo’s policy of recording. Technological developments in recording at this time also had an influence on the production practices employed by Stock. The introduction of MIDI instruments, sampling and advances in multitrack recording allowed Stock and his Partner Matt Aitken to assume the role of the band. The artist was left to supply only the vocal, all of which had a direct impact on the length of time spent in the recording studio. The paper explorers the effect this had on his relationship with the artists he recorded, including debates surrounding notions of creative control and authenticity within the production process.

Revolution Sacrilege! Examining the Technological Divide among Record Producers in the late 1980s

The mid to late 1980s was a pivotal time in recording and production technology. As the use of MIDI, samplers, computers and digital tape recording crept into the professional studio, this technology was hailed as revolutionary by some and met with a barrage of technological pessimism by others. This paper examines how technology divided record producers, splitting them essentially into two camps towards the end of the 1980s – the traditionalist and the technophiliac. This paper will consider the influence on record producers of the time of manufacturers and audio industry periodicals and will analyze producers’ attitudes towards a changing technological landscape. The presentation will include examples and quotes from figures as varied as Mutt Lange, Daniel Lanois, Steve Albini and Stock, Aitken & Waterman.

Imogen Heap as Musical Cyborg: Renegotiations of Power, Gender and Sound

Imogen Heap, British electronica artist, has had a successful solo and collaborative career since her 1998 release of I Megaphone. She became a widespread name in 2004 after the song ‘Let Go’ from her collaborative album with Guy Sigsworth, Details, was used in the film Garden State. Following this success, Heap returned to solo work and released Speak for Yourself in 2005. Through an analysis of Heap’s musical development from her earliest musical experiences to her latest solo endeavors, this paper demonstrates Heap’s renegotiations of power, gender and sound allowed by the reconfigurations of institutional and commercial structures, which were enabled by the developments of recording technology.

Transmission Loss and Found: The Sampler as Compositional Tool

This article explores the use of the digital sampler as one of the studio tools that forms part of this creative process and focuses on interviews with a group of Edinburgh musicians called Found who successfully combine the writing of pop songs with the sampling of found sounds. Much of the academic literature on digital sampling within popular music studies been skewed towards its disruptive consequences for copyright law and, while legal and moral questions are still relevant, this article focusses on the processes of music making and the aesthetic choices made by composers and producers in the studio. Recent ethnographic work by Joseph Schloss has centred on these questions in relation to hip-hop and it’s important to examine and understand how the sampler continues to be used by musicians and producers in a wide variety of genres.

Arctic Monkeys – The Demos vs. The Album

Arctic Monkeys first album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ (2006) was prefigured by a collection of demos, which was widely circulated by fans on MySpace and other social networking sites, and which created not only a substantial audience for the first album, but one which was already familiar with alternative versions of a number of the album tracks prior to its release.

In this paper it is proposed to investigate the qualitative differences between the demo and the commercial releases, from the point of view of both the listener and the producer. The paper will also explore how the technical and creative process and environment of the demo studio differ from that of a larger commercial facility, and how this impacts on the finished record.

It will be suggested that a range of research methods is an appropriate way to gain a useful perspective on a recording or series of recordings. As such it is proposed to highlight the variety of approaches taken in the course of this research, including comparative technical analysis, interviews with the producers, and analysis of reception. The latter approach leads to a discussion of questions of authenticity, in particular whether there is such a thing as an authentic recording process, and how far this can be perceived by an audience. It is proposed to develop these areas more fully in future research.

Production and the Listener: The “Perfect” Performance

Perceptions of ‘perfection’ in recorded music are dependent on a complex set of factors. This paper will investigate the influence of real life and strict tempo regulation on the reception of a recorded rock performance. A rock track will be recorded with a band of a high performance standard in free time (no click track). This performance will then be mixed. The track will then be edited and the performance timings put into a strict time grid. The two versions will then be played to listeners and their reactions analysed. The listeners will be divided into various categories by musical experience, age, preferred listening etc. This paper will form part of an ongoing investigation which will be looking at the reactions of listeners to the editing of performances in different musical styles from rock to jazz to pop to classical. This paper will be a step to finding out the way that listener’s react to performances in recording and whether the reactions are dependent on age and musical experience and should provide valuable information for producer’s in the development of recordings for commercial release.


Control, Chaos, Power, and Play: Interview with Dr Bill Bruford

One of the aims of recording popular music over the years has been to capture “lightning in a bottle.” It’s a phrase that so eloquently illustrates the paradoxical nature of reconciling control and chaos in popular-music making. Ever since “Rock ‘n’ Roll” records first hit the airwaves in the mid 1950s there has been an ongoing power struggle between those that would have popular music more controlled and those that would have it more chaotic. In fact, it’s a balance that needs to be negotiated each and every time popular musicians and technicians attempt to work together (either explicitly or tacitly – and nowhere less than in the recording studio).

Interview With Tony Swain

Tony Swain is a record producer, composer, session musician and A&R consultant. He has been active in the industry for over thirty years. He achieved significant success during the 1980s in a production and song-writing partnership with Steve Jolley, working with acts such as Imagination, Spandau Ballet and Alison Moyet. Their work has subsequently appeared (as direct samples or close emulations of key elements) in records by Mariah Carey, PM Dawn, Boards of Canada, 88 keys (featuring Kanye West) and The Pharcyde. Swain then went on to solo production work as well as A&R consultancy, eventually becoming Head of International A&R for the Universal Music Group. He has been nominated for Ivor Novello song writing and BPI production awards, was awarded a BPI technical excellence award and has also seen his work as executive producer (for Michael McDonald’s Motown recordings) nominated for a Grammy award. This interview took place in 2013, thirty years since the release of the albums True by Spandau Ballet and Night Dubbing by Imagination, which epitomise the contribution made by Tony Swain and Steve Jolley to pop and dance music production in that era.

Interview with Ken Scott

Ken Scott is a legendary producer and engineer, having worked with the likes of The Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Procul Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, Supertramp and Level 42, among many others. His production credits include some of the most influential albums ever made, including David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and Supertramp’s Crime of The Century and Crisis? What Crisis? In the following interview, Scott discusses these records and some of his more recent work.

Interview with Dave Fisher

Dave Fisher has worked at the BBC and The University of Surrey. At the latter he was Director of the renowned Tonmeister course in Music and Sound Recording from 1983 until his retirement, as Emeritus Professor of Sound Recording, in 2011. During that time he undertook a wide range of lecturing duties, including teaching recording techniques to students in each year of their course. This interview, which took place in the Audio Lab at the University of York in January 2012, was undertaken as part of the ‘Is Recording Engineering?’ project, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Interview with Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle is a Juno Award winner and Grammy nominee. He has worked with the likes of Hall & Oates, Anne Murray, The Chieftans, Glenn Gould, Kiss, Sinead O’ Conor and Van Morrison, to name only a few.

Interview with Ben Fowler

Ben Fowler is a Grammy-winning producer/engineer in Nashville Tennessee. After receiving a degree in music from Ball State University, he began working as an engineer at New York City’s legendary Power Station (now Avatar studios). Earlier in his career Fowler worked on a session with Eric Clapton which yielded 3 studio albums. Since then he has worked with artists such as Michael McDonald, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, and Bad Company. More recently, he has worked with contemporary artists such as LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts and Paul Brandt for an impressive 8-album run. Whether producing or engineering, Fowler believes that interpersonal skills are an often overlooked key to a successful career. In the following interview he explains how his approach hinges on bringing the best out of album contributors by keeping morale high during sessions. Central to Ben Fowler’s approach as an engineer is to favour the creative over the technical. He views his craft as an endeavour which is primarily artistic. As an extension of this Fowler is less concerned with how equipment is intended to be used, and more concerned with the resulting sound.

Interview with Steve Marcantonio

Steve Marcantonio is an audio engineer who works in Nashville, Tennessee. Since starting his career at The Record Plant in 1978, Syebe has since worked on projects including John Lennon, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Paul Brandt, and the Blues Brothers, among others. Currently, Steve is the Studio Manager/Chief Engineer at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville.

Interview with Nick Blagona

Nick Blagona is an extraordinary engineer/producer with an impressive list of credits. If it were the practice of the music industry to mention the technicians who worked recording sessions in the 1960s, his list of credits would be even longer. In the following interview, Nick provides insight into a life dedicated to music and technology. Onwards, from his first four-track analog tape session with Tom Jones, to when he assumed ownership, and took over the role of chief engineer, at Le Studio in Quebec, Nick’s career has evolved alongside the technological changes of the recording industry. Throughout this interview, Nick unpacks an implicit understanding of sound engineering and music production garnered from professional experiences in Britain, Canada, and the United States. His stories reveal how a natural affinity with sound and music has allowed him to make great recordings by adapting engineering/production processes in response to the demands of artistic diversity, communication media, and industrial change. He describes insight gained from producers Tom Dowd, Phil Ramone and Roy Thomas Baker, and from working with the likes of Deep Purple, Nazareth, Cat Stevens, The Bee Gees, and The Police.

Interview with Wendy Page

Interview conducted July 6, 2004. Originally published at How long have you been producing? I’ve been producing for ten years. How did you get started as a producer? I was in a band in the U.K. called Skin Games. We produced our own tracks and co-produced songs with other producers. We felt we had […]

Interview with Jack Richardson

Jack Richardson remains one of the most celebrated producers in Canadian history. His work with The Guess Who in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the best-selling single of 1970, namely, The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” which outsold releases by the likes of The Beatles at the time. His credits also include Bob Seger’s Night Moves, Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death, Muscle of Love and Killer, Kim Mitchell’s eponymous debut, Max Webster’s Universal Juveniles, Poco’s A Good Feelin’ To Know & Crazy Eyes, and Badfinger’s Say No More, among others. He also dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to music production & engineering pedagogy, having played a crucial role in the establishment of Fanshawe College’s celebrated Music Industry Arts program in London, Ontario. We caught up with Jack at his home in London last November. Jack recently passed away, in early May of 2011. As far as the author is aware, this was his final interview.

Interview with Peter Collins

Interview conducted April 16, 2004. Originally published at What do you look for when you are evaluating a potential project? I guess I look for an element of originality, whether I think it offers something that is not already out there, something that’s going to be fun to record. That’s a pretty broad brief. […]

Interview with Linda Perry

Interview conducted July 31, 2004. Originally published at What do you look for when evaluating a potential project? I need to have a connection with the artist, a feeling in my heart that our collaboration will be special. It is the artist that inspires the creativity, so it is very important to have a […]

Interview with Lauren Christy of The Matrix

Interview conducted June 14, 2004. Originally published at Did you expect to become a producer? No, not at all. Being an artist, all I knew was that I was incredibly interested in it. Apart from the songwriting, which is a whole different thing, the way the finished product would sound…it could so easily go […]

Interview with June Millington

This interview was conducted at the University of Western Ontario, where June Millington was artist-in-residence. The conversation was largely unstructured, but revolved around determining June’s personal approach to production, and examining her career as an influential musician, songwriter and recordist. Along the way, June discussed encounters with Skunk Baxter, John Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Geoff Emerick, Barbara Streisand, and a host of other respected musicians and recordists. This discussion took place in February of 2011.

Interview with Bill Laswell

Interview conducted July 26, 2004. Originally published at You’ve had a really interesting career. You swing in and out of the mainstream working with big artists and then some more unusual things. I guess I never really cut anybody loose. A lot of the things are improvised from what people call avant-garde music or […]

Interview with Josh Leo

Josh Leo is a lauded producer, session guitarist, and songwriter based in Nashville, TN. Of the 21 albums Leo has produced which have reached #1 on the charts, some highlights include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Emerson Drive, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Bad Company. As a session musician, Josh’s first notable employers were Jimmy Buffet and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. In the years following his tenure with these renowned artists Josh was credited as a musician on over 150 albums. Leo is a skilled songwriter as well, with 6 songs ranking #1 on the charts.

Transcription of Producer and Engineer Wing Event

March 24, 2008 Baird Auditorium – Museum of Natural History Shannon Emamali:  Good evening, I am Shannon Emamali and I am the executive director of the Recording Academy’s Washington, DC Chapter.  Welcome to our first actual Producer and Engineers event we’ve had here for the Chapter.   We’ve had it in other cities but we actually […]

Stephen Street and the Art of Man-Management

Stephen Street began his career in music in the early 1980s at Islands Records’ Fallout Shelter Studio. From the mid 1980s onwards he worked with the Smiths, first as an engineer and later as producer. Since then his production credits have included Blur, The Cranberries and The Kaiser Chiefs.

Interview with Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers is a composer, arranger, guitarist and producer, and co-founding member of Chic. His production credits include Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Duran Duran and many more. In 1998, Rodgers founded the Sumthing Else Music Works label and Sumthing Distribution, focusing on the production and distribution of video game soundtracks.

Music Producers Guild Round Table

Haydn Bendall, Mick Glossop, Mike Howlett and Tony Platt, members of the UK Music Producers Guild, reflect on issues identified by Simon Frith in his editorial piece A Journal on the Art of Record Production.

Interview with Joe Boyd

Interview with legendary producer Joe Boyd.


Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP

As the title suggests, this book covers a lot of turf—encompassing the relationship of technology, culture and aesthetics to the practice of studio recording. It limits its range historically by stopping at the LP, which in practical terms takes it up to the early 1970s. The book is meticulously researched and is rich in anecdotes and individual narratives along with relevant names, dates, facts and figures. The stories and attention to detail are critical in helping sustain interest, as much of the broader technological and cultural sweeps will be familiar territory for most researchers in this field.

Mic It! Microphones, Microphone Techniques, and their Impact on the Final Mix

The practical task of sound recording incorporates many distinct activities. Microphone choice and placement, audio editing and effects processing, mixing, mastering, and the preparation of various different types of physical and online distribution media, are all topics that might fall under this heading, as are planning and running recording sessions, and successfully negotiating interpersonal relations between musicians, engineers, and producers. Add to this the broad range of theoretical knowledge required—on the premises of analogue and digital audio, on acoustics and sound propagation, on stereo imaging, on the physiological and psychological bases of sound perception—and it can readily be seen that the task of addressing the subject of ‘sound recording’ in a book must necessarily involve strict decisions about the range of topics to be covered. Such decisions will invariably involve a trade-off between breadth and detail.

Mixing and Mastering in the Box: The Guide to Making Great Mixes & Final Masters on Your Computer

Steve Savage’s latest book Mixing and Mastering in the Box: The Guide to Making Great Mixes & Final Masters on Your Computer is a companion to his 2011 work, The Art of Digital Audio Recording (reviewed in JARP #5) and is intended for a variety of audiences. Not only envisioned as a primary text for students enrolled in recording programs (whether trade, technical, conservatory, or liberal arts based), it would it would also prove to be quite useful for the home recording enthusiast, or musicians hoping to improve their self-recording and mixing chops.

The Art of Music Production: The Theory and Practice (Fourth Edition)

Addressing production in book-length form parallels confronting the multiple options provided by a large multitrack recording console or digital audio workstation. Determining which elements should assume priority in the final mix, and how the primary components can best be integrated to achieve a satisfactory overall result poses enormous challenges for which no uniformly stable template exists. Now in its fourth incarnation, The Art of Music Production by hit producer Richard James Burgess attempts to pinpoint “the essence of music production” (Burgess: 2013, pxi), providing factual and conceptual illumination of an area often shrouded with mystique from the general public’s perspective.

EpiK DrumS – A Ken Scott Collection

EpiK DrumS from Sonic Reality is a 130 gigabyte collection of royalty free multitrack drum kit samples, loops and full tracks recorded by British recording engineer and producer Ken Scott. Among others, Scott recorded The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Duran Duran, Dixie Dregs, Missing Persons, […]

EpiK DrumS EDU

EpiK DrumS EDU is a separate two DVD set, priced at $29.99, published by Alfred which features instructional material from  Scott’s recording sessions for the Sonic Reality set. The videos are fascinating on a number of levels. For aspiring producers and engineers who do not have any or much experience in recording drums the information […]

Song Means: analysing and interpreting recorded popular song

“Who are you? How do you define yourself, your identity?” With these words Allan Moore opens his exhaustive new work proposing a more comprehensive approach to the musicological analysis of popular song. The last three decades have seen a huge expansion of the anthology of the sociological and cultural meanings of pop, but Moore’s book is not another exploration of this field, although some of these ideas are incorporated in this work. Rather, he addresses the limitations of conventional musicology when dealing particularly with songs: “I address popular song rather than popular music. The defining feature of popular song lies in the interaction of everyday words and music… it is how they interact that produces significance in the experience of song”.

Max/MSP/Jitter for Music: A Practical Guide to Developing Interactive Music Systems for Education and more

V. J. Manzo delivers a definitive primer for audio artists wishing to harness the power of this versatile software suite. If you are a novice who wants to learn Max quickly and develop a solid foundation before striking out in your own direction, this book will provide it. If you are a teacher who is new to teaching Max, or has been thinking about starting a Max class for beginners, I think this would be a worthy choice as a textbook for your class or as a reference when putting together your class.

The Art of Digital Audio Production

…one of the better and most accessible overviews of the music production process that we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s refreshing to find an author in the recording industry that continually keeps the focus on the major priorities and gives a solid presentation of how a student should begin developing their paradigm of audio recording.

PWL From The Factory Floor: Expanded Edition

PWL From The Factory Floor: Expanded Edition takes an already admirable book and turns it into a truly useful text for a variety of audiences. It works as a research reference, as a potential text for college courses (one can envision a popular music course that examines the record “factories” from the 20th century, such as PWL, Motown, Stax, etc, for which this would be a great resource) and finally, as an entertaining read about a fascinating era in pop music.

Revolution In The Head: The Beatles Records And The Sixties (Third Revised Edition)

Taken as a whole, MacDonald’s examination of the Beatles’ recorded work and what it represented in its own time remains one of the most cohesive and coherent critiques of their oeuvre in pop music literature. Making clear what he regards as the bands strengths and weaknesses as well as the triumphs and foibles of the era in which they were created, MacDonald provides a first rate understanding of what the Beatles did along with why and how they did it. And it makes for a revealing, vibrant, and fascinating (if occasionally infuriating) read as well. Highly recommended.

Industry Perspective

Remuneration in the Age of Downloads

Much of Richard Burgess’ excellent and well-researched observations apply to the UK music industry as well. Many of the larger producer-managers are adopting the production company model: signing the artist directly and funding at least the initial recordings before raising further finance through licensing on to either a major or, increasingly, independents. Individual tracks can also be licensed in this way—this has been standard practice in the dance world for some years. The key point to aim for is retention of the recording copyright with 2-3 year terms. The advantage of licensing to a larger label, as well as their greater marketing and promotion muscle, is that they tend to be more reliable in royalty accounting—and bigger companies are subject to auditing regulations that allow access to records.

Striking the wrong note

“I’m only human.” It’s what we say when we make a mistake. Without mistakes, I’d be out of a job. When asked to explain what I do, I tend to describe classical music editing as “joining up the good bits and taking out the wrong notes.” This is, however, at best disingenuous and at worst a lie. Whilst it is a fair description of why the profession exists, it is not, as it turns out, actually what I do. So, what does the job really entail?