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 recorded music production matures and grows. It is in that spirit that the overarching theme of Cultural Intersections was chosen. As we reach this milestone, it is apparent that the ARP community continually reaches into the cultures of both the industry and multiple academic disciplines to better understand the craft of record production. At the 10th Conference, the intersection of record production studies with musicology, ethnomusicology, sound studies, science & technology studies, cultural and communication studies, philosophy, and others were on display.

The academic keynote started the conference as Dr. Trevor Pinch presented a detailed history of the Moog synthesizer, the culture in which it was created, and its impact on music production. Joining us from the Science, Technology, and Society field, Trevor Pinch embodied the conference theme of Cultural Intersections and set the tone for rest of the conference. Our industry keynote, Tony Maserati gave an insightful and reflective view of his work in the industry. Mr. Maserati has produced and engineered scores of legendary pop, hip-hop, and R&B artists, such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Jason Mraz, James Brown, Mariah Carey, Notorious BIG, Black Eyed Peas, and many others. His in-depth exploration of his work was perfectly fitting with ARP’s desire to maintain close relationships with practitioners and industry organizations.

In addition to these keynotes, the conference hosted Joseph Tarsia and Kenny Gamble, who spoke of their roles in creating the Sound of Philadelphia in a panel moderated by the Recording Academy’s Maureen Droney. Katia Isakoff moderated a Women Produce Music panel with Maureen Droney and Susan Rogers in conversation with electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani.

To encourage discourse of music production in an interdisciplinary way, the following four conference themes were offered:

Agency: Content Creators in Record Production

This stream aimed to explore the creative agency within record production. Who or what is in charge (officially or tacitly)? Is sound recording inherently collaborative? What are the correlations or disunions associated with the creative process? Who are the future agents in record production? What agency does/will the consumer hold? What is DIY in sound production and how has it changed over time? How does DIY and technology intersect? How will iOS music makers alter the future of music production? How does media representation influence record production and vice versa?

Multi-Polarities: Contextualizing the Art of Record Production

How does the study of record production and recorded music sit in the wider context of academic study? This stream seeked contributions from scholars utilizing some broader perspective. How do researchers in music studies, ethnomusicology, performance studies, communication and media studies, cultural studies, historical musicology, the history of technology, ergonomics, acoustics and psychoacoustics, music theory, music cognition, music technology, and the philosophies of mediation and rationalization approach this subject? Can work from areas such as film studies, the digital humanities, literary theory, and the visual and plastic arts shed light on our subject area?

Education: Connecting Research to Practical Education

With music technology replacing musical instrument proficiency and the continued blurred lines between artist/producer/engineer, how do educators of record production tie the theoretical explorations of our research with the often sought practical skills knowledge of industry preparation? Are these two separate agendas? What would it mean to educate students through a socio-technical curriculum? What trusted methods of education should be continued/abandoned? Should music proficiency be a priority, or is that an old model? How do we educate the consumer?

Ten Years On: The Art of Record Production

This 10th Art of Record Production Conference allowed for both the reflection of the discipline and the projection of the discipline’s future. This stream asked the simple questions, “What do we research, how do we research, and where will the study of record production be at the 15th Conference?” Additionally, what is the future of music production, consumption, fan engagement, music distribution, music careers, and recording studios, and what methodologies will we use to explore these questions? How does the history of record production bridge to the present and future?

It is within these four themes that we offer ten papers from the proceedings of the 10th Art of Record Production Conference in this 11th Issue of the Journal for the Art of Record Production.

Within the theme of Agency, Tuomas Auvinen looks at the practices of the Finnish producer Mikke Vepsäläinen by ethnographic means to place him in the context of a “tracker”. Brendan Anthony describes the mixing process as a performance based art rather than a mere technological exercise. Emil Kraugerud writes how music producers form recorded spatiality and how that can affect the interpretation of songs. Robert Taylor explores agents working within the creative domain that contribute to hyper-compression in music production.

Writing on Multi-polarities, Mads Walther-Hansen explores “cognitive metaphors” that are used by music producers to visualize and make sense of their work, and how the understanding of these metaphors might contribute to improve user interface design. Mikkel Vad takes a multipolar approach by connecting the study of space in recorded music to the use of the “spatial turn” in other fields, such as philosophy, cultural studies, and others. Carsten Kaiser looks at the social aspects of analog technology and how it distinguishes status among producers. Andrew Bourbon and Simon Zagorski-Thomas examines the agency of record production practices when applied to classical music repertoire, while Emilie Capulet and Simon Zagorski-Thomas look at how tempo-shifting performances of classical repertoire are afforded within music production practices.

Lastly, Doug Bielmeier and Wellington Gordon offer research into the importance of music proficiency skills in audio recording and production programs within the Education theme.

The papers offered here in this 11th Issue of JARP display the continued interdisciplinary development of the study of record production. As we pass the 10th conference and look forward to the 11th at Aalborg University, the maturity and growth of the field is clear. Here is to the next 10 years and beyond of this ever-evolving discipline.

Toby Seay
Associate Professor, Drexel University


I would like to thank the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the Department of Arts & Entertainment Enterprise, and the Music Industry Program of Drexel University for the support necessary to host the Art of Record Production Conference.