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.

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.

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.