The Journal on the Art of Record Production (JARP) is an international online peer-reviewed journal promoting the interdisciplinary study of record production.   The journal publishes peer reviewed research papers, conference papers, interviews and reviews with contributions from world-renowned industry professionals.

Current Issue

Proceedings of the 2014 Art of Record Production Conference, University of Oslo,
Norway. Published July 2015

Editorial

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?

Articles

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.