Conference Papers

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.

Cutting Tracks, Making CDs: A Comparative Study Of Audio Time-Correction Techniques In The Desktop Age.

Producers have long sought to rhythmically ‘tighten’ studio performances. Software-based DAWs now come with proprietary functions to facilitate this, but only the latest generation of platforms allow relative ease of use on longer takes. Each method has advantages and disadvantages in terms of ease and speed of use, transient preservation, implied subsequent workflow and (usually) unwanted artifacts. Whilst rhythmically consistent material with clear transients is readily controllable with contemporary tools, working with complex mixtures of note-values still presents a challenge and requires much user intervention.
This paper performs a comparative study of different audio quantize techniques on percussive material, often on rhythmically complex performances. It will seek to compare necessary methodologies and workflow implications through the use of several contemporary systems: Recycle, Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Live, Melodyne, and Nuendo. The current level of man-machine interaction will be explored, and the best features from each platform will be collated. A model for the future will be speculatively presented.

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.