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.

Issue 11

Proceedings of the November, 2015 Art of Record Production Conference, Drexel University,
Philadelphia, USA. Published March, 2017

Toby Seay (Editorial)
Shara Rambarran (Joint Managing Editor)
Brandon Vaccaro (Joint Managing Editor)
Simon Barber (Online Publishing)


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.

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.