There is a strong probability that the last conference you went to was the best you have been to, at least that is, until the next one. The sixth annual Art of Record Production Conference which we had the privilege to host was very much a case in point. With a record number of papers submitted to the conference it proved to be a stimulating event building on the thinking and experience of five previous conferences while opening up new avenues of thought for our field. In this way, there was an element of continuity between this and previous conferences while, at the same time new presenters provided fresh perspectives on the issues concerning those of us interested in the Art of Record Production. Change and continuity is an inherent feature of any annual conference and the same theme provides the focus for the papers in this edition of JARP.
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.
Proceedings of the 2010 Art of Record Production Conference, Leeds Metropolitan University
Published July 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).
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.
Nick Blagona is an extraordinary engineer/producer with an impressive list of credits. If it were the practice of the music industry to mention the technicians who worked recording sessions in the 1960s, his list of credits would be even longer. In the following interview, Nick provides insight into a life dedicated to music and technology. Onwards, from his first four-track analog tape session with Tom Jones, to when he assumed ownership, and took over the role of chief engineer, at Le Studio in Quebec, Nick’s career has evolved alongside the technological changes of the recording industry. Throughout this interview, Nick unpacks an implicit understanding of sound engineering and music production garnered from professional experiences in Britain, Canada, and the United States. His stories reveal how a natural affinity with sound and music has allowed him to make great recordings by adapting engineering/production processes in response to the demands of artistic diversity, communication media, and industrial change. He describes insight gained from producers Tom Dowd, Phil Ramone and Roy Thomas Baker, and from working with the likes of Deep Purple, Nazareth, Cat Stevens, The Bee Gees, and The Police.
Interview conducted July 6, 2004. Originally published at http://www.theartofmusicproduction.com/Wendy_Page_Interview.html How long have you been producing? I’ve been producing for ten years. How did you get started as a producer? I was in a band in the U.K. called Skin Games. We produced our own tracks and co-produced songs with other producers. We felt we had [...]
Jack Richardson remains one of the most celebrated producers in Canadian history. His work with The Guess Who in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the best-selling single of 1970, namely, The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” which outsold releases by the likes of The Beatles at the time. His credits also include Bob Seger’s Night Moves, Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death, Muscle of Love and Killer, Kim Mitchell’s eponymous debut, Max Webster’s Universal Juveniles, Poco’s A Good Feelin’ To Know & Crazy Eyes, and Badfinger’s Say No More, among others. He also dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to music production & engineering pedagogy, having played a crucial role in the establishment of Fanshawe College’s celebrated Music Industry Arts program in London, Ontario. We caught up with Jack at his home in London last November. Jack recently passed away, in early May of 2011. As far as the author is aware, this was his final interview.
Interview conducted April 16, 2004. Originally published at http://www.theartofmusicproduction.com/Peter_Collins_Interview.html What do you look for when you are evaluating a potential project? I guess I look for an element of originality, whether I think it offers something that is not already out there, something that’s going to be fun to record. That’s a pretty broad brief. [...]
Interview conducted July 31, 2004. Originally published at http://www.theartofmusicproduction.com/Linda_Perry_Interview.html What do you look for when evaluating a potential project? I need to have a connection with the artist, a feeling in my heart that our collaboration will be special. It is the artist that inspires the creativity, so it is very important to have a [...]
Interview conducted June 14, 2004. Originally published at http://www.theartofmusicproduction.com/Lauren_Christy_of_The_Matrix_Interview.html Did you expect to become a producer? No, not at all. Being an artist, all I knew was that I was incredibly interested in it. Apart from the songwriting, which is a whole different thing, the way the finished product would sound…it could so easily go [...]
This interview was conducted at the University of Western Ontario, where June Millington was artist-in-residence. The conversation was largely unstructured, but revolved around determining June’s personal approach to production, and examining her career as an influential musician, songwriter and recordist. Along the way, June discussed encounters with Skunk Baxter, John Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Geoff Emerick, Barbara Streisand, and a host of other respected musicians and recordists. This discussion took place in February of 2011.
Interview conducted July 26, 2004. Originally published at http://www.theartofmusicproduction.com/Bill_Laswell_interview.html You’ve had a really interesting career. You swing in and out of the mainstream working with big artists and then some more unusual things. I guess I never really cut anybody loose. A lot of the things are improvised from what people call avant-garde music or [...]
Josh Leo is a lauded producer, session guitarist, and songwriter based in Nashville, TN. Of the 21 albums Leo has produced which have reached #1 on the charts, some highlights include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Emerson Drive, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Bad Company. As a session musician, Josh’s first notable employers were Jimmy Buffet and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. In the years following his tenure with these renowned artists Josh was credited as a musician on over 150 albums. Leo is a skilled songwriter as well, with 6 songs ranking #1 on the charts.
…one of the better and most accessible overviews of the music production process that we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s refreshing to find an author in the recording industry that continually keeps the focus on the major priorities and gives a solid presentation of how a student should begin developing their paradigm of audio recording.
PWL From The Factory Floor: Expanded Edition takes an already admirable book and turns it into a truly useful text for a variety of audiences. It works as a research reference, as a potential text for college courses (one can envision a popular music course that examines the record “factories” from the 20th century, such as PWL, Motown, Stax, etc, for which this would be a great resource) and finally, as an entertaining read about a fascinating era in pop music.
Taken as a whole, MacDonald’s examination of the Beatles’ recorded work and what it represented in its own time remains one of the most cohesive and coherent critiques of their oeuvre in pop music literature. Making clear what he regards as the bands strengths and weaknesses as well as the triumphs and foibles of the era in which they were created, MacDonald provides a first rate understanding of what the Beatles did along with why and how they did it. And it makes for a revealing, vibrant, and fascinating (if occasionally infuriating) read as well. Highly recommended.