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 6

Proceedings of the 2011 Art of Record Production Conference, San Francisco State University Published May 2012

Editorial

The State of the Art and the State of the Discipline

Seven years ago I traveled to London to speak at a conference convened by a couple of new outfits—one calling itself the Center for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) and the other, simply, the Art of Record Production (ARP). Now called the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, […]

Conference Papers

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.

Interviews

Interview with Ben Fowler

Ben Fowler is a Grammy-winning producer/engineer in Nashville Tennessee. After receiving a degree in music from Ball State University, he began working as an engineer at New York City’s legendary Power Station (now Avatar studios). Earlier in his career Fowler worked on a session with Eric Clapton which yielded 3 studio albums. Since then he has worked with artists such as Michael McDonald, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, and Bad Company. More recently, he has worked with contemporary artists such as LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts and Paul Brandt for an impressive 8-album run. Whether producing or engineering, Fowler believes that interpersonal skills are an often overlooked key to a successful career. In the following interview he explains how his approach hinges on bringing the best out of album contributors by keeping morale high during sessions. Central to Ben Fowler’s approach as an engineer is to favour the creative over the technical. He views his craft as an endeavour which is primarily artistic. As an extension of this Fowler is less concerned with how equipment is intended to be used, and more concerned with the resulting sound.

Interview with Steve Marcantonio

Steve Marcantonio is an audio engineer who works in Nashville, Tennessee. Since starting his career at The Record Plant in 1978, Syebe has since worked on projects including John Lennon, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Paul Brandt, and the Blues Brothers, among others. Currently, Steve is the Studio Manager/Chief Engineer at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville.

Reviews

Max/MSP/Jitter for Music: A Practical Guide to Developing Interactive Music Systems for Education and more

V. J. Manzo delivers a definitive primer for audio artists wishing to harness the power of this versatile software suite. If you are a novice who wants to learn Max quickly and develop a solid foundation before striking out in your own direction, this book will provide it. If you are a teacher who is new to teaching Max, or has been thinking about starting a Max class for beginners, I think this would be a worthy choice as a textbook for your class or as a reference when putting together your class.