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 7

Published November 2012

Editorial

Technology, Time and Place

Our original call for articles suggested a broad topic scope, from philosophical considerations of determinism to scientific approaches to technological change; a diverse set of propositions representational of our interdisciplinary area of discourse. The resulting articles, whilst by no means a narrow reflection of the subject area, consider the relationship between technology, time and place from four key perspectives: history, analysis, environment and dissemination.

Articles

The Sooy Dynasty of Camden, New Jersey: Victor’s First Family of Recording

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Very few know it wasn’t a record player. Discs, not cylinders developed into a major twentieth century industry, but its inventors and developers stand in the shadow of Edison’s PR canon. There is significant ignored history on the Gramophone/ Victrola side of the recording and playback story. Their flat round “records”, catalyzed popular music by professionals as American home entertainment.

A tale that deserves to better known is that of Harry, Raymond, and Charles Sooy, brothers who worked for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the acoustic era. Harry, the eldest did early experimental work on recording materials and processes for company President Eldridge Reeves Johnson. He became Director of Victor’s Recording Laboratory, and Raymond succeeded him upon his death. These men were pioneers in developing the techniques that brought sound into the company’s acoustical horns to be recorded. In 1925, Raymond helped urge the company to license new electric recording technology, even though it made everything he and his brothers achieved obsolete overnight. Victor Talking Machine Company is justly proud of the wealth it created for its owners, investors, and key employees. When Mr. Johnson sold his company shares in 1927, all others were permitted to do so. There were over thirty millionaires created including Johnson, several members of his family, key executives and factory employees. But, not the Sooys. The article then jumps trenchantly and wittily to the conclusion that record producers have been underpaid since day one.

An audience in the studio – the effect of the Artistshare fan-funding platform on creation, performance, recording and production

Before the era of recorded music, performer and audience connected as they existed within the same space and time. The Phonogram changed this and introduced isolation between artist and audience. New technological platforms are now rebuilding the link between performer and audience. This paper looks at the effect of one such platform, Artistshare. Through research with recording artists, it examines who is using the platform and why they opted to use it. It then goes on to examine the effects of its use, before summarising how this has changed the relationships and the process of writing and recording music.

The Meaning in the Mix: Tracing a Sonic Narrative in ‘When the Levee Breaks’

This article closely examines the recorded sound of Led Zeppelin’s song, ‘When the Levee Breaks’, from the landmark album Led Zeppelin IV. Though the song has appeared in academic discussions of authenticity (Headlam: 1995), gender studies (Fast: 2001), and rhythm (Brackett: 2008), none has examined in detail the relationship between the song’s unusual production—arguably one of the most significant factors in its popularity and longevity—and its reception. Through the recorded sounds, I will outline a sonic portrayal of the levee breaking, a ‘sonic narrative’ that complements the lyrical narrative.

A Studio of One’s Own: music production, technology and gender

Although the question of women’s minority status in music production has been raised in scholarship, it has not been accompanied by a detailed study of women working in the field. This article hopes to address this by examining the self-production practices of a study group of female artist-producers. The study is placed within a feminist framework and draws parallels between a feminist response, in the early part of the twentieth century to the woman novelist, who accesses available tools within a domestic environment to create literature, and a feminist reading today of the woman artist-producer, who accesses available technological tools in a domestic environment, to create and produce music.

Endless Analogue: Situating Vintage Technologies in the Contemporary Recording & Production Workplace

This paper illustrates a range of contemporary contexts where technological precursors are regularly applied in recording sessions by renowned practitioners and/ or studios. Such applications are commonly attributed to nostalgia, fashion or ‘retro’ aesthetics; these issues are critically deconstructed. Implementing a largely critical ethnographic methodology to incorporate interview material with UK practitioners in 3 case study examples, the main investigative foci concern issues of source, practicality, iconicity, context, sonic quality and authenticity.

Soundstream: The Introduction of Commercial Digital Recording in the United States

Developments in digital technologies during the last 35 years have had arguably the most profound effect on the sound recording and music industries since the invention of the phonograph record. Digital audio recording is now ubiquitous, inexpensive, and available to anyone with access to a computer and a basic audio interface. However, this was not always the case. During the 1970s, designers of emerging digital recording technologies collaborated with sound engineers, producers and artists, helping to establish standards for the capture, editing, playback and storage of digital audio; paradigms that would come to govern much of modern recording. This article takes the form of a case study, examining the introduction and development of commercial digital recording technologies in the United States between 1975-1983, through the experiences of an early innovator in the field.

SMiLE: Brian Wilson’s Musical Mosaic

The story of Brian Wilson’s aborted Beach Boy’s album SMiLE is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Firstly, it pioneered a non-linear approach to pop record production decades before digital editing became the norm for record makers. Interestingly, this approach was not just a functional necessity of production, but was inseparable from its compositional process and overall aesthetic quality. Perhaps more importantly, SMiLE arguably became popular music’s first interactive work, with fans making their own linear assemblies of various bootlegged (and released) ‘modules’ long before Wilson ever got around to sequencing them into a final concrete form.

What Studios Do

This essay is focused around a seemingly simple question – what do recording studios do? First, a clarification. I am not primarily asking “what are studios” or “what do people do in studios,” two comparatively straightforward questions that are tangentially addressed in academic and trade writing. Rather, I wish to consider some of the ways in which the studio itself shapes the kinds of social and musical performances and interactions that transpire within. I contend that studios must be understood simultaneously as acoustic environments, as meeting places, as container technologies, as a system of constraints on vision, sound and mobility, and as typologies that facilitate particular interactions between humans and nonhuman objects while structuring and maintaining power relations.

Examining the Impact of Multiple Technological, Legal, Social and Cultural Factors on the Creative Practice of Sampling Record Producers in Britain.

This paper presents evidence to suggest that, despite the obvious emphasis on the impact of the technologies of sampling and their influence on music producer’s cultural output, there is not one single causal mechanism which can be isolated as the major determining factor in sampling producers’ creative output. Instead, the interplay between a number of factors both constrains and enables their creative practice. These include not only important technological factors but also social, cultural, economic, legal, historical and geographical ones. Sampling producers bring to this complex world their own idiosyncratic social and cultural trajectories and act as agents predisposed to choose what they do within the constraints and possibilities afforded them.

The Discourse of Home Recording: Authority of “Pros” and the Sovereignty of the Big Studios

This article proposes a critical analysis of the discourse of home recording. Driven by enunciations regarding home recording’s accessibility and democratization, it examines the power/knowledge relations that have been produced and legitimized within the discourse. This work shows that the government in home recording seems to be exerted by recording professionals and home recording “pros”. It suggests that the enunciation of democratization legitimizes the discourse’s elitist and excluding aspects. This notion functions as a tool for the exercise of power within the discourse of home recording, one that is intrinsically connected to the norms of the professional studio.

Interviews

Interview with Ken Scott

Ken Scott is a legendary producer and engineer, having worked with the likes of The Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Procul Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, Supertramp and Level 42, among many others. His production credits include some of the most influential albums ever made, including David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and Supertramp’s Crime of The Century and Crisis? What Crisis? In the following interview, Scott discusses these records and some of his more recent work.

Interview with Dave Fisher

Dave Fisher has worked at the BBC and The University of Surrey. At the latter he was Director of the renowned Tonmeister course in Music and Sound Recording from 1983 until his retirement, as Emeritus Professor of Sound Recording, in 2011. During that time he undertook a wide range of lecturing duties, including teaching recording techniques to students in each year of their course. This interview, which took place in the Audio Lab at the University of York in January 2012, was undertaken as part of the ‘Is Recording Engineering?’ project, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Interview with Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle is a Juno Award winner and Grammy nominee. He has worked with the likes of Hall & Oates, Anne Murray, The Chieftans, Glenn Gould, Kiss, Sinead O’ Conor and Van Morrison, to name only a few.

Reviews

EpiK DrumS – A Ken Scott Collection

EpiK DrumS from Sonic Reality is a 130 gigabyte collection of royalty free multitrack drum kit samples, loops and full tracks recorded by British recording engineer and producer Ken Scott. Among others, Scott recorded The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Duran Duran, Dixie Dregs, Missing Persons, […]

EpiK DrumS EDU

EpiK DrumS EDU is a separate two DVD set, priced at $29.99, published by Alfred which features instructional material from  Scott’s recording sessions for the Sonic Reality set. The videos are fascinating on a number of levels. For aspiring producers and engineers who do not have any or much experience in recording drums the information […]

Song Means: analysing and interpreting recorded popular song

“Who are you? How do you define yourself, your identity?” With these words Allan Moore opens his exhaustive new work proposing a more comprehensive approach to the musicological analysis of popular song. The last three decades have seen a huge expansion of the anthology of the sociological and cultural meanings of pop, but Moore’s book is not another exploration of this field, although some of these ideas are incorporated in this work. Rather, he addresses the limitations of conventional musicology when dealing particularly with songs: “I address popular song rather than popular music. The defining feature of popular song lies in the interaction of everyday words and music… it is how they interact that produces significance in the experience of song”.