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 New Breed of Home Studio Producer?: Agency and the Idea ‘Tracker’ in Contemporary Home Studio Music Production
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.
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.
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.