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.