Mixing as a performance: creative approaches to the popular music mix process

A common goal when mixing popular music is to entice an emotional response from the listener, this is intriguing as the actuality of mixing is varied and dependant on personalised technological preferences. This paper theorises that a mix as a performance practice facilitates a connection to more creative paradigms of mixing, and technological development influences possible creative practices. Subsequently, historical and professional evidence of the mix as a performance state is presented and the reader is informed of process via videos of the author’s professional mixing practice. To triangulate the approach, rationales regarding creativity and kinaesthetic imagery are referenced throughout.

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.