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The Production of Music and Sound: A Multidisciplinary Critique

Approaches to
the Production
of Music
and Sound
Bloomsbury Academic
An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc
Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb iiiCritical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb iii 27-10-2017 16:54:4827-10-2017 16:54:48
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© Samantha Bennett and Eliot Bates, 2018
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Names: Bennett, Samantha (Music professor) | Bates, Eliot.
Title: Critical approaches to the production of music and sound / [edited by]
Samantha Bennett and Eliot Bates.
Description: New York NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. | Includes
bibliographical references and index.
Identifi ers: LCCN 2017024433 (print) | LCCN 2017038088 (ebook) |
ISBN 9781501332067 (ePub) | ISBN 9781501332081 (ePDF) | ISBN 9781501332050
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Subjects: LCSH: Sound recordings–Production and direction. | Popular
music–Production and direction.
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Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb ivCritical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb iv 27-10-2017 16:54:4827-10-2017 16:54:48
List of figures and tables vii
List of contributors ix
Acknowledgments xiii
1 The Production of Music and Sound: A
Multidisciplinary Critique Eliot Bates and Samantha Bennett 1
PART ONE Situating Production: Place,
Space and Gender
2 Field Recording and the Production of
Place Tom Western 23
3 The Poietics of Space: The Role and Co-performance
of the Spatial Environment in Popular Music
Production Damon Minchella 41
4 An Indestructible Sound”: Locating Gender in Genres
Using Different Music Production
Approaches Paula Wolfe 62
PART TWO Beyond Representation
5 Producing TV Series Music in Istanbul Eliot Bates 81
6 Reclamation and Celebration: Kodangu, a
Torres Strait Islander Album of Ancestral and
Contemporary Australian Indigenous
Music Karl Neuenfeldt 98
PART THREE Electronic Music
7 All Sounds Are Created Equal”: Mediating
Democracy in Acousmatic Education Patrick Valiquet 123
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8 Technologies of Play in Hip-Hop and Electronic Dance
Music Production and Performance Mike D’Errico 138
PART FOUR Technology and Technique
9 Weapons of Mass Deception: The
Invention and Reinvention of Recording
Studio Mythology Alan Williams 157
10 Auto-Tune In Situ: Digital Vocal Correction and
Conversational Repair Owen Marshall 175
PART FIVE Mediating Sound and Silence
11 Listening to or Through Technology: Opaque and
Transparent Mediation Ragnhild Br ø vig-Hanssen 195
12 Six Types of Silence Richard Osborne 211
PART SIX Virtuality and Online Production
13 Intermixtuality: Case Studies in Online Music
(Re)production Samantha Bennett 231
14 Crowdfunding and Alternative Modes
of Production Mark Thorley 253
Index 267
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The Production of
Music and Sound: A
Multidisciplinary Critique
Eliot Bates and Samantha Bennett
Since the 1970s, the production of music and sound has been analyzed
in several distinct fields and with divergent theoretical frameworks and
methodologies. Phonomusicology is an umbrella term that encompasses
an assortment of approaches toward studying recorded music where
the focus is on recordings rather than on other forms of media (or on
live performance). While not all phonomusicological works analyze
production, there has been an increasing attention on the techniques of the
recording studio and therefore by extension on production as a practice.
The production of culture perspective, since the 1970s, has been a mode
of American organizational sociology for analyzing cultural industries. As
one of the few broader sociological perspectives to originate in the study
of music (and to be later applied to other industries), works in this field
have emphasized the structural features that enabled new musical genres to
emerge. The literature on the occupation of producer has resulted in a body
of scholarship that regards the producer as an auteur, composer, or overseer
of the production process. Finally, an outgrowth of phonomusicology is a
new academic subfield called the art of record production, which has placed
considerable attention on the techniques and technologies found at the heart
of recorded music.
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In recent years, discourses on sound and music production have broadened in
scope as more scholars engage in the space(s) existing between performance
and reception. Many of these new ideas have emerged via what Stephen
Cottrell called phonomusicology (2010), which is the study of recorded
music. This discourse posits the recording—as opposed to the score—as the
text, and notes important facets of music and sound production to include
recordist agency, the recording workplace and/or space, as well as non-
notatable sonic aesthetics present in recordings. This has led to key edited
collections analyzing recorded sound, including Greene and Porcello’s
Wired for Sound (2005), Cook et al.’s Cambridge Companion to Recorded
Music (2009), Amanda Bayley’s Recorded Music (2010), Simon Frith
and Simon Zagorski-Thomas’s methodology-focused The Art of Record
Production: An Introductory Reader for a New Academic Field (2012), and
Paul Th é berge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett’s Living Stereo: Histories
and Cultures of Multichannel Sound (2015). These works move the study of
music away from the previous focus on composition and performance and
toward the recorded document, whether artifact or digital file. They also
suggest the fruitfulness of analyzing the labor of production, even though
such considerations surface only within a few chapters.
Phonomusicology has certainly broadened the scope of analytical priorities
within popular musicology to include the sonically discernible extramusical
aspects of recordings in addition to traditional, commonly foregrounded
aspects of melody, harmony, meter, structure, and form. In popular music
analysis, the effects of sound recording and production technology on what
we eventually hear have until very recently been a secondary concern, if
acknowledged at all. This is surprising, since the intervention of sound
recordists and the technologies used in music production are commonly
foregrounded in recorded music. For example, how different would
“Strawberry Fields Forever” have sounded without the use of analog tape
techniques and manipulation or, indeed, the influence of George Martin?
Many sound production tropes, including techniques such as side-chain
compression, band pass filtering, and auto-tuning, are now well assimilated
into the pantheon of electronic music production to the point where
electronic music produced without such features is the exception rather than
the rule. In his 1982 article “Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method,
Practice,” Tagg’s hermeneutic semiological method included a “checklist of
parameters of musical expression” (1982: 47) including “acoustical” and
“electromusical and mechanical” as two of seven categories. This early
recognition that production techniques were not extra-musical factors as
they strongly impacted what is eventually heard was an important milestone
in scholarly understandings of the music production process as well as
popular music analysis generally.
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Works including David Gibson’s Art of Mixing (1997) and William
Moylan’s Understanding and Crafting the Mix (2007) detail the construction
of mixes from a technical perspective and feature visual representations of
several basic parameters of recorded sound. These texts are designed to
assist those interested in improving their mixing technique, and to that end
are aimed at practicing recordists as well as scholars. Ruth Dockwray and
Allan Moore’s “Configuring the Sound Box 1965–72” (2010) prioritizes the
spatial, frequency, and dynamic attributes of a recording and draws meanings
from the relative positions of instruments within commercial popular music
mixes at the turn of the 1970s. Doyle (2005) recognized the impact of echo
and reverb on pre-1960s recordings, in particular the fabrication of space
in recorded music. Doyle’s comprehensive and insightful book foregrounds
the use of space, ambience, and environment as extramusical, yet essential
facets of recorded music as he highlights applications of echo and reverb
via multiple examples. Br ø vig-Hanssen and Danielsen (2016) in contrast
focus on “digital signatures,” or traces of digital signal processing tools and
their use that remain or are foregrounded in popular recordings. Works by
Samantha Bennett (2015a,b) analyze recordings using a “tech-processual”
analytical method. This includes a focus on contextual issues, such as
the intentions of the recordist, workplace circumstances, and access to
technologies before detailing the sonically discernible impact of dynamic,
spatial, frequency, effects processor, and mix characteristics on what the
listener eventually hears. New studies in phonomusicology certainly benefit
popular musicology, but their scope and impact are far broader than that.
The production of sound and music from historical perspectives is
beginning to be documented, with key works including David L. Morton’s
Sound Recording: A Life Story of Technology (2004) and Susan Schmidt-
Horning’s Chasing Sound : Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio
Recording from Edison to the LP (2013) focusing on the historical trajectories
of sound recording technologies and workplaces, respectively. The historical
nature of recording technologies and workplaces as “concealed” facets
of the recording process has led to an insatiable, general interest appetite
for “behind the scenes” texts and documentary films that “reveal” such
processes and the oft-overlooked contributions to well-known recordings
made by recordists. The Classic Albums documentary series and books
including Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever (2009) are good examples of
largely interview-based works revealing the tools, techniques, and personnel
behind canonized rock and pop recordings. This well-established and
popular format has continued with films including Sound City (2013),
which focuses on the Los Angeles recording studio of the same name, as
well as the Neve 8078 console, which recorded many of the commercially
successful records made in the studio. Documentary films including Moog
(2004), Mellodrama (2008), I Dream of Wires (2014), and 808 (2014) and
books including Tompkins’s How To Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from
WWI to Hip Hop (2010) center on specific electronic music technologies
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and their impact on niche genres of recorded popular music. Bloomsbury
Academic’s own 33 1/3 series of books features plenty of titles that take such
revelatory approaches. Two in particular are D.X. Ferris’s Reign in Blood
(2008), which features detailed discussion surrounding the impact of Rick
Rubin’s production and Andy Wallace’s mix techniques on the 1988 Slayer
record. Joe Bonomo’s Highway to Hell (2010) takes a similar line, in that it
foregrounds the contribution made to the AC/DC record by recordists Mutt
Lange and Tony Platt.
Historical studies of music production do, however, tend to privilege
Anglophone commercial, pop and rock musics; studies on the production of
indigenous musics, as well as classical and jazz musics, feature far less in both
general interest and scholarly phonomusicological studies. This is possibly
due to the techniques involved in the recording of commercial musics as
opposed to noncommercial and/or Western art musics. Technological
and processual intervention has arguably been foregrounded in popular
music recording since the 1950s, with recordists such as Sam Phillips and
his pioneering “slap-echo” effect heard across most releases from his Sun
Records label ( Zak 2010 ). In the 1960s recordings of The Beatles, we
hear prominent tape manipulation effects, as well as the consolidation of
musician and recordist vision via the impact of George Martin as producer
( Kehew and Ryan 2006 ). Using these historical examples does, however,
reinforce a recordist canon of sorts that in recent years has grown from the
concentration of both scholarly and general interest works focused on the
so-called “golden age” of Anglophone commercial recording between the
1950s and 1970s. Mine Doğantan-Dack’s Recorded Music (2008) diverts
from this well-trodden path by focusing on the aesthetics of phonography,
and the recording of jazz and classical musics from both philosophical and
critical angles. Recordings of classical and jazz musics have historically
tended to be more “transparent” in that a “performance capture” approach
is preferred. In saying that, recent studies by Klein (2015) suggest increasing
technological intervention in the recording and production of classical music
today. While there has begun to be some consideration of production-related
issues in the milieu of indigenous music (e.g., Gibson 1998 ; Kral 2010 ; Scales
2012), to this date outside of Anglophone music in the Northern Hemisphere,
there has been only limited work. Clearly, there is plenty of work to be done.
One fascinating area in sound and music production studies is that of
the recorded music artifact/document and the impact of digitization on
production, dissemination, and consumption of recorded sound. As one of
the foremost scholars in sound studies, Jonathan Sterne has argued that
simultaneous to the audio industry’s historical quest for high fidelity is a
parallel history of audio compression. In MP3: The Meaning of a Format
(2012), Sterne posits a historical and philosophical perspective on perceptual
encoding, data reduction, and the governance of format technologies. This is
a key work among many in music, media, and sound studies in that it situates
the MP3 as emerging from century-old techniques in audio compression and
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not simply a symbol of musical devaluation. Sterne’s work is particularly
valuable to sound studies since the focus is on the format and technology
itself and not the ramifications of MP3 on music industry business models,
which make up the majority of studies on music file formats. In his 1969
essay “Opera and the Long Playing Record,Theodore Adorno stated, “In
the history of technology, it is not all that rare for technological inventions
to gain significance long after their inception” (2002[1969]: 283). This is
certainly the case for the vinyl record format, boosted not only by a recent,
albeit unexpected, growth in global sales but also by scholarly attention.
Richard Osborne’s Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record (2012) considers
the format’s historical trajectory and ongoing appeal in the digital age, with
focus on technology, consumer demographic, and aesthetics. Bartmanski and
Woodward’s Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age (2015) posits a
challenge to format obsolescence by arguing the place of the tangible object
in today’s almost entirely digital music world. Bartmanski and Woodward
recognize the importance of listener subjectivity, mediation, and other
reception matters, suggesting the vinyl record is “an icon of recording that
thanks to its remarkable affordances came to sit at the core of great cultural
transformations of the twentieth century” (2015: 5). Both texts consider
vinyl as transformative, not simply in terms of a music carrier, but also
the centrality of the format to social and cultural practices throughout the
twentieth century.
Consideration of these analog/digital, tangible/intangible binaries appears
throughout existing studies on the production of music and sound. Another
recent, emergent area concerns the production of sound and music in the
virtual world. Whiteley and Rambarran’s Oxford Handbook of Music and
Virtuality (2016) includes multiple chapters on the production of music
online. The role of participatory, fan-funded platforms is considered in Mark
Thorley’s chapter “Virtual Music, Virtual Money,” which raises questions
surrounding authorship and creative direction when multiple audience
members invest in a production process. Benjamin O’Brien focuses on the
production process as a collaborative one in his chapter “Sample Sharing:
Virtual Laptop Ensemble Communities.” Both these chapters consider the
production of music as a collaborative process, but also one that bridges
real and virtual economies, creative practices, and communities. These are
just two examples of production-focused chapters in a wider publication
that addresses new modes of music practice online.
Production of Culture
The production of culture perspective emerged in 1974 as a “self-conscious
perspective [that] challenged the then-dominant idea that culture and
social structure mirror each other” ( Peterson and Anand 2004: 311 –12).
Originally, it was one of several approaches within a movement in North
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American sociology that were concerned with bringing a flexible concept
of culture to bear on the sociology of organizations and industries, while
continuing to acknowledge the importance of symbolic/semiotic systems on
the production of culture. As such, the perspective presented an alternative
both to then-dominant Marxist and functionalist perspectives. It additionally
has much in common with Howard Becker’s contemporaneous concept
of art worlds (1976), but with more focus on organizational/institutional
dynamics than on different types of professional individuals. Notably, the
production of culture concept emerged out of a decade of research on jazz,
rock, and popular musics and discoveries that the rise of rock and decline
of swing jazz (as the dominant popular music form, at least) couldn’t be
understood simply from aesthetic features, consumer demand, or the work
of the “individual genius” alone. The perspective has had considerable
subsequent adoption outside of music studies, becoming in the words of Paul
DiMaggio “hegemonic in the sociology of the arts and media” (2000: 108)
and framing studies of industries including fashion, visual art, restaurants
and microbreweries, and photography.
As Marco Santoro has noted, “the heuristic usefulness and epistemological
importance of the production of culture approach rests in the fact that
it is indeed attuned to the specificities of cultural objects as symbolic
representations and meaning structures, while still being focused on matters
to do with social institutions and modes of social organization” (2008: 8). By
looking primarily at the production of informally produced symbols, and by
treating music primarily symbolically, the focus remains largely on identity
construction and formation. Toward this end, concepts like “authenticity”
have been central in the production of culture perspective approaches toward
recorded music, as authenticity can be discussed both as a quality of a
symbolic object and as a social value within genre-specific music communities.
Correspondingly, the focus on symbolic aspects of production has meant a
lack of attention on other aspects of recorded music; in addition to having
symbolic value, recordings are material artifacts that facilitate very real
embodied experiences (i.e., those that transpire during the acts of production
or listening) and as such are irreducible to a symbolic valence alone.
While Peterson regularly revised and honed the production of culture
perspective in response to his ongoing research into music industries (and
especially the US country music industry), the standard model of the
perspective hinged upon six concepts: (1) technology, (2) law and regulation,
(3) industry structure, (4) organizational structure, (5) occupational careers,
and (6) the market. This six-part structure is useful to analyze when thinking
about what precisely defines production within this perspective—and it is
useful to scrutinize all that is occluded by focusing on these six concepts.
For example, absent are the very objects that production produces, their
aesthetic qualities, or the reception of these products. The perspective does
not contain any explicit conceptualization of time or temporal unfolding
and, therefore, is not well suited for analyzing the workflows of production.
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Thinking through labor solely with the framework of careers or industry/
organizational structure misses most of what is interesting in the field
of production, for example, distinctive differences in how engineering,
arrangement, production, mixing, etc., are done for different forms of music
ostensibly contained within “the industry.” Peterson’s book on country
music (1997), for example, does not attend to recording studio practices in
any meaningful way; recording practices and studio-sited performances are
deemed inessential for understanding how country music, as an industry
structure, fabricated a cult of authenticity. The conflation of “the market”
with “the audience” ( Dowd 2004: 240 ) correspondingly conflates consumer
activity with audience reception. Thus, there is little critique of whether the
commercial success of particular symbolic objects necessarily means that
consumers subscribe to the symbolic meanings intended by the producers
of those objects.
Keith Negus’s long-term study of the cultures of major record labels
situated in the UK provides a distinctive take on the “mundane mediations
of the music industries” (1999: 174) that largely follows the production
of culture perspective. The main aim of his research is to demonstrate
how “all industries are cultural” (ibid.: 23) and to provide a sociological
account of the creation and maintenance of musical genres. His first book,
Producing Pop , included a brief discussion of studio-sited production (1992:
82–93), which is discussed from the perspective of artists and repertoire
(A&R) representatives rather than the perspective of engineers, producers,
musicians, or audiences. None of the discussion of studios and engineers
appears to be based on ethnography conducted within studios, which
contrasts with the first-hand accounts he provides from A&R reps and
record label executives. In his follow-up book Music Genres and Corporate
Cultures , Negus further clarifies his research aim as understanding “how
staff within the music industry seek to understand the world of musical
production and consumption by constructing knowledge about it . . . and
then by deploying this knowledge as a ‘reality’ that guides the activities
of corporate personnel” ( 1999 : 19). Negus’s focus on the industry and
organizational structure of record labels explicates “the conditions within
which great individuals will be able to realize their talent” (ibid.: 18).
While industry structure serves as one of the pillars of the production of
culture perspective, rarely is the term “industry” defined or problematized.
Instead, “the industry” is taken for granted as an empirical category, where
it is typically synonymous with the major transnational record labels and
radio conglomerates. But as recent ethnomusicological scholarship has
shown, “the industry” is perhaps not best understood as an empirical
category. Chris Washburne (2008) has shown how the New York–based
salsa music industry is best understood as a scene. Benjamin Brinner’s
study (2009) of Israeli-Palestinian ethnic music collaborations depicts an
industry that transpires at the intersection of the social networks of dozens
of individual musicians. Eliot Bates’s research (2016) into an emergent
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industry for Anatolian minority language musics in Turkey theorizes it both
as an actor-network and as an inheritance of Ottoman-era craft guilds.
Louise Meintjes’s ethnography (2003) of South African record studios
situates the industry for mbaqanga music within sets of embodied practices
and complex articulations of racial difference and power. In all cases, the
industry does not exist so much as it is performed, contested, enacted,
negotiated, and recontextualized. It makes little sense in the early twenty-
first century to talk of “the music industry, even as corporate mergers have
further consolidated the control of recorded, broadcast, and live music
performances ( Williamson and Cloonan 2007 ).
The production of culture also lacks a coherent theory of technology;
it alternates between social and technological determinist poles but
lacks a consideration of the more nuanced relations between people and
technological objects that, for example, comprise the labor of STS as a
field. For example, Peterson (1990) suggests that the shift from 78 RPM
shellac to vinyl records had a direct role in the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll.
While this may have been the case for the United States in the late 1940s
and early 1950s, as Osborne (2012) has shown the situation in the United
Kingdom was different. The country was slower to adopt the new formats,
and new genres became popular without any wholesale change in format.
Works such as Wallis and Malm (1984) and Gronow and Saunio (1998)
have shown just how asymmetrical the adoption of media formats have
been in different countries. What is necessary, therefore, is a site-specific
consideration of how certain technologies become part of social formations
and cultural practices.
Another problem that faces the study of production concerns the
tendency to reduce the role of recordists, engineers, producers, arrangers
and other people involved in the production of recorded sound to that of
“intermediaries” and therefore equivalent to A&R reps, accountants and
other record label/ music industry employees. The “intermediary” concept
is quite problematic with regards to academic writings on popular music
production for a number of reasons. First, while the work of music critics,
publicists, A&R reps, accountants, record producers, engineers, arrangers,
or session musicians all do contribute to the subsequent “reception” of music
by audiences, the kinds of labor—and the effects of these different kinds
of labor—do not necessarily contribute in similar or symmetrical ways. As
David Hesmondhalgh has shown, some of the myriad uses of this term in
Anglophone scholarship on popular music and cultural industries come from
a pervasive misreading of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of intermediary, which
most specifically was concerned with the role of critics in the field of cultural
production ( Hesmondhalgh 2006: 226 ) rather than the labor of what
Hesmondhalgh terms “cultural managers. Second, the intermediary concept
is problematic as it assumes the presence of a specific relation between an
artist/musician/creator and an audience in which the intermediary mediates.
This inherits the legacy of early uses of the term “mediation” in reference
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to the mediation between an individual and God, or subsequent uses of the
term to refer to diplomats and the mediation between sovereign states or
between an individual and the state. But the relation between a broad field of
creators and an even broader field of potential audiences is not clearly built
upon a binary relationship, especially when considering the complexities
of the circulation of physical media and networked distribution of digital
content and cultural products. As Hesmondhalgh noted, “we need a better
specification of the division of labour involved in mediating production and
consumption in culture-making organizations than that offered by Bourdieu
and by those who have adopted the term ‘cultural intermediaries’ from him
in these many different ways” (2006: 227).
A more productive, but simultaneously more expansive and diffuse,
concept of mediation transpires in the work of Antoine Hennion, where
the concern moves beyond simply navigating human social relations and
considering the role of nonhuman actors, especially technological objects,
on human interaction and creative practices. For Hennion, producers and
other studio workers have a vital role in mediating between the public and
the artist, but in doing so “the aim of the entire organisation of production is
to introduce the public into the studio” (1983: 189). Thinking of mediation
in this way is productive insofar as it permits the analysis of systems where
built environments or technological objects come to have a considerable
influence on creative and social labor, and provide much needed attention
on the ways in which certain objects occupy highly charged and influential
positions within cultural practices (e.g., the microphone, see Stokes 2009).
In a later work, Hennion addresses the sociology of music as a field when he
argues that “music enables us to go beyond the description of technical and
economic intermediaries as mere transformers of the musical relationship
into commodities, and to do a positive analysis of all the human and material
intermediaries of the ‘performance’ and ‘consumption’ of art, from gestures
and bodies to stages and media” (2003: 84).
Producers, “Production
Personnel,” and Auteurism
Concepts of sound recordist agency and the role of the sound recordist have,
in recent years, become key foci in both sound and music studies. In his
1977 article “The Producer as Artist,” Charlie Gillet theorized the role of
the record producer as similar to that of the film director. This prompted the
emergence of another disciplinary focus, that of “the producer as auteur”
which situated the producer as driver of a commercial musical project.
By 1990, an entire issue of Popular Music and Society was dedicated
to studies on the impact of technology—specifically sound recording and
music production technology—on recorded, popular music. Yet such early
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studies recognized the complex intersection between musical composition,
performance, musician and recordist agency, and technology in the
production of recorded music. Muikku (1990) , for example, categorized
producers into four specialist groups: those working for one record
company, freelancers, those working for their own company and artist-
producers. Others theorized the role of the record “producer” as similar
to that of a composer ( Moorefield 2005 ) or film director, thus resulting
in a sub-discourse of “the producer as auteur” ( Warner 2003 ). This line
of thought was perhaps most notably pursued by Evan Eisenberg in The
Recording Angel (2005), as he described:
But for the most part the small army of engineers, studio musicians and
assistant producers that takes part in a typical recording is simply ignored.
In charge of this small army is the producer, who is the counterpart of the
film director. (2005: 94–95)
The idea that a music production process is overseen by one individual
is, however, controversial and has attracted critique. In an early work, Ed
Kealy argues that, despite the shift from a craft union mode of organization
to an entrepreneurial one, sound recordists still very much were part of
a collaborative work environment (1979). In The Poetics of Rock, Albin
Zak focused on the difference between the production roles of producers
and engineers, as follows: “[Engineers] are the participants in the process
who best understand the technological tools in terms of their potential for
realizing musical aims” (2001: 165). Correspondingly,
Most rock producers play some sort of aesthetic role as well, which
may overlap with songwriting, arranging, performing, and engineering,
either in participation or in lending critical judgement or advice. Most
importantly, producers must nurture the overall process and preserve a
larger creative vision as the process moves through myriad, mundane
details. (2001: 172–73)
However, Zak stopped short of fully endorsing auteurism, instead reinforcing
the collaborative process involved in record production, as he stated: “But
the idea that a producer should be such an auteur—imposing his or her own
sound and vision on diverse projects—is controversial, as is the ‘artist/ record
producer’ conflation (unless, of course, the producer is also the featured
performer)” (2001: 179). In The Art of Music Production Richard James
Burgess categorized the producer in four interesting ways: The All-Singing-
All-Dancing-King-of-the-Heap, The Faithful Sidekick, The Collaborator,
and Merlin the Magician (2002). While these distinctions reflect Burgess’s
own professional practice and can therefore be taken as an accurate
reflection of recording industry roles within a particular production milieu,
the categories—particularly the final of the four—reinforce mythological
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understandings of the role of the recordist in music production processes and
do little to theorize the impact on resulting recordings. There is, however,
acknowledgment that producers operate in both auteurist and collaborative
In his book Any Sound You Can Imagine , Paul Th é berge considered the
impact of new digital recording technologies on the process and professions
of music production. This book focused on the so-called “democratization
of technology” (1997: 29–30) and the availability of recording tools to
performers in the 1980s and early 1990s, showing how producers become
consumers of technology. Links between the proliferation of cheap,
accessible, and predominantly digital recording technologies and new
recordist roles have been drawn by a number of scholars ( Th é berge 1997 ;
Katz 2004 ). The production, dissemination, and consumption of digital
music has undoubtedly resulted in a conflation of traditional recording and
production roles as defined by Zak. As Virgil Moorefield suggested, “At the
top of the current charts, one increasingly finds cases in which the producer is
the artist is the composer is the producer; and technology is what has driven
the change” (2005: 111). Mike Howlett’s “The Record Producer as Nexus”
is less concerned with the relationship between production technology and
personnel, more focused on the producer as an intermediary, and about
“engagement with otherness” in terms of “the song and the performance,
the engineering and the industry” (2009).
The Art of Record Production
The art of record production, sometimes termed “the musicology of record
production,” is a distinctive scholarly field that emerged largely out of
practice-led research initiatives in British universities (and later in North
America, Australia, and continental Europe). The annual conferences of the
Association for the Art of Record Production, and since 2007 the Journal
on the Art of Record Production , have been one of the main milieus for
the scholarly analysis of recorded music. In their introduction to an edited
collection, Simon Zagorski-Thomas and Simon Frith argue that “in the
studio technical decisions are aesthetic, aesthetic decisions are technical,
and all such decisions are musical” (2012: 3), which encapsulates one of the
main concerns of this branch of musical research. Conspicuously absent,
however, is any substantive consideration or theorization of the social.
Because of that, this field would seem to be the antithesis of the production
of culture perspective.
For example, Zagorski-Thomas (2014) employs an eclectic framework
drawing on actor-network theory (ANT), the social construction of
technology (SCOT), and a systems approach to creativity (especially
Csikszentmihalyi 1997 ) in order to propose a new approach to musicology
that is more responsive to the analytical challenges of recorded music. He
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proposes a methodology that focuses around four questions: (1) who and what
the participants are in the study (including the possibility of technologies as
active participants), (2) types of knowledge and understanding, (3) types of
activity (including both the specialized labor of recording production and the
more general cognitive/physical activity), and (4) the ecology/environment
in which this process occurs. This framework enabled Zagorski-Thomas to
write with considerable detail about the techniques and technologies present
in the field of production, perhaps the greatest achievement of this approach
(especially in comparison to previous scholarship such as production of
culture perspective works).
Broadly speaking, the bulk of art of record production literature by other
scholars, even though it has differed in theorization, has stuck to variants of
this methodology, including the problematic dichotomy between the object
of study (the first three questions) and its context (the fourth question).
Specifically missing in such a framework is, for example, any necessary
discussion of musical meanings, power, identity, politics—and sociocultural
issues more generally. While the same could be said for most musicological
scholarship before the 1990s, what Philip Bohlman has noted as musicology’s
“remarkable capacity to imagine music into an object that [has] nothing to
do with political and moral crises” (1993: 414–15), the field has changed
substantially. It is not clear why it is necessary, in arguing for a musicology
of record production, to roll back the considerable achievements that
musicology has made in showing how music is constitutive of social realities
(e.g., DeNora 2003 ; Turino 2008). Analytical work, such as that carried out
by Tagg and Moore, is notably absent from the discourse too, as is work
considering the production of music and sound outside the traditional realm
of the commercial, popular music recording industry. That is not to say that
the Art of Record Production forum is not valuable; it most certainly is
and, to a large extent, it has made significant inroads into establishing and
continuing a vital discourse once absent from popular music studies and the
creative, artistic realm of audio engineering.
Still, space remains in sound and music production discourse for further
work. This book aims to address this notable gap, thus broadening the
discourse beyond the recording workplace and into domains such as
fieldwork, television, the Internet, and live music. Here, we present 13
innovative and original new ideas pertaining to the production of music and
sound drawn from both traditional and contemporary research bases and
methodologies. In order to widen the literature and contribute to this field
beyond the loci of records and recordings, this book is organized into six
key sections.
The chapters in Situating Production: Place, Space and Gender
(Section 1) begin with an exploration of the contexts of production,
but move beyond questions of context to understand how recordings
always carry with them traces of their spaces, places, and gendered modes
of production. Tom Western, in Chapter 2, moves our analysis beyond
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the oft-assumed studio/field recording dichotomy to understand how
both are equally “artificial constructs of sonic manipulation,” especially
in relation to editing choices and microphone selection and placement.
Moreover, field recordings are a technology used to produce place—and
as such exist as forms of cultural production. Drawing on the early history
of ethnomusciology and the formation of the International Folk Music
Council (IFMC), Western shows how field recordings were instrumental in
the very foundation of the field of ethnomusicology and used by the IFMC
“to produce idealized versions of place.” Yet this process wasn’t (and isn’t)
unproblematic, as field recordings can also evoke a spirit of displacement,
leading listeners to project place onto field recordings.
In Chapter 3, in an analysis of UK-based popular music practitioners,
Damon Minchella considers how space becomes an intrinsic aspect of the
creative process of making audio recordings, and grounds practitioners’
experiences of the world. The chapter uses a novel framework that draws
on phenomenological enquiry, sound studies approaches to theorizing
aural architecture, and a systems model of creativity and is supported by
ethnographic data taken from long-form interviews. Minchella arrives at
three conclusions: that the “atmosphere” of a space has more effect than
other aspects of spaces, that technological and acoustical concerns are
secondary to the feel of the aural architecture, and that spaces leave an
imprint on the sound produced within.
Chapter 4 turns the attention to the significance of gender within
production environments, where Paula Wolfe explores three themes: “the
role of production within the creative process, the influence of the lyric
on the production process and the impact of gendered ‘cultural notions of
age’ on the women’s representation. This is done through a comparison of
the Argentinian folk/electronica artist-producer Juana Molina with the all-
women rock band Savages. For Molina, there is no meaningful separation
between composition and production processes—both are part of a broader
creative act. For Savages, the work they did contributed to what they termed
an “indestructible sound,” and they cultivated a close relationship with a
male producer who facilitated their distinctive way of coming together as
four soloists.
While recordings often do significant work as representations of
culture, and questions of representation have been frequently assessed
in ethnomusicological literature, recordings go beyond representation
to constitute sociocultural realities in themselves. Section 2, Beyond
Representation , shows how an exploration of production labor enables us
to understand the broader cultural work that recordings do. Eliot Bates, in
Chapter 5, analyzes the production of music for a Turkish dramatic comic
TV show F ı rt ı na , which constituted a project of “rethinking, reframing
and representing the Black Sea.” He specifically focuses on the labor done
by arrangers, a distinctive occupation in Turkey that is responsible for
orchestration decisions, project management, and the creation of the musical
Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 13Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 13 27-10-2017 16:54:4927-10-2017 16:54:49
and sonic concept for the TV show’s soundtrack. Despite the newness of the
TV series medium (private television broadcasts began in Turkey only in the
1990s), TV show music inherited many elements from album production,
especially an infatuation with arrangements of so-called “traditional”
folksongs specific to the region being represented. Ultimately, the productive
labor of arrangement, like the show’s script, stages an encounter between a
rurally marked Eastern Black Sea and an urbanly marked Istanbul.
In Chapter 6, Karl Neuenfeldt discusses the production of an album of
Torres Strait (Islander) music performed by The Custodians that draws on
contemporary styles and Western popular music recorded aesthetics while
preserving a sense of the traditional ancestral music. The album Kodangu
strives to “reposition Mabuyag Islanders, and by extension other Islanders,
in contemporary narratives, arguably functioning as an aural, textual and
visual memory device.” In doing so, Neuenfeldt shows how the production
process of making indigenous recordings “can be a means of reclamation
and celebration.” Simultaneously, production and creative labor can serve as
a form of research that goes beyond the audible to enhance the impact that
albums have once they circulate.
Section 3 moves the spotlight onto discourses of Electronic Music
production, an area rich in both technological and production aesthetics.
This section deals with electronic music from two unique perspectives:
Patrick Valiquet considers the historical trajectory of acousmatic music
and education in Quebec, Canada, before Mike D’Errico deals with aspects
of controllerism in the production of hip-hop before. Both these chapters
contribute considerable historical and contextual findings to studies of
music production.
Patrick Valiquet in Chapter 7 focuses on both the historical and the
educational as opposed to practical aspects of electronic music production.
Valiquet considers the historical context of acousmatic music before tracing
the origin and trajectory of its educational place in Quebec, Canada. Drawing
on extensive ethnographic work, Valiquet evaluates various observations on
acousmatic music curricula to include the place of theory, perception, and
technical skills. His findings exemplify the extent to which acousmatic music
pedagogy and concomitant production results in democratization. Critically,
Valiquet draws significant conclusions surrounding the masculine coding of
electronic music’s tools and the exclusion of women from electronic music
In Chapter 8, Mike D’Errico explores the blurred lines between music
performance and production among DJ producers. In tracing the trajectory
of controllerism via turntablism, D’Errico posits computer game controller
design as integral to the playability of music software. His case study
focuses on Daedelus, a US DJ who places interactive audio control at the
center of his performance and production aesthetic. D’Errico’s findings
concern the necessity of failure in gaming and how such aesthetics “bleed
into the realm of digital music.” He also summarizes failure as evidence of
Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 14Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 14 27-10-2017 16:54:4927-10-2017 16:54:49
liveness and recognizes the enduring embodiment of analog processes in
new digital tools.
Technology and Technique are two aspects inherent to the wider
production of music and sound. In Section 4, Alan Williams and Owen
Marshall consider the aesthetics of music and sound production technologies
and techniques in two critical perspectives that focus on the historical
and contemporary aspects of music production, respectively. This section
recognizes that without tools and processes, the production of music and
sound is limited, yet applications of technology and technique are loaded
with historical and aesthetic meanings.
Undoubtedly, commercial rock and pop record production has led to a
mythologization of music production tools and processes; it is this intangible,
yet critical aspect of historical music production that Alan Williams explores
in Chapter 9. Here, matters including technostalgia and technological
deception are critically examined with reference to mythologized recordings
including The Beatles’s Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band . Williams
critically examines the power of music production technologies to reinforce
notions of performance deceit via a richly detailed set of examples drawn
from popular culture. Finally, Williams discusses an evident manufacturing
of record production mythology that perpetuates today.
Owen Marshall considers a current discourse in contemporary music
production in Chapter 10. He acknowledges the politics of auto-tune in
music production before focusing on conversation analysis as a technical
approach to vocal correction. In a meticulously detailed examination of a
music production session, Marshall’s case study focuses on “Carl,” a US
audio engineer who is observed applying pitch correction to a prerecorded
vocal track. Aspects of repair, repetition, and intonation are critically
examined in an innovative documentation of accountability in the pitch
correction process. In his conclusion, Marshall evaluates the extent to which
the tools of correction are concealed and, significantly, what is to be gained
by revealing them.
How is the production of music and sound mediated to listeners? Section
5, Mediating Sound and Silence , features two chapters exploring the notion
of music production from original angles. Here, Ragnhild Br ø vig-Hanssen
focuses on the opaque and transparent in the reception of music production
aesthetics, while Richard Osborne studies the trajectory of the production
of silence.
In Chapter 11, Br ø vig-Hanssen considers how technological mediation
in the music production process is perceived by listeners. After drawing
parallels between opaque/transparent productions and Smalley’s naturalist/
interventionist works, Br ø vig-Hanssen goes on to frame her argument in the
context of French philosopher Louis Marin’s understandings of opacity and
transparency in the semiotics of paintings. Br ø vig-Hanssen also considers
the foregrounding of “phonograph effects” in music productions before
focusing on Squarepusher in a case study of spatiotemporal fragmentation.
Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 15Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 15 27-10-2017 16:54:4927-10-2017 16:54:49
Additionally, a listener’s experiential comprehension of technological
intervention is considered with reference to applications of pitch correction
software in music production. She concludes by evaluating the opacity of
technological mediation as variable depending on listener and aesthetic
In an innovative study on approaches to the production of silence,
Richard Osborne revisits John Cage’s 4’33” as one of many examples.
In Chapter 12, Osborne first considers aspects of notated silence, before
recognizing the presence of silence as more prevalent in record production
than in notation. Osborne turns his attention to the politics of silence using
diverse examples from anarcho-punk band Crass to EDM act Orbital. Here,
Osborne also notes the presence of silence as a marker of peace in Sly and the
Family Stone’s “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” and in John Lennon’s “Nutopian
International Anthem.The chapter then moves on to discuss notions of
memorial and technological silence. Finally, Osborne considers aspects of
economic silence and draws links back to John Cage’s composition.
In the final section of this book, Samantha Bennett and Mark Thorley
move the discussion on music and sound production into the online sphere.
Here, contemporary matters of virtual production are considered from two
distinct angles; Bennett analyzes stem remixing practices in online remix
communities, while Thorley considers the impact of crowdfunding as a
new mode of music production and a viable alternative to the commercial
In Chapter 13, Samantha Bennett recognizes the online communities
that form around remix competitions and events. Such communities have
formed on dedicated platforms such as Indaba Music and Beatport, as well
as through creative commons sites such as ccMixter and individual artists’
fora. Following a critical discussion on intertextuality in popular music,
Bennett examines four case study examples: Deadmau5’s “SOFI Needs A
Ladder,” REM’s “It Happened Today, Bon Iver’s Bon Iver , and Skrillex and
Damien Marley’s “Make It Bun Dem,” before positing “intermixtuality” as
an online music production practice among community participants. This
virtual production engagement is, however, evaluated as part of a continuum
of (re)mix practice.
In Chapter 14, Mark Thorley investigates crowdfunding. This chapter
first considers established modes of music production before investigating
the potential “alternative” in online crowdfunding models. Here, aspects of
audience engagement and participation, economics and revenue streams are
critically discussed. Thorley goes on to consider the “barriers to entry” in the
established recorded music industry before he examines crowdfunding as
an, albeit highly complex, alternative. Thorley notes that the establishment
of a clear rationale, bypassing of the established model, and understanding
of supporter motivations and engagement mechanisms are key to
crowdfunding as a successful music production alternative. Additionally,
Thorley recognizes the potential of crowdfunding as an alternative mode
Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 16Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 16 27-10-2017 16:54:4927-10-2017 16:54:49
of production among communities of participants with whom there is
proximity and shared “alternative” values.
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Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 20Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.indb 20 27-10-2017 16:54:4927-10-2017 16:54:49
... Happily, popular musicology has recently evinced a new interest in the sound of recordings as an integral aspect of the ways in which music means (see, for example, Brøvig-Hanssen & Danielsen, 2016;Doyle, 2005;Lacasse, 2000;Warner, 2009). 16 While my interest is chiefly in the "recorded document" rather than its composition or performance per se (Bates & Bennett, 2018), the latter is an important aspect of record production shaped by the performers' interaction with producers, engineers, technology, and the recording environment (Katz, 2020;Sterne, 2003). 17 My interest in performance is thus largely restricted to those aspects that can be "accessed" through the interpretation of the recording, and I give less attention to live performance or the performance of public personas in extramusical contexts. ...
... With his background as a musician, Ingram found that the collaborative aspects of record production suited him, as all of the roles he took in the studio involved working together with others to make the best music possible. Ingram thinks that the diverse skillset he has acquired comes from his combined experience of being a drummer, producer, and writer, which also points to the general trend in production toward more diverse roles (see, for example, Bates & Bennett, 2018;Moorefield, 2005Moorefield, /2010Zak, 2001). When asked about what kind of work he does most often in the studio, Ingram finds it difficult to view the individual tasks as distinct and point to the combination of production, engineering, drumming, and songwriting that fills his days. ...
... CharlieGillett (1977) similarly theorizes the producer role as similar to that of a film director (seeBates & Bennett, 2018). 146 This is not to say that Ingram lacks an aesthetic profile or recurrent traits in his production practice, but this is beyond the scope of this chapter. ...
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When intimacy is mentioned in music reviews, daily speech, and research on music—when a voice or other sound is described as “intimate,” for example—it might at first be understood as synonymous to perceived proximity. Yet it implies much more, including several engaging aspects of close interpersonal relations or interactions. This dissertation examines this experience of intimacy when one listens to music recordings, and the role of record production in triggering such an experience. I refer to this specific sense of intimacy as acousmatic intimacy in order to distinguish it from the intimacy that one experiences in everyday interpersonal encounters. I investigate this notion through a combination of literary reviews, sound analyses, and interviews with recordists, all informed by my overall hermeneutic approach. The aim of the dissertation is to conceptualize “acousmatic intimacy” as a theoretical approach to the sensation of intimacy that may be experienced when one listens to music recordings—that is, when the origins of the sounds (musicians and instruments) are absent. Such a sensation is often triggered by what musicians and recordists do in the process of making the recordings. As such, the dissertation provides qualitative insight into some of the ways in which listeners connect to music, and, more specifically, into the role of recordists in influencing listeners’ interpretation of musical meaning. The concept of acousmatic intimacy may eventually serve as a useful hermeneutic analytical framework for analyzing recorded music, and for understanding listening processes and production strategies.
... As Samantha Bennett and I have argued, production studies have been pulled by a tension between phonomusicological works (where the object of study is 'music' itself), organizational sociological approaches, which only in vague terms cover any of the labour of recording work, and popular music studies works that (typically) attempt to valorize the auteurism of technical or social-managerial professions (e.g. producers, engineers) as evidence of their inherently creative nature ( Bates and Bennett 2018). Through all these works, production is typically discussed in terms of things 'people do' , but, as I have hinted already, that provides an incomplete account, specifically with regards to geographical, topographical, technological, architectural and other spatial concerns. ...
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Like many other specialty, purpose-built spaces, we tend to think of recording studios in instrumental terms, meaning that the space is defined in relation to the nominal type of work that the space is instrumental towards. While audio recordings have been made in spaces since 1877, not all of these spaces tend to be regarded as recording studios, partly since so many recordings were made in environments designed for other types of work. Therefore, the instrumental definition of studios provides an inadequate framework for understanding what a studio is and what studios are designed to do (Bates 2012), much of which exceeds the circumscribed goal of making an audio recording. Aware that many musicians find large-scale commercial studios to be alienating (both socially and creatively), and many producers and engineers find many very famous spaces to be difficult to work in due to problematic acoustical or layout features, we should not assume that all studios necessarily fully succeed in their instrumental role, at least not for everyone involved. Instead, in this essay, extending Pickering’s call to attend to the “mangle” of practice in sociotechnical milieus (1995), and Law’s argument for bringing the “mess” back into social science research (2004), I argue that we need to understand studios as a messy and uneven entanglement between four domains: the material, the spatial, the positional, and the occupational. However, these are not discrete, separate domains, and what is so fascinating about spaces such as studios is that they are sites where we can observe, for example, the material enframing the occupational domain, and the positional enframing the spatial domain. Ultimately, studios are social spaces, the term “social” here relating to a wide variety of ways in which people interact with other people and with technological objects, and what defines the unique characteristics of a studio as a social space arises from patterned relations between these four, always entangled, domains. In other words, the physical matter of the studios, the organization of objects and people in the space, the positionality of the studio in relation to the outside world, and the way in which occupations contribute to production labor define the studio as a kind of space—and constrain the social dynamics of that particular space.
The laptop ensemble, defined here as a group of performers on more than one microprocessor based instrument, is one of many advocates contributing to the notion of the virtual band. Over the last decade, laptop ensembles have emerged all over the globe, and their recent surge in popularity is the result of the widening intersection between like-minded computer programmers, composers, and performers, and the accessibility and portability of innovative technologies. The laptop ensemble music scene can be observed as a lattice structure or network of participating nodes such that members simultaneously interact with each other at a common locality, as well as what Andy Peterson and Richard Bennett categorize as local, translocal and virtual levels (Peterson and Bennet, 2004). This chapter will investigate the different types of interactions between laptop ensemble participants through cases studies of laptop ensembles who concentrate on virtual performance.
Istanbul is home to a multimillion dollar transnational music industry, which every year produces thousands of digital music recordings, including widely distributed film and television show soundtracks. Today, this centralized industry is responding to a growing global demand for Turkish, Kurdish, and other Anatolian ethnic language productions, and every year, many of its top-selling records incorporate elaborately orchestrated arrangements of rural folksongs. What accounts for the continuing demand for traditional music in local and diasporic markets? How is tradition produced in twenty-first century digital recording studios, and is there a "digital aesthetics" to contemporary recordings of traditional music? In Digital Traditions: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul's Recording Studio Culture, author Eliot Bates answers these questions and more with a case study into the contemporary practices of recording traditional music in Istanbul. Bates provides an ethnography of Turkish recording studios, of arrangers and engineers, studio musicianship and digital audio workstation kinesthetics. Digital Traditions investigates the moments when tradition is arranged, and how arrangement is simultaneously a set of technological capabilities, limitations and choices: a form of musical practice that desocializes the ensemble and generates an extended network of social relations, resulting in aesthetic art objects that come to be associated with a range of affective and symbolic meanings. Rich with visual analysis and drawing on Science & Technology Studies theories and methods, Digital Traditions sets a new standard for the study of recorded music. Scholars and general readers of ethnomusicology, Middle Eastern studies, folklore and science and technology studies are sure to find Digital Traditions an essential addition to their library.
Recent years have seen not just a revival, but a rebirth of the analogue record. More than merely a nostalgic craze, vinyl has become a cultural icon. As music consumption migrated to digital and online, this seemingly obsolete medium became the fastest-growing format in music sales. Whilst vinyl never ceased to be the favorite amongst many music lovers and DJs, from the late 1980s the recording industry regarded it as an outdated relic, consigned to dusty domestic corners and obscure record shops. So why is vinyl now experiencing a 'rebirth of its cool'? Dominik Bartmanski and Ian Woodward explore this question by combining a cultural sociological approach with insights from material culture studies. Presenting vinyl as a multifaceted cultural object, they investigate the reasons behind its persistence within our technologically accelerated culture. Informed by media analysis, urban ethnography and the authors' interviews with musicians, DJs, sound engineers, record store owners, collectors and cutting-edge label chiefs from a range of metropolitan centres renowned for thriving music scenes including London, New York, Tokyo, Melbourne, and especially Berlin, what emerges is a story of a modern icon.
The 1950s marked a radical transformation in American popular music, as the nation drifted away from its love affair with big band swing to embrace the unschooled and unruly new sounds of rock 'n' roll. The sudden flood of records from the margins of the music industry left impressions on the pop soundscape that would eventually reshape long-established listening habits and expectations, as well as conventions of songwriting, performance, and recording. When Elvis Presley claimed, "I don't sound like nobody," a year before he made his first commercial record, he was unwittingly articulating a musical Zeitgeist. The central story line of I Don't Sound Like Nobody is change itself. The book's characters include not just performers but engineers, producers, songwriters, label owners, and radio personalities-all of them key players in the decade's musical transformation. Written in engaging, accessible prose, Albin Zak's I Don't Sound Like Nobody is the first book to approach musical and historical issues of the 1950s through the lens of recordings and to fashion a compelling story of the birth of a new musical language. The book belongs on the shelf of every modern music aficionado and every scholar of rock 'n' roll. Albin J. Zak III is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the editor of The Velvet Underground Companion and the author of The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records, a groundbreaking study of rock music production. Zak is also a recording engineer, record producer, songwriter, singer, and guitarist. Keywords: rock and roll, nineteen-fifties, sound recording, radio, popular music.