Contemporary Plugin Development #arp2016

Why Innovate When You Can Emulate? Exploring Contemporary Plugin
Development And Potential Innovation

Andrew Bourbon

cla-2a-compressor-limiterABSTRACT: As software driven approaches to mixing audio have become increasingly prevalent there has been a continuous improvement in quality in these digital mixing tools. Mix workflow in the box has developed through the established workflow presented by a traditional mixer, with the DAW offering a combination of the tape machine and the routing and processing matrix to the end user. One of the most common categories of plugin is represented by emulation, with classic hardware modeled often to component level by developers looking to create devices as measurably close as possible to a hardware reference.
The second category of contemporary plug-in development is based around tools, which rather than focusing on copying an established tool instead are targeting specific mix elements or sonic signatures. Some companies such as Waves have built on the reputations of mix engineers, offering users an insight into their sounds through named plugins. The CLA Signature Series and the Tony Maserati Signature Series are two such collections based around element specific processors. The CLA collection offers processing around commonly understood mix processes, with the Maserati drums instead featuring more descriptive parameters such as thump and snap.
The third category of plugin development incorporates plugins which rather than basing their approach on existing hardware tools or established mix practice are looking to incorporate new approaches to mix processing.
In this paper I am looking to analyse current developments, looking at these categories and how innovation can be incorporated into new mix tools. Emulation of tools leads to a mix economy based around knowledge of the tools and the re-creation of existing mix practice. New tools offer a unique opportunity, with direct access to the characteristics of sound. Through analyzing existing tools it is possible to understand the important characteristics, incorporating these into new contemporary mix processors.

Today’s presentation was inspired, Andrew says, by a conversation he had with the head of an [unnamed] Pro Audio company, who stated that he was looking to develop more mass-market hardware products with fewer features in a ‘race to the bottom’. Andrew’s disappointment with this conversation has led him to investigate categories of plugins.

Black Magic: Shaping Audience Conceptions of Recording Practice #arp2016

Black Magic: Shaping Audience Conceptions of Recording Practice

Alan Williams, UMass Lowell


Recording practices were once closely guarded secrets – rarely remarked upon, barely acknowledged. But as public curiosity developed about the ever evolving sounds embodied in recordings, explanations and representations emerged that simultaneously served to reveal and obscure the processes that shaped the music that caught the ear of the listener. This presentation examines the formation of three distinct mythologies – technology as magical wizardry; technology as musical sham; and technology as marker of nostalgic value. In the first thread, audio technology is harnessed by creative geniuses, working in a realm far removed from the normative listener and/ or musician. In the second thread, audio technology is seen as bestowing talent where none exists, manufacturing inherently inauthentic product, and implanting the uncomfortable notion that all musical performance is potentially a sham. The third thread exhibits a selective memory that praises some forms of technology, while rejecting others, often posited as past versus present.
Building upon the work of Barthes, Théberge, Taylor, Keightley, and others, I will analyze media representations of recording practice from literature, film, television, and Internet memes to illustrate how each mythology is constructed and disseminated, and in turn how these mythologies inform the listener’s experience of recorded audio, and musical creation in general.

Alan’s first slide covers mythology and marketing, and he outlines the technological literacies he intends to discuss by playing Jerry Lewis meets the Theremin from The Delinquent Detective (1956):

He speculates that the scary/sci-fi 1950s context of the theremin was possibly a cultural allusion to the scary nature of Elvis, whom Lewis impersonates in the Theremin scene.

Analogue contemporary studio production #arp2016

Questioning progress narratives in contemporary studio production

Joe Watson, PhD candidate, University of Sussex


roland_tr606_lgIn our headlong rush to embrace all thing digital as synonymous with ‘the future’ perhaps we run the risk of forgetting important insights from the past. As contemporary cultures come increasingly under the rubric of ‘the digital’ might there be traction to be gained from a current, practical investigation of ‘the analogue’? This paper presents ongoing practice-based research into recording and production using analogue multi-track tape. The author has many years of experience engineering and/or producing using digital technologies (including Stereolab, High Llamas) and now turns his attention to the DAW’s analogue ‘forebears’ in self-production of his third Junior Electronics solo pop album. Given the skeuomorphic nature of the DAW, and its indebtedness to the legacy of traditional analogue engineering, what insights can be gleaned by engaging with the actual analogue equipment itself? As the DAW increasingly swallows up the whole studio (recorder, mixer, outboard, instruments, personnel) within the ‘square horizon’ (Virilio) of the screen, what can be learn by the digitally literate producer/composer from the extreme constraints of a fully analogue production process? The constraints placed on the making of this album are simple – there shall be no digital audio, or digitisation of audio, at any point in the production of the finished record – the album will be tracked to ½ inch 8 track, mixed to ¼ inch stereo tape and mastered to vinyl. Digital processes and media may be employed for purposes of documentation and demoing. What are the practical effects on the music produced if an artist used to ‘unlimited’ tracks is forced to work with only 8? What are the effects on the production process when editing is restricted to what one can achieve with a razor blade? Given the healthy currency of analogue technologies (vinyl, modular synthesis, cassette labels, traditional tape-based studios (such as Albini’s Electrical Audio)) why is ‘the analogue’ consistently periodised as digital’s early/obsolete ‘other’? This research forms part of the author’s PhD in Musical Composition. Methodology is practice- based, performative and diffractive (Haraway, Barad).

Joe’s presentation opens with a discussion of the semantics of ‘digital’ and the fact that the word can, today, be appended to almost anything. Implicit in the term, as applied, is the idea of superseding the old, analogue, outmoded model (of anything non-digital). He interestingly notes that sales of colouring books have recently increased, and speculates that some people may find an analogue activity appealing after working at a screen all day.

Gamifying Sonic Interfaces #arp2016

Gamifying Sonic Interfaces: an Interactive Music Engine as a Music Production Tool

By Maria Kallionpää & Hans Peter Gasselseder


pic7268039070008702154_maxAugmented- and virtual reality environments (and instruments) are playing an increasingly important role in the classical music culture of today. Even the music genres leaning on a fixed performance tradition have been affected by them. For example, the art of contemporary opera has been influenced by composers´ and stage directors´ search for new modes of expression. The use of augmented reality technologies in a stage performance is part of this development. An illustrative example is Van der Aa´s opera “Sunken Garden”, in which the live action on stage is combined with a 3D projection. Moreover, human-computer interaction has become a vital part of composing: various composers design their own music systems. For example, Karlheinz Essl has created “Sequitur Generator” which he uses in a whole series of interactive compositions. Moreover, his “Lexicon Sonate” is an independent system that can generate music by itself almost infinitely. The purpose of this paper is to provide information on how the interactive music techniques usually associated with computer game music could benefit various music professionals, such as, for example, composers, performers and music producers. We will focus on techniques and technologies used in procedural music. Certain computer game scores and sound installations represent this genre, as well as electronic real-time-based compositions that may or may not require a human performer. In the context of interactive computer games, dynamic music systems directly react to the gamers´ actions. Automatisation challenges the form, rhythm, and harmony in a musical work. Instead of a closed entity, a dynamic music composition is a never-ending story with an infinite number of alternatives; it gets created again in every performance.

Maria begins by outlining the abstract, and states that the project can be applied to two types of object – a ‘fixed’ musical object (where the goal is for the player simply to play the piece accurately) and ‘process’ objects, where a higher degree of interactivity and creativity is required. She also gives us a (long) history of generative music, observing that Mozart and CPE Bach wrote music for dice.

Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) in Popular Music Production #arp2016

An investigation into the motivation behind the use of Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) in Popular Music Production
By Austin Moore, Rupert Till & Jonathan Wakefield



Dynamic range compression (DRC) is a much-used process in music production. Traditionally it was implemented to control the dynamic range of program material to minimize the risk of overloading recording devices. However, over time DRC started to be used as a creative effect in addition to its traditional role as a preventative measure. In a professional recording environment, it is common for engineers to have access to several different types of DRC unit, each with their own purportedly unique sonic signature.
This paper sets out to investigate the following:
Which are the most commonly used types of DRC in popular music production?
Which are the most common music sources to process using these DRC units?
How do music producers describe the sonic signature of DRC?
What are the most common reasons to apply DRC in productions? Is it for dynamic range control or something else?
The research used a mixed methodology of grounded theory and content analysis to extract qualitative and quantitative data from a sample of 100 interviews spanning 14 years. The data came from a series of articles by mix engineers and producers in the magazine Sound on Sound. Content analysis was used to extract data relating to the popularity of compressor types and specific DRC units. Grounded theory was utilized to generate an overarching theory that would help to explain the motivation behind the use of DRC and also to gain insight into how producers described the sonic signature of the DRC process.
This study is part of a larger research project that investigates non-linear processing in music production with a focus on DRC and the 1176 FET compressor.

The Creation of ‘Paperback Writer’ #ARP2016

Examining the Creation of ‘Paperback Writer’: The Flow of Ideas and Knowledge Between Contributing Creative Systems

Phillip McIntyre & Paul Thompson

I’ve been following both Phillip and Paul’s work for many years; it’s good to see them working together on another paper (here’s a previous one about the Mellotron). Add in the study of songwriters’ creative processes, and this was a must-see paper for me. (Though TBH they had me at Paperback Writer).


From a creative systems view nothing exists in isolation (McIntyre, Fulton & Paton 2016). Consequently, a system such as a system of recording can sometimes appear to operate independently with well-defined boundaries, but it still depends upon other systems (Skyttner 2006, p. 38). There are then multilayered systems within systems in which: ‘a system in one perspective is a subsystem in another. But the system view always treats systems as integrated wholes of their subsidiary components’ (Laszlo 1972, p. 14). This interconnectedness of systems has been illustrated by Arthur Koestler (1975) using the terms ‘holon’ and ‘holarchy’ in which a holon is an aspect of systems that is both a part of something at one scale and, at the same time and at another scale, is itself a whole system. A holarchy is the multilayered heirarchy of these holons. Inside this nested world, system within system, one system is no more or less important than the others operating above or below it. Not only are systems part of these vertically arranged holarchies but they are also often connected horizontally through complex networks of many other similar systems. For example, the system of audio engineering has deep connections horizontally to the system of producing and the system of musicianship. These holons are linked vertically to the broader system of popular record production and at a different scale to the system of western music. This paper explores the scalabilty of creative systems by examining the recording and production of the Beatles’ ‘Paperback Writer’ (1966). It examines Paperback Writer’s production at the various scales of creative action, exposing some of the creative processes on an individual level and the sharing of ideas and knowledge between the creative group within Studio Three of EMI’s Abbey Road studio. The flow of ideas back and forth between the various contributing vertically and horizontally interconnected systems is also studied to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the creative systems that contribute to the song’s production.

Recording in the 1960s: the new (Cult)ure of the Studio #arp2016


One day, all conference programmes will look like this.

I’m here in Aalborg, Denmark for the 11th Art of Record Production conference. ARP is one of my favourite conferences, for the following reasons:

  • It’s a good mix of academics and studio practitioners
  • It has an open-access peer-reviewed online journal
  • It consists entirely of techy people, so the PowerPoints and sound systems always work
  • The entire conference programme pack can be carried in your pocket – see photo

Our first keynote speaker St John’s University’s Susan Schmidt Horning (New York). Susan’s research deals with the way musical style is shaped by developments in recording technologies. Her book ‘Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP’ is known to many ARP delegates.

IMG_1604.JPGSusan’s starting point is the technological, social and cultural upheaval from the 1960s, drawing a line from postwar technologies. Ampex tapes became the industry standard, based on the work of a company that began in Radar research. The major labels – RCA, Decca and Columbia – all began around the mid-20th century. They had a dramatic effect on recorded sound because they were monetising recordings, due in part to the empowerment of a new generation of young people with disposable income who could purchase the new pop product – the single, and later, the album.

One Voice or Another: The Re­recording of Blondie’s Hits #arp2015

Tiffany Naiman, UCLA, USA

Abstract: This talk considers the nuances of Debbie Harry’s aging vocal identity on the re­recordings of Blondie’s works “Atomic,” “Rapture,” and “Heart of Glass” that the band recorded for their 2014 box set, Blondie 4(0)­Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download. Chris Stein, guitarist and co­founder of Blondie, stated that the band re­recorded eleven of their best­known hits, “partially as an exercise, but also for sync rights.” The band was not working to add something creatively new to their songs, aiming to maintain a close fidelity to the originals so that when film and commercial producers approached them for their classic music, the band could offer new recordings for which they owned both the publishing and sync rights.

At the age of 69, Debbie Harry’s voice has changed since her early recordings in the late 70s and early 80s and the listener can hear her physical limitations. Though there are aesthetic choices made both musically and in the studio in order to manage Harry’s voice, her aging voice is not always consistent or coherent and these inconsistencies, these failures, open the door for my analysis of Harry’s vocality on these new recordings as compared to the originals. Questions surrounding the organization of musical sounds and the presentation of vocal identities provide an opportunity to consider structures of value within the vocal performances of aging popular music artists such as Debbie Harry. By analyzing Harry’s vocals and examining the journalistic and audience receptions of the new re­recorded tracks, I attend to the ways in which the aging female voice is situated within structures of value and authenticity in popular music.

Recorded Popular Music as (Trans)Fiction: The Case of Eminem #arp2015

Serge Lacasse, Université Laval, Canada

Abstract: In 2013, Eminem released the song “Bad Guy” featuring on The Marshall Mathers LP 2. “Bad Guy” is described as a sequel to “Stan,” a song featuring on The Marshall Mathers LP launched in 2000. “Stan” relates the story of a disturbed fan of Slim Shady who murders his own (pregnant) wife in a way inspired by another story, this time related in Eminem’s “97′ Bonnie and Clyde” (from the 1999 The Slim Shady LP). Eminem’s characters, such as Slim Shady, appear and interact in many other songs recorded by Eminem, of course, but also by other artists (such as Tori Amos). How can we account for the relationships within this network of songs? How recording practices can contribute to the cohesion of these related phonographic narratives?

Indeed, although popular music has sometimes been approached as narratives (e.g. Frith 1996, Sibilla 2003; Lacasse 2006), and despite the fact that most popular music is founded on a form or another of storytelling, it seems that no theoretical model has approached recorded popular music from the angle of fiction. Fiction theory is a vast domain that could help us better understand and reinterpret a lot of the practices (including practices of recording) observed in recorded music when considered from the perspective of fiction.

Using Richard St­Gelais’s concept of transfictionality (St­Gelais 2011) the paper will unpack and characterise the different ways in which a group of Eminem recorded songs relate to each other on the level of fiction: “captures,” “sequels/prequels,” “interpolations,” or “systems,” these transfictional practices shed an alternative and revealing light on a corpus that is in need of a theoretical model for better analysing its effects on us. Moreover, recording technologies directly contribute to the establishment of these transfictional relationships, notably in terms of phonographic staging (Lacasse 2000; Zagorski­Thomas 2014).

Creativity, Agency and Structure inside the Recording Studio #arp2015

Paul Thompson, Leeds Beckett University, UK

Phillip McIntyre, Newcastle University NSW, Australia

Abstract: Popular accounts of creativity inside the recording studio tend to romanticise and mythologise the record production process (Williams, 2008). These accounts present the artist as the sole creative entity during the recording process, thus endorsing the romantic ideal of a musical ‘genius’ whose artistic expressions are free from any constraint and even somewhat mystical (Zolberg 1990, Petrie 1991, Watson 2005, Sawyer 2006). However, it has been acknowledged that the production of art is always, to some degree, both constrained and enabled by the structures creative agents engage with (Giddens 1976; Becker 1982; Wolff, 1981; Bourdieu 1993). Furthermore, rather than placing the artist at the centre of the creative process there is growing evidence that creativity occurs through the convergence of multiple elements; an agent, a knowledge system (the domain) and a social organisation that holds the domain knowledge (the field), through a dynamic system of interaction (Csikszentmihalyi: 1988, 1997, 1999 & 2004).

Drawing upon current literature, interviews, case studies and data gathered from an extended ethnographic study in the recording studio, this paper explores the interrelated aspects of agency and structure as they apply to the record production process and illustrates their influence on the decision­making process with a group of musicians, an engineer and record producer as they collaborate inside the recording studio.

Hyper­compression in Music Production: Agency, Structure and the Myth that ‘Louder is Better’ #arp2015

Robert Taylor, University of Newcastle, Australia

Was this album an opening salvo in the Loudness Wars?

Abstract: Achieving ‘loud’ recordings is a prevailing expectation within the creative system of music production. This is supported by the process known as hyper­compression and has resulted from the ‘louder is better’ paradigm; “the established assumption that a ‘louder’ recording will invariably, by comparison, be preferable to most listeners” (Taylor and Martens, 2014). Once one artist, seen here as a creative agent, had reached a new level of loudness all other creative agents had to follow so when comparisons were made between recordings, one was not seen as softer and in a sense, inferior (Weymouth, 2012). The existence and persistence of the myth surrounding the loudness of recordings, despite the accumulated scientific evidence regarding the deleterious effects of hyper­compression, has been largely overlooked within an examination the creative system of audio production. There is a distinct tension between the empirical evidence of applied science and the subjective interpretation of creative agents in that the practical use of hyper­compression continues unabated. As part of a larger research study, this paper examines these tensions from a systemic perspective where agency and the symbolic and social structures they engage with, operate within what Williamson and Cloonan define as the music ‘industries’. These industry sectors, or industries, operate as discrete systems themselves and also act, at the   same time, as part of a larger scalable system centered around the production and distribution of music recordings (artefacts). A synthesis of both objective and subjective viewpoints will be used to examine these creative systems (Csikszentmilhalyi 1998, 1999), coupled with Bourdieu’s theories of habitus and capital (1993, 1996), to expose the relationship between agency and structure in the use of hyper­compression as a creative tool.

Mixing as Performance: Discoveries in Creative Practice #arp2015

Brendan Anthony, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, Australia

Roxy Music with Chris Thomas – cited as an example of mix-as-performance

Abstract: Mixing plays an important role in the delivery of an emotive product, and as such, it is argued here that at times the mixer requires a creative practice more akin to a performance.

Producers like Flood when working with U2 describes changing the music by performing with the faders of the desk (cited in Bennett, 1997). While pre­automation /analogue may have once manifested this mindset, with the introduction of the DAW, producers far less influenced by the past are mixing entirely ‘Inside the Box’.

This paper compares the effect that varying technologies have on mix performance to examine and compare multiple popular music genres and mix systems. This concept opens a discussion about operational schema including: auditory perception (sight verses sound), the issue of tactility, and in how a mixer’s background informs both process and product. It is suggested that mixing concepts similar to George Massenburg’s “decorating a four dimensional space” (Zak, 2001, p. 144) need to be learned and practiced in ways similar to that of a performer’s understanding of their musical instrument. This then leaves the mixer free to improvise and interpret recordings as final productions, as performances. Subsequently, the paper will argue theories for individualised practice where the promotion of a creative mind­set is a paramount objective. It responds to Izhaki’s provocation that “It is for their sheer creativity – not for their technical brilliance – that some mixes are highly acclaimed and their creators deemed sonic visionaries (2008, p. xiv).

References: Bennett, S. 2010. Examining the Emergence and Subsequent Proliferation of Anti Production Amongst the Popular Music Producing Elite. Doctoral Thesis. University of Surrey.

Izhaki, R. (2008). Mixing audio: Concepts, practices and tools. Oxford, UK: Focal Press.

Zak, A. J. (2001). The poetics of rock: Cutting tracks, making records. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

“Retaining beauty in the un-curated music business”: Tony Maserati, keynote speaker #arp2015

Tony Maserati

Most people reading this will know all about Tony’s background, but for those who are unfamiliar with his work here is the first paragraph from his Wikipedia page:

Tony Maserati, born Tony Masciarotte, is an American record producer and audio engineer who has worked with many mainstream artists including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Jason Mraz, James Brown, Mariah Carey, Notorious BIG, Black Eyed Peas, Destiny’s Child, R. Kelly, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Puff Daddy, and Tupac Shakur. His work encompasses worldwide sales in excess of 100 million units. He won a Grammy Award for his work on Beyoncé Knowles’ No. 1 single, “Crazy In Love”, a Latin Grammy Award for Sérgio Mendes’s Timeless (2006), and has seven additional Grammy nominations.

[JB blog note. These are unedited, real-time notes, presented here in their raw form, with apologies for the fragmented narrative caused by my inadequate typing. If anyone who was present has any additions or amendments, please let me know. Tony was an inspiring speaker – he talked for around 2 hours and the questioning session went on well beyond our allotted time.]

Survival without the labels: The changing role of the recording producer #arp2015

Martha de Francisco, McGill University, Canada

Survival without the labels: The changing role of the recording producer. Experiences, exchanges and reflections of a veteran Tonmeister.

Lara St John

Abstract: In parallel with the growing digital distribution of musical content via new delivery channels over the Internet, the transformation of well­known structures for the production and dissemination of music such as the traditional record labels of past decades and the proliferation of independent labels are bringing about a shift in the way music is produced. Many productions are lead and financed by the performers themselves or by institutions of their affiliation. Acting as independent entrepreneurs, single musicians, chamber music formations, choirs, symphony orchestras and opera houses are commissioning recordings to be realized principally by producers and their recording teams. In many cases and without any increase in compensation, the producer’s competences are stretched to encompass tasks that were formerly taken care of by the label. Distribution and release are often realized online or on the artists’ own label. Alternatively a licensing contract with an existing record label may be pursued, which will lead to the recording being released exclusively online or as physical product, possibly incorporated into the label’s release catalogue.

Furthermore, the use of advanced postproduction technology is placing the recording producer in an increasingly exposed position in the creative process. Contemporary audio technology allows deeper access to the recorded performance than ever before. Sophisticated micro editing and exacting mixing and processing capabilities of powerful audio equipment and software allow extremely detailed adjustments to the audio and an unprecedented degree of influence on the recorded music. Without the control of the labels and attracted by the sophistication of the processing tools in the studio, excesses in the postproduction requests have become a real danger. In many respects recording producers would seem to be replacing the labels, as their influence and guidance of the artists in the creation of their products increases. Case studies and musical examples will be presented.

The Fixer: DIY Recording and the Role of the Audio Professional #arp2015

Adam Patrick Bell, Montclair State University, USA

Abstract: Do­it­yourself (DIY) recording can be a misleading term in the current era of record production as the process often enlists the services of a professional audio engineer. Who performs the recording, mixing, and mastering of the DIY recording? At what point does the professional enter into the picture of production? This paper will examine the working processes of two DIYers who employ audio professionals to assist them in realizing their goals for their home recording projects. Conducted as separate case studies, the ethnographic tools of video­ recording and interviewing were employed to detail the participants’ experiences of producing a recording in a home studio environment. Given that both of the participants discussed in this study had aspirations of producing “professional” recordings of their work to support their respective pursuits of “making it” as professional musicians, how do they conceive of what counts as a “professional” recording and how do the audio professionals they employ contribute to this realization? While popular media ranging from parody (i.e., South Park) to promotion (i.e., Apple) reinforce the perception that the modern digital audio workstation produces radio­ready results in the hands of anyone, the case study participants’ DIY recording endeavours reveal that, at least in these instances, professional help is needed; DIY recording would be more aptly classified as DIWO (do­it­with­others). The implication of this reality for the audio professional is that their services are still in demand, but the point in the record production process in which they commence collaborating with the DIYer shifts on a project­by­project basis. The DIYer tends to remain self­sufficient as long as possible, until their record production aims can no longer be achieved independently. At this point they hire a fixer, an audio professional who must be able to see start mid­process and see the project through to completion.

A New Breed of Home Studio Producers?: A Case­ Study #arp2015

Tuomas Auvinen, University of Turku, Finland

Abstract: Due to the development of digital technology music production has changed. Any aspiring pop musician is required to have a home studio even if the end product acquired in that particular studio never reaches the radio waves. This makes everyone a producer of some kind and, due to cloud drives and the digital space, collaborative music production partly takes place independent of space and time. The problem is that the term “producer” becomes more obscure as the new generation of music makers distinguish between “trackers” or “track guys”, “topliners” and “songwriters”. Furthermore, due to phenomena such as “copyright wars”, in the present­day DIY setting, where most people start their carreers, forward-­driven producers and music makers need a whole new set of skills. These skills increasingly include knowledge about copyright law, contracts and legal processes and less that of traditional musicianship. I base my claims on a case­ study, who is a Helsinki­-based aspiring “urban pop” producer Mikke Vepsäläinen.

Accounting for Agency and Structure in the Creative System #arp2015

Phillip McIntyre, University of Newcastle, Australia

Accounting for Agency and Structure in the Creative System: Bringing an Album of Pop/Rock Songs to Completion.

Abstract: This conference paper is based on research undertaken for a forthcoming book chapter. The analysis is premised on the idea that research into the phenomenon of creativity has grown methodologically and theoretically sophisticated as more evidence mounts refuting romanticist and inspirationist understandings (e.g. Alexander 2003, Negus & Pickering 2004, Pope 2005, Kaufman & Sternberg 2010, Sawyer 2011). From this research literature a number of confluence models have been proposed, in particular Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (1988, 1997, 1999) systems based approach to creativity, complemented by Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977, 1990, 1993, 1996) systematizing of cultural production. Both approaches indicate that agency, the ability to act and make choice, is dependent on structures, those things that are seen to determine action. Creative agents, who may be singular individuals or collective entities such as groups or institutions, form part of the system of creativity along with the structures of a musical and technical knowledge system, or domain, and a social organisation, or field, which affords the emergence of creative product from a recording studio environment. This system both constrains and enables creative action in the studio at one and the same time. In this case agency and structure are interdependent. To demonstrate these ideas a single case of studio practice has been documented. The case study (Yin 2009, Robson 2011) analyses the recording of an album with a pop/rock band and follows not only production but also documents the pre and post­production processes that occur prior to and after the production period. In doing so this study investigates the agency of songwriters and musicians as well as producer, engineer, mastering engineer and management, and their contribution to creative production in relation to the structures they engage with, in an attempt to cast light on the systems based nature of creative practice in the studio.

JB note – I didn’t catch Phillip’s presentation but wanted to include the abstract, not least because his writings about the application of the Systems Model of Creativity in popular music has been influential upon my own academic work.

Autotuning and the ‘humachine’. Exploring new means of technological expressivity #arp2015

Anne Danielsen, University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract: During the last decade the digitally pitch­corrected voice has repeatedly been used to express human conditions of alienation, numbness, emotional distance, or flatness, in particular in hip­hop and related musical styles. In this paper, I will give an analysis of some recent examples of expressive use of autotuning and discuss the ways in which this technology—which in many ways seems inhuman and mechanistic—seem to be able to capture certain human states or conditions better than the unmediated voice, the most human of all instruments. Autotuning, then, has complemented the human repertoire with new sounds. In the second part of the paper, I will discuss to what extent this and related tools might be considered part of a new and radical stage in the interaction of human and machine in popular music history—a stage that might be characterized by a decisive undermining of the traditional separation between man and machine in music production.

’99 Problems’ but Danger Mouse IS one’: The evolution of the producer Brian Burton

Shara Rambarran, BISC, Queen’s University, Canada

Abstract: Ten years ago, I presented a paper at the first ARP conference in London on Danger Mouse’s mash up, The Grey Album (2004). The presentation resulted in a heated discussion between the panel, audience and myself. Today, the virtual album is still championed by academics, musicians and fans. While Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) will always be associated with the cultural shift in ‘disrupting’ the practices in popular music creativity and digital technology, this paper will explore the aftermath of The Grey Album event.

The paper will argue that since the event, there have been digital developments that have concerned the musicians/producers, industry and consumers. Music consumption, distribution, copyright, streaming, remixing, production etc. are on­going themes at ARP conferences, and these topics still involve Burton. Since the paper presentation in 2005, Burton has become a successful producer working with the likes of Damon Albarn, Cee­Lo Green, and Jack White. Despite the success, there have been events that have (un)intentionally involved Burton. An overview of such events will be examined such as Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ (another leaked project on the Internet); Sparklehorse’s blank CDR release (Burton’s protest to EMI); and more recently, the U2 album that was pre­loaded on iPhones. Whether these episodes are either a coincidence or not, the paper will examine on how Burton’s music production has resulted in such events. I will consider Burton an auteur: despite his hip­hop background, he has produced a genre­blended catalogue that carries his own musical ingredients in record production. While his projects have contributed in the way music is produced, consumed and distributed in the digital age, the paper will argue on why it is likely that his works will still be discussed at future ARP conferences: is Burton a secret musical activist, or an ultramodernist in record production?

Azealia Banks and Gender (2 papers) #arp2015

Stan Hawkins, University of Oslo, Norway

Kai Arne Hansen, University of Oslo, Norway

Track: B – Multipolarities

  1. Aesthetics and Gender Under Construction in Hip Hop: Azealia Banks
  2. Gender Production in `Chasing Time´
Azealia Banks

Abstract: Studying the art of production in popular music involves the subjectivities of artists, producers, engineers, and musicians, and their involvement in the recording process, which have a major impact on the composite recording. This joint paper sets out to locate the aesthetic effects of production as a means to gaining a better understanding of how human agency functions in this context. Our focus therefore falls on the spectacle of sound, with specific focus on the aesthetics of production in Azealia Banks’s 2014 album, Broke with Expensive Taste.

By closely examining a number of tracks from this album, we consider the twists, contours, turns, and transgressions of Banks’ performances. Employing a broad perspective, we draw on theories and methods found in film studies, media studies, and cultural studies to shed light on how processes of production stage the gendered body. Of paramount importance, we argue, are the production techniques that conflate the performer. These take place against a backdrop of referents and sonic markers that are culturally relevant. In the case of Banks, the numerous features that define her unique performativity distinguish her creative endeavors. The main objective of this paper is to throw a light on this through suggesting new ways of intersecting digitized sound, performance, and music technology. The intention is to expose the significance of recording aesthetics from a musicological standpoint. Accordingly, the analytical methods we advocate attempt to probe at the audio image in order to   reveal the signification of gender in relation to musical referents. It is the aesthetic effects of production that offer a platform for grasping how gendered subjectivity functions in popular music.