A new interactive music format for enhancing listener engagement with recorded music
(more about Rob’s research)
Rob begins with a discussion of what it means to manipulate music ‘not as the artist intended’, citing DJ culture, mashups, sampling, replaced drum beats etc, from the 1950s to the present day. In each case he’s referring to the manipulation of the final stereo mix.
Examples given include DJ Dangermouse’s The Black Album and NIN’s The Hand That Feeds, leading us to more recent works such as Rock Band/Guitar Hero, Bjork’s Biophillia app, and Gwilym Gold’s Tender Metal music app (2012), an album that never plays the same way twice.
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Amateur Recordings and The Ghost Producer : Beyond the Technical Interventions of the Sound Engineer
ABSTRACT: Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’, George Martin as the « Fifth Beatle », Teo Macero and the bonding of solo takes. The years go and the myths remain the same. Largely borne by a wind of romanticism, the record producer is often described as this « mixing hero » who could transform any uninspired composition into a classic that will be sung by a whole generation. If this paradigm of the record producer makes the amateur musicians who want to reify their creations dream, this utopian representation of the recording process quickly encounters a more pragmatic reality. Generally prohibitively expensive, the services of such producers are most of the time inaccessible for artists who aren’t financially helped by record labels. Consequently, a majority of amateur recordings are made in the context of the home studio, or within professional studios where the personal is a priori exclusively employed to be responsible for technical tasks.
Focusing on this latter situation, I will base my presentation on an ethnographic study to explain how the « function » of the record producer stays omnipresent in an amateur session despite the fact that the « profession » of the record producer is neither explicitly neither contractually embodied by the studio personal. Linking audio takes with oral exchanges that occured during the session, I will show that the amateur studio experience and its common one-personal-team organization incite the sound engineer to constantly overstep his initial technical functions, being thus a new mediation in which the ghost of the record producer will express.
On the basis of this specific study case, I’ll more globally try to highlight the increasing porosity between the producer and the sound engineer that, blurring all the past rigorous conceptual boundaries, is being to generate a new paradigm of music production.
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Questioning progress narratives in contemporary studio production
Joe Watson, PhD candidate, University of Sussex
In 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.
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Jamming in The 3rd Room: Experiences of remote ‘virtual’ real-time performance and recording.
Zack Moir, Paul Ferguson & Gareth Dylan Smith
Increasingly, many of our daily tasks are carried out ‘virtually’ via digital networks, including Skype-calls, video tutorials, and collaborative editing of documents via the ‘cloud’. While these tasks can be undertaken using normal domestic internet connections, issues of latency and poor internet connection make meaningful, real-time musical collaboration problematic and impractical to the point of impossible. However, using Gigabit connections onto National Research and Education Networks such as JANET and GEANT engineers are able to establish extremely high bandwidth and low latency links. This, coupled with LOLA (a low-latency, videoconferencing system) means that engineers and musicians are beginning to find ways to facilitate real-time live performances with remote performers, across long distances. While this has been achieved successfully in a number of cases, the process is still nascent and more research is required to understand the implications, functionality, and limits of such a workflow. This is particularly important, given that companies such as AVID are leading us towards cloud-based music production.
The authors, in their capacities as musicians (Moir and Smith) and sound-engineer/producer (Ferguson) are currently conducting research into the the experience of collaborating musically using LOLA. Our research investigates the impact of this means of working on the musical experiences of collaborators, in a variety of musical contexts. We are exploring the potential for live performance, audio/video realism, integration into future workflow for record production, and teaching/education applications. Additionally, we are interested in exploring the limits of this
system by way of understanding how it may be better deployed and developed for future use. This paper will report on a qualitative study in which the authors present accounts of their musical experiences of remote rehearsal (in Edinburgh, London, and mainland Europe), pre-production, and recording using LOLA, and will discuss implications for future use in remote, real-time, collaborative record production.
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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.
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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.
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