Talking tactility: Technology’s influence on ‘feel’ in popular music mixing.
ABSTRACT: One of the final creative stages in the popular music production process is mixing, and often creative brilliance not technical prowess is responsible for mix popularity. The arrival of digital technologies has affected a rapid change in mixing techniques and perhaps the subsequent overuse of various forms of technology can dominate and distract the mixers’ connection to creativity. In this instance technology should be an extension of consciousness, because mixing is a form of synesthesia and mixers should attempt to connect to creativity and emotion through their mix system. This author theorizes mixers can connect to the emotive paradigm of music via a personalized system designed around a preference of tactility and a sense of ‘feel’ when mixing. Therefore, this paper uses a qualitative comparative investigation into the popular music mixing process. This exploratory experiment involved five participants, who mixed two songs each, with varying forms of technology and tactility. The participants completed a questionnaire after the experiment so comparative data regarding the mixing experience was collected. Mix results were analyzed by the author and a thematic analysis supported by professional research completed the study.
[ABSTRACT ONLY – with apologies to Brendan for arriving late – the last few minutes that I saw sparked a fascinating discussion in the room].
Brendan Anthony, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, Australia
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.