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.