The (Dis) Embodied Voice: hearing meaning in vocal timbre
Simon Zagorski-Thomas (London College of Music, UWL)
Keywords: Vocal timbre, ecological perception, embodied cognition, sonic cartoons
ABSTRACT: It can be argued that since the persona of the performer is widely perceived to be the locus of meaning in popular music – as opposed to the more indirect voice of the composer in the western art music tradition – that the timbre of the voice and its control during performance should be the focal point of popular music analysis. This paper uses a framework combining the ecological approach to perception (Gibson, 1979; Clarke, 2005), embodied cognition (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) and the neural theory of metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson, 2003; Feldman, 2008) to explore how the disembodied sound of the recorded voice in popular music is interpreted as a schematic representation of a human entity and action: a sonic cartoon (Zagorski-Thomas, 2014).
We begin this panel with a discussion of ‘pet hates’ in recording. The panel rises to the task impressively. Some hates include the loudness wars and issues of track compression (Pytten); horrible tracking rooms in the interests of authenticity; being precious about your ideas and resisting stretching them (Susan); and the boxy frequencies between 400Hz and 900Hz (Phil – “can anyone in this room tell me a good reason for boosting these frequencies, and tell me what instrument to do it on?”).
Book launch session: The Art of Record Production by Simon Frith and Simon Zagorski-Thomas.
Simon (ZT) described how the book came about and its philosophical approach. Contributors are either academics or production practitioners, very much in line with ARP and JARP’s philosophies. I paste below (taken from the contents list on Ashgate’s website) a list of headings and chapters in the book;
1 Introduction: Simon Frith And Simon Zagorski-Thomas
PART I HISTORICAL APPROACHES
2 The Lacquer Disc For Immediate Playback: Professional Recording And Home Recording From The 1920s To The 1950s : George Brock-Nannestad
3 The Sounds Of Space: Studio As Instrument In The Era Of High Fidelity: Susan Schmidt Horning
4 No-Fi: Crafting A Language Of Recorded Music In 1950s Pop: Albin Zak III
5 The US Vs The UK Sound: Meaning In Music Production In The 1970s: Simon Zagorski-Thomas
6 The End Of The World As We Know It: The Changing Role Of The Studio In The Age Of The Internet: Paul Théberge
Interlude 1: Comments And Commentaries By Industry Professionals And Producers 91
PART II THEORETICAL APPROACHES
7 Beyond A Musicology Of Production: Allan Moore
8 ‘I’m Not Hearing What You’re Hearing’: The Conflict And Connection Of Headphone Mixes And Multiple Audioscapes: Alan Williams
9 The Self-Effacing Producer: Absence Summons Presence: Michael Jarrett
10 Rethinking Creativity: Record Production And The Systems Model: Phillip Mcintyre
11 Considering Space In Recorded Music: William Moylan
Interlude 2: Comments And Commentaries By Industry Professionals And Producers
PART III CASE STUDIES
12 Simulating The Ideal Performance: Suvi Raj Grubb And Classical Music Production: Andrew Blake
13 The Place Of The Producer In The Discourse Of Rock: Simon Frith
14 The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds And The Musicology Of Record Production: Jan Butler
15 Tubby’s Dub Style: The Live Art Of Record Production: Sean Williams
16 Recording The Revolution: 50 Years Of Music Studios In Revolutionary Cuba: Jan Fairley And Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier
Interlude 3: Comments And Commentaries By Industry Professionals And Producers
Questions lead into a discussion regarding the future of publishing and how we might deal with the challenges of academic publishers, online publishing, open access and funding.