Doctoral Research Study – Part 2a

My journey continues….

~DLP Pro Image Fun 5b small.20141020

(Page 2014)
 This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2015a) for the previous blog.

Year 2015: 2nd Observation Part a

As part of the professional doctorate program I had entered, we were inducted into the world of academic research study. Whilst I was a relative open book in terms of my quest for new knowledge, I found the requirements of being fast-tracked from a position of practitioner into the world of academia at a doctoral level, overwhelming. The level of growth required was enormous.
As part of our program, we were being led to examine three (3) aspects of our practice:
  • the field and discipline of practice
  • the site of our practice
  • and me as a practitioner
Despite my practicing for many decades, I was starting to realise that I actually knew very little.

Bordering my music-making practice

I came to understand within the first few months I needed to broadly explore the fields and disciplines of contemporary music-making, in order to border – and define – my music-making practice.

Due to the breadth and rapid exponential growth of the music-making industry over the past century, I felt it was necessary to review the industry, fields and disciplines of music-making. I looked in depth at:
a.     Historical development of the industry from the 1830’s to the current era. Recording industry – from the invention of the 1st recording, microphones, corporate studios, progressing to large format recording studios
  • Music Production
  • Digital Technology – Consoles
  • Digital Technology – Organs, Synthesisers, Samplers
  • Project Studio
  • Consoles – DAWs and, Digital Virtual Instruments – Organs, Synthesisers, Sampler
  • Portable Studio
b. Industry standards of practice – commercial
  • Industry standards of practice – technical
  • Industry standards of practice – creative, aesthetic or affective
  • Industry standards of practice – soft skills
c. Defining DIY
d. Social, Cultural and Music-making practice Related
e. Changing Face of Music Production
f. The traditional definition of Music Producer
g. A new discipline of music-making emerges
h. The contemporary music-making practice
i. The contemporary music-making practitioner

Historical development of the industry – an overview

Music Production
Historically, music production lay within what is now referred to as the audio industry. During the 1940’s and 1950’s in both the US and the UK, the field of audio and the discipline of Music Production was centralised around commercial radio and television studios (Zagorski-Thomas 2005, 70), with the hiring of technical experts to experiment both in terms of recording techniques and equipment. By the early 1960’s the recording industry was flourishing with a lot of experimentation. Studios were now starting to be owned and operated by large recording corporations such as RCA, Colombia and EMI records[1], with technical departments to develop analogue technology to use within their studios. As a result, access to the technology, along with the knowledge and skill in using this technology was somewhat restricted to only those working within these environments (Burgess 1997, 30). Though it must be noted, a number of small-scale independent recording studios also operated in the 1960’s, though usually owned and operated by technical-based enthusiasts[2] who proved they were capable of commercial success[3].  However, by the early 1970’s and then into the 1980’s, with the advent of expensive and large format analogue consoles[4], commercial record label studios became more of the norm, and small independent studios became less prevalent (Zagorski-Thomas 2005, 70). Industrialization generated specialist roles and skills[5], as well a culture of capitalizing on one’s skillset, and reliance on others’ services for financial remuneration (Morawetz 1974, 3,4). Capitalism also introduced the notion of barriers to access in order to create or preserve the imbalance of power relations and ongoing dependence on goods and services. This culture was very prevalent in large format console commercial studios, and for those who were fortunate enough to gain employment within the scarce but highly sought after roles within these studios, were inclined to preserve the culture of limited access, scarcity of information and skills knowledge (Leyshon 2009, 1316). Burgess acknowledged a diversity of backgrounds of music producers from that era as being: artist/musician, audio engineer, songwriter, entrepreneur and multi path (1997, 29).
Digital Technology – Consoles
Throughout the 1970’s technology advanced, with “quality digital recording equipment more widely available” at progressively decreasing cost to the consumer (Wallis 2001, 11). With the development of digital technology alternative music production options to the large format console studio became available. The first digital portable console[6] was introduced in 1979 using tape technology, marking the beginning of a dramatic change in the music production playing field. “Evidence from the 1980’s showed that multi-track cassette based recording technologies spread at a high pace to virtually every nation” (Wallis 2001, 11). Three years after its initial release, Bruce Springsteen released the widely acclaimed and large volume selling solo album ‘Nebraska’[7], made on this same digital portable console in his bedroom {with the intention of it being a ‘demo’, but then choosing the quality and aesthetic as preferential to a studio produced product he had access to as a label signed artist} (TEAC 2015; Burke 2011, 119,188).
Digital Technology – Organs, Synthesisers, Samplers
Towards the end of the 1980’s, low cost digital keyboards and devices were released globally by a number of manufacturers[8]. Digital synthesisers and samplers, triggered by a MIDI[9] controlled keyboard could now play a range of tones, sounds, and emulate instruments. Because a single key could trigger multiple sounds or chords[10], the technique and skill required to play each of the instruments became virtually redundant. Whilst initially the range of instruments emulated were fairly limited, over time this has grown exponentially, from acoustic – European[11] or world[12] – instruments to synthetic instruments[13]. Such resources allowed music producers to have numerous instrumentation options available to them to integrate into any one of their music productions, as their creativity desired.
This has also had of course an affect on the industry in terms of labour, rendering musicians with specialist skills to a certain degree redundant. “Digital sampling and simulation techniques have decreased studio producers’ dependence on hiring the services of live musicians. These trends apply virtually everywhere in the world” (Wallis 2001, 11). However, the positive of this technological development enabled the creation and development of specific electronic music genres, and social and cultural events such as the 1990’s based rave parties. (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010, 295)
Over the next two decades technology continued to develop at an exponential rate, in terms of general devices[14], global communication network options[15] and music-making equipment[16]. “Renewed interest and wider adoption of DIY cultures and practices through 1) easy access to and affordability of tools and 2) the emergence of new sharing mechanisms” such as the internet had a prolific effect on the widespread interest of music production (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010, 295).
Wallis noted recently five (5) five main current trends in the music and audio industry, three (3) of which are related to the scope of my Research Study: one being the “deregulation of existing analogue channels and the growth of the Internet and digital channels as global means for conveying music to businesses and consumers”; another being the “removal of national boundaries in distribution, leading to globalization of media products” (‘distribution’ excluded in this essay); and ‘technology’: “Widespread diffusion of new digital technologies for recording and distribution, providing wider access to technology with satisfactory quality at an affordable price” (Wallis 2001,10).
The Behringer company (Music Group 2015) commenced while the founder was studying audio engineering at a German University with insufficient supply of working order audio processing equipment. With limited access to equipment, Behringer who had a DIY electronics background, started repairing the existing inoperable devices, and then progressed to building additional devices for his own use. Behringer recalls about the mid 1980’s “there was simply a tremendous need for good and affordable sound equipment”. Behringer’s mission became “to provide professional products at prices every musician could afford”, creating as they claim a new “prosumer or home-recording market that had not existed before”. Whilst quality was an issue in the early years, by the mid-2000’s Behringer was a very well established provider as they had aspired to.
onion-layers
Footnotes
[1] The biggest studios were owned and operated by large media companies like RCA, Columbia and EMI, who typically had their own electronics research and development divisions that designed and built custom-made analogue recording equipment and mixing consoles for their studios.
[2] later becoming known as audio engineers.
[3] Likewise, the smaller independent studios were often owned by skilled electronics engineers who designed and built their own analogue desks and other equipment. A good example of this is the famous Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, the site of many famous American pop recordings of the 1960s. Co-owner David S. Gold built the studio’s main mixing desk and many additional pieces of equipment and he also designed the studio’s unique trapezoidal echo chambers.
[4] In the 1970s the first large analogue 32 channel mixing consoles appeared. Mixing consoles now featured EQs and FX sends on all channels, and it became also possible to route signals from one channel to another (such desks are also called “inline mixing consoles”). In the mid 1970s Neve developed NECAM, the first computer-controlled moving fader automation. Many popular mixing console manufacturers debuted in the 1970s. Famous mixing console companies in the 1970s included AMS Neve, Solid State Logic, API, Harrison and Raindirk.
[5] concept of skilled and unskilled labour
[6] The Tascam Portastudio 144 was released in 1979, at a cost of approximately US$150. It was the world’s first four-track recorder based on a standard compact audio cassette tape (TEAC 2015) .
[7] In 1982, Bruce Springsteen released his solo album project “Nebraska”, recorded in his home, on a Tascam Portastudio 144 digital console. The album sold to platinum (Australia and the US) and gold (UK and Canada) levels, and was considered a success, making numerous top albums of the decade lists (Burke 2011; George-Warren et al. 2001) .
[8] Korg, Roland and Yamaha were the early manufacturers of digital synthesisers and samplers.
[9] Musical Instrument Device Input (MIDI) was created by a number of musical companies to allow the flow of digital signal between two or more digital devices (Gilreath 2010).
[10] Known as pads.
[11] Such as a double bass which I have seen many times in both European music orchestras and contemporary Jazz bands, but never played one.
[12] Such as a Kenyan Nyatiti which I have only seen in Kenya in the 1980’s.
[13] Such as a Jupiter-8 synthesiser which I saw being played live in Japan in the later 1980’s.
[14] Such as personal computers.
[15] A global communication network option – the internet – was termed in 1982, and grew within 5 years to 10,000 host sites. By the year 2000, the internet had 300,000 host sites, indicating the exponential growth that it was capable of into the future (Burgess 1997, 119).
[16] Such as those previously mentioned, namely digital samplers and digital interface.
onion-layers
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Research Study – Part 2b (Page 2015b). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
References
 Burgess, Richard James. 1997. The art of record production. London: Omnibus Press.
Burke, David. 2011. “Heart of Darkness : Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska”. London: Cherry Red Books.
George-Warren, Holly and Patricia Romanowski. 2001. The Rolling Stone encyclopedia of rock & roll, edited by Jon Pareles: Touchstone.
Gilreath, Paul. 2010. The guide to midi orchestration. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal.
Kuznetsov, Stacey and Eric Paulos. 2010. “Rise of the expert amateur: DIY projects, communities, and cultures.” In Proceedings of the 6th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Extending Boundaries, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 16-20, 2010, edited, 295-304. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1868914&picked=prox:ACM.
Leyshon, Andrew. 2009. “The software slump?: digital music, the democratisation of technology, and the decline of the recording studio sector within the musical economy.” Environment and Planning 41 (6): 1309.
Morawetz, David. 1974. “Employment implications of industrialisation in developing countries: a survey.” The Economic Journal: 491-542.
Music Group. 2015. “Behringer : our story.” Accessed 15th April, 2015. http://www.behringer.com/EN/Our-Story/index.aspx
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 15th December, 2014
Page, David L. 2017. 2nd Observation image courtesy of David L Page Created 10th June, 2017
Page, David L. 2015b. Doctoral Research Study – Part 2b Accessed 29th April, 2015
Page, David L. 2015a. Doctoral Research Study – Part 1 Accessed 15th April, 2015
Page, David L. 2014 image courtesy of David L Page Created 15th December, 2014
TEAC. 2015. “TEAC TASCAM history.” Accessed 15th April, 2015. www.tascam.com.
Wallis, R Dr. 2001. “Best practice cases in the music industry and their relevance for government policies in developing countries.” Paper presented at the United Conference on Trade and Development, Brussels, Belgium, May 14-20, 2001.
Zagorski-Thomas, Simon. 2005. “The US vs the UK sound: meaning in music production in the 1970s.” In The art of record production: an introductory reader for a new academic field, edited by Simon Frith and Simon Zagorski-Thomas, 57-90. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate
– @David L Page 15/04/2015
– updated @David L Page 20/04/2015
– updated @David L Page 10/06/2017
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.

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