History Music Production Part 4c – Large Format Console Studios to Digital Project Studios

David Gilmour.Large Format Console(Meter 2014)
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016) for the previous blog.

The changing field of music production

Twenty-first century music production exists as a fragmented field of practice, in part as a result of increasing decentralisation in the audio and music industry since the 1980’s. A range of factors influenced this decentralization, including the development and adoption of digital recording technologies (Zagorski-Thomas 2005; Leyshon 2009; Huber and Runstein 2013; Izhaki 2013; Théberge 1997; Burgess 2013) and the exponential influence of global communication networks on music production and consumption practices (Spencer 2005; Moran 2011; Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010; Watson 2012).

(TEAC/TASCAM 2015a)

Ever increasing levels of access

Throughout the 1970’s technology continued to advanced with “quality digital recording equipment more widely available” at progressively decreasing cost to the consumer (Wallis 2001, 11). Offering an alternative music production option to the large format console studio continued, all levels of the field actively engaged with the technology. Springsteen released his solo album ‘Nebraska’, made in his bedroom (Springsteen 1984a).
(Springsteen 1982b)
Intended to be a ‘demo’, it was decided the aesthetic of the DIY recording was preferred to the studio-produced album (TEAC/TASCAM 2015b; Burke 2011, 119,188). “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).
(TEAC/TASCAM 2015c)
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. Digital synthesisers and samplers, triggered by a MIDI controlled keyboard could now play a range of tones, sounds, and emulate instruments. Because a single key could trigger multiple sounds or chords, 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 or world – instruments to synthetic instruments. 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).
Over the next two decades technology continued to develop at an exponential rate, in terms of general devices, global communication network options and music-making equipment. By the late 1990’s and early 2000’s development in music-making technology had moved into the digital virtual realm.  Several digital audio workstations (such as Cubase, Pro Tools, and then eMagic’s Logic) became available for domestic consumption. A few years following this – as more refined versions became available, virtual instruments (software instruments) and sample libraries (audio libraries for software instruments) from 3rd party providers started to become available. Commercial providers such as Spectrasonics, Native Instruments, Garritan, East West Quantm Leap, or Vienna Symphony came with extremely large and varied databases, at a cost range suitable for novice to serious producers, ready to include into their productions (Gilreath 2010). Miles Hubber and Runstein reinforced the view that the project studio, now with virtual technology “brought about monumental changes in the business of music and professional audio”, with the greatest benefit being a music creator able to “select from a wide range of tools and toys to generate specific sounds – or to get the particular sounds that he or she likes”, without necessarily having that instrument or musician capable of playing that instrument, on hand (Huber and Runstein 2013). Webb confirms the potential of this practice, citing a commercially successful song (having reached the US Music charts) that included a sample from Apple’s household digital audio workstation Garageband: Rihanna’s “Umbrella used one of its drum loops (specifically, Vintage Funk Kit 03) to great effect” (Webb 2007).
(Rhianna 2007)
As composer producer Goyte had made his first two albums using samples from prepared sample libraries exclusively, he decided for his third album he wanted to incorporate a range of unique acoustic instruments into the process. Recording these acoustic instruments – for example, an African thumb piano, music box, an autoharp – over time in his project studio (a barn on his family’s property), using a MacBookPro and a multi-track reel to reel recorder, Goyte then processed the recorded wave samples in a digital audio workstation via a digital sampling instrument. This effectively created a range of new virtual instruments that could be played in ways that the original acoustic instruments could not have – rhythmically, harmonically and even melodically. Goyte commented that “in virtualizing the instrument this way, it would become something unique” (Gotye 2011): effectively a unique instrument that no one else had access to, and had not necessarily heard previously, as a direct result of the digital environment processing. Goyte’s “Making Mirrors” CD was released to critical acclaim, and among many awards worldwide, won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Album’ in 2011.

Making Mirros_Goyte

(Goyte, 2011)
Wallis notes five (5) primary trends in the music and audio industry, three (3) of which are related to the discussion here: 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’: “(w)idespread 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 rise of more affordable digital recording rigs and easier programming protocols represents a democratisation of technology, making available a process that was once accessible only through the facilities and skills provided by a recording studio” (Leyshon 2009,1309).

Project Studio

Further technological developments gave rise to the increasing opportunity of having a music production setup in the home, based around a personal computer, a sound card, and some form of digital audio workstation to either record or arrange the music. Izhaki noted: “as computers became more affordable and competent, and the hiring of expensive {large format console, commercial} studios was no longer a requisite for multi-tracking and mixing”, a new era of home music creation and production studio iterations known as project studios began to emerge (Izhaki 2013, xiiii). As early as 2005, with a project studio based around an Apple computer with a range of analogue outboard hardware and synthesizers, Stuart Price admitted he “did much of the work for Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ album” in his home-based project studio (Doyle 2008). Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ album” was a commercial success [1]. As Leyshon highlighted “the recording studio sector is not a particularly profitable or efficient part of the musical economy overall” (Leyshon 2009, 1315), and therefore from an industry perspective, it was positive that alternative options evolved.
Footnotes
[1] In 2005, Stuart Price used his home-based project studio, based around an Apple computer with a range of analogue outboard hardware and synthesizers to produce Madonna’s commercially successful ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ album, achieving commercial success reaching the US Music charts (Doyle 2008).
onion-layers
This blog will continue next month History of Music Production Part 4d – Digital Project Studios become for contemporary DIY music-making (Page 2015).
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.
Doyle, Tom. 2008. “Stuart Price: producing Seal & Madonna.” Accessed May 2, 2015. https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb08/articles/stuart_price.htm.
Gilreath, Paul. 2010. The guide to midi orchestration. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal.
Goyte. 2011. Making Mirrors. Eleven May 5, 2015. Compact Disc.
Holder, Christopher. 2011. “Goyte.” Audio Technology (84): 98.
Huber, David Miles and Robert E Runstein. 2013. Modern recording techniques. 8th ed. Burlington: Focal Press.
Izhaki, Roey. 2013. Mixing audio: concepts, practices and tools. 3rd 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.
Meter, M . 2014. “For their last-ever album the endless river, Pink Floyd recorded on a boat” Accessed May 20, 2015  http://www.digitaltrends.com/music/pink-floyds-nick-mason-on-the-endless-river
Moran, Ian P. 2011. “Punk: the do-it-yourself subculture.” Social Sciences Journal 10 (1): 13.
Music Group. 2015. “Behringer : our story.” Accessed May 2, 2015. http://www.behringer.com/EN/Our-Story/index.aspx
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 15th December, 2014
Page, David L. 2015.  History of Music Production Part 4d – Digital Project Studios become for contemporary DIY music-making Accessed 7th June, 2015.
Page, David L. 2016. History of Music Production Part 4b – Experimental practice changes the approach to mainstream music production Accessed 5th March, 2016.
Rhianna and feat Jay-Z. 2007. Umbrella. Def Jam. Compact Disc. Video courtesy of You-Tube. Accessed 21st May, 2015
Spencer, Amy. 2005. DIY: The rise of lo-fi culture: Marion Boyars London.
Springsteen, Bruce. 1982b. Nebraska. image courtesy of Discogs Accessed 21st May, 2015.
Springsteen, Bruce. 1982a. Nebraska. Columbia Records. Vinyl LP.
TEAC/TASCAM. 2015c. TEAC Tascam History. www.teac.com: TEAC Inc. Accessed 24th July, 2015
TEAC/TASCAM. 2015b. TEAC Tascam series: 1979 model 144 Portastudio Manual, edited by TEAC Inc.  www.teac.com: TEAC Inc. Accessed 24th July, 2015
TEAC/TASCAM. 2015a. TEAC/TASCAM 144 Portastudio advertising image courtesy of Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording Accessed 24th July, 2015
Théberge, Paul. 2012. “The end of the world as we know It: the changing role of the studio in the age of the internet.” In The art of record production: an introductory reader for a new academic field, edited by Simon Frith and Simon Zagorski-Thomas, 77-90. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
Théberge, Paul. 1997. Any sound you can make: making music/consuming technology. Hanover: University Press of New England.
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.
Watson, Allan. 2012. “The world according to iTunes: mapping urban networks of music production.” Global Networks 12 (4): 446-466.
Webb, A. 2007. “Is GarageBand top of the pops?” The Guardian Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/oct/18/news.apple.
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 21/05/2015
– updated ©David L Page 24/07/2015
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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