History Music Production Part 4b – Experimental practice changes the approach to mainstream music-production

This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.

Maypole Dance.P1

(Maypole 2018a)

Mainstream popular music-making practitioners draw on broader lineage

Musical hybridity is prevalent in most approaches to music-making, particularly roots-based approach music. Mainstream music developed out of traditional roots-based forms of music such as blues, country, folk, bluegrass and jazz musical styles. Fused into an ever-growing range of hybrid musical styles such as rhythm and blues, soul, pop, rockabilly, rock n’ roll, and its various hybrids of country rock, folk rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock and rock n’ soul. With large record labels in control of studios, mainstream music-making was a commercial venture. Innovation of technology or workflows would generally not be considered until the early adopters of such technology and workflows had demonstrated the benefits (Martin & Hornsby 1979, 58-61). Mainstream music-making benefited from inventive creative practice in the studio by a range of innovators and early adopters in the 1950’s and early 1960’s such as Les Paul, Phil Spector and Frank Zappa (Moorefield 2005, i; Cotter 2002, 593-594).
Freak Out_Zappa.1966.album cover
(Zappa, 1966)
However, it was not until 1966 that mainstream music-making – such as the Beatles and George Martin, and Brian Wilson – adopted the creative practice of Paul, Spector and Zappa[1].
(Beatles,  1966)       (Beach Boys,1966)       (Beatles,  1967)
In the mid to late 1960’s, mainstream music connected with the lineage of experimental music forms. Holmes describes the merging of roots-based approaches to music, and electroacoustic and sonic art-based approaches to music in his Chapter “Rock, Space Age Pop, and Turntablisim” (2012, 442) from the era of the Beatles. Holmes notes McCartney and Lennon’s interest in experimental forms of music-making such as Cage and Stockhausen, their adoption of the Moog Synthesiser (2012, 443-446); discusses Pink Floyd (2012, 448); Emerson, Lake and Palmer (2012, 450); and the Beach Boys, and their adoption of the electro-Theramin (2012, 455).
(Emerson, Lake & Palmer,  1970)     (Pink Floyd,  1973)
It was perhaps Brian Eno who continued on the legacy of inventive creative practice in the traditional studio that Paul, Spector, Martin and Wilson had laid (Moorefield 2005, 51). Eno has produced a large number of albums that are stylistically diverse: pop, rock, and progressive rock. Eno’s body of musical work is heavily dependent on technology – so much so, “it could not have existed in any previous age” (Tamm 1988, 63). Eno conceives the studio as an instrument, using the technological devices for purposes that the original manufacturers may or may not have originally intended. His “sound-altering devices are always changing” (Tamm 1988,73).
(Eno,  1974a)                   (Eno,1974b)                    (Eno,  1975a)
However, it is the musical style that he created that he is now perhaps become best known for: ambient music (Tamm 1988, 1). This form of music was not roots-based music-making. This was a form of music that drew on a lineage of music-making very distant to that of roots-based music and traditional instruments such as voice, guitars, bass and drums.
(Eno,  1975b)                (Eno,1978a)                (Eno,  1978a)
Eno released his first solo ambient album in 1978, Ambient 1: Music for Airports. This album’s music hinges “not on what a musicologist might be inclined to call their ‘purely musical qualities’ of melody, harmony, rhythm and so on – but rather on aspects of production and engineering, on how the recording studio was used to produce a particular kind of sound texture” (Tamm 1988, 63). As a self-confessed non-musician, Eno commenced composing in the studio, rather than the traditional method of arriving to a studio with a completed composition, in order to record the piece. “(I)n-studio composition’ is the result of the multi-track idea ‘that composition is the process of adding more’“ (Tamm 1988, 64).
“In his 1979 lecture “The Studio as Compositional Tool,” first given …. in New York, Eno shared his ideas about recording, composing, and producing in the studio. His talk makes clear that he is already at that time quite aware of the implications of his work, ….. and ….. the history of making records. He places the beginning of his involvement as producer-composer at the dawn of the sixteen-track studio, circa 1970” (Moorefield 2005, 53).
Brian Eno in his London studio.2014.jpg
Eno in his London studio in 2014 (Dark Shark 2016)
With the exponential development of technology over the past four decades, the contemporary DIY music-making practitioner can now access – at an affordable price – a very wide range of digital or digital virtual technology capable of producing cultural productions to an industry standard. There are infinite choices of: technology, and combinations of technology; different sites, and combinations of sites; workflows, and combinations of workflows; a contemporary DIY music-making practitioner can compose with. There is infinite choice in which to create one’s own unique sound, in order to express one’s own unique voice. Progressing the legacy of the likes of Paul, Spector, Martin, Wilson and Eno, the contemporary studio – irrespective of a project studio or a portable studio – is now more than ever a creative compositional workspace:
“(T)he studio is where composition (not just recording or even arranging) takes place, and what is being made is not a replication or extension of a concert experience, but something altogether different” (Moorefield 2005, 54).
Eno believes the process actually likens music-makers practice to that of other creative practitioners, such as painters. Using a studio and its technology as a compositional tool affords the practitioner a high degree of flexibility to add, subtract, or to rearrange aspects that have already been laid out (Homer 2009, 91).
George Martin_Painting with Sound
Martin was a practitioner who understood the idea of “painting with sound” (Kleon, 2016)
         (Eno & Byrne 1980)                                    (Eno & Byrne,  1981)
As the decades advanced, the legacy of Paul, Spector, Zappa, Martin and Eno gathered momentum. Music styles and approaches to production were appropriated; drawing on different technologies; using many and varied unconventional sites; using converged and conflated workflows. Hybridity was gathering momentum…..

Maypole Dance.P2.jpg

(Maypole 2018b)
[1] I will discuss Frank Zappa’s impact on mainstream music-making in a later section on experimental music-makers
This blog will continue next month History of Music Production Part 4c – Large Format Console Studios to Digital Project Studios (Page 2016b).
Beach Boys, The. 1966. Pet Sounds. Capitol. Vinyl LP.
Beatles, The. 1967. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Parlophone. Vinyl LP.
Beatles, The. 1966. Revolver. Parlophone. Vinyl LP.
Cotter, Jim. 2002. “Frank Zappa (1940-1993).” In Music of the twentieth-century Avant-Garde: a biocritical sourcebook, edited by Larry Sitsky, 593-598. London: ABC-CLIO.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer. 1970. Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Island. Vinyl LP.
Eno, Brian in his London studio, 2014 image courtesy of: Dark Shark Access after 1st May, 2017
Eno, Brian. 1978b. Music for films. Editions EG. Compact Disc.
Eno, Brian. 1978a. Ambient 1: music for airports. Editions EG. Compact Disc.
Eno, Brian. 1975b. Discreet music. EG. Vinyl LP.
Eno, Brian. 1975a. Another green world. Island. Vinyl LP.
Eno, Brian. 1974b. Taking Tiger Mountain. Island. Vinyl LP.
Eno, Brian. 1974a. Here come the warm jets. Island. Vinyl LP.
Eno, Brian and David Byrne. 1981. My life in the bush of ghosts. Sire/Warner Bros. Compact CD.
Eno, Brian & David Byrne 1980 image image courtesy of: Talking Heads session, Different Fur Studios Access after 16th May, 2016
Floyd, Pink. 1973. Dark side of the moon. Harvest. Vinyl LP.
Holmes, Thom. 2012. Electronic and experimental music: technology, music, and culture. 4th ed. New York: Routledge.
Homer, Matthew. 2009. “Beyond the studio: the impact of home recording technologies on music creation and consumption.” Nebula 6 (3): 85-99.
Martin on sound on sound image courtesy of: Kleon blog site  Access after 16th May, 2016
Martin, George and Jeremy Hornsby. 1979. All You Need Is ears: the inside personal story of the genius who created the Beatles. New York: St martin’s Press.
May pole image 2018b image courtesy of  Revels DC  Accessed 31st January, 2018
May pole image 2018b image courtesy of  Personalised Ribbons Accessed 31st January, 2018
Moorefield, Virgil. 2005. The producer as composer: shaping the sounds of popular music. London: MIT Press.
Floyd, Pink. 1973. Dark side of the moon. Harvest. Vinyl LP.
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 28th March, 2015
Page, David L. 2016b  History of Music Production Part 4c – Large Format Console Studios to Digital Project Studios. Accessed 5th March, 2016
Page, David L. 2016a. History of Music Production Part 4a – DIY Experimental Practice Influences Large Format Console Studios  Accessed 5th March, 2016
Tamm, Eric. 1995. Brian Eno: his music and the vertical color of sound. New York, NY: Da Capo Press.
Zappa, Frank and The Mothers of Invention. 1966. Freak out. Verve. Vinyl LP.
– ©David L Page 05/03/2016
– updated ©David L Page 16/05/2016
– updated ©David L Page 01/05/2017
– updated ©David L Page 31/01/2018
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.






David L Page

View posts by David L Page
With over 20 years experience in the arts & post-compulsory education, David has lived, studied and worked Internationally including Japan, India, Fiji, the US and NZ. David has extensive interests as per the extensive blogs hosted on his site (see below). Additionally, David has published in both lay texts and academic (peer-review) publications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top