Producing Performance

James Barrett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


John Blacking describes music as "humanly organised sound". Musicology has tended to stress the organisation inherent in composition, performance studies the performer's role. Recent writing recognises the important function of the listener. When listening is mediated through the recording process, since the discriminatory potential of the microphone is inferior to that of the human ear, the recording producer not only influences the listening perspective but also the perceptive potential of the listener. The created virtual space encodes the producer's cultural assumptions within acoustic phenomena.'Classical' production has traditionally placed the listener near the conductor (with phase-coherent [semi-]coincident pair microphone methods). The producer ensures there is at least one'perfect' takes of every section of the score and marks it with edit points for the engineer, thus constructing an idealised but believable performance. Surround sound can be used to increase the perception of positioning within an audience but subtle changes of mix must be made if visuals are included. Much early multi-track popular music recording captured simultaneously performed musical events on each track allowing for individual treatments [ref. Painting the Sonic Canvas] but not atomised temporal reorganisation.In the early 1970's ethno musicological recordings transgress this model. Arom using re-recording methods to dissect polyphony. Fanshaw making the listener first mobile in place (pre-empting multimedia mixing techniques) then temporally promiscuous, employing 'sampling' philosophy (resonant of musique concrète and pre-empting 'World Music').Progressively, popular music production abandons phase-coherence and espouses the disembodied (ventriloquism) sound object, discarding the positioning of the listener within the audience and placing the listener within the sound stage. A similar progression occurs in jazz from (say) 'Kind of Blue', recorded at one time in one space, to jazz-funk multi-layer canvasses.The chapter covers the changing cultural constructs inherent in production values, providing explanations of the acoustic/technical correlatives and anecdotal details of producer's practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRecorded Music: Performance, Cuture and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • sound recordings – social aspects
  • sound recordings – production and direction


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