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Kealy, From craft to art. Modes of Collaboration in Record Production. Craft Union Mode

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Kealy, From craft to art

Modes of Collaboration in Record Production

Craft Union Mode

… [A] by-product of rationalization in the recording industry. Unionization gave sound mixers a defense against further encroachments by the professional audio engineer and further work demands by the record producers. However, it also gave them a defensive occupational ideology that locked them into a narrow, technical, instrumental role among their collaborators, who had limited expectations of them and allowed them limited responsibilities for the final product.

Entrepreneurial Mode

Laing thus describes the mid-1950s collaboration of entrepreneur Norman Petty and rock musicians Buddy Holly and the Crickets in terms of an integration of functions:

They combined within themselves ... the role of song writer, musicians. lead and backing vocalists, and record producer. The recording was even done at Petty's own studio in Clovis, New Mexico.... Consequent upon this integration of functions was an integration of the musical elements within each song."

However, this integration of functions also had important consequences for the sound mixer. In exchange for the opportunity to contribute to shaping the musical aesthetic, he also had to share his control over, and knowledge of the studio technology with his collaborators.

Art Mode

The distinguishing characteristic of art-mode collaborations is that middlemen representing the commercial interests of record companies or independent entrepreneurs are excluded from the studio production. The collaborators most directly involved in producing the popular music sound-the musicians, composers, and sound mixers-take responsibility for organizing the work to be done at the sessions and make the aesthetic decisions.


Clarke, “A magic science”

Brian Eno, himself a musician much involved with the musical opportunities being opened up by new technology, has remarked that whereas 'in the early days of studio recording what went on to the tape was pretty much how the record ended up', since that period 'the degree of chaos in the actual making of the recording has been reduced, while the complications involved in processing have increased ... What you have now is an incredible number of processing possibilities ... and a very low degree of 'randomness' being generated by the recording situation itself' (Eno 1982, p. 94). Such sophistication has not been universally welcomed and many artists working in many genres…still deliberately embrace the aesthetic of raw, undoctored performances, laid straight on to tape. But while technological advance has placed no obligations on rock musicians to juggle frequencies, assemble and mix diverse tracks and so on, it has opened up a whole range of options, and,…it has encouraged an adventurous eclecticism of content.

But along with its marked influence on performance traditions, recording has also been instrumental in the development of what can best be described as new forms of creative art -- forms in which the capturing of performances (on disc or tape or in digital coding) becomes not an end in itself but a gathering of raw material which can then be treated in various ways: speeded up, slowed down, chopped about, mixed, distorted and so on, as part of a process of considered composition.