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The Recording Studio as Compositional Tool

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The Recording Studio as Compositional Tool

Postby blue on Fri Oct 08, 2004 4:27 pm

Hello,

I'm writing a paper for a class that I'm taking on Minimal Music. I'm trying to find books/articles which might address the following topic:

The Recording Studio as Compositional Tool

I'll be covering the early tape experiments of Steve Reich and Terry Riley as well as early electronic music and musique concrete. I'm also interested in general modern trends of recording and how they have influenced composition.

I know this is a HUGE topic, but any suggestion of "scholarly" or "academic" sources that I can use would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Postby n.c. on Fri Oct 08, 2004 4:50 pm

I started my home studio so that I could play around with different ideas for arrangements and sounds and performances / approaches. I still basically write the music, then record it, but having the access to the studio all the time and being able to try different things out in the recording and mixing stages is a huge influence on how stuff ends up sounding.
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Postby n.c. on Fri Oct 08, 2004 4:57 pm

I know that's not exactly what you were talking about, but that's the way it is for me.
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Postby blue on Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:31 pm

n.c. wrote:I started my home studio so that I could play around with different ideas for arrangements and sounds and performances / approaches. I still basically write the music, then record it, but having the access to the studio all the time and being able to try different things out in the recording and mixing stages is a huge influence on how stuff ends up sounding.
-n


Yeah, I work in the same way for the most part. Having immediate feedback is helpful to ensure that there is a solid connection between conception and execution. On the other hand, it can lead to a state of indecisiveness where one hesitates to make final decisions. Such is the nature of the beast.
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Postby n.c. on Fri Oct 08, 2004 7:14 pm

indecisiveness, exactly the kind of mental disease that I was unprepared for going in.......as in 6 songs that are 'done' ending up being trimmed to 4 songs and taking close to a year to get final versions.
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Postby cgc on Fri Oct 08, 2004 9:38 pm

Maybe you are aware of this, but Eno wrote an essay with nearly the exact title you are using:

http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/bria ... beat79.htm

He also wrote a shorter piece on assembling a studio:

http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/bria ... k-75a.html

Eric Tamm's book about Eno has Tamm relating studio techniques to compositional methods for a number of Eno rock and ambient pieces. The fact that Tamm timed the loops of 2/1 on 'Music for Airports' is particularly impressive.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/ ... 35-8058202

Also, my friends Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis of Wire have a long and interesting history of using the studio as an instrument. A good summary of their exploits can be found in Kevin Eden's book on Wire.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... ce&s=books

You might also want to work in ideas from Stockhausen and Xenkais, and mention innovators like Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Keith Hudson who have done more towards making the mixing console a tool than just about anyone on the planet (save Rupert Neve).
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Brian Wilson

Postby Redline on Fri Oct 08, 2004 9:43 pm

SMiLE
Not really minimal music-some of it was. The Studio was clearly used as a compositional tool, starting with Good Vibrations.

http://www.stylusmagazine.com/feature.php?ID=60
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Postby blue on Fri Oct 08, 2004 10:50 pm

cgc wrote:Maybe you are aware of this, but Eno wrote an essay with nearly the exact title you are using:

http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/bria ... beat79.htm

He also wrote a shorter piece on assembling a studio:

http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/bria ... k-75a.html

Eric Tamm's book about Eno has Tamm relating studio techniques to compositional methods for a number of Eno rock and ambient pieces. The fact that Tamm timed the loops of 2/1 on 'Music for Airports' is particularly impressive.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/ ... 35-8058202

Also, my friends Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis of Wire have a long and interesting history of using the studio as an instrument. A good summary of their exploits can be found in Kevin Eden's book on Wire.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... ce&s=books

You might also want to work in ideas from Stockhausen and Xenkais, and mention innovators like Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Keith Hudson who have done more towards making the mixing console a tool than just about anyone on the planet (save Rupert Neve).


Thanks a lot. I've been doing research on Eno but hadn't run across those articles. They seem like the golden cow. I just ordered his book, "a year with swollen appendices" from the library. Yeah, I think Eno is going to be a a central focus for my paper. Thanks for everyone's input!
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Postby cgc on Fri Oct 08, 2004 11:41 pm

http://www.geocities.com/radiocitizen/eno-tamm.zip

Tamm's book in the unconscionable Microsoft Word .doc format. Now you can ponder the delightfully simple chord progression of 'The Big Ship' and realize exactly why conventional notation misses the entire nature of music.
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Postby blue on Fri Oct 08, 2004 11:57 pm

cgc wrote:http://www.geocities.com/radiocitizen/eno-tamm.zip

Tamm's book in the unconscionable Microsoft Word .doc format. Now you can ponder the delightfully simple chord progression of 'The Big Ship' and realize exactly why conventional notation misses the entire nature of music.


I just found in PDF.

www.pdfhacks.com/eno/BE.pdf
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Postby cgc on Sat Oct 09, 2004 12:01 am

Excellent.
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Postby Jon on Sat Oct 09, 2004 10:04 am

the beatles 'invented' the flanger effect whilst at abbey road, by dicking around with tape machines and sticking pencils in them. is that composition, though?
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Postby blue on Sat Oct 09, 2004 11:56 am

Jon wrote:the beatles 'invented' the flanger effect whilst at abbey road, by dicking around with tape machines and sticking pencils in them. is that composition, though?


The flanger as an "effect" doesn't so much relate to composition in terms of content. However, Steve Reich actually used a similar technique in his two famous tape pieces "Come Out," and "It's Gonna Rain." In both pieces, Reich used two tape machines playing an identical mono loop of a short fragment of speech. He then put his hand on one of the tape reels to gradually slow down the speed, making one loop progressively more out of phase with the other. This, in turn, created "resulting patterns" which then became the focus or content of the piece.

The Beatles definately utilyzed the studio as an instrument or compositional tool. I know they used to have several tape loops running through the mixer and then bring up different levels as if playing an instrument. They were influenced by early electronic music, and have cited Stockhausen as an influence.
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Postby shagboy on Sat Oct 09, 2004 12:07 pm

the dub artists, like scratch perry, king tubby..
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Postby cgc on Sat Oct 09, 2004 1:00 pm

blue wrote:The Beatles definately utilyzed the studio as an instrument or compositional tool. I know they used to have several tape loops running through the mixer and then bring up different levels as if playing an instrument.


Probably the most extreme example of this technique is 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" which had 256 tracks of tape loops in the final mix. They filled 16 tracks with voices singing the same note for each 16 notes they wanted (over more than one octave I guess). Then those tapes were put onto another 16 track, which was mixed to stereo with the chord sequence being 'played' by bringing faders up on the desk at the right time. Probably took days to do what can be done in an hour or so on a sampler.

I would also add Teo Macero and Miles Davis to the list of subjects to study. Here's an interview about Macero's editing compositional techniques:

http://www.furious.com/perfect/teomacero.html

Some of his descriptions of what he did seem rather vague like he didn't recall or even know what he did to achieve the results. Maybe that's on purpose to perpetuate the mystique or protect his secrets? I don't know.

I would encourage you to have a focus on the cultural aspects of the technique like the impact of cut and paste, time stretching and compression, and also the way mixing changed from emphasis on melody and the voice to rhythm and texture over the years. That's the area which is most applicable outside the studio geek's perspective.

As you might have guessed by now, this is a topic on which I can discuss for hours and hours. If there was a forum dedicated to this subject I would probably waste an inordinate amount of time there. Tell me when you have had enough. ;)
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