AHRC Research Network on Performance in the Studio (PitS)

This UK Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research network aims to develop a new methodology for studying Musical Performance in the Recording Studio but which is also applicable to a variety of other forms of creative practice in the digital age. The network time period extends over a period of nine months from the start of Oct. 2012 to the end of June 2013. This project will contribute towards the AHRC Digital Transformation theme in two quite distinct ways. Firstly it will investigate the way in which the digital revolution in recording and music production technology has affected musical performance in the studio. Techniques such as cut and paste editing, digital effects and signal processing, auto-tune and audio time correction have prompted and challenged performers to adapt their creative practice and work with record producers in the same way that actors have adapted to working in the cinema: working non-linearly and for an hypothetical audience.

In the second instance the entire methodology for the project has developed out of these digital transformations and the potential of the ‘infinite archive’. The basic premise is to use a variety of digital media to capture multiple facets of a staged example of recording and performance practice in the studio. This took the form of a recording session involving a singer / songwriter (Jo Beth Young), a record producer (Mike Howlett) and a sound engineer (Andrew Bourbon) with a small rhythm section (Chris Taylor and Jonny Bridgwood) and a string quartet (the Bergersen Quartet) plus arranger (John Cameron). Alongside several cameras filming the process from a variety of angles (and in the different rooms), there was a screen capture from the recording and editing software, equipment lists of the hardware effects, processors, microphones and mixing console, archive back ups of the session at various points and archived files of all the recorded takes as well as the ones used in the final mix. This is accompanied by interviews with the participants, analyses by various network members, responses to the analyses by the participants and discussions between the academics and the practitioners. This, along with the analyses, discussions and comments from two other network events have been made available online and this material becomes the basis for another recursion of interpretation, analysis and discussion. This unique archive of both the raw data from the study and analyses and discussion from a wide range of perspectives and approaches will be maintained online by the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production and further contributions, beyond the life of the network, will be invited and moderated. The core members of the network are Amanda Bayley (University of Bath Spa), Amy Blier-Caruthers (Royal College of Music), Anne Danielsen (University of Oslo), Mine Dogantan-Dack (Middlesex University), Morten Michelsen (University of Copenhagen), Thomas Porcello (Vassar College), Alan Williams (University of Massachusetts Lowell) and Simon Zagorski-Thomas (London College of Music, University of West London).

The network started in Oct. 2012 in time for the first event on Oct 27th/28th 2012 which was a weekend of presentations and discussions about theoretical approaches, methodological implications and planning for the staged recording. The invited guest speakers (alongside the core members) were Abigail Dolan (University of Surrey), Jan-Olof Gullo (Stockholm Royal College of Music) and John Sloboda (Guildhall School of Music & Drama). The recording itself took place in Dec. 2012. The singer / songwriter was Jo Beth Young, the producer was Mike Howlett (Flock of Seagulls, Martha & The Muffins, Joan Armatrading), the arranger was John Cameron (Donovan, Les Miserables), the drummer was Chris Taylor (Gong, The Payolas), the bass player Jonny Bridgwood (Morrissey, Kathryn Williams) and they were joined by the Bergersen String Quartet. The engineer was Andrew Bourbon. In Feb. 2013 there was a weekend symposium of analyses and discussion stemming from the recording and the interviews with the participants. In April 2013 the material was put online and contributions invited. This will build towards an online conference in Apr. 2013 that will open up the material to the wider academic and professional community for further scrutiny, analysis and discussion. This will be followed by the final weekend event in May 2013 which will discuss the merits and problems of the methodology and its potential for future applications.

The network members are:

Prof. Amanda Bayley (University of Bath Spa)

Dr. Amy Blier-Carruthers (Royal College of Music)

Prof. Anne Danielsen (University of Oslo)

Prof. Mine Dogantan-Dack (Middlesex University)

Prof. Morten Michelsen (University of Copenhagen)

Professor Thomas Porcello (Vassar College)

Dr. Alan Williams (University of Massachusetts Lowell)

Dr. Simon Zagorski-Thomas (London College of Music, UWL)