default_mobilelogo

Lipsmacks, mouth noises, and heavy breathing

 

Steve Savage

San Francisco State University

  This paper examines the intersection of the technical part of the recording process and some of the sounds that singers make outside of the words they sing.  Besides investigating the practical consequences of manipulating these non-verbal sounds I will try to draw out the significance for the listener – what we might say about how the recording process effects our experience of these non-verbal sounds and how their altered perception might affect our experience of the music.  Before getting too far into the theoretical effects I will examine the some of the audible artifacts of the recording process on some of these sounds that singer’s make.  As the title suggests, I have divided these into three general categories:  lipsmacks, mouth noises and heavy breathing.

Lipsmacks

    I use the term lipsmacks to refer to a kind of non-verbal sounds that sometimes occur between singer’s words.  A lipsmack is most commonly caused by opening the mouth in preparation to sing a word.  The separation of the two lips can cause an audible ‘smacking’ or clicking type sound.  This may be an occasional occurrence that passes relatively unnoticed or it may be a common occurrence that can become a major distraction in a vocal performance.  One artist that I have worked with, the blues singer Freddie Hughes, is unable to stop himself from frequent and loud lipsmacks between vocal lines.  These sounds – distracting clicks that are not even identifiable as part of the vocal performance – have plagued his recordings.  Prior to the advent of computer-based editing techniques there were simply too many of these sounds, too closely place to critical vocal production, to remove them from the final recording.  In the computer it’s a relatively simple matter to remove the clicks and to create inaudible transitions around the places where the sound has been removed.  [audio clips:  Freddie Hughes isolated vocal with lipsmack, then vocal in track with and without lipsmacks]
    This simple action opens many questions about altering musical performances.  Given that nothing in a recording can be truly ‘original’ – that is, identical to the source – what is essential to a singer’s performance?  Are all alterations beyond the inevitable translation of source to recording to be considered anathema?  Intentional alterations of original recordings are most often associated with negative connotations – the most extreme example might be the current and rampant use of programs that allow pitch-fixing of a singer’s poor intonation.  We will look more into the question of values in regards to these types of processes (though pitch-fixing is beyond the scope of this particular paper).  Suffice it to say that here at the beginning I have tried to demonstrate one example of performance alteration that might be seen as generally positive benign in terms of its affect on the substance of the performance.  It has certainly been a great relief to Freddie as it has allowed him to make a record that didn’t have a bunch of distracting and unmusical clicks and pops on it.

Mouth noises

    By mouth noises I am referring to sounds that the mouth makes while singing certain words – artifacts of word production that are not a normal or necessary part of the word itself.  These mouth noises are frequently amplified by various aspects of the recording process, making them much more audible than they would be in a live, acoustic setting.  Two common such artifacts are popped “p’s” and excessive sibilance.  Popped “p’s” are created when the explosive kind of exhalation that might accompany a particularly expressive hard consonant is sung directly into a microphone (“p’s” are the most common offenders but any hard consonant might produce this effect).  The effect of this exhalation is to vibrate the diaphragm of the microphone in a way that produces a relatively loud after-effect – a popped “p”.   As with a lipsmack, this may be perceived as a distracting, non-verbal artifact of the recording process.  A popped “p” is in some sense ‘natural’ – a result of a natural vocal occurrence – but it is so amplified and altered by its effect on the microphone as to make it somewhat ‘unnatural’ to the ear.  
    Thanks to digital processing power of computer based recording/editing systems we can usually eliminate the effect of the popped “p”.  This is done by isolating the popped “p” and filtering out most of the low frequencies.  This generally removes the ‘pop’ – the explosive sound that follows the initial articulation of the ‘p’ sound – while retaining the high frequency transients that make up the majority of the actual “p” sound.  Bob Dylan’s original recorded performance of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” contains many popped “p’s” on lines such as “Where the sad-eyed prophets say that no man comes.”  [audio clip – Bob Dylan with and without ‘popped-p’]  
    We may not be on clear-cut ground here relative to the value of this kind of editing.  Do we like the Dylan performance more or less with the popped “p’s”?  Does the vocal performance have more or less impact with the popped “p’s”?  If the popped “p’s” had been removed before the record was released would we have missed them?  I will return to these questions but first I will consider another of these types of recording artifacts.  
Excessive sibilance is a part of vocal performance that may also be an artifact of recording.  The enormous about of high-frequency information in the sound of sung “esses” might be amplified by a variety of recording techniques.  Compression, short delay and hi-frequency EQ  [1] may all serve to bring an unnatural level of the “s” sound to the recording of a vocal performance and may further slur and distort that “s” sound in the process.  As with popped “p’s” there are techniques for taming this excessive sibilance – primarily with a processing device called, appropriately enough, a “de-esser”.  De-essers automate a volume reduction in the sibilance, making the “esses” quieter and thus less intrusive and more in line with what their level might be in a live, acoustic performance situation.  However, when the sibilance has undergone so much processing as to become smeared and distorted it is not possible to “fix” it with a “de-esser.”  The volume of the “s” may be reduced but in these cases the recording process has changed the nature of the sound in a way that can’t be undone without undoing the process.  This ‘undoing’ may be an option if the processing is done after the original recording is made so that the offending processor might be removed.  
    So many modern recordings have instances of very exaggerated sibilance that could be avoided.  Why isn’t it?  Clearly some producers and artists enjoy the rather artificial affect of very pronounced sibilance.  A good example is on the line “sound of the stereo” from a recent Green Day song called “American Idiot”. [audio clip – Green Day]  Perhaps the added and unnatural sibilance serves to underscore singer Billy Joe Armstrong’s vitriolic sentiment and delivery. This degree of exaggerated sibilance would not have been possible in the age of the vinyl disc.  Hi-frequency transients require very jagged grooves in vinyl in order to be reproduced and if they are too prominent the needle is unable to track the grooves and the record will skip.  In the age of vinyl recordings engineers had to monitor and reduce transient levels, especially sibilance, to avoid recordings that skipped.
    In regards to these kind of unnatural vocal sounds we might ask how many people actually notice anything odd or distracting in Dylan’s ‘p’s or Billy Joe’s “esses”?  Again, as we asked in regards to Dylan’s “p’s”, do we like hearing the exaggerated ‘esses’ in Billy Joe’s performance?  Unlike with Freddie Hughes where I think it’s clearly an advantage to have rid ourselves of those distracting sounds, we might like the sense of passion created by the unnatural “p’s” and “esses”.  We might like the feeling that we are almost inside Dylan’s mouth – and indeed this effect is caused by the microphone being unnaturally close to the mouth when the recording is made causes this effect. Are these unnaturally heightened vocal artifacts a kind of manufactured passion?  Perhaps, but in all likelihood the listener simply accepts the sound of the recording without questioning whether or not it is “natural” or preferable.

Heavy Breathing

    The most obvious and prevalent non-verbal sound produced by singers is the breaths between phrases.  It is here that we also find the most obvious and prevalent kind of manipulations of these sounds by recording engineers and producers.  The sense of exaggerated breathing in vocal performance may, in part, simply be part of an exaggerated performance.  Vocalists may wish to emphasis the physical production of singing by dramatic emphasis on the breaths between phrases.  However, there are technical aspects of recording that may also significantly affect the volume level of the singer’s breaths.  The most common of these is compression.
    Compression reduces the dynamic range of a vocal performance and thereby increases the volume of quiet sounds relative to loud sounds.  This means that the singer’s breaths, normally quieter in volume than the actual singing, will be raised in relative volume and sound louder.  [2] Compression is used in part to even out a vocalists performance, to make it more consistent in level and thereby easier to follow both lyrics and vocal nuance.  It is also used to add dramatic presence, to put the vocal more “in your face” – that is, by reducing the dynamics the vocal presence is more constant and therefore feels closer.  Again, this is partially a product of close miking techniques, but it is also magnified by the use of compression.  The increase in volume of the breaths is part of the added presence and perhaps of the sense of drama.  Is this affectation?  The relative volume of the breaths is created artificially but the breaths themselves are critically real.  
    This phenomenon is not new to the digital age of recording and reproduction.  The spectacular vocal performance on the 1970 recording of Steve Wonder singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” features very prominent between line breathing that is clearly pumped up through compression.  [audio clip – Stevie Wonder].  However, contemporary recordings digitally created and reproduced, may show even more obvious effects of compression.  This is partially due to new tools of compression in the digital domain (especially a very powerful kind of compression called ‘brick-wall limiting’  [3]) and aided by the ability of CD’s to reproduce denser audio that was possible on vinyl records.  There are many examples of this kind of deep compression in contemporary popular music.  While the effect can be heard across the entire program material it is most noticeable on the vocal – especially in the volume of the breaths.  A clear example of this would be on the track “Cruel” by Tori Amos [audio clip – Tori Amos].
    The superior editing capabilities of computer-based audio recording have affected the status of singer’s breaths.  The removal or replacement of singer’s breaths has become commonplace.  This is a result of the kind of close scrutiny done to vocal performance – listened to and analyzed in isolation (a capella) – along with the simplicity of excising any element cleanly and completely.  Under these circumstances I often get singers asking me to remove certain breaths, or sometimes almost all of the breaths, because they become self-conscious about how the breaths sound.  If it sounds too empty without the breath I might grab a breath from a different part of the performance and insert it.  Frequently choices between breaths must be made as one edits together different takes of a vocal performance.  In editing together two lines one has the choice of the breath at the end of the first part of the edit or the breath at the beginning of the second.  So manipulation or elimination of breaths has become very common in contemporary production.  One might consider some or all of this activity to be harmless, perhaps meaningless, or one might consider the widespread removal of breaths to be a kind of sterilization of vocal performance.  In any event, this is another example of the more dramatic kinds of manipulation of performance made possible by computer-based recording platforms.
    What would seem clearly an advantage in removing distracting sounds on the Freddie Hughes vocal, and a judgment call on Dylan and Green Day where artifacts of the recording process may or may not be perceived as desirable, runs the gamut when it comes to breaths.  From the removal of breaths, to the replacement of an awkwardly sounding breath, to the alteration of the sound or level of breaths, one’s judgment as to the appropriateness of such behavior may range from positive to negative.  Contemporary production opens many such complex questions in regards to the relationship of original performance to final recorded version.  Some of the production techniques discussed here may cause us to re-evaluate these relationships, or at least to confront them under new circumstances.

A Theoretical Basis

    Roland Barthes is a valuable point of reference in attempting to draw meaning from the manipulations of recorded audio that I’ve just described.  In his seminal essay “The Grain of the Voice” (1977) Barthes attempts to describe what he considers the most important qualities of the ‘sound’ of the voice. He chooses to call these qualities ‘grain’.  Although Barthes speculates as to whether he is the only one hearing this ‘grain’ – he wonders whether he is hallucinating this quality that he is attempting to describe – what he does know is that if it exists, it as at the margin of our ability to describe it, and as such it is  “able to bear traces of significance, to escape the tyranny of meaning” (185).  This phrase “tyranny of meaning” evokes the ineffable element of the music experience.  Barthes is acknowledging that while he may be attempting to describe the indescribable, he remains committed to the venture.
Barthes appeals to concerns beyond the phenomenon of vocal production (what he calls the ‘pheno-voice’) to that place where the sound of the voice encounters language (‘geno-voice’).  If genotype is the genetic makeup of an organism, as opposed to its physical characteristics, then geno-voice is the underlying coding or ‘DNA’ of vocal production.  It is the essence of the voice that Barthes seeks to describe and comment on.  Barthes identifies this critical subtext as residing in the kind of non-verbal parts of vocal production that we’ve just listened to. What Barthes wants to hear from his singers is “the tongue, the glottis, the teeth, the mucous membranes, the nose” (183).  For Barthes these are the elemental qualities of vocal production.  Certainly the physicality of Dylan’s “p’s” and Billy Jo’s “esses” participate in this subtext of vocal production.  The fact that the recording process substantially alters these sounds (consciously or not  [4]) opens questions of intentionality but doesn’t alter their participation in Barthes' ‘grain’.  And the issues that might surround their intentionality are as present for the choices made by the live performer as they are for the manipulations of the recording engineer.  Popped “p’s” and sibilant “esses” are not just artifacts of recording; they would not be created by the process without there first being a certain kind of emphasis (or intentionality) on the part of the singer.
When it comes to breaths, however, Barthes isolates them as separate from the sounds made in the throat, the mouth and the nose.  He identifies breaths as part of the pheno-voice, part of vocal production, and makes it clear that the ‘grain’ that he craves from singers is not just a bodily function but also physicality and sexuality.  This comes in the context of Barthes’ discussion of two well-known opera singers, Fischer-Dieskau and Panzera.  In dismissing Fischer-Dieskau as without ‘grain’ he notes that his singing is “beyond reproach…yet nothing seduces…(the diction is dramatic, the pauses, the checkings and releasings of breath, occur like shudders of passion) and hence never exceeds culture:  here it is the soul which accompanies the song, not the body” (183).  Whereas with Panzera, with whom Barthes perceives this illusive ‘grain’, “you never heard him breathe but only divide up the phrase” (183).  Clearly it is not transcendence that Barthes’ seeks from his singers, but what is it about Panzera’s unheard breath that yields this ‘grain’?  I don’t believe it’s so much the actual breath that he’s referring to but rather the reliance on breath for expression.  He refers to the pedagogy that elevates singer’s breathes to a “myth of respiration” (183) and it is this interpretation of breaths which he wishes to deflate. He is reclaiming (at least) his own pleasure in listening to vocalists by privileging the more mundane realm of the physical and the visceral.  
It is difficult for me to relegate Stevie Wonder’s breathing in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” to some vaunted realm of spirituality or transcendence.  If any non-verbal sounds call up Barthes’ geno-voice this part of Wonder’s performance would certainly qualify for me.  Perhaps this variance from Barthes can be understood by accepting pop vocal production as essentially different than classical.  Breathing has not achieved this mythic status of transcendence in pop vocal pedagogy (to the extent that such a thing even exists) and this might leave Wonder’s breaths more free to participate in Barthes’ ‘grain’.  A similar divergence from classical vocal production is heard in the propensity toward vibratoless singing in pop music.  This not only dramatically differentiates it from classical vocal style but it also speaks to an escape from the kind of pretension of interpretation that I think Barthes is hearing in classical vocalist’s breathing.  
Unfortunately, some of the computer-based work on non-verbal sounds tends to eliminate anything below the level of surface meaning – bits of both Barthes’ pheno-voice and geno-voice are excised.  The ease of computer-based editing, combined with vocalist’s tendency toward self-consciousness and the recording culture’s sometimes obsession with a kind of perfection that promotes sterility, means that a significant number of popular recordings have breaths and other artifacts either occasionally or completely removed.  Yet, there is also the various technical aspects of recording techniques that heighten many non-verbal sounds – the effects of compression, equalisation, delay and the like produce some of the artifacts such as the “p’s” and “esses” described above.  What we never really get is a simple reproduction of what actually happened inside the singer’s mouth.  This conscious manipulation of vocal sounds that are produced at the visceral level takes us well beyond core issues of original versus copy or basic questions regarding the status of reproduction.  The results are specific and unique to vocal recording and are also part of the evolution of the culture’s acceptance of sounds that didn’t previously exist.  That is to say that we have come to accept the effects of heavy compression or equalisation as ‘normal’ within the context of recorded music.  As a culture we have absorbed these anomalies into our aural vocabulary.

Paradigms Unraveled

Barthes wants to “disengage this ‘grain’ from the acknowledged values of vocal music [and uses a] twofold opposition,…theoretical, between the pheno-text and the geno-text [and] paradigmatic, between two singers” (181).   Following his example we might balance some further analysis in this same twofold way focusing on the practical examples that we have observed in popular music recordings.
In a forthcoming essay on musical collage, Nicholas Cook draws a link between Barthes two essays “The Third Meaning” (which is about film analysis) and “The Grain of the Voice”. Barthes calls his ‘third meaning’ “the one ‘too many’, the supplement that my intellection cannot succeed in absorbing, at once persistent and fleeting, smooth and elusive, I propose to call it the obtuse meaning’” (54).  For Barthes this is “outside (articulated) language while nevertheless within interlocution” – that is, part of the discussion but non-verbal – “a signifier without a signified, hence the difficulty in naming it” (61).  Although he identifies this ‘obtuse meaning’ within the context of his film analysis he is clearly suggesting the same thing when describing the ‘grain’ of the voice.  Cook identifies this obtuse meaning as being repressed by the overt meaning – which is to say, in the context of the current discussion, that we miss the message of the non-verbal sounds as our attention is focused on the delivery of the verbal portion.  What we miss in this process, according to Cook, is the  “defamiliarization of the everyday; and its ineffability” (20).  For Cook this resonates with other modern forms of creative expression such as surrealism.  [5] For me this calls to mind the “p’s”, “esses” and breaths under discussion.  And though these sounds may be simply lost to the listener if they focus only on the words being sung, they may also be actually removed by the power of digital audio editing.  Such removal may mean that even the possibility of tuning in to the ineffable is lost to the hegemony of the everyday (the lyrics alone).  
Cook notes that Barthes’ analysis of the two opera singers includes this:  “While Fischer-Dieskau's singing is the perfect expression of everything that can be said about music, Panzera's represents ‘the materiality of the body speaking its mother tongue’ (Barthes 182): it expresses everything about music that cannot be said” (Cook 20).  Ultimately Barthes acknowledges that his idea of ‘grain’ is a part of the ineffable quality of music and as much as he attempts to identify its qualities, music in general and ‘grain’ in particular continue to resist any such interpretations.  Barthes opens his essay with a rhetorical question: “How, then, does language manage when it has to interpret music?” which he answers: “Alas, it seems, very badly” (179).  Yet, to the extent that Barthes can locate ‘grain’, it is in the close association of voice to physicality.  And again, the “p’s”, “esses” and breaths under discussion are certainly a step away from musical expression (Fisher-Dieskau) and toward the corporeal (Panzera).
    More recent cultural theory has further embraced the value of the nuance of vocal production and its physicality.  In Susan McClary’s afterward to a recent edition of Jacques Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music she expands on Attali’s notion of composition — for him an all-encompassing construct much broader than our traditional idea of composition.  McClary sees evidence of Attali’s hopeful composition model of music production in marginalized groups of the late 70’s ‘new wave’:  “All are people who have managed not to be silenced by the irrational framework, who are dedicated to injecting back into music the noise of the body, of the visual, of emotions, and of gender” (157).  
In Performing Rites Simon Frith balances the destructive and constructive forces of the recording process in a manner that also privileges something that may be akin to Barthes’ ‘grain’.  In analyzing the interaction between the listener and the performer he notes that:  “The presence of even a recorded sound is the presence of the implied performer” (Frith 215 – italics mine).  The use of ‘even’ in this context belies the possibility of an enhanced presence of the recorded voice, but he adds that the recorded performer’s voice does have a strong physical presence for the listener: “—the performer [is] called forth by the listener—and this is clearly a sensual/sexual presence, not just a meeting of minds” (Frith 215).  And, although it is in the context of differing qualities of popular music genres (in this case the reference is to ‘pop’  [6]) Frith acknowledges the ways in which recordings may surprise us with an added layer of intimacy: “It is as if the recording of music—its closeup effect—allows us to recreate, with even greater vividness, the ‘art’ and ‘folk’ experiences which the recording process itself destroys” (226-27).  I especially like the use of “close-up effect” and “vividness” here to describe qualities of recordings (separate from the qualities of live performance) that might be closely linked to Barthes’ vocal ‘grain’.  They also describe qualities that are easily associated with the prominent “p’s”, “esses” and breaths that I have noted.
Others have commented on this increased intimacy afforded by the microphone.  Paul Théberge notes this effect as essential to the singers performance, the microphone becoming the initial and primary object of the singers attention, before any concern for the real or imagined audience.  Théberge briefly notes that the experience of Barthes’ ‘grain of the voice’  “has been subtly influenced by the intercession of the microphone” (5), though as we shall see, Barthes himself did not apparently embrace such a notion.

Personal Hallucinations

At the beginning of Barthes’ essay he asks, “Are we condemned to the adjective?  Are we reduced to the dilemma of either the predicable or ineffable?” (180).  His answer is no – instead it is “better to change the musical object itself, as it presents itself to discourse, better to alter its level of perception or intellection, to displace the fringe of contact between music and language.” (180-81)   And Barthes proceeds to do just that, not only to challenge the language that is used to describe the experience of a singer’s voice but to challenge what is valued in “the musical object itself” to suit his own experience (and love) of music.  His analysis fails to recognize (or perhaps accept) the various ways the application of recording techniques may be participating in his relationship to this experience.
    Here I have argued that the conscious manipulation of vocal sounds by the recording process participates in Barthes’ notion of ‘grain’.  I’ve tried to show how Barthes idea of ‘grain’ may be seen to reside both in the singer and in the recording of the singer.  This is a personal vision but it is reinforced by the culture’s acceptance of sounds that didn’t previously exist prior to recording.  Many of these sounds have come into being or become much more prominent only in the context of the digital age of recording and reproduction.  Slowly but inexorably they have become a part of our aural vocabulary.  Recordings amplify and expand sounds, especially non-verbal vocal sounds, such that they takes on new forms and, perhaps, new meanings.  How did Barthes feel about the effects of recording?  On the surface not very positively: “today, under the pressure of the mass long-playing record, there seems to be a flattening out of technique; which is paradoxical in that the various manners of playing are all flattened out into perfection: nothing is left but pheno-text” (189).  I think here Barthes is only looking at the surface effects of the recording process on some performers.  Were he to have allowed his own radicalizing viewpoint that created the idea of the ‘grain of the voice’ to be focused on some of these artifacts of vocal recordings I think he might have come to a broader appreciation for the recording process.
If at the outset of the essay Barthes boldly launches the discourse out past the clearly predicable, in the midst of his essay he feels compelled to question his endeavor. Is he reading qualities into voices? is he the only one perceiving this? “am I hearing voices within the voice? but isn’t it the truth of the voice to be hallucinated?” (184).  He certainly doesn’t claim to have exhausted the significance of the phonetics that he is analyzing here, and thus perhaps opening the door for the arguments I am making.  For Barthes this work of his is most valuable in holding “in check the attempts at expressive reduction operated by a whole culture against the poem and its melody.” (184)  He is trying to inject the creative element into his analysis of creative expression.  One may be accused of hallucinating if one strays beyond that which is easily predicable but Barthes insists on the value of this, indeed on the necessity of this, in the study of musical meaning.  This is not simply a value judgment.  To look at this physicality of the voice, this ‘grain’, yields individual evaluation but it is not ‘subjective’ – it isn’t the subject that is reinforced – rather the intention is to lose the subject.  It’s the value that is outside of culture and “hidden behind ‘I like’ or “I don’t like’” (188).
From the very beginning of sound recording the technology has interacted with the vocal source to alter the nature of the voice itself.  As we have seen, contemporary recording techniques may further alter certain aspects of vocal production – especially those sounds in the mouth and throat that are of particular interest to Barthes and his notion of ‘grain’.  I am arguing that these non-verbal effects, these hyper-real sounds from the mouth,  [7] also have the potential to pull us back to Barthes’ poem and melody. In the end do we understand Dylan better with his popped “p’s”– or Green Day’s Billie Joe better through his amplified “esses”?  Do these obscure or enhance our experience of these singers?  In the same non-subjective way Barthes describes, these artifacts may heighten rather that flatten – favor geno-text over pheno-text – perhaps adding ’grain’ as a part of the processing of recorded audio – though of course I may be hallucinating this.  Is this ‘true grain’ or is this artificial ‘grain’?  Without judgment I hope we might at least acknowledge that I, for one, do hear ‘grain’ as a part of the ways recording has altered these vocal performances.  [8]

Works Cited

Attali, Jacques.  (1977)  Noise:  The Political Economy of Music, afterward Susan McClary   (1985).  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Barthes, Roland (1977). Image, Music, Text, transl. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill & Wang.
Baudrillard, Jean (1994).  Simulacra and Simulation, transl. Sheila Faria Glaser.  Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press
Cook, Nicholas (forthcoming).  “Uncanny moments:  Juxtaposition and the collage principle in music”.  
Frith, Simon (1996).  Performing Rites.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.
Huber, David Miles and Robert E. Runstein (1977).  Modern Recording Techniques.  Fourth Edition.  Boston:  Focal Press.
Katz, Bob (2002).  Mastering Audio: the art and the science.  Boston: Focal Press.
Théberge, Paul. “‘Plugged in’: technology and popular music.” The Cambridge Companion to Pop & Rock,  Eds. Simon Frith, Will Straw and John Street. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 3-25.

 Notes:

  1. For a discussion of these basic audio processing techniques see most any introductory recording text such as Huber and Runstein’s Modern Recording Techniques.
  2. Again, for a discussion of the technical aspects of recording see most any introductory recording text such as Huber and Runstein’s Modern Recording Techniques.
  3. Much has been written on this subject.  For a discussion of the finalizing aspects of CD production see Bob Katz, Mastering Audio especially pp. 128 – 132
  4. Does it matter that in Dylan’s time it would not have been possible to ‘fix’ those popped ‘p’s’ whereas the Billy Jo’s slurred ‘esses’ are intentionally created?  What about fixing Dylan’s “p’s” now that it is possible?  Is this akin to removing surface noise and pops on old records for reissue?  How about colorizing old black and white films?  This opens a whole other discussion around intentionality, authenticity and aesthetics.
  5. The full reference to surrealism from Cook’s essay is as follows: “Another way of putting this would be that it is the locus of the uncanny, which for Freud (1953) was distinguished by three things, all characteristic of Barthes' obtuse meaning: its linkage to repressed mental contents (repressed, in this case, by the overt meaning that forms the focus of film criticism); its defamiliarization of the everyday; and its ineffability. The resonances with Breton and Miller on surrealist and material objects are palpable.”  p. 20 from the manuscript.
  6. Frith is setting “pop” against “folk” and “art” as the three stages of music history “organized around a different technology of musical storage and retrieval” (Frith 226). 
  7. I intend to expand on this idea, drawing from Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation and his notion of the hyper-real. to look more closely at how these ‘artificial’ sounds created from real sounds feed into our culture’s relationship to technology.
  8. As this paper is being written a new piece of software called Throat has been introduced that claims to provide the following powers of vocal processing. “Throat's controls allow you to modify the voice's glottal waveform as well as the ability to globally stretch, shorten, widen, or constrict the modeled vocal tract. For more detailed control, the graphical Throat Shaping display lets you adjust the position and width of five points in the vocal tract model, from the vocal cords, through the throat, mouth, and out to the lips. Breathiness controls variable frequency noise in the model, resulting in a range of vocal effects from subtle breathiness, to raspiness, to a full whisper.” This is especially interesting in light of this discussion, adding more layers of possibility interaction between recording techniques and Barthes’ idea of ‘grain’.