The 'sound' of music: technological rationalization and the production of popular music

Journal: 
Issue: 
Summer 1989
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Theberge brings together Max Weber’s arguments about music and Jurgen Habermas’ ideas about interaction in a discussion of the role of studio mixing on popular music in the latter half of the twentieth century. While in earlier periods a recorded track was seen as an authentic record of a given performance, sophisticated technology subsequently made it possible to record different elements separately, and even at different times. The ‘sound’ of a track became more important, and the use of stereo techniques made the end result even more artificial, as, for example, the different elements of the drum kit appear to be spaced out around a virtual room. With Les Paul’s development of overdubbing, the vocalist would be brought in separately from the musicians, leading to a privileging of the vocals over other elements of the songs. As Chris Cutler has observed, the ‘myth of community’ of bands became even more of a sham as they didn’t even need to be in the same room when recording an album.

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