Information: please read the reading assignment first, then write 2 – 3 pages assignment. (But make sure you consistent the last assignment Lady GaGa – Applause). I will give you some my classmate’s examples for you, so you can use their assignment. However, you cannot exactly copy their sentences and you have to apply the theory in my assignment too.
For this week’s writing assignment:
Part1: Where and how was your song recorded? Provide a brief overview based on any background information you can find. Does Harkness’s claims regarding recording studios apply to your case study? You might not have enough information to answer that question fully. If that is the case, then note where you searched for the information.
Part2: Knowing what you do about the recording process for the class song, apply what you have learned in Harkness. How is the classroom “vibe” different and what challenges and opportunities does it provide? How do non-commercially recorded songs, like those most people make, differ from the conditions Harkness describes? What aspects of Harkness’s analysis still apply to non-studio recordings?
Part3: Do likewise with the Watson and Ward article, answering the above questions and applying their analysis to your chosen song for the case study as well as to the class song recording process. Remember that the goal of these comparisons is to understand both songs in new ways as well as to critically think through the theoretical claims in the reading assignments.
The recording studio is the place where all the magic happens when writing a song. The place where an artist desires to record their song differs from singer to singer. Some will like flashy, loud recording studios while others will want mellow, calm recording studios. The recording studio sets up the beat and attitude of the song, it designs the right vibe for the artist (Watson & Ward). A recording studio allows an emotional space for the artist. For us as the audience, there should be a link to music and emotion that was made from the artist so we can fully embody the work that is put forth in the music making process. However, Harkness’ embodies how the studio is linked more to the artist. His idea is based on what the studio offers for the performer. Depending on the artist, the studio can offer a multitude of variant needs. Harkness also discusses the importance of the artist and the tech people, because there needs to be a link and harmony between these two subjects. This holds true in any recording setting because there should be some type of relationship to help the process run smoothly and effectively.
Tom Petty had the intent of writing a song with his partner Jeff Lynne. Neither had any ideas what they wanted to write about, but they claim that they never have a true, structured plan. The best songs come when you just let the thoughts come to you and this holds true to Petty’s and Lynne’s song “Free Fallin’”. Both of them were sitting in the basement as Petty fiddled on the keyboard. As if it were fate, Petty played the opening tune and Lynne heard the potential it had so he instructed Petty to play the riff again but cut it back one chord. And that’s when Lynne and Petty took off with the song. When Petty played the tune again for Lynne, he sang those introductory lyrics to the song “Free Fallin’” just to amuse Lynne but it worked and they both loved it (Olson). Petty and Lynne’s experience in songwriting has a very laidback vibe, which produces a positive environment in songwriting. It is important not to be stressed when writing a song and just let your emotions and feelings do the writing for you.
Petty’s recording environment takes on more of a stance with Watson and Ward as the recording studio being more an emotional place for the artist. Petty and Lynne wrote the song “Free Fallin’” in the comfort of their own space. Unlike Harkness, their recording studio is not similar to a casino with loud noises and flashy lights (Harkness). However, Harness’ idea of the studio making an impact on the performer does stand true to how Petty records his songs. Petty needs to be in his own quiet space for the song recording process.
Regarding our class song, I think both of our articles for this week are important. Watson and Ward takes into account that the artist should be emotionally invested into the song—this goes from their idea of emotional labour (Watson & Ward). There are positive and negative emotional spaces for the artist. Even though our singers for our class song didn’t write the song, they should still feel emotionally invested in it. To the contrary, the biggest thing I took from Harkness’ article regarding our class song is the environment—what our atmosphere for the singers do for the recording process. The environment should be a quiet, comfortable place, they should not feel distracted in the environment or you will be able to hear that from the song recording. So I think our class song takes on Harkness’ ideas because the room is free of judgment and the artists have the room to themselves mostly.
Harkness. Geoff. “Get on the Mic: Recording studios as symbolic spaces in rap music.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 26: 82-100. Web. 3 October 2016.
Olson, Cathy. “Tom Petty Originally Wrote “Free Fallin'” to Make Jeff Lynne Laugh.” Billboard. Billboard, 7 June 2016. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Watson, Allan, and Jenna Ward. “Creating the Right Vibe: Emotional Labour and Musical Performance in the Recording Studio.” Environment and Planning A 45 (2013): 2904 – 918. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Due to the modular recording style of “Heroes and Villains”, the song was recorded at many different studios from April of 1966 up through June of 1967. The track was recorded at 5 different studios: Columbia Studio A, Western Studio 3, Gold Star Studio A, Wally Heider Studio 3, as well as Brian Wilson’s Bel Air Home Studio. (The Beach Boys)
Harkness’s claims about recording studios certainly do apply in the case of “Heroes and Villains” as well as the whole “SMiLE” album. Brian Wilson believed that different places gave off different vibrations, leading to the use of different recording studios. He would even stop a recording session if he felt that a studio was giving off “bad vibrations”. He would even hold part of a recording session at one studio, then pause part way through and tell all of the musicians they were moving to another one to complete it. (Harkness) (Pohlad)
Non-studio recordings, still can be affected by the different “vibes” that are put off by the surroundings during recording. They can influence how something is recorded and performed. As part of “Heroes and Villains” was recorded in Brian Wilson’s home with very rudimentary recording technology, that can give a very different perspective while recording than recording than Gold Star Studios where Brian Wilson’s idol, Phil Spector, had recorded. This led to the lo-fi sound of “Smiley Smile”, the replacement for “SMiLE”. Dennis Wilson claimed that portions of “Heroes and Villains” vocals were recorded at the bottom of Brian Wilson’s swimming pool in order to attempt to recreate the sound of an echo chamber. All of this can show that recording in a non-traditional setting can lead to creative alternative recording methods which can greatly affect the feel of a record. (Priore)
Watson and Ward, too, write about the “vibes” that are given off while creating a recording and how the producer of a recording guides the musicians through the session. In the case of “Heroes and Villains”, Brian Wilson was the writer, performer, and the producer. Brian had ultimate control over the session, guiding the supporting musicians and arranging many of the instrumental parts on the fly by singing them to the session musicians. As the producer, he strove to create the right vibe during the recording, just as Watson and Ward wrote about. In one case, when recording the track “The Elements-Fire” for this project, he made all of the musicians wear firefighter helmets and brought a bucket of burning wood into the center of the studio. As the musicians were playing he ran around through the studio with sticks of flame to try to communicate a panicked mood. This vibe translates to the song after it was recorded. The producer plays a pivotal role in producing the proper atmosphere for a recording. Brian Wilson, as the producer and writer, knew exactly what he wanted and made sure to communicate that with everyone involved in the session. (Pohlad) (Watson and Ward)
In regards to “With You”, our session was primarily led by Adam who clearly has had much experience in the recording and mixing process. He gave us a relaxed, yet directed vibe to our session allowing us all to perform to the best of our ability with very little pressure. The classroom setting also made the session feel less urgent, as we have spent the last few weeks noodling around on our instruments in the same space.
The recording studio, whether big or small, is a place where musicians are able to construct music made for release. Even Bruce Springsteen’s, Born in the USA, that reached number nine on the Billboard 100 chart (Rose, 2014, p.1) derived from a home studio recording. Born in the USA recordings began at Springsteen’s home in Colts Neck, New Jersey on January 3, 1982(Wikipedia, n.d., p.1). But, Springsteen and his producer Jon Landau did not feel the song was ready to be released, so Springsteen returned to the song and worked on the basic elements with the E Street Band. Spring of 1982, Springsteen and his band went into a recording studio in New York City and created a hit single from many “on-the-spot” arrangements. For example, the famous drumming in the song was created during the recording session. Toby Scott, the sound engineer, quickly thought of a way to create a drum sound that would correlate with the entirety the song. A constant echo during the drum recordings came from a broken EMT plate, so Scott “took the output of [the] plate and ran it through what at that time was the only gate, a Kepex. [He] set the Kepex for an external input of the bottom snare mic and set it to close in about a second. Then, [he] fed the top snare drum mic into that reverb unit” (Buskin, 2010, p.1). From a sound engineer’s idea and the skills of drummer, Max Weinberg, a well-known drum snare was created. During an interview, Weinberg (1986) described the studio sessions by explaining, “Band members were in the booth at the sound board, [while] one member of the band at a time returned to the recording area joining in to make up their own new parts to the song that had been intended as an acoustic guitar-only song”. The final recorded track featured the “third time the unwritten version had ever been played” (Buskin, 2010, p.1). Ultimately, Born in the USA, is an extremely raw track that delivers authentic sounds and vocals from the unorganized spring studio session.
According to Geoff Harkness (2014), “Recording studios are symbolic spaces that have meaning beyond their intrinsic use value” (p.86). One of his arguments states,” By offering a space for [artists] to “work”, studios enable [musicians] to develop a style and atheistic distinctiveness that are key to their “voice,” image, and self-perception as musicians” (Harkness, 2014, p.86). Although Springsteen is not a rapper, the recording of Born in the USA, allowed an experimentation with his vocal recordings for the first time. Working with Scott, Springsteen used a different mic to create a clearer lyrical recording. The artist had trouble with being understood in his songs, and through the recording session, he was able to work on his pronunciation and create a better sounding recording that was unfamiliar to his style. By the time of his recording, Springsteen was not an amateur artist, so the recording studio serving as a symbolic space is not as relevant. But, the recording sessions did allow Springsteen and his band to experiment and continue to create fresh-sounding music.
The vibe from the classes’ recording provides a sense of authenticity through collaboration. The song is undergoing a similarly discussed recording process where, “music [is] produced, vocals [are] recorded, and songs [are] mixed and mastered” (Harkness, 2014, p. 91), but also provides a unique experience. With a classroom vibe, the song is analyzed thoroughly and recorded by the class’ musicians. The experience levels of the sound engineers and musicians vary greatly, which creates a simple vibe in addition to the class’ own perspective on the song. Artist, Ruth Maghanga, may feel as though her hard work, she created a, “professional identity that legitimized [her] pursuit of [a] career in the music industry” (Harkness,2014, p. 95). Maghanga has the opportunity to have a tangible product for her dedication and musical interests. More so, the classroom vibe allows for a large number of people to work on a single piece of work. Each individual can bring ideas and thoughts to create a product that surpasses the song’s original intentions. Although it is not recorded by a famous producer or sound engineer, the vibe unifies different creative thoughts that might not have been transformed in an official recording studio. On the other hand, the classroom vibe does not contain the same experimental expertise as a large recording studio offers. There is no million-dollar producer telling the musicians which mic to use or which sounds to draw out that will give the song a better melody. The class has to rely on the musicians’ and sound engineers’ own ideas and skill levels to create a song worthy of listening. Nonetheless, not all non-commercially recorded songs are created through a grueling and tiresome process. Harkness (2014) speaks of, “grinding in the studio” which allowed rappers “[prove] they were doing ‘real’ work” (p.94). The rappers he interviewed spent mornings and nights cranking through different tracks to create their music. For artists using home studios, they may not feel the rush or pressure when it comes to recording their music. Artists may not see their talents as a career, but more of a hobby or activity they enjoy. Also, many rappers viewed the recording studio as a place that allowed the musicians to, “make distinctions in a variety of ways that demarcate themselves as ‘true’ musicians with the ‘right’ kind of equipment who know how to use it properly” (Harkness, 2014, p. 97). Many non-commercially recorded songs may be the creative product from experimentation and collaboration. With You is a collectively recorded song that does not boast “true” musicians, but still puts forth rhythm and lyrics. Contrarily, recording spaces are “locations where a great deal of the ‘doing’ of music culture takes place” (Harkness, 2014, p.98). Recording studios allow ideas to be shared with other artists and for songs to be created. The music listeners hear on the radio, streaming playlists, or digital downloads usually derives from recorded studio sessions. Unless on a tour or playing gigs, the musicians creating non-commercially recorded songs are making the former type of music. Also, recording studios serve as spaces to create rhetoric around one’s recording approaches. Harkness (2014) describes the different artists claiming those with professional equipment were able to call themselves professionals as opposed to those lacking the gear could call themselves authentic (p.98). Non-commercially recorded songs allow artists to take their own perspective on the way the song was produced. For example, With You, can be given an authentic appeal since it was recorded and produced by students. Regardless, non-commercially recorded songs are opportunities for artists to create their own identity with their music.
The created vibe between Born in the USA and With You is not as drastic as one might think. Born in the USA was intended to be an acoustic guitar-only song, but through collaboration, the song turned into an instant hit. Watson and Ward (2013) state, “The recording studio becomes an emotional space, characterized by trust and tolerance, and free of the emotional social and feeling rules…allowing musicians to produce a desired emotional musical performance” (p.2914). Through the help of producers and engineers, the right vibe is created and assists with developing the best version of the song. Born in the USA has a feeling of authenticity which was created through the collaborative work of the band and Toby Scott. Because of its studio recording, the vibe offers a chance for listeners to connect to the meaning and lyrics of the song without being overpowered by the musical sounds. Creating the vibe was difficult because of it took place in an official studio, but through the spontaneous experimentation and communication between the engineers and the band members, the team produced the final version within three takes. On the other hand, With You’s classroom vibe was not created by sound engineers or producers. Ward and Watson (2013) claim, “The recording studio is a space of musicking (Small, 1998) in which the intimate, emotional quality of human relations is laid bare” (p. 2911) which engineers have to work with to create the right vibe. In the class song’s case, the recording is no different from the workings of the song during the entire process. Constant communication and collaboration happened between students to create the right vibe for all aspects of the song. Since the musicians are not the original composers nor artists of the song, they had to work with the sound engineers from the start to create the right vibe. From the beginning, the challenge of creating the right vibe required the work between musicians and sound engineers because With You was not any of the musicians’ own work. But, the challenge also offered an opportunity for true collaboration and relationships to be constructed. Musicians and sound engineers had to rely on each other’s perspective to produce and record the best product.
Ward and Watson(2013)discuss “Emotional labour performed by producers and engineers in creating the right ‘vibe’ [becoming] in part about feeding energy to the performer in the absence of an audience” (2911). But, many non-commercially recorded songs lack sound engineers or producers. Many times, the artists take on all roles and have to rely on their own enthusiasm and energy during the recording, mixing, and mastering of the song. When a recording is sung and engineered by the same artist, the emotional labor falls solely upon the one individual. For example, With You requires the musicians to also contribute immensely as the sound engineers to create the right vibe of the song. Although the class has sound engineers, the capacity of the work requires the musicians to play a large role in producing the song. The great extent of the two roles for one individual is unusual for commercially recorded songs. On the contrary, Ward and Watson do offer an analysis that applies to non-commercially recorded songs. For songs with deadlines such as With You, “the pressure of a recording project with often tight time constraints often means that recording is quite an intense process” (Watson & Ward, 2013, p.2909). Class musicians and sound engineers have to produce a song within a few weeks with very little time experiment and work around ideas. Also, their argument of the “vibe [being] considered a combination of both a relaxed atmosphere and an open and creative relationship between the producer/engineer and artist” (Watson & Ward, 2013, p.2911), still holds true for non-commercially recorded songs. To create the right vibe for a song and its recording space, the environment cannot be hostile and unfriendly. Songs that are recorded by sound engineers must be recorded in a vibe that offers open communication and collaboration to produce the best version. During the class song With You, the recording space must be in a cooperative environment that allows engineers to work together and offer ideas to the musicians. Although the Watson and Ward article offers a better argument for commercially recorded songs, songs like With You still require the right type of “vibe” to be created.