The stadium in your bedroom: functional staging, authenticity and the audience-led aesthetic in record production

Zagorski-Thomas, Simon ORCID: (2010) The stadium in your bedroom: functional staging, authenticity and the audience-led aesthetic in record production. Popular Music, 29 (2). pp. 251-266. ISSN 0261-1430

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This article will discuss how two major contributing factors, functional staging and perceived authenticity, have had and continue to have a powerful influence on the sound of record production across geographical boundaries and throughout history. Functional staging is a concept building on the idea of phonographic staging developed by William Moylan and Serge Lacasse and related to Allan Moore's ‘sound-box’. The staging of sounds in the record production process is considered to be functional if the reason for their particular placement or treatment is related to the practicalities of audience reception rather than to aesthetics. It is not a question of whether the music has a function or not but whether that function has influenced the staging of the recorded music. Thus the divergence of staging techniques used in dance music and rock music that began in the 1970s can be seen as resulting from the different functions the music was put to by the different audiences. Music that is played back through large speakers in a club for the purpose of dancing needs to maintain the clarity of the rhythmic elements and so the ‘drier’ techniques of drum and percussive instrument mixing that characterise dance music developed. Rock, however, was more frequently played back in the smaller, less ambient, home environment and so reverberation was added to simulate the atmosphere of the large-scale venue. At the same time, a variety of culturally constructed notions of authenticity have developed within different musical audiences. Why is it that Queen felt the need to inscribe ‘no synthesisers were used in the making of this album’ on their early records and yet Brian May felt entirely comfortable constructing multiple layered performance ‘patchworks’ of guitar tracks? Why might the use of one type of technological mediation be considered more or less authentic than another? Using examples taken from recordings from all around the world and from ‘art’ and ‘popular’ forms of music, this article will explore how audience-led cultural trends in recording and production practice have resulted in the particular ‘sounds’ of different recorded music genres.

Item Type: Article
Identifier: 10.1017/S0261143010000061
Subjects: Music
Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2015 15:02
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 15:42

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