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Representing Recording Studios of the Past: A Review Essay

Slaten, Whitney Jesse

The recording studio, a site that music makers use to represent and produce
sonic culture, is not merely a musical place. Recording studios are social,
electronic, architectural, acoustic, and creative technologies of representation.
Throughout recording processes, music industries seek to mystify
the functional status of the studio among consumers of pop music. This
encourages alienation between consumers and producers of popular music,
rendering the agency of music business interests invisible, inaudible, and
transparent. Roben Jones's Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios,
John Hartley Fox's King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records, and
Andy Bradley and Roger Wood's House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold
Star/Sugarhill Recording Studios present music scholarship with three recording
studios that significantly contributed to American popular music. These
works successfully document the local and national contexts in which these
studios produced, as well as many accounts of individuals who were involved
in the studios and specific recording sessions; however, these are books in
which the representation of recording studios weighs heavily on celebrations
of illustrious music makers and the popular music they produce. Jones and
Fox are not as careful in attending to the diverse artistic and technological
agencies of architects, carpenters, acousticians, engineers, musicians, producers,
and business people in the history of the recording studios as are Bradley
and Wood. Works such as these perpetuate readers' misunderstanding of
the complexities involved in recording studio labor and inhibit scholarly
analyses of popular music production. Representations of recording studio
life comprise a small category of scholarship on popular music.



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Current Musicology

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Columbia University
Published Here
April 9, 2014