Music Production, Processing and Analysis Group

Research that contributes to new techniques and technologies for interacting with sound as well as those that respond to such developments in the studio and understand them from a human and cultural perspective.

Recording Footnotes: manifesting production

Footnotes is an ongoing project involving recordist Jez Wells, composer William Brooks and performer Stefan Östersjö. Footnotes (1983-86) is a piece for guitar where the composer adopts several different ‘masks or personae’. When performed these masks interact with those (the different instruments, techniques etc.) of the performer. Now this piece is undergoing an additional set of transformations as it is rendered as a permanent audio object for release as a recording. Each movement requires a different recording technique, evocations of different eras and levels of agency via production technique and technology. There are no absolutely distinct roles in this process: all contribute to editing, processing and mixing. Pieces of technology are ‘played’, textures realised by production processes are ‘composed’ into the fabric of the audio. These multiple masks of composer, performer and engineer (and the notion of ‘producer’ that emerges from the interactions between them) interact in highly complex ways as a score and preparation materials that have existed for thirty years are performed, recorded and processed into being a fixed representation of the sound of Footnotes.

In order to explore and fully understand this process every aspect is recorded as video and audio. Every take, but also every control-room discussion and outcome has been captured in a multimedia ethnography which illustrates how the roles of composer, performer and engineer (along with how each of those contribute to a process of audio production) have interacted to create this audio object.

‘The “voices” not only blend but mutate, reveal, and conceal. It is these interactions, especially in the recording and post-editing environments that are the focus of this study. In this process, composer, performer, and engineer each assume different ‘persona’, different ‘subjectivities’ in making their contributions to the work. Rather than manifesting a single personality with well defined characteristics, each makes and then wears a series of masks; the ‘real’ self is, inevitably, forever concealed. The act of collaboration, intrinsic to making a recording, then becomes a kind of fictive dialogue between disparate characters.’ (W. Brooks, S. Östersjö & J. Wells ‘Footnotes – Many Feet, Many Notes, Many Masks’, Orpheus Instituut 20 Years: Rethinking the Practices of Music, Ghent, Belgium, November 2016).