Ruth Dockwray

Designing the rock/pop sound-box, 1966-72 (01/11/07)

Stereophony has significantly impacted the way songs are produced and experienced, enabling the creation of a performance that exists exclusively on the record – this virtual performance can be conceptualised in terms of the ‘sound-box’ (Moore 1992), a four-dimensional virtual space. Within this, sounds can be located through: lateral placement within the stereo field; foreground and background placement due to volume; height according to sound vibration frequency; and time. The period from the mid 1960 to the early 1970s saw the gradual establishment of a ‘normative’ position for sound-sources within the sound-box, which we term the ‘diagonal mix’. In this talk I shall discuss the results of an AHRC-funded project to investigate the establishment of this normative mix. Using 3D rendering software, I will illustrate the diversity of sonic placement in tracks across the years (1966-72) and different styles (psychedelic rock, hard rock and easy listening). The main sound-box configurations, including the disparate mixes evident in the mid1960s and the normative mix will be presented by means of a ‘taxonomy of mixes’. The findings will in turn be related to established theoretical production norms, as in David Gibson’s Art of Mixing (2005) and various reasons for the adoption of the normative mix will be addressed.

Department of Computing, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

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