What Studios Do

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Studios resist reductive analyses. Although isolated, they have their own frontstages and backstages, and like the laboratories studied by Knorr-Cetina, function as more than simply “internal environments.” The placeness of studios leaves both audible traces (the early reflections of sounds) and visible ones, if we think of those studios that become shrines or pilgrimage sites, or photo or video documentation of studios that provide the outside world a brief glimpse into the interior isolation of recording studio life. It would seem that major facilities such as Abbey Road, Ocean Way or Sun Records are emphatically not “placeless place[s]” (Gieryn 2008), nor are they decontextualized from their immediate geographic surroundings. Although atomized project studios (including bedroom studios, garages, and barns) may not immediately appear to be embedded within the social relations of a bounded local culture, many such studios are embedded within the social relations of specific online networked cultures,20 as is evinced by the vibrant online recording engineer communities that support everything from amateur acoustician pedagogy to advanced mixing techniques and even online mixing/remixing competitions. Such studios can be considered as “local anchoring points in the cultural metropolises of the global urban network” (Watson, Hoyler and Mager 2009). Knorr-Cetina (1992) suggests something similar when she discusses how laboratories function not just as “internal environments” but rather as “a link between internal and external environments, a border in a wider traffic of objects and observations”. Like their larger counterparts, project studios are acoustic environments isolated from various perceived outsides, use the very same technologies of audition to make up for the constrained paths of audibility, and similarly shape the kinds of musical and social practices that can transpire within (even if this shaping process effectively restricts the studio’s usage to a single musician at a time). I argue that the more we wish to understand the vibe and sound of the studios, the more we may wish to consider the studio as an active agent in the process of recording production, an actor in the social worlds that inhabit its very wombs and bunkers
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Archival date: 2022-05-08
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