“Recording In Progress” celebrates the art of music recording and questions its future

Outside of live performances, every note of music you’ve heard in your life has been electronically processed before it reaches your ear. Recording, mixing and mastering capture the moments of inspiration as they pass, maximize their sonic potential and preserve them in perpetuity. The technology for doing this has continuously evolved since the birth of recorded music in the second half of the 19th century. Portable microphones and tape recorders enabled the recording of folk music in open fields and hotel rooms in the 1920s. Later, luxury recording studios were designed to user-friendly audio specifications. Eventually, luxury facilities were built where artists closed off the world for months to immerse themselves in the creative experience. Nowadays, people record music at home on their laptops, upload it to the Internet and become superstars.

The 2018 documentary Current record defends the professional recording studio and examines how it has been impacted by digital technology, both good and bad. It was produced by Justin L. Fisher, a musician and sound engineer who is a veteran of St. Louis’ SmithLee Productions, a full-service commercial recording studio that has weathered many of the storms currently rocking the industry. music and recording. It is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

RECORDING IN PROGRESS DOCUMENTARY
Photo: Gravitas Ventures

Current record describes the recording studio in mythical terms, the sacred mountain where musical ideas magically transform into artistic masterpieces. Producer Matt Ross-Spang likens them to “Templar Knight churches”, audio technology professor Mark Rubel calls them “temples of sound” and studio engineer Jason McEntire describes them as “the safe space where an artist can go”. In theory, the perfect studio should provide an environment where the musician can focus solely on their performance and offer limitless sonic possibilities to ignite their imagination and bring their compositions to life.

In their heyday, recording studios were built from the ground up with clinical precision to maximize their audio quality and comfort level. They required a lot of space and expensive wood for reception rooms, isolation cabins and control centers. Recording equipment was expensive, and many studios were equipped with high-end instruments that the musicians themselves could not afford. As engineer Gary Gottlieb tells us, “We could have anything we wanted. We had all the best studios, we had all the best equipment, the best musicians, the best engineers, the best producers, the best writers. Recording was not cheap, and artists were often at the mercy of their labels to fund recording sessions.

Beginning in the 1980s, advances in digital technology made recording both more affordable and more portable. A decade later, digital file sharing would wreak havoc on music revenue streams by essentially making all recorded music free. While audio streaming was seen as an updated means of distribution, its current royalty rates only benefit the biggest artists. Recording studios felt the pinch on both sides, as record labels slashed their recording budgets to make up for losses and artists were increasingly able to deliver home recordings good enough to be went out.

Producer Eric “Mixerman” Sarafin says, “The music industry is just a little microcosm of the crap in the whole fucking system right now. As in many industries, wages have stagnated since the mid-1980s while costs have risen. The key to the survival of today’s recording studios has been to adapt. While some studios now offer a wider range of services, from television music to record manufacturing, others have downsized. Is this a perfect solution? No. Has anything been lost? Yes. As Gary Gottlieb notes, a generation of listeners and musicians who have only ever heard music on headphones or their laptop speakers, “didn’t know how good music could sound.” Tragically, many legendary recording studios have closed.

While Current record no shortage of grumpy middle-aged men lamenting the state of music, he’s also realistic about where the industry is heading and recognizes the benefits of new technology. The democratizing effect of laptop recording and internet marketing has enabled a new generation of artists who, in the words of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Richard Fortus, are “unaffected by labels and producers and the people who tell them how it should be”. Musicality and recording quality sometimes suffer, but not everyone wants to record in a state-of-the-art facility or create pristine recordings. Home recording allows musicians to be “improvised,” according to St. Louis musician Andy White, who says, “It can be cheap and crappy and still have personality.”

While Current record no shortage of grumpy middle-aged men lamenting the state of music, he’s also realistic about where the industry is heading and recognizes the benefits of new technology.

While Current record‘ the intentions are impeccable, its execution could be better. Beautifully filmed, it has an overabundance of incredibly smart people saying very smart things, so much so that it’s reminiscent of a highlight reel rather than a narrative documentary. At about an hour, it feels rushed and Fisher would have done well to focus on less for longer. However, his affection for the subject and his optimism overcome all faults. Rather than dwell on an idealized past, the film accepts a complicated future, where the recording studio has gone from “a posh place with beautiful wooden walls and floors”, as Gary Gottlieb puts it, to “n anywhere talented people gather and create.”

Benjamin H. Smith is a New York-based writer, producer, and musician. Follow him on Twitter:@BHSmithNYC.

look Current record on Amazon Prime

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