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Author Topic: the role of an engineer in relation to art  (Read 9289 times)

bobkatz

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #30 on: December 29, 2005, 04:50:46 pm »

Colin Frangos wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 16:13



But anything beyond creating a solid, balanced mix should be the realm of the band. What mics are used, where they're placed - these are generally analytical decisions. If there's creativity involved, it's pretty minimal.





Then I guess you haven't been on one of my sessions Smile. For me it's far more than just putting up mikes and getting a clean sound to tape. The distance of the microphones from the performers during the tracking, their position, choice, the very acoustical environment I choose to use are all based on the concept of the band and the  concept of the song. I can't stress how MUSICAL those decisions are. Yes, it's part of a craft, just as a musician's learning his scales are part of his craft. But just as a musician who has intuited his scales and turned them into muscle memory TRANSCENDS that knowledge to create his art, the same with the craftsman. I'm not saying that we play the notes for the musicians, but I am saying that an engineer having a holistic understanding of what the muscians are trying to create and going beyond the simple "put a mike in front of every instrument" is what distinguishes a great, artistic, sensitive enginer from the humdrum rest.

BK
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John Ivan

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #31 on: December 29, 2005, 05:03:18 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 16:50

Colin Frangos wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 16:13



But anything beyond creating a solid, balanced mix should be the realm of the band. What mics are used, where they're placed - these are generally analytical decisions. If there's creativity involved, it's pretty minimal.





Then I guess you haven't been on one of my sessions Smile. For me it's far more than just putting up mikes and getting a clean sound to tape. The distance of the microphones from the performers during the tracking, their position, choice, the very acoustical environment I choose to use are all based on the concept of the band and the  concept of the song. I can't stress how MUSICAL those decisions are. Yes, it's part of a craft, just as a musician's learning his scales are part of his craft. But just as a musician who has intuited his scales and turned them into muscle memory TRANSCENDS that knowledge to create his art, the same with the craftsman. I'm not saying that we play the notes for the musicians, but I am saying that an engineer having a holistic understanding of what the muscians are trying to create and going beyond the simple "put a mike in front of every instrument" is what distinguishes a great, artistic, sensitive enginer from the humdrum rest.

BK


Yes. Very well put. I couldn't find the word like this. I have always looked at it musically. After all, that's why we're doing this at all.

I think maybe folks who think about it as not being Art are being more artful then they think?? I mean, it might be that they are in fact making creative and "Art" decisions all the time but they just don't see it that way??

It might just be a matter of perspective in how any one person views the part they play.

Ivan....................
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Colin Frangos

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #32 on: December 29, 2005, 05:25:47 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 13:50

...I am saying that an engineer having a holistic understanding of what the muscians are trying to create and going beyond the simple "put a mike in front of every instrument" is what distinguishes a great, artistic, sensitive enginer from the humdrum rest.


Maybe it is. I think there's a lot of range between just putting a mic in front of every instrument and having a creative roll in making a record. I don't think either one of us would want to argue either extreme position.

I'm curious, though: since you're saying that you have a "holistic understanding of what the musicians are trying to create", does that mean you won't work with bands you don't like? Or that you know exactly where the band is coming from before you start in on work? That you understand their creative intent at least as well as they do?

My band works very, very hard on our music. We spend months on specific songs, which come to fruition in large part because of the years we've been playing together. We try different things in practice, we try different things live. We've put the time in, we know what we're doing.

We work with an engineer for a matter of days. I don't see how in that period s/he can develop enough of an understanding of our relationships and individual personalities, let alone the music we make. The subtle elements that we take for granted are probably lost on her/him, and it would take more than the time we're paying for to clue them in on what those elements are, assuming that's even possible. In my view, what the engineer brings to the session is knowledge and craft. They are a resource that allows us to document what we do. But they don't make decisions about our songs for us, or how we should sound. And if things don't sound right to us we say so. We don't defer to the engineer on those issues. Maybe other bands are comfortable doing that, and if so good for them. But I don't think that should be expected.

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bobkatz

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #33 on: December 29, 2005, 06:55:38 pm »

Colin Frangos wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 17:25




I'm curious, though: since you're saying that you have a "holistic understanding of what the musicians are trying to create", does that mean you won't work with bands you don't like? Or that you know exactly where the band is coming from before you start in on work? That you understand their creative intent at least as well as they do?




Good questions. There's little music I don't "like" per se. There's music that I enjoy listening to more than others. I think it's more important to ask if it's music that I "understand". I work with hip hop, rap, regaeton, salsa, latin-jazz, rock, metal, heavy metal, classical, folk...   But I am a "specialist" in a few of those genres, certainly not in them all. I do very well at many of them, but not them all. I would not hesitate to master a "genre" or style that I at least "understand' and appreciate what the musicians are doing. But I would definitely not record a style unless it was one that I truly get along with and like. The difference is that as a mastering engineer I have succeeded in not being "typecast", but as a recording and mixing engineer, I really have a particular style and goal and am more of a "producer/engineer" type than just an "enginer", so a band would not seek me out unless they were in a style that I like to record, and vice versa. So the issue of recording something that I "do not like" won't come up. And for mastering, I would never take on a job if I could not do it very well, which means that at the least I have to "understand" the music.

Quote:



We work with an engineer for a matter of days. I don't see how in that period s/he can develop enough of an understanding of our relationships and individual personalities, let alone the music we make.




This is absolutely true, on a very detailed level. But you'd be surprised how well you get along with other musicians who play in your genre (whatever that may be) and likewise, how well you will get along with a talented and experienced engineer who also has done lots of work in your genre or in your style. The degree of preparation that he/she has to make is of course variant on the complexity of the work that is required. But often enough, you'd be surprised what a talented engineer can bring to the table on your performance in a very short time. The more you start working in this "business" the more surprised you will be at seeing how top-notch professionals totally adapt to what you are doing. It's like having a guest guitarist on your album, come in, and knock a solo out cold in one take! How well did he groove with you? You'd be amazed, if he's good.

For example, if Eric Clapton walked in and sat with your band for a few hours, how well do you think he'd do at a guitar solo?  If George Massenburg sat in the morning with your band, he'd do amazingly well with the production. But yes, he'd ask for at least a week of preparation to really do it well!

Now a producer is a different thing, and the more that he/she understands the better things are, but as an engineer, I can meet with a producer that I know well, who knows me well, sit in on one rehearsal of the band, and I wager within a day or two we will be ready to produce a very creative realization or recording. I guess you could compare that with the level of "art" to some extent; if it only takes me two days, is that "less art" than the years you've spent together to play tightly? Well, I can say that as a professional listener, I can gauge just "how tightly you play together" just by listening to you only once. (no offense intended).

And the story goes on. I do not mean to belittle your desire that the engineer or produce, to really know you and to know your music, should attend many performances and learn the songs and all. No question, that is the ideal. But to repeat myself... you'd be surprised!!!!

BK
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maxim

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #34 on: December 29, 2005, 07:19:43 pm »

"the roll of an engineer" sounds like some kind of a kafkaesque dilemma

i think, art and craft are far from mutually exclusive, in fact, you can't have one without the other

however, they can influence each other negatively, and, imo, need to be kept in check, so that they work  in compliment

if you decide to  paint with a hot dog (especially, if it's still in the bun), it will not only change the look of a painting, perhaps, more significantly, it change the way you paint, both through the excitement of exploration of fastfood art and the lack of craftiness you can exhibit

in my book of definitions, art is the message you want to get across, and craft is the way you do it

now, in the post-postmodern world, we know that the medium is also the message, and the goal of collaborative work is to make those crafted messages all combine to make a stronger art

steve's choice of analogue is a message, as is my choice of digital, whether we like it or not

maybe, what's more important is that we are aware that that is the case, and apply our craft accordingly

as for the question of liking the music we record, i say it sure would help the end product, imo

help the atmosphere

as bob o says, as an artist, what i want is an engineer sensitive to my message, same as the ME, the graphic artist, and anyone else involved in the project







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Dave Martin

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #35 on: December 29, 2005, 09:35:50 pm »

Hmm - I either had a post deleted or it got lost somehow... No matter - y'all wouldn't have like my rambling on Rodin's sculpture anyway...

In any case, I think that there are multiple roles being discussed here - some of you are calling it 'engineering', but what's being discussed is producing. Others seem to look at the entire recording process as part of the way that they create (and may also engineer a lot of their own recordings), and therefore consider engineering as part of the creative process that creates their 'art'. And it's all good.

But it does seem to me that while the engineering role may or may not be 'artistic', the engineer is not an 'artist' - that title should be reserved for the creator of the music that is being recorded. Unless you also consider session musicians, background singers, orchestrators (for music that requires it), and the techs that keep the studio running to also be 'artists'.

As a session player, I have never considered my self to be more than a craftsman; my job (and my goal) has ALWAYS been to support the artist and their work. So I made up a bass part for some songwriter's demo - does that make me an artist? Should I ask for royalties? A co-writer's credit? Hell no! That's what I was hired to do. Should I ask for equal billing on the album cover? Of course not.

All of us - engineers, producers, session musicians, studio singers, techs - we're all simply part of the artist's support team. Some may have more input than others, but in the end, it ain't our record. So we do what the artist needs done. And then we get paid and go home.

At least, that's the way it works for me.
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maxim

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #36 on: December 29, 2005, 09:47:20 pm »

dave wrote:

"
Unless you also consider session musicians, background singers, orchestrators (for music that requires it), and the techs that keep the studio running to also be 'artists'."

perhaps, to me, it's important that they consider themselves as such

i see it as a collaboration of artists with different skills and craftsmanship

as for mechanicals, credits, name on the marquee etc, that's for the lawyers to sort out

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electrical

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #37 on: December 29, 2005, 10:07:56 pm »

maxim wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 19:19


steve's choice of analogue is a message, as is my choice of digital, whether we like it or not

Hooey.

This notion that every step is a choice is a complete copout. It implies a degree of validity for all options, pre-supposes a lack of conclusion, and that simply isn't the case that often.

Right now, for example, I am not robbing a bank or painting my toenails. I didn't choose not to, I just am not doing either. I did not consider the options of robbing and pedicure first, and then choose against them. I haven't even considered them. It is not always a choice to do one thing rather than another. The other thing may not be worth considering.

A centipede doesn't choose which of its legs to move at every instant, it simply walks.

I don't choose to record on tape every day, I do it.
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maxim

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #38 on: December 29, 2005, 11:04:54 pm »

all life is a procession of choices, whether acknowledged or not

the lack of consideration is what worries me

to choose not to consider something comes from either plain lack of edumacation, or worse, wilful neglect

you chose the medium you use, and you choose not to use the medium i use

there's something to be said for sticking to your choices, you just don't want walk around wearing eyeshields
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Juergen

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #39 on: December 29, 2005, 11:06:41 pm »

I wouldn't call the engineer the artist either, rather, an artist. As far as I understand it, what an engineer does is to translate somebody's creation onto a different medium, a process, which in itself, is an artistic one.

There's an incredibly amount of possible "color combinations" to accomplish different kinds of impacts in a listener. These combinations work on a cultural level and are perceived very differently in different parts of the world.

For an engineer to mess up a recording IMO is not just because he isn't very good at his/her craft (yet) and obviously so - someone might be at a more difficult stage of growing, or perhaps not artistically endowed to know how to present different elements in a cohesive and meaningful way that communicates something.

I wouldn't necessarily see how the AE step takes away from what it's trying to present (the song). The means of communication has best served its purpose if it has shown the song in the context of the band's performance in its highest glory.

It's art pointing at art.
Both musician and engineer have to be technically savvy, have chops.
Engineering feels pointless without good music, wether I get paid by the hour or do it for kicks and giggles.

Juergen

[Edited for typos and stupid mistakes.]
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electrical

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #40 on: December 30, 2005, 12:32:24 am »

maxim wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 23:04

all life is a procession of choices, whether acknowledged or not

the lack of consideration is what worries me

Lack of consideration is inevitable. It is why all life is not a procession of choices. To hear you explain it, before I do anything, I must first consider, and then decide not to do, every thing in the world other than what I am about to do. This would take a really long time, and I decline to do it.

Certainly life confronts us with choices sometimes. A fellow might have to choose between cutting his arm off or remaining pinned under a boulder up a mountain, for example. That's a choice, and requires consideration because consequences ensue from a decision thrust upon a fellow. Certainly one can create a choice to make at any time, but not everything is a choice. I didn't choose to be Italian, right-handed and handsome. It happened to me on its own.

Whatever I am not doing right now is not necessarily something I actively chose not to do. I simply am not doing it. I refuse to consider all manner of nonsense just so I can not do it. Whatever I am doing at the moment, I do not interrupt myself to decide if I should instead do something else. I am doing something already, and that is not a series of discrete choices. It is a process.

This "everything is a choice" stuff is up there with "serving the music" and "it's all good" in the nonsense hall of fame.
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maxim

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #41 on: December 30, 2005, 01:51:49 am »

steve a wrote:

"This "everything is a choice" stuff is up there with "serving the music" and "it's all good" in the nonsense hall of fame. "

2 out of 3 ain't bad

truth is that it's not all good, and it's your choices that determine whether it is or not

do you honestly mean to tell me that you don't make choices in your job, let alone your breakfast menu?

are you running on automatic?

57 on a snare at 45 degrees etcetera
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electrical

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #42 on: December 30, 2005, 02:37:15 am »

maxim wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 01:51


do you honestly mean to tell me that you don't make choices in your job, let alone your breakfast menu?

Of course there are choices to be made. It's just childishly simplistic to reduce that to "everything is a choice." Of course there are choices, and those are important moments. Pretending that everything is a choice waiting to snare you into a mistake is making the process both overly complicated and overly simplistic. If you have to make a specific decision on every moment -- if everything is potentially up for grabs -- you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to learn from your experiences and draw conclusions.
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Colin Frangos

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #43 on: December 30, 2005, 03:34:35 am »

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 15:55


Quote:



We work with an engineer for a matter of days. I don't see how in that period s/he can develop enough of an understanding of our relationships and individual personalities, let alone the music we make.




This is absolutely true, on a very detailed level. But you'd be surprised how well you get along with other musicians who play in your genre (whatever that may be) and likewise, how well you will get along with a talented and experienced engineer who also has done lots of work in your genre or in your style.


I get along with a lot of people, but it rarely has anything to do with them being of my genre or not.

Quote:

For example, if Eric Clapton walked in and sat with your band for a few hours, how well do you think he'd do at a guitar solo?


If Clapton came in, I would expect he would do terribly at a guitar solo - mostly because his ears would be bleeding. But I get your point. I've had the pleasure of playing with some musicians I really admire as one-offs at shows. It's fun. It's different from what we do, though, and while I enjoy doing things like that I don't think of it as the same thing as our songs. Matter of fact, by virtue of playing with great people we start doing a lot of things that are very different from our usual approach, out of deference or admiration or just having another instrument around.

But that's sorta irrelevant, isn't it? I'm sure many of our songs would change greatly if we added oboe parts, but it's not really something we're interested in or discussing. Whether someone else being added to what we do could do something interesting with one of our songs is not a question I'm interested in having answered. If my band invites someone into a collaboration, great. But hiring an engineer is not that sort of invitation. Like I said before: we know what we're doing. We're not looking for someone else to really bring our songs home, we're looking for someone to record them as accurately as possible.
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John Ivan

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Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
« Reply #44 on: December 30, 2005, 06:59:00 am »

Great man, there are a bunch of places where you could record. Including my old place and many others I've worked in. No one would change anything and you would be leaving a happy person/band.,, I would just make this one point..

It's not the same for everyone. Some people need or want help and the truth is, some of us engineer's are also "band members Writers and Producers".. This drives some people up a wall. That's fine. Certain deserts drive me up a wall too. Thankfully, I know this ahead of time and don't eat them..

Some people think this engineering thing is an art form and some don't.. Some, like me, think it's sometimes the same thing every time,, and different every-time... I do what the client wants.. Lately , that's me, so I've been talking to myself and the wife thinks I have a screw loose.......   I, have now found out she's right.. I do have a screw loose.. Several in fact...

Speaking of engineers, I'm flying to Fresno this fine morning to do a show with the band and hope these guys don't wait to ring out Monitors until the band is on stage like last time...... That was mean........


Happy New Year_ to all you whack job's.... From an old artsy fartsy old  Git slingin'   Artsy,,,,,,,    guy.......


Ivan..........................
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"Transformation is no easy trick: It's what art promises and usually doesn't deliver." Garrison Keillor

 
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