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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => j. hall => Topic started by: Colin Frangos on December 23, 2005, 03:44:41 pm

Title: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos on December 23, 2005, 03:44:41 pm
In light of the discussions about what the roll of an AE is and how it relates to production and bands et al, I'd like to propose a parallel way of looking at all of this.

I make most of my income as a graphic artist, and a good deal of what I do involves color correcting photography for art galleries so that they can be reproduced, printed, and emailed with a degree of accuracy. I've worked on paintings by Hoffmann, Avery, Diebenkorn - a lot of big names - but also Trujillos, Fishers and Larsens, whom you haven't heard of. This process involves a huge number of technical challenges that I focus on, and consider the core of what I do, but it doesn't involve any aesthetic challenges. That is, I do not at any point try to "improve" any of the artwork, even though in many cases I'm not at all a fan of what I'm working on and could make it more appealing to me with some fairly simple cosmetic maneuvers. Punch up the colors here or there, add more contrast, tint the whole image, etc. I could even add little birds hanging upsidedown in key spots, since there's no painting I've ever seen that couldn't benefit from a crazy upsidedown bird in it. But I don't. I reproduce what I'm given as accurately as I can.

So the question is this: does the band bring a completed work of art into the studio, or is the completed work of art what comes out of the studio and goes to the mastering house? Is my roll more parallel to that of a recording engineer or a mastering engineer?

Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on December 24, 2005, 02:08:27 am


I'd say ME, it's the producer or AE that creates the art, from the pallette of artists and the ME that improves on the color balance that was created. IOW, you can improve upon a piece of art by not altering the artists intentions and an ME can improve upon a song without altering the artists intentions. The prod/AE are in the most creative part of the process, like the painter is and the ME and graphics specialist are preparing the creation for the intended media(s).

Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on December 24, 2005, 04:58:16 am
Hi Colin,,

Ronny lays out good parallels and sums it up pretty good.. I would ad that, it really changes a lot from the engineers chair. Or at least down here in the mid to low,,to NO budget scene..

My Old Man started Recording Classical music in the early 60's. At that point, he would simply collect the audio with three omni's and be done. The art here is spending time at rehearsals deciding where the hell to hang mics and which mic's to hang. Then, it's up to the players.. These were really heady and wild times IMHO because of the emotional aspect of the process. I mean, second Violins could screw an otherwise GREAT performance up and feel real bad about it.... Having said that, they were cutting tape back then so it was not that uncommon to cut a movement in here and there..


Jazz. Acoustic Jazz was the same sorta deal. A Quartet would set up in a great room,{or not so great room;-} and blow. An engineer would listen,, a lot,, and then listen some more, go to the mic closet and grab what his.her ears heard. Again, simply trying to collect what's there in the room.

Of course the multi track Machines started to change all this and redefine the role of the AE BIG time. EQ, COMP'S,Time based FX all made it so the tracking and mix Engineers became "artists" beyond the {not so simple} art of collecting Audio. In a typical "modern" rock/pop recording, Engineer's are making a lot of what I would call producer choices right from the chair..... " Oh Man, that guitar tone is all 1 to 5-k,something must be done!" At this point, I try to work the source first with the guitar player leading the way if he can. Someone, is going to learn something, or, everyone is going to learn something. It's never "no one is going to learn anything".

So, IMHO, the line has been blurred over the years. I really really make it forward in my mind that I wont mess with anything I don't need to and make it very clear to the band that.
A. They must love the sounds.

B. If they need my help to love the sounds, I'll help to any extent I can.

I have always viewed engineers in rock and pop music as fill in or, temp band members. We really do shape stuff a lot. This may be different for others though..

 Ivan........................................................

EDIT: TO PROPERLY SPELL COLIN.;-}..............................................
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Bob Olhsson on December 24, 2005, 10:12:00 am
Colin Frangos wrote on Fri, 23 December 2005 14:44

...a good deal of what I do involves color correcting photography for art galleries so that they can be reproduced, printed, and emailed with a degree of accuracy...
...does the band bring a completed work of art into the studio, or is the completed work of art what comes out of the studio and goes to the mastering house? Is my roll more parallel to that of a recording engineer or a mastering engineer?
Color correction is very much the role a mastering engineer plays, fixing unintended problems in final mixes.

A recording engineer is very much like a photographer or a painter. The music and musical performance is the subject.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: danickstr on December 24, 2005, 02:58:06 pm
the great thing about bob's analogy is that it addresses the very many ways the styles of putting paint on a brush and slapping in on canvas can still be called the "same subject".  I would say to never underestimate your importance in choosing the weaponry of recording, setting levels, balancing mics and room diffusion, etc. it all adds to the uniqueness of that moment in time.  and speaking of that moment in time, also don't underestimate your interaction with the artist as far as their mindset.  picking the right gear and then blowing the confidence of a performer with the wrong attitude or comment ( such as, "no, we engineers never do it that way") is IMO worse than recording them through a casio sound card attached to an old pentium 2.  IF you want kitty to purr, stroke it tenderly. try to be good energy for all involved! Smile
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: TotalSonic on December 24, 2005, 04:32:05 pm
I think  the role that Colin is describing most has its analog in audio engineering as the job I used to have - the vinyl master cutting engineer - being requested to do a "flat transfer".  In other words - the only additional processing I would do would be to what was necessary to have the final delvery format sound as much as the original master - so the idea was to preserve as much of the original "image" and not to "enhance" it.  

I think the visual equivalent of what most mastering engineers seem to be expected to do today would be the equivalent of a graphic designer doing digital retouches of shots of models for the covers of slick magazines, where every single wrinkle or blemish is wiped away.  One of my friends works as the Art Production Manager for Vanity Fair and guess what - Madonna doesn't look 28 anymore - but you'd never be able to guess this by photos that have been featured on their cover a few months ago.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: rnicklaus on December 24, 2005, 06:02:40 pm
TotalSonic wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 13:32

I think  the role that Colin is describing most has its analog in audio engineering as the job I used to have - the vinyl master cutting engineer - being requested to do a "flat transfer".  In other words - the only additional processing I would do would be to what was necessary to have the final delvery format sound as much as the original master - so the idea was to preserve as much of the original "image" and not to "enhance" it.  

I think the visual equivalent of what most mastering engineers seem to be expected to do today would be the equivalent of a graphic designer doing digital retouches of shots of models for the covers of slick magazines, where every single wrinkle or blemish is wiped away.  One of my friends works as the Art Production Manager for Vanity Fair and guess what - Madonna doesn't look 28 anymore - but you'd never be able to guess this by photos that have been featured on their cover a few months ago.

Best regards,
Steve Berson


There used to be bragging rights to "I didn't have more than a .5 db change to 2 songs on the last album I engineered and mixed and most went over flat".

Things sure have changed.


Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: originalrecorderman on December 24, 2005, 08:53:46 pm
rnicklaus wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 15:02

TotalSonic wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 13:32

I think  the role that Colin is describing most has its analog in audio engineering as the job I used to have - the vinyl master cutting engineer - being requested to do a "flat transfer".  In other words - the only additional processing I would do would be to what was necessary to have the final delvery format sound as much as the original master - so the idea was to preserve as much of the original "image" and not to "enhance" it.  

I think the visual equivalent of what most mastering engineers seem to be expected to do today would be the equivalent of a graphic designer doing digital retouches of shots of models for the covers of slick magazines, where every single wrinkle or blemish is wiped away.  One of my friends works as the Art Production Manager for Vanity Fair and guess what - Madonna doesn't look 28 anymore - but you'd never be able to guess this by photos that have been featured on their cover a few months ago.

Best regards,
Steve Berson


There used to be bragging rights to "I didn't have more than a .5 db change to 2 songs on the last album I engineered and mixed and most went over flat".

Things sure have changed.





There still is Randy... there still is.


Twisted Evil
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Bob Olhsson on December 25, 2005, 02:45:43 am
rnicklaus wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 17:02

There used to be bragging rights to "I didn't have more than a .5 db change to 2 songs on the last album I engineered and mixed and most went over flat".
And the mastering engineers loved to do the bragging, I first heard about Bill Schnee from Doug Sax!
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: crazydoc on December 27, 2005, 08:19:30 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 15:12


A recording engineer is very much like a photographer or a painter. The music and musical performance is the subject.


I think not. The music is the art and the musician is the artist. I think music has more depth/abstraction than the visual arts. In music there is someone who has the "vision" or creates the music (the composer), someone who interprets it (the musician), and someone who records/prints it (the engineer). The sonorecord is a product of all of these to different degrees, depending on the individual production. Of course, one single individual can do some or all of these functions.

In the visual arts, in general, the artist usually performs all these functions. In the print arts there can be "printers" who make the final prints from the negatives, lithographs, etchings, etc., who by their technique also add an interpretation to the final product. I would place these akin to the recording engineers. Mastering involves the framing of the work.Smile

Just my ignorant 0.02.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Dave Martin on December 27, 2005, 11:07:46 pm
I have to think of engineers as 'craftsmen', not as 'artists'. One analogy (since I just read a book about him) would be Thomas Chippendale, the English furniture builder. Assuming that you buy the idea that a Chippendale chair or sideboard is 'art' (hey, they sell for huge sums at Sotheby's...) then Chippendale would have been an artist. However, most of the actual work was done by his journeyman carpenters, not by Chippendale himself. And for that matter, later in his career, Chippendale's journeymen did a large part of the design work themselves (subject to the master's approval). Nevertheless, they were 'craftsmen', not 'artists'.

And while I appreciate Ronny's assertion, I've never bought a record by a producer. (Phil Spector aside - but most of them were really Phil Spector records; performed by other singers and musicians...) I buy a band's record, or a singer's record.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on December 27, 2005, 11:14:13 pm


When an eq is used in mastering, it's like altering the hues of the paint colors, ITR, it is within the frame and not a border procedure. The artists paints the picture, the mix engineer mixes the colors for him and the ME fine tweaks the hues and how strong the color pallette is presented on the final exhibition. In this regard, all can be apart of the artistic element, although the artist is the foundation.  
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos on December 28, 2005, 07:20:37 pm
ivan40 wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 01:58


My Old Man started Recording Classical music in the early 60's. At that point, he would simply collect the audio with three omni's and be done. The art here is spending time at rehearsals deciding where the hell to hang mics and which mic's to hang.


I don't see that as a creative task. Mic placement doesn't benefit by being done in an extremely unique way, it benefits from being done in a very well thought out way. So I see this as an analytical task.

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 07:12

Color correction is very much the role a mastering engineer plays, fixing unintended problems in final mixes.

My job isn't to fix unintended problems, though. It's to make sure the work can be reproduced accurately.

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 07:12

A recording engineer is very much like a photographer or a painter. The music and musical performance is the subject.

I couldn't disagree more. For someone who bills his hours as an Audio engineer I'm not sure what to make of your view of your roll.

The band spends their time rehearsing, playing live, working on what they do. After they've sweated over it for long enough to feel like it's ready, they go in to record it. And... you consider their part of this the subject of your work? Did you misspeak or do you really consider the band's music nothing more than a still-life that you touch with your magic?

What the band does is art. What you do is engineering. Your job is to document what they sound like, to tend to the technical elements that are necessary to document what they do. Nothing in your job description suggests that you're being hired to make their songs "better" or "more creative".

I'm surprised by how many people who refer to themselves as engineers are looking to call what they do creative. There are creative elements to any engineering effort, but ultimately your job is to support the creative people, not to be them.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on December 28, 2005, 07:43:58 pm



Nobody is taking anything away from the musicians, Colin. I read Bob's comment totally opposite of the way that you read it. He's spot on that an audio engineer captures the subject just like the photographer does. One captures sight at a specific time and date and one captures sound at a specific time. If creating a mix didn't have some artistic merit than we'd have midi mix engineers modules, like some of the midi drums that have been some of the engineers subjects.

So what is more artistic, the engineer that creates a mix, or a drum machine? An engineer isn't a program and anytime something isn't programmed to repeat, it has to be  creative.

Fact of the matter is, that there are artistic elements that arise in all parts of the cd production chain, from the songwriter, to the musicians, producer, tracking and mix eng's, ME's, artwork etc. It a collaboration of people with special skills that make for the final product, all are artists in their own right.  
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on December 28, 2005, 08:18:56 pm
Colin Frangos wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 19:20

ivan40 wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 01:58


My Old Man started Recording Classical music in the early 60's. At that point, he would simply collect the audio with three omni's and be done. The art here is spending time at rehearsals deciding where the hell to hang mics and which mic's to hang.


I don't see that as a creative task. Mic placement doesn't benefit by being done in an extremely unique way, it benefits from being done in a very well thought out way. So I see this as an analytical task.

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 07:12

Color correction is very much the role a mastering engineer plays, fixing unintended problems in final mixes.

My job isn't to fix unintended problems, though. It's to make sure the work can be reproduced accurately.

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 07:12

A recording engineer is very much like a photographer or a painter. The music and musical performance is the subject.

I couldn't disagree more. For someone who bills his hours as an Audio engineer I'm not sure what to make of your view of your roll.

The band spends their time rehearsing, playing live, working on what they do. After they've sweated over it for long enough to feel like it's ready, they go in to record it. And... you consider their part of this the subject of your work? Did you misspeak or do you really consider the band's music nothing more than a still-life that you touch with your magic?

What the band does is art. What you do is engineering. Your job is to document what they sound like, to tend to the technical elements that are necessary to document what they do. Nothing in your job description suggests that you're being hired to make their songs "better" or "more creative".

I'm surprised by how many people who refer to themselves as engineers are looking to call what they do creative. There are creative elements to any engineering effort, but ultimately your job is to support the creative people, not to be them.




Well, I guess we can all see this differently.. I am of the view that, engineering a record is mostly art. There are a huge number of things we need to know about how the gear works but most of that can be learned and kept in our mind all the time and/or reviewed when we run across something we have not done in a while..

There are folks who can write thousands of pages on theory and not one word of it will be wrong. At the same time, they can't hear the right things or in a way that relates to music. This means they are missing the one thing that will allow them to make great sounding records and this thing is IMHO, pure Art.

Mic placement is in fact an art form IMO... If it were not, there would be one way to mic everything. There is literally no end to the ways to mic everything.........

Ivan..............................
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 28, 2005, 08:29:40 pm
i agree with above

if i'm going to let anyone near my songs, they damn well better be creative

if an engineer says : "i don't have any aesthetic input into this work", then , imo, all they're good for is gaffa control and mic lead rollouts, should be well kept away from such aesthetic choices as mic choice and placement and gain staging etc

just what i reckon
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Bob Olhsson on December 29, 2005, 12:20:23 am
maxim wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 19:29

if i'm going to let anyone near my songs, they damn well better be creative
I think the words I would choose are "they damn well better be sensitive enough to what I'm doing to not screw it up!"

I think a recording engineer's first duty is facilitating a great musical performance. A setup that allows a great performance is often not a setup that makes getting great sound easy. Likewise it's really important to start rolling tape long before the performers start getting bored. The pacing of a session can also make or break a performance. It does take creativity to not screw up a session.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 12:58:33 am
I think it's worthwhile to make a distinction between ingenuity (or resourcefulness) and creativity. Creativity (as I see it) is making something utterly new. I don't think engineers do this (or should do this) very often. Engineers must be resourceful and ingenious, otherwise problems (sometimes unique problems) un-dealt-with will derail a session. Creative, no. I think that leads to many wasted hours and ugly impositions.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on December 29, 2005, 02:18:16 am
See, I think the fact that someone decides to use one tool over another is a creative decision.

Ivan.............
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 02:31:18 am
ivan40 wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 02:18

See, I think the fact that someone decides to use one tool over another is a creative decision.

I think it's a choice relating to technique. Choosing whether to paint a duck or a typewriter is a creative choice, but having decided to (rather, having been assigned the task of-) painting a duck, doing it with a brush or a hot dog dipped in paint is a choice of technique. The difference is not subtle in my mind.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 02:32:43 am
Oh, and I'm going to change the spelling of the word "role" in the title of this thread. I'm moderating this forum, and I don't want people thinking we're a bunch of illiterates.

If you're actually illiterate, and someone is reading this to you, please excuse my bluntness.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 29, 2005, 02:34:38 am
I tried to change the spelling of "role" in this thread, but my all-powerful moderator status won't let me. I thought I had something here...
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on December 29, 2005, 04:00:52 am
Damn computers anyhow!!.

Ivan...........
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos on December 29, 2005, 04:06:53 am
electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 23:34

I tried to change the spelling of "role" in this thread, but my all-powerful moderator status won't let me. I thought I had something here...


Heh. Just expressing my creativity.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on December 29, 2005, 04:27:52 am
electrical wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 02:32

Oh, and I'm going to change the spelling of the word "role" in the title of this thread. I'm moderating this forum, and I don't want people thinking we're a bunch of illiterates.

If you're actually illiterate, please excuse my bluntness.




You need to get on a roll.  Smile



Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: bobkatz on December 29, 2005, 07:16:54 am
Colin Frangos wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 19:20



What the band does is art. What you do is engineering.




Music is ART. But an unmusical recording engineer can ruin a recording. Who determines the balance? Does the producer say, "raise the clarinet mike 0.25 dB, ok, now lower the bassoon by 0.5?" Any engineer who does not already know what the musical balance should be would be fired. As far as I'm concerned, the line between "art" and "engineering" is entirely nebulous.

BK
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: rnicklaus on December 29, 2005, 12:11:59 pm
electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 23:32

Oh, and I'm going to change the spelling of the word "role" in the title of this thread. I'm moderating this forum, and I don't want people thinking we're a bunch of illiterates.

If you're actually illiterate, please excuse my bluntness.


You wouldn't want a cousin named Art to steal your dinner roll when you were engineering his band.

Or to bring up the holiday spare tire in front of clients.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Dave Martin on December 29, 2005, 02:45:26 pm
ivan40 wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 01:18

See, I think the fact that someone decides to use one tool over another is a creative decision.

Ivan.............


I wouldn't think so - the carpenter who built my room would occasionally choose to use one saw instead of another, or one hammer over another. Does that mean that he was the 'creator' of the room design? It's all a part of craftsmanship; knowing which tools are appropriate to a given task. Which brings me back to my original feeling - that engineers are (or should be) craftsmen, not 'artists'.
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on December 29, 2005, 03:10:06 pm
Dave Martin wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 14:45

ivan40 wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 01:18

See, I think the fact that someone decides to use one tool over another is a creative decision.

Ivan.............


I wouldn't think so - the carpenter who built my room would occasionally choose to use one saw instead of another, or one hammer over another. Does that mean that he was the 'creator' of the room design? It's all a part of craftsmanship; knowing which tools are appropriate to a given task. Which brings me back to my original feeling - that engineers are (or should be) craftsmen, not 'artists'.



Hi Dave,,

The difference that I see is, the carpenter choosing a different Saw to cut a stud wont change the shape or functionality of your room.. As you know very very well { you have a wonderful room!! Great site!}, choosing a different pair for the kit or moving an re-20 on a guitar amp can mean a lot.

I think both things are at work. It is a craft for sure but I think because every choice we make changes how the music will present it's self and potentially change how people will react emotionally to it, it turns into an art form...

Hey, I come from the music/writer/player end and there are a bunch of engineers around here that know a hell of a lot more than me.. this is all just the impression I get when I work. It's how I think when I work. The tech stuff comes first. Then I need to like how it's making me feel or something is wrong..

my 2 cents.

Ivan.............................
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos on December 29, 2005, 04:13:24 pm
ivan40 wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 17:18


Mic placement is in fact an art form IMO... If it were not, there would be one way to mic everything. There is literally no end to the ways to mic everything.



There is not just one way to build a car. There is not just one way to build a jet engine. There is not just one way to build a bridge. The fact that all of these things benefit from being handled differently in different situations doesn't take away from the fact that they are engineering feats. I think Steve's distinction between creativity and ingenuity is an important one, and applies here.

And ultimately, it's the band's decision if the rack tom is too muddy.

Bob Olhsson wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 21:20

I think the words I would choose are "they damn well better be sensitive enough to what I'm doing to not screw it up!"


I don't think that an engineer not liking what I'm doing musically affects the outcome much if at all, and am certain that it shouldn't.

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 04:16


Music is ART. But an unmusical recording engineer can ruin a recording.

Agreed.

Quote:

Who determines the balance? Does the producer say, "raise the clarinet mike 0.25 dB, ok, now lower the bassoon by 0.5?" Any engineer who does not already know what the musical balance should be would be fired.

Agreed again.
Quote:

As far as I'm concerned, the line between "art" and "engineering" is entirely nebulous.

Here's where you lose me, but I think I might see where we're looking at this differently.

I think the recording is an artifact of what the band does, but it isn't what the band does. An unmusical recording doesn't ruin what's important (the songs the band plays and how they play them). Songs can be recorded again.

It seems like you consider the recording the end result, and without that being well executed there is no art. That's probably a good view for an AE to take, because it means you're taking what you do seriously. However, I don't think that an AE being creative is necessary to have the final album be good, and can easily become detrimental.

The balance of the mix seems like something that can be put together by an engineer based on experience (not creativity), and is an element of craft. 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.

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan 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....................
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos 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.

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim 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







Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Dave Martin 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.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim 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

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical 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.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim 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
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Juergen 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.]
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical 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.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim 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
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical 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.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Colin Frangos 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.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan 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..........................
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: cdr-1 on December 30, 2005, 09:24:07 am
Maybe artisan or artificer would be a good term.

One that contrives, devises, or constructs something: "The labyrinth... was built by Daedalus, a most skillful artificer" (Thomas Bulfinch).

I would not call myself an artist just because I recorded a band. That seems self indulgent. I can facilitate an accurate recording of a song but that does not mean I can write one.

On the other hand, I would not call myself an engineer just because I recorded a band. That also seems self indulgent. I can calibrate my MCI but that does not mean I can design or build one.

A song is not a horse made of marble, it's a live horse and the artificer didn't invent the horse. The horse evolved from smaller horses.

Still, it's the artificer's job is to know his or her shit well enough to extract a likeness of the horse from a block of marble.

-Adam
CDR


Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Dave Martin on December 30, 2005, 11:29:09 am
I like 'artificer'; it has a nice ring to it (which, of course,  I CHOSE to leave in the mix....  Razz )
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Tidewater on December 30, 2005, 01:30:08 pm
The choices are just part of the tool set.

If you do anything for a long enough time, you will have an idea about where to go, and how to get there, in any situation. There are many levels of that idea. Some get there better than others, for as many reasons.

The more you love it, the more potential you have for being insanely great at it, no matter what *it* is.

All that said, many bands would not be served well if you just printed them. They need alot of color correction, and sometimes the content needs expurgation.

Songs are like paintings.. moreso than photography, when you are producing.

M
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 30, 2005, 07:11:06 pm
steve a wrote:

"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. "

every choice and decision you make, including not making a choice, is based on your previous experience (as long as you have a brain, of course)

our brains are very good at patterns, semi-automatic behavioural loops that allow us to rest our grey matter(some occur on the cerebellar level, others higher or even lower)

when you allow yourself to go into pattern-mode, your brain is/should be still 'keeping an eye' on the proceedings

the problem can arise beacuse every experience is different, so the patterns may need to be adjusted accordingly

if you're running in automatic, that opportunity may be missed and the project may be impaired or ruined altogether
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ron Steele on December 30, 2005, 07:25:56 pm
"the role of an engineer in relation to art "


I think the word..art or artist....has been to loosely floated around.

I mean, is a person or persons, who are all of sudden inspired and influenced by the ramones to pick up a guitar and thrash and scream,
all of sudden a musical "artist" just because of a new found inspiration?

It could be considered a copy, in the same way we have Les Paul GTR copy's.

So what makes a person or group an artist?





Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 07:27:06 pm
DivideByZero wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 13:30


All that said, many bands would not be served well if you just printed them.

"Just" printed them? If only that were the easy way to do it...

It is incredibly difficult to "just" print them. Accidentally fucking-up a record is the biggest pitfall, and it takes constant awareness and ingenuity just to avoid doing it. It is infinitely easier to assume that part is a no-brainer, and then fuck around forever being "creative" and doing a bunch of fancying-up and producing.

I believe it is more important to improve our not-fucking-it-up ability than to dream-up ever more fantastic things to do with the studio.

Quote:

They need alot of color correction, and sometimes the content needs expurgation.

That's incredibly presumptuous of you. Bands "need" you and your smarts? Otherwise, what, they're nothing? You get to decide what someone else's music is supposed to sound like, based on what you think is "good." Why would any band who actually liked their own material allow themselves to be subject to that?

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 07:31:36 pm
maxim wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 19:11


our brains are very good at patterns, semi-automatic behavioural loops that allow us to rest our grey matter(some occur on the cerebellar level, others higher or even lower)

when you allow yourself to go into pattern-mode, your brain is/should be still 'keeping an eye' on the proceedings

the problem can arise beacuse every experience is different, so the patterns may need to be adjusted accordingly

if you're running in automatic, that opportunity may be missed and the project may be impaired or ruined altogether

So... not everything is a choice then? I'm right, is that what you're saying?
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on December 30, 2005, 08:10:40 pm
Ron Steele wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 19:25



So what makes a person or group an artist?







The ear of the beholder.  
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 30, 2005, 08:45:42 pm
steve a wrote:

"So... not everything is a choice then? I'm right, is that what you're saying?"

what i'm saying is that your decision not make a choice is also a choice

of course, there are reflexive actions, and we rely on those as human beings to survive, to improve and just 'coz we are plain 2FL (too f*cking lazy)

sometimes, the trap is, though, that the reflexive loops are based on previous choices and experiences, which may not have been extrapolatable or no longer apply

steve a wrote:

"fucking-up a record is the biggest pitfall, and it takes constant awareness and ingenuity just to avoid doing it. "

ditto

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 09:04:56 pm
maxim wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 20:45


what i'm saying is that your decision not make a choice is also a choice

Nonsense. It's nothing.

If, by not doing something, I am doing it, then tonight I will both discover a cure for cancer and invent a new kind of electric blanket. By not doing it.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 30, 2005, 10:53:52 pm
not doing is a subset of doing, not the other way around

steve a wrote:

"If, by not doing something, I am doing it, then tonight I will both discover a cure for cancer and invent a new kind of electric blanket."

no, the correct answer is you WILL not  discover a cure for cancer or invent a new kind of electric blanket

but you could will to do so

it's just that you choose to do other things
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 11:28:56 pm
maxim wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 22:53

not doing is a subset of doing, not the other way around

Did you get this from a self-help book or something? It's silly and circular.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 30, 2005, 11:34:22 pm
no, steve, it's just common sense, but you can help yourself if you understand that concept

zero is a number

zero eq is along the same linear process as subtracting and adding

not helping a stranger in the street is a form of action

not adding salt is a decision
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on December 30, 2005, 11:43:08 pm
So, right now, doing nothing, I am making an infinite number of choices? Having chosen against every other thing in the world I could be doing? That's preposterous. Things of no consequence don't even warrant consideration, and I cannot believe that I am making a choice against them.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on December 31, 2005, 01:06:26 am
steve a wrote:

"So, right now, doing nothing, I am making an infinite number of choices? "

noone said anything about infinite

you are only making one choice: to do nothing

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on January 02, 2006, 05:45:19 am
Ron Steele wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 19:25

"the role of an engineer in relation to art "


I think the word..art or artist....has been to loosely floated around.

I mean, is a person or persons, who are all of sudden inspired and influenced by the ramones to pick up a guitar and thrash and scream,
all of sudden a musical "artist" just because of a new found inspiration?

It could be considered a copy, in the same way we have Les Paul GTR copy's.

So what makes a person or group an artist?








Hey all,,

I'm back from Cali in one piece.. I was in my early 40's when I left Friday, and upon my return to Lansing, I have discovered I am 98 years old. GOD>> Flying can kick your ass!!@#$

Anyhow, Ron,, I agree that perhaps the term "Art" gets thrown around to loosely.. I admit I am some times one of those guys who thinks everything is a fucking Art Form.. "Dude!! He had that tranny out of that damn Mini van in 42 Minutes!! He's an Artist!!.........;-}.. I guess it makes me feel all warm an fuzzy....

I do see how this is a craft and I'm not really making decisions every 30 seconds that are Art related.

If I'm recording a band ,in many cases I'm doing what Steve has suggested. I get the sounds up and try not to do something that will fuck it up. This is applying experience and time on the job, {such as it is} and is a craft. I do think that doing this well can be called art though. and it really depends on who I'm recording..

Steve, as far as having the Nerve to ad this or change that about someones music? I NEVER do this without the band saying,, { Ivan, we want you to help shape this music. We have heard you play and write and think you can help us finish these ideas we are stuck on.".. Hey man, I love that because I kinda get to be in some bands I'm not in.

I guess I'm saying, I take each thing as it comes and try to help them make a great record. It aint easy to record something that sounds great in the hands of the players without wrecking something, and I feel that doing this well rises to the level of Art sometimes..

I'm a hippy dippy guy sometimes though,, sorta,, I mean,, I' just fucking LOVE MUSIC and if I can be any part of it, I'm happy.. Lucky us.. Really. I think we're really lucky. Whether we are making song's in our house or pushing  A LOT of good records through a room in Chi Town or working on the next $500,000 dollar boyband thing. It aint breakin' rocks.. So, art or not, sign me up for MORE.....;-}

Ivan..........................


Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Fibes on January 02, 2006, 11:19:29 am
To answer the original topic: "To do no harm."

I attribute that to Harvey who borrowed it from Hippocrates I beleive.

Whatever way that happens I'm fine with it.

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxdimario on January 02, 2006, 12:07:42 pm
Quote:

and that is not a series of discrete choices. It is a process.



there is a similarity in the difference between the professional athlete and an amateur which is learning his moves, or thinks that he can get better by thinking purely on a technical or rational level.

if the process is a result of actual professional-level successful experience, then it already incorporates an element of intelligent 'choice', more of a direction perhaps.

anyway no pro tennis player could play at 100% of his or her abilities if s/he even remotely started to think about everything that was going on.. that's a loser's strategy most of the time.

but thinking over things in rest periods is necessary to work out things on a larger scale.

sometimes you need to digress and question your processes, if only because too much of any one way of looking at things can lead into a rut.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Tidewater on January 02, 2006, 12:16:18 pm
electrical wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 19:27


"Just" printed them? If only that were the easy way to do it...

It is incredibly difficult to "just" print them. Accidentally fucking-up a record is the biggest pitfall, and it takes constant awareness and ingenuity just to avoid doing it. It is infinitely easier to assume that part is a no-brainer, and then fuck around forever being "creative" and doing a bunch of fancying-up and producing.



Yes. As engineer, there are alot of steps that get you to that point. On the producer role, I am different, we can't all paint the same style. Some prefer a cubists view, others like surrealism..  we could all do it the same way actually, but that could suck, no?

Quote:

They need alot of color correction, and sometimes the content needs expurgation.

Quote:


That's incredibly presumptuous of you. Bands "need" you and your smarts? Otherwise, what, they're nothing? You get to decide what someone else's music is supposed to sound like, based on what you think is "good." Why would any band who actually liked their own material allow themselves to be subject to that?



Just like people who still love each other after 20 years of marriage, but argue over who's taking out the trash, sometimes they need a little outside influence.

Do you stop live takes, for any reason? I do. I am as much of a coach, as I am a knob jockey. I might only tell an idea I have to the drummer, even if it's an idea for the vocalist.. the drummer knows them better than me.. all outside influence isn't evil.

When I talk to people I worked with much later, they still thank me for my ideas that made it, and they tell me they have regretted not using other ideas I brought, so I must also be doing something right.

I am an 'I told ya so' guy.. just not a really mean one.. so it's ok.


M
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Ronny on January 02, 2006, 01:17:55 pm



I used to stop a live take once in awhile with the less than stellar newbie bands in the olden days when everything was analog, if I knew that someone screwed up enough to render the take a scratch. How much tape was on the reel and how much tape they had purchased for the whole project used to be an issue, but with digital where media cost is of little concern I've come to the conclusion that it's not as good as letting the take go on until the tune is over. Stopping in mid stream makes some artists feel self-concious and hinders the roll that they can get on. The most important element in getting a great recording is having happy camper musicians, IMHO.

Also if the tracks are in the digital domain, I seldom find that every musician and every section of a song is rendered useless, ITR, the outtakes typically have some tracks or sections that can be utilized. Rather than stop the take, I prefer to let it go these days and maintain the flow.  
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: rankus on January 02, 2006, 04:09:45 pm
DivideByZero wrote on Mon, 02 January 2006 09:16
When I talk to people I worked with [i

much later[/i], they still thank me for my ideas that made it, and they tell me they have regretted not using other ideas I brought, so I must also be doing something right.


M


Same here...  What a great reward! Really makes the head butting worth it.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Tidewater on January 02, 2006, 05:57:43 pm
Yes, but the head butting thing doesn't have to be angry.

I have a way of getting people excited about something, it's part of the skill set I have developed, it's one of my strong points. My attitude is probably the strongest, I bitch (a LOT) and people laugh.

It's all fun! (or not..)


M
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: rankus on January 02, 2006, 10:32:31 pm
DivideByZero wrote on Mon, 02 January 2006 14:57

Yes, but the head butting thing doesn't have to be angry.

I have a way of getting people excited about something, it's part of the skill set I have developed, it's one of my strong points. My attitude is probably the strongest, I bitch (a LOT) and people laugh.

It's all fun! (or not..)


M


Yes, of course. Never with any anger involved. Always in the spirit of the creative environment. I was referring to the dance you speak of...

Although, now I am recalling an episode a couple of weeks ago with a death metal band... the singer was starting to his takes, and was as usual a little nervous on the first pass..  I hold the talk back down and say "well that was pretty good" (you know)... and the freaking guitarist leans over my shoulder says "man that sucked shit! that was fukken awful" in a very angry tone....

Well I freak out and drop the talk back... start urging the guitarist to let me handle the coaching... he says "no way buds just hit record right now" while the hot headed, purple faced,  singer is basically stomping around ready to kill, kill, kill.... the best damned Metal takes I ever recorded...

So, even anger can be production tool.. (but I would never have had the balls to do that... )


I agree with the tactic of talking to another member of the band "hey you know what would be cool?"  Then they make the suggestion to the singer/band.... keeps it "their idea" .. being invisible is my goal (if you know what I mean)
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: jordancgeiger on January 04, 2006, 02:52:38 pm
I've always thought the relation of an engineer to the art being created in a recording session was similar to that of a translator to the art expressed in a literary work.  While it requires a lot of technical and conceptual skill, translating shouldn't be confused with authorship.  Like engineering, there's better and worse translations, and endless debate of who's better and worse at the craft, but at the end of the day, such discussions are a little absurd compared one-to-one with the genesis of the source material.

I've always recorded myself, at the expense of the quality of my material, sound-wise.  I am an artist first, and really get sick thinking about going to the local engineers, who I know will make the drums sound like rock drums no matter what I want.  Luckily, I've found an outside engineer who I trust and am friends with, so my next record will be with him.  If he affects the artistic outcome, I'm fine with that, but only if I decide it fits in the art.  Other than that, I'm looking for someone who's passion is helping me make the record I want, not getting sweet-ass sounds that other engineers can jizz all over.

Are the people who fund and release my records on their record label artists?  
Title: Re: the roll of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: J.J. Blair on January 04, 2006, 03:52:50 pm
electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 21:58

I think it's worthwhile to make a distinction between ingenuity (or resourcefulness) and creativity. Creativity (as I see it) is making something utterly new. I don't think engineers do this (or should do this) very often. Engineers must be resourceful and ingenious, otherwise problems (sometimes unique problems) un-dealt-with will derail a session. Creative, no. I think that leads to many wasted hours and ugly impositions.


electrical wrote on Wed, 28 December 2005 23:31


I think it's a choice relating to technique. Choosing whether to paint a duck or a typewriter is a creative choice, but having decided to (rather, having been assigned the task of-) painting a duck, doing it with a brush or a hot dog dipped in paint is a choice of technique. The difference is not subtle in my mind.



Steve, your girlfriend is a film maker, right?  Ask her if she thinks whether or not a photographer is an artist.  I do a lot of landscape photography.  Does that mean that only Nature is the artist and my decision which film to use, which depth of field to select, which lens type, etc. is merely a choice of technique and is not creative?  Last time I checked, phtography is considered 'art'.  Look at this picture and tell honestly that nothing creative or artistic went into: a) choosing the location and framing the shot, b) deciding to cross process E6 film, c) deciding how to print the negative, d) cropping the print a particular way, etc.

http://homepage.mac.com/jjblair/.Pictures/Photo%20Album%20Pictures/landscapes%20(color)/xpsdune.jpg

Now tell me that recording, which I consider to be both science and art, just like photography, is purely analytical and empirical, and is not creative or artistic.  I could use any combinations of elements and that picture will come out differently.  Same thing with recording; the engineer makes a creative decision how best to capture a sonic landscape.  And just like photgraphy, some decisions are brilliant and masterful, some are beautiful, some cheesy, some don't suit the music, and some are just plain limited by the experience and ability of the engineer, and might suck for that reason.  But regardless of the quality, they are in fact still artistic decisions.  One might be the equivalent of a stick figure, and the other might be a Picasso.  But does that mean that the 3 year old finger painting stick figures is not doing anything 'creative' or 'artistic'?  

Somebody said that deciding to use three mics to record an orchestra is not creative.  I say that it most certainly is.  Just because they chose a realistic mode of recording instead of a surrealistic or hyperrealistic mode, doesn't mean it's not a creative choice.  Is Norman Rockwell's realism less artistic than Picasso's cubism?

Steve, going back to the compression thread where I mentioned Clarksdale, your decision not to make the drums sound a certain way was not only a technical decision, it was a creative and artistic decision.  It changed the outcome and in my case, it changed my perception of the record.  Sure, the songwriting and performance had more impact on whether or not I liked the record than whether or not I thought the drum sound was appropriate, but you had a creative impact on the record nonetheless.  You are a recording artist in the collaborative effort between musician and engineer, and because of the myriad of techniques and choices for recording a performance, it is simply not possible for the engineer to be completely transparent in the process, whether or not you think he should be.  The fact of the matter is that as an engineer, your choices and technique make up a great deal of the final piece of art, and this makes you one of the artists in a collaboration.  Rauschenberg uses other people's photos in his collages, and he chooses to put them in a certain array.  Just because he didn't create something new out of nothing, I don't think the Smithsonian and the Guggenheim are going to kick him out.  Obviously, they felt that he made a creative and artistic decision, no?

I know how intransigent you are, and how unlikely you are to actually come around to my way of thinking on this, but hopefully this persuades you to view your role a little differently.  By your logic, the model is the artist and the photographer is not.  Think about it.  It just doesn't make sense.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Extreme Mixing on January 04, 2006, 05:31:39 pm
Well put, JJ.  And you did it without name calling or telling anyone to Fuck Off.  I was really shocked to see that expression so many times in the EQ article with John Goodmanson and Steve Albini.  Do we really need engineers using the magazine to send those messages?  Kind of makes you proud of your profession, doesn't it?  

I often use it as a musical term, as in "let me fuck with the snare for a minute", but seldom as a greeting.  Maybe that's just me.

Steve
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: J.J. Blair on January 04, 2006, 05:35:06 pm
Shit, I missed this article!  Strange, because I write for them (yet I don't have a subscription) and I even was chatting with Goodmanson the other week at a party.  I'll have to check that out, I suppose.

Anyway, even though I'm often unsuccesful, I try to avoid being mean around here, especially if I have a valid point.  It's  lot easier to attract flies with honey than vinegar, as they say.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: John Ivan on January 04, 2006, 05:40:56 pm
Indeed. Very well put JJ.

My 2 cents.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: electrical on January 04, 2006, 05:49:03 pm
J.J. Blair wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 15:52


Steve, your girlfriend is a film maker, right?  Ask her if she thinks whether or not a photographer is an artist.

I don't know about Heather, but I think photographers are artists. For christmas I bought her a really nice print by Jen Davis, who I think is brilliant.

Quote:

I do a lot of landscape photography.  Does that mean that only Nature is the artist and my decision which film to use, which depth of field to select, which lens type, etc. is merely a choice of technique and is not creative?

I don't see the parallel between making a photograph (creating an image) and recording someone else's music.

This would only be an apt anaolgy if music existed in nature and it took my recording of it for it to be audible. Nature is beautiful, but it is not the product of a creative mind, not a piece of work (fundamentalist biblical students, forgive me in negating your beliefs this way). Music is. Your photograph is art, because you made it. The band's music is art because they made it. My recording of music is merely an avenue for their art.

If you photographed a painting, you'd be closer to what I described, and you would be wrong to take credit for the painting's quality.

There has actually been a school of conceptual art that does things very much like this, and in this case the art is the commentary on the perception of the role of the artist. Thought-provoking at its outset, but trivial in my mind.

As an aside, I don't like the "audio photography" euphemism. I think they are distinct tasks and not particularly related.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: J.J. Blair on January 04, 2006, 06:00:22 pm
Well, I just have to say that I suppose you and I are never going to agree on this, then.  I think there is a HUGE difference between a live performance and an album.  The process itself is completely different, even.  I put it to you that what some band sounds like in rehearsals or live compared to what the final album sounds like is a perfect analogy between what that landscape looked like in person and what the final photo looks like.  On another note, I think that the fact that they are both art and science, as well as ways of reproducing an event, or even altering and editing an event, makes the audio photography analogy better than any other analogy.  

BTW, do you honestly think that the idea of recording that slide solo backwards with compression isn't 'creative'?  It requires an artistic sensibility.  The fact that you could hear that the attack of the guitar was less musical the other way was you employing artistic instincts.  If this were all technical and not artistic, gear designers and manufacturers would never need to use their ears and could simply rely on scopes, meters and math.  As soon as you have to judge an aesthetic, your job falls into the realm of artistic.  It's that simple.  You can't quantify aesthetic or make it empirical.  It takes an artistic sensitivity, and not just knowledge.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: drgonzo on January 04, 2006, 06:03:47 pm
I get your thinking Steve, its something that I've had many a drunken banter about after mixing a live show. I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to the ethos of the guy driving the desk. You can approach the job in two ways - you can listen to what is being played, and make it sound the way you think it'll sound best, or with discussion with the band, you can take what they're playing, and merely capture it - for myself, I much prefer to take what is happening on the stage and amplify it it as natural a way as possible. I'd rather mix a show in five minutes flat, work my arse off throughout the set and really capture the feeling of a band, than piss about with the mix for hours and end up with a generic "rock band" mix at the end of the show. From my (very limited, and technically misguided) experience of your work, it seems to me that that is the main drive of your recordings - to capture the essence of the band, without superfluous (is that how ya spell it???) fiddling.

Or, maybe I'm just wrong, and came into this discussion far too late. shoot me down, go on I dares ya!
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on January 04, 2006, 06:51:08 pm
fwiw, i think the painters usually do a much better job at capturing a human portrait than photographers

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Matt Drums on January 05, 2006, 03:40:11 pm
There is a lot of debate on the role of engineer as artist but I think a lot of this debate is misdirected simply because we don’t have a good working definition of artist or even art for that matter.  Let’s start off with some of those.  This I learned in “aesthetics” while attending SCAD under Dr. John Valentine:

Art is defined as:  an artifact of a sentient being that is created for aesthetic consideration by other sentient beings.  

An artist is defined as:  a sentient being that has created an artifact that he/she intends to be open for aesthetic consideration by other sentient beings.

A Craft is defined as:  an artifact of a sentient being that is created under defined aesthetic principles that allow for value determination by other sentient beings.

A craftsman is defined as:  a sentient being that has created an artifact under defined aesthetic principles that is to be considered for value dependant upon the craft’s determined principles.

This would mean that the movement of air (sound) that a band creates is art and a recording that an engineer makes is art too.  This is the point where the conversation takes a turn for the worse because because people are using the term art/artist too losely.  The process of engineering a recording can be done by both an artist and a craftsman.  The artist who engineers a record intends for their recording to be listened to under aesthetic considerations of the recording itself.  The craftsman who engineers a record doesn’t intend for the recording to be considered aesthetically… he intends for the recording to be the best he can due using the craft, thus leaving just the music the band created to be considered aesthetically.

Steve sees being a craftsman as a more noble effort because he feels it leaves the artifact the band has created more true to the bands intentions.  Of course he has this opinion because he started his musical career as a musician and he has developed an affinity for their efforts as artists because he has been subjected to the artistry of engineers in his earlier days and did not feel his art was complimented by their art. He has achieved a level of proficiency for his craft that continually draws artists because they know their art will not be compromised.

Many engineers or producers operate under the role of artist because they intend for their recordings to be aesthetically considered.  This has an effect on the artifact of the band.  Now whether this is good or bad can only be determined by the band… not anyone else.  If the band enjoys the artistry of the engineer then it’s good.  If the artistry of the engineer has adversely affected the artifact the band has created, it’s only up to the band to say so.  

Now here’s the kicker!  99% of mainstream commercial music is a craft and not an art!  That’s right.  The only mainstream music that is art is original music that finds it self to be popular.  This is the music that is copied by hundreds of bands and created by producers in attempt to ride the coat tails of the original to make money or fame.  Think of any ground breaking band or musician that has had a major influence over his peers and you’ll find an artist.  The bands that copy the style of such original bands are craftsmen by definition because they are striving for defined aesthetic principles that have been set by the original band.

By the way, it’s okay to be a craftsman.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Fibes on January 05, 2006, 04:43:10 pm
Small world, I am very familiar with JVs aesthetics class. Very thought provoking and fun...

Just in case; are you the Matt I'm tracking drums for tonight?

Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Matt Drums on January 05, 2006, 04:53:14 pm
Different Matt, same Dr.JV.  He's rad hunh?  It was annoying to me to read all this debate that was based on common conceptions of art when much more specific wording was needed.  

I live in Atlanta and play drums in The Liverhearts.  I used to go see GAM and Superhorse when I went to SCAD.  Small world.
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: maxim on January 05, 2006, 06:37:27 pm
arts and crafts are not mutually exclusive
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: rankus on January 05, 2006, 07:55:26 pm
Matt Drums wrote on Thu, 05 January 2006 12:40


Many engineers or producers operate under the role of artist because they intend for their recordings to be aesthetically considered.  


Is'n this Exactly what I pointed out several pages back?  Rolling Eyes
Title: Re: the role of an engineer in relation to art
Post by: Extreme Mixing on January 05, 2006, 08:25:12 pm
electrical wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 14:49

J.J. Blair wrote on Wed, 04 January 2006 15:52


Steve, your girlfriend is a film maker, right?  Ask her if she thinks whether or not a photographer is an artist.

I don't know about Heather, but I think photographers are artists. For christmas I bought her a really nice print by Jen Davis, who I think is brilliant.

Quote:

I do a lot of landscape photography.  Does that mean that only Nature is the artist and my decision which film to use, which depth of field to select, which lens type, etc. is merely a choice of technique and is not creative?

I don't see the parallel between making a photograph (creating an image) and recording someone else's music.

This would only be an apt anaolgy if music existed in nature and it took my recording of it for it to be audible. Nature is beautiful, but it is not the product of a creative mind, not a piece of work (fundamentalist biblical students, forgive me in negating your beliefs this way). Music is. Your photograph is art, because you made it. The band's music is art because they made it. My recording of music is merely an avenue for their art.

If you photographed a painting, you'd be closer to what I described, and you would be wrong to take credit for the painting's quality.

There has actually been a school of conceptual art that does things very much like this, and in this case the art is the commentary on the perception of the role of the artist. Thought-provoking at its outset, but trivial in my mind.

As an aside, I don't like the "audio photography" euphemism. I think they are distinct tasks and not particularly related.



I think the photo analogy is quite a good one myself.  I can tell that you and I will never agree, but you might consider this.  Most of the music I record has never really been heard in a live setting.  A "band" has never played, or rehearsed it.  The only main it will be heard is through the recording and mix that I am making.  From then on, the benchmark for that song will be the mix that I have made.  The FX, the sound design, that repeating echo at the end of the chorus, will all be replicated for live performances, because they will be perceived as part of the song by the fans.  95% of my sound and sonic choices will stand.  I believe that if my average is less than that, the Artist should find someone else to work with and that we will both be happier in the long run.  This "picture" of the song will become the song for most people.  So that "photo" becomes the song for the mass of people who enjoy the music.

It's a job that I really love, and I'm good at it.  Whether you call it an art or a craft makes little difference to me.  I approach my work from a creative perspective.  I don't know how to fix a microphone, or design an electronic circuit.  I do know how to make it sound good, and I do it in a musical way.  I didn't get the gig because of my typing skills, and I don't do data entry.

I don't feel all puffed up in the ego department, guilty over estimating my own self worth.  I get to work with some very gifted musicians and composers and I feel humbled in their presence.  The fact is that THEY call ME in to do the work.  Repeatedly.  So I must be doing something right.

If it's not art then maybe we should make up a word, call it pqowierutj, and we could agree on that.

Steve