The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records

The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records

The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records

The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records

Synopsis

"Albin Zak's "The Poetics of Rock is a brilliant and original study of how studio recordings of rock music have introduced an entirely new dimension of music composition. Bristling with acute insights and interpretations, this book should provide engaging reading for any serious student, scholar, or aficionado of rock, of composition, or of modern music culture in general."--Peter Manuel, author of "Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India

"In "The Poetics of Rock, Albin Zak offers an expert guide to how records are made, not only outlining in detail technical practices and procedures in a comprehensible way, but also thoughtfully engaging the myriad of aesthetic and musical issues that recording raises. This masterful study opens up important new areas of concern for rock and is a must-read for all scholars concerned with popular music and criticism."--John Covach, editor of "Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

Excerpt

In a small and unremarkable building on the west side of Manhattan, I walk down a narrow hallway that leads past a line of cramped offices to a recording studio. the walls are hung with gold- and platinum-colored discs in frames, commemorating the commercial successes of artists who have worked here. At the end of the hallway I cross through a small, simply furnished lounge area—a couch, a television, a backgammon board, some magazines—and open a heavy door leading into a room of peculiar character. Its walls and ceiling are angled and covered with a combination of oddly shaped wood and fabric-covered panels. There is no natural light, no view of the world outside. the dimness within is dotted with bright spots of colored light, some shining steadily, some flickering on and off, some shooting up and down or back and forth on various display panels, all emanating from one or another of the many machines that fill the room. the acoustic atmosphere is concentrated. Sounds have a focused presence about them quite unlike the diffuse quality of normal sonic experience. They seem to be closer to the ear and tightly framed. the air is filled with musical sound. Though there are no musicians in the room, I hear the full and satisfying sound of a band—drums, guitars, bass, and keyboards—rocking steadily. Two people are sitting before a large console filled with knobs, buttons, lights, and faders. As they listen, they watch through a large window on the other side of the console, which looks through to another room where a musician wearing headphones is playing a bass guitar. She appears to be completely absorbed—eyes closed, head bobbing rhythmically, face contorting expressively. As I watch and listen, it becomes apparent that she is playing the bass line for the music I'm hearing. Alone in the studio, with previously recorded music filling her ears, she pours herself into the performance, while in the control room the engineer goes about capturing the expressive moment on tape and the producer follows along with a critical ear.

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