The precarious double life of the recording engineer

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JournalJournal for Cultural Research
DateE-pub ahead of print - 8 Aug 2013
DatePublished (current) - Sep 2014
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)189-202
Early online date8/08/13
Original languageEnglish


This article draws upon a series of focus groups and interviews with recording engineers at various stages of their careers. Using these data the article explores the way that recording engineers balance artistic sensibility with the logistics and precision of engineering. The piece shows that the term ‘recording engineering’ represents a highly varied set of practices, and that this variation can be understood through an examination of the balance between artistry and engineering found in the recording engineer’s background and biography, in their technical know-how and in the recording relations that they mediate. The article argues that in order to understand cultural production we need to understand how, both individually and collectively, recording engineers find the balance between art and engineering that enables them to fit into hierarchies, to present themselves as legitimate to different audiences, to manage interpersonal relations and to maintain their role in the recording process. Here this balancing act is described as the precarious double life of the recording engineer. As such, this exploratory article begins to open-up an understanding of the influence that recording engineers have upon the contemporary cultural soundscape.

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© 2013 Taylor & Francis. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Journal for Cultural Research. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

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