Reconceptualising the studio: the social, spatial and temporal effects of miniaturization, mobilization and democratization of music technologies

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The studio is a mythical place. Paul Clarke invokes the magical and mysterious in his descriptions of Hendrix’s creativity: ‘The studio became “Jimi’s workshop. The endless timeless space”’ where he would ‘mediate between order and disorder’ in an ancient and alchemistic sense. 1 Chris Gibson grounds the studio as an ‘iconic [space] of music in the city’ and acknowledges that ‘recording studios are mythologized more than other stages and spaces of production’. 2 The fabric of the studio symbolises toil, art, inspiration, luring artists in search of the perfect reification of their ideas. But just as the cost, size, availability and functionality of technology reaches a stage that significantly expands the scope for experiencing and unravelling the materials and practices of music production, the very proliferation of this technology undermines any stable notion of what the studio might be and challenges established ideas of the where, when and who of studio creativity. The processing power needed to facilitate sonic creativity can be held in the palm of the hand, so the idea of ‘the studio’ is (once again) in flux – ways of exploring the effects of this shift need to be established.

Based on the social anthropology of Bruno Latour 3 and the relational aesthetics espoused by Georgina Born, 4 we reconfigure the studio as a ‘locus of creative activity’. The model we propose, derived from realist experimentalism, plots the position and relations of all necessary actors (human and non-human) required for a locus of creative activity to coalesce. The contemporary recording studio can no longer be safely defined as a particular room, nor by the presence of particular technologies. Instead, it must be understood as a more dynamic place, potentially occupying a position somewhere between the ‘traditional’ physical/architectural form and a transient/temporary moment (in the hotel room 5, or on the train 6) that points to the possibility of an increasingly dispersed, distributed mode of creativity. The idea of creativity as a unitary process is seriously challenged by the possibility of any space functioning as a studio with the right configuration of technologies, actions and intentions. We discuss the implications of miniaturized and mobilized technologies via an exploration of the changes in the temporal and spatial dimensions of creativity: temporal in terms of the proliferation of music ‘rendered liquid as code’ 7 and spatial in terms of the emancipation of geographic (and therefore sonic) place that digital technology allows.
Period2 Dec 2011
Event titleThe 7th Art of Record Production Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number7
LocationSan Francisco, United States, CaliforniaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational