The Ecological Approach To Mixing Audio: agency, activity and environment in the process of audio staging

Andrew Bourbon, Simon Zagorski-Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports on some of the outcomes from a larger research project on Classical Music ‘Hyper-Production’ And Practice As Research – a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project that seeks to create radical reinterpretations of the classical repertoire through record production. Our approach to mixing audio for this project is based on a theoretical model that explores the links between the perception and cognition of recorded music, our musicological analyses of the pieces and how that translates into staging and processing decisions. While taking into account Schaeffer’s theories about the ‘Objet Sonore’ (Schaeffer 1966 and Dack 2001) and Smalley’s (1986 and 1997) work on spectromorphology, we are utilizing the ecological approach to perception (Gibson 1979; Clarke 2005; Zagorski-Thomas 2014) and the neural theory of language and metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson 2003; Feldman 2008) to examine mix decisions in terms of agency, activity and environment. Examples from the research project, which include ensemble pieces and layered, overdubbed solo performances, will be deconstructed from a musicological perspective. This will involve foreground and background, thematic material, contrapuntal lines and other musical features being discussed in terms of the number and type of perceived agents, the types of activity in which they are involved and the nature of the environment within which the activity occurs. This will be explored through both literal and metaphorical interpretations of the musical activity. These analyses will then be used to explain the decisions that were made during the mix process. Placing the perceived agents on different parts of the sound stage, highlighting or inhibiting various aspects of the energy expenditure involved in the perceived activity and determining the type and character of the environment within which this activity occurs will be further deconstructed in terms of the specific processing decisions that were made in different instances.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal on the Art of Record Production
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The Ecological Approach To Mixing Audio: agency, activity and environment in the process of audio staging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this