Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Sunday, May 19 • 14:45 - 15:15
"You want it to sound like I don't know how to record?": negotiating conceptions of "lo-fi" authenticity in collaborative work

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

In this paper we reflect on our experiences working together on the recent recording of an indie rock album, and the difficult negotiations resulting from our divergent interpretations of what constitutes “lo-fi” recording. We consider how our respective positions – one as scholar and “DIY” musician, the other as professional producer – might correlate to specific academic notions of authenticity and expressivity. Our contestations over “lo-fi” took place over WhatsApp, and this text-message exchange provides the source material for our critical reflection here: a doubly collaborative process (both musical and scholarly) investigating exchanges enabled by connective technologies.

“Lo-fi” as a sonic palette has close historical affinities with the “access aesthetic” of punk – simple and cheap recording methods serving as impetus for wider participation. In these implicit calls for the democratization of the recording process, the notion of expertise in musical recording might be called into question; this can be considered the central tension in our negotiation. We summarize our divergent approaches as ones of “subtraction” or “addition”. For Ellis, as a musician with a “DIY” background, lo-fi constituted the “stripping back” of unnecessary modifications in order to reveal the already present (e.g. background noise). For Patrick, producer interference was necessary to create the sonic signature of lo-fi, through the careful application of distortion, compression, and EQ. In this latter understanding, lo-fi is one tool amongst many in the producer’s arsenal, to be added and removed at will. This led us to consider ethical issues involved in the professional replication of amateurism: if one has the requisite skills to make “hi-fi” music, is it deceptive to do otherwise? In exploring such questions we suggest that existing scholarly emphasis on genre boundaries in constructions of authenticity might neglect how “producerly” and “musicianly” notions of musical truth often work to differing ends within genre boundaries.


Ellis Jones

University of Oslo

Patrick Hyland

Producer, Independent

Sunday May 19, 2019 14:45 - 15:15 EDT
Classroom 411 (4th floor)