Wednesday 20th May 2020 – 6pm UK Time (GMT +1hr)

Paul Thompson (Leeds Beckett University)

Performing inside the recording studio is notably different from traditional musical performance primarily because there isn’t an audience to perform to, or interact with. There may only be a handful of people present during a recording session so performance in the studio can lack the: ‘spontaneous and experimental elements’ (Watson 2014, p. 51) that often occur between performers and audiences during a live performance. Studio performances separate the ‘live’ event from the act of performance (Small 1998) and are scrutinized because they are intended for repeated listening. Consequently there is: ‘the ever-present concern for how the performance will hold up over time’ (Zak 2001, p. 51) as the moment of performance: ‘is transformed into an enduring aesthetic object’ (ibid).

Performing musicians and artists working within the context of commercial record production have had a mixed, and often fractious, relationship with the recording studio; either embracing the affordances that recording technologies can bring or wrestling with the ways in which it forces them to alter their performance style. Studio recording has altered: ‘the structure of musical practice and concepts of what music is and can be’ (Théberge 1997, p. 3)  and so studio performers not only require musical, technical and socio-cultural knowledge, but an applied understanding of the ways in which music is used, consumed and enjoyed by audiences to deliver their performances on record. The following presentation provides an alternative take on studio performance by introducing the idea that studio performances are the result of creative systems in action (McIntyre 2012). Beginning first with the performing musician’s musical, technical and socio-cultural knowledge and their interactions within the recording studio’s social context, this presentation then illustrates the creative system of studio performance in action using examples from the title track from David Bowies’s Heroes (1977).