McIntyre, P. (2007) ‘Rethinking Creativity: Record Production and the Systems Model’, 3rd Art of Record Production International Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec 10-11, 2007.

McIntyre, P. (2007) ‘Rethinking Creativity: Record Production and the Systems Model’, 3rd Art of Record Production International Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec 10-11, 2007.

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  Proceedings of the 3 rd  Art of Record Production Conference 1 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec. 2007. Rethinking Creativity: Record Production and the Systems Model Phillip McIntyre University of Newcastle, NSW.   Abstract The romantic and inspirationist understandings of creativity appear to be cemented into place in the music industry so much so that they have become common sense. However rationalist research does not support these views (e.g.  Negus & Pickering 2004, Pope 2005). In fact these views have been described as myths (Boden, 2004) and are therefore explanations lacking veracity. If this is the case what is available to describe the phenomena of creativity in  studio practice? Historically, most rational research into creativity has focused at the level of the individual neglecting the broader social and cultural structures that  shape and enable creativity (Sawyer, 2006) and cultural  production (Bourdieu, 1993). Nonetheless, recent research has been moving towards confluence models (Sternberg, 1999) one of which is the systems model (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988, 1997 & 1999). According to this approach creativity comes about through the ongoing operation of „a system composed of three elements: a culture that contains  symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the domain, and a field of experts who recognise and validate the innovation‟ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996:6).  By taking this model and applying it ethnographically to what occurs in the recording studio, from preproduction through to  production and postproduction, a greater understanding of the creative process, one that goes beyond common sense and mythic assumptions, may be forthcoming. 1 Introduction   The Romantic ideal, typified by the conventional view of the quasi-neurotic artist, sees creative activity as  primarily self-expressive and supposedly independent from any perceptible constraint (Zolberg 1990, Petrie 1991, Watson 2005, Sawyer 2006). As Peter Wicke has argued, this view has legitimized the individualism that is at the heart of the artist‟s world; a world perpetuated in many of the myths that surround the recording studio. The Dionysian tales of artists working under the inspiration of whatever muse is popular at the time are legendary. These  perspectives, however, have: ...bound art to personality, individuality and lifestyle,  but at the same time made it possible to see in art the liberation of man by reminding him of his own inner  potential. Being creative meant removing the barriers which imprison man from within, meant self-realisation and freedom...Behind the criticism of commerce, which was seen as the opposite of creativity and communication, lay the Romantic appeal to the autonomy of the artist, an ideal of honesty, upright  behaviour and directness (Wicke 1990: 98-99). These understandings of artistic activity, and the field of creativity in which it is subsumed, appear to be cemented into place in the music industry. They are so strongly held that to challenge them risks ridicule at worst and disbelief at  best. In short these ideas are now common sense. They are reflected in the way artists are sold to audiences, the way audiences think about what happens when records are made and they make regular appearances in articles and conversations about the studio and its practices. However, as Margaret Boden asserts in her book Creativity: Myths and Mechanisms  (2004), these ideas: are believed by many to be literally true. But they are rarely critically examined. They are not theories, so much as myths : imaginative constructions, whose function is to express the values, assuage the fears, and endorse the practices of the community that celebrates them (2004: 14). But Keith Negus and Michael Pickering have argued that a „critical interrogation of creativity should  be central to any understanding of musical production‟ ( Hesmondhalgh & Negus 2002: 147). With Albin Zak recently declaring that „ record production is a mode of creative expression ‟ (Zak 2007: 1) and the act of „ turning musical utterance into electrical cu rrent requires, by the project‟s very nature, an intervening aesthetic sensibility which may, in turn, impinge on the final result ‟ (ibid) one can also argue that, given the array of aesthetic sensibilities engaged in the making of a single recording going well beyond a single individual‟s, the creative activity seen in the recording studio is very much a collective one. Peter Wicke, looking solidly at the actuality of the way records are made rather then the naturalized  beliefs that surround that process, goes on to say:  Proceedings of the 3 rd  Art of Record Production Conference 2 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec. 2007. music as the individual expression of an outstanding artistic personality is de facto  impossible. [Popular music has become] a collective means of expression, to which the individual musician can only contribute in a collective activity with others, with technicians,  producers and, of course, with other musicians (1990: 15-16). If this is the case how then do we explain what happens creatively in the studio if we can‟t rely on the tenets of romanticism? 2 Background to Creative Activity Fortunately, the phenomenon of creativity has been researched from a rationalist perspective for some time now (for reviews see Zolberg 1990, Bergquist 1999, Sternberg 1999, Runco & Pritzker 1999, Negus & Pickering 2004, Pope 2005 and Sawyer 2006). Faced with mounting evidence researchers relying on rational and empirical studies have quickly dismissed the romantic ideal (Sternberg 1999). From this research literature a number of definitions of creativity can be readily discerned. Amalgamating these definitions into one it can be seen that creativity is: an activity whereby products, processes and ideas are generated from antecedent conditions by the agency of someone, whose knowledge to do so comes from somewhere and the resultant novel variation is seen as a valued addition to the store of human knowledge (McIntyre 2006: 202). While there have been numerous attempts in the research to explain this phenomena by focusing solely on the individual and investigating biological and cognitive factors (summarised in Runco & Pritzker 1999, Sternberg 1999) this overemphasis on psychological reductionism (Simonton 2003: 304) has resulted in the opposite  perspective, that is sociocultural reductionism, presenting the antithesis (e.g. Barthes 1977, Foucault 1979) to the individually focused ideas that were typical of the author/genius model . However, this antithesis also results in unsatisfactory explanations where „the individual  becomes a mere epiphenomenon without any causal significance whatsoever‟  (Simonton 2003: 304). Slowly, it appears a synthesis in the research has recognized that a confluence of factors, which includes social, cultural and  psychological ones, needs to be in place for creativity to occur. While there have been a number of these so called confluence models suggested (Amabile 1983 & 1996, Gruber 1988, Dacey & Lennon 1998, Simonton 2003, Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi & Gardner 1994, Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1997 & 1999, Weisberg 1993 and Sternberg & Lubart 1991 & 1992) the most apt of these may be the systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1997, 1999). According to the system approach creativity comes about through the ongoing operation of „a system composed of three elements: a culture that contains symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the domain, and a field of experts who recognise and validate the innovation‟ (Csikszentmihalyi 1996:  6). Figure 1. “  It is important to realise that the relationships shown in the figure are dynamic links of circular causality. In other words each of the three main systems  –   person, field and domain  –   affects the others and is affected by them in turn…The starting point on this map is purely arbitrary ”  (Csikszentmihalyi 1988: 329). This systems model suggests that for creativity to occur a body of knowledge or an accessible set of symbol systems must be existent. An individual acquires this knowledge by  being immersed in it via learning and experience in order for them to then make suitable changes within it. This body of knowledge is called a domain . If uniqueness is an attribute of creativity a judgment also needs to be made about whether a new idea, product or process is in fact unique. However, no judgment ever occurs in a vacuum. Therefore those who hold the knowledge are also important contributors to the system as they have the background to make those necessary judgments. This social group is called a  field  . The individual‟s  task is to make changes in the domain and present these to the field, a social grouping that understands to differing degrees the body of knowledge  being worked on, for verification of its srcinality. Each of these people in the field, including the individual themselves, acquire what Pierre Bourdieu (1977, 1990, 1993 & 1996) calls a habitus . Based on the premise that agency and structure are intimately entwined, acquiring a habitus can be seen as the development of: a „feel for the game‟, a „practical sense‟ (  sens  practique ) that inclines agents to act and react in specific situations in a manner that is not always calculated and that is not simply a question of conscious obedience to rules. Rather it is a set of CULTURE domain  person field SOCIETY   BIO & ENV Transmits Information Produces  Novelty Selects  Novelty Stimulates  Novelty  Proceedings of the 3 rd  Art of Record Production Conference 3 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec. 2007. dispositions which generates practices and perceptions (Johnson in Bourdieu 1993: 5) This depiction of an agent‟s decision making has s ome similarities to the thoughts put forward by Donald Schon on the acquisition of a practitioner‟s skill base. Schon argues that a practitioner‟s skills become „internalized in our tacit knowing‟   (1983: 52) and suggests that „we are often unaware of having learned to do these things; we simply find ourselves doing them‟  (ibid). Tony Bastick (1982) calls this process intuition. While intuition is seen conventionally as a vaguely mystical or metaphysical process, in his book  Intuition:  How We Think and Act   (1982) Bastick is precise in his definition of it as the „nonlinear processing of global multi - categorised information‟ (1982: 215). This latter process is how and where ideas are generated. Ideas seemingly pop out of nowhere but from this perspective are based on what has  been input and processed. Richard Burgess, songwriter and record producer, also reinforces these ideas in his book The  Art of Record Production (1997). Burgess argues that: a great deal of the job is to do with instinct. Flood said in a r  ecent interview, „So much of what one does has to  be based on instinct. From there you use your experience to refine, hone, change and question your srcinal instinct.‟ But we‟re not talking about the kind of instinct that you‟re born with. This is the ins tinct that develops from being around music, musicians and studios your whole life. This, I think, is the reason that DJ‟s with no musical or technical ability can still  become excellent producers. They have listened to many, many records, logged the way people responded to the music and subconsciously programmed their instinct to be able to reproduce those excitement factors in their own records. I played in a lot of top-forty bands when I was young. I hated it at the time but later when I started to write and produce, I realised that having to learn and play all those hits had instilled in me an instinct for what works and what doesn‟t. I didn‟t have to think about how to construct a hit. I just knew (1997: 177). Antoine Hennion, in also delineating a prod ucer‟s intuitive capacities and their sources, argues that a record  producer‟s: knowledge of the pop music scene and his experience of the public are of value only when he has integrated them within an „immediate‟ sensitivity: only then do they mutely guarantee the genuineness of his taste, which can exercise itself spontaneously and in a non-cerebral fashion. He can forget the criteria he has interiorized and allow himself to give into his feelings, to react to what he perceives as purely physical sensations produced by such and such effects (in Frith & Goodwin 1990: 201). 3 The Productive Agents in the Studio Producers „are, like pop music, a comparatively recent  phenomenon‟ (Tobler & Grundy 1982: 7). They have developed an „important role as a cultural intermediary‟ (Shuker 2001: 105) in the studio where their decisions contribute significantly to the final creative product. In terms of decision making in the studio they draw on their domain and field knowledge right throughout the recording process and are generally responsible for the completion of the recording project. It is clear, however, that despite the variety of approaches they take (Olsen, Verna & Wolff 1999) producers are often placed inside a highly collaborative process: In the music industry, record producers are the invisible part of the creative team, and most listeners don‟t know what the producer does. The best analogy is that the record producer is like a feature film‟s Director…While the recording engineer is responsible for getting things on tape (like the cinematographer) the Producer must articulate a vision for what the end  product should sound like. The musicians are somewhat like the actors, reading from a script (the written music) and the Producer guides them through the reading. Even when the artist has written the song, the artist relies on the producer to present the song  properly, to run the recording session, and to help the artist be objective about the quality of his [sic] own  performances (Levitin 1998: online). As well as drawing on their domain knowledge to decide on song quality and the quality of performances  producers also monitor tuning and timing. Their responsibilities include not only these musical parameters  but also involve technical and administrative ones. They have to ensure, usually through their engineer, that all the equipment to be used is indeed ready and usable. They work closely with other members of the field through booking the studios, hiring an engineer if necessary, hiring musicians, hiring equipment and filing contracts. In essence they oversee the whole production through all stages of  preproduction, production and post production. Most importantly they set the mood of the working environment. Dave Faulkner, formerly of the Hoodoo Gurus and their  principal songwriter, commented on his relationship to Charles Fisher, his long time producer: Oh. He‟s amazing. He‟s got one of the best pop sensibilities of any Australian producers. The best thing about Charles is what you‟d call his bed -side mann er. He‟s really easy - going. He‟s always got a wry comment to make. When you can have a laugh and relax it brings out, you know, the better qualities. It‟s when you‟re stressing out and someone‟s, you know, hammering you about something it tends to make you clam up and not be creative (personal interview, 1997).  Proceedings of the 3 rd  Art of Record Production Conference 4 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec. 2007. Producers therefore need to be able to work well with all the members of the field. Their arsenal of skills include degrees of tact and diplomacy so that they can establish a firm rapport with all the people involved, maintain some empathy with the performers and help to interpret and realise the creative vision of the project. In this case the  producer is hired not only to contribute to the creative  process but also in many ways to assure success on a financial as well as a musical level: Like I always collaborate with producers because that‟s what you do with a solo artist. You don‟t have a band to bounce ideas off. You have a single person. Much the same in the way Beck would work or anyone  because you get so self involved, you know, doing everything yourself. So, I mean, I always choose  producers knowing what their musical taste is and what their style is and what their level of, you know, musical ability is because I want to choose someone who will contribute to the record but also in the right way. (Ben Lee, personal interview, 1998). The engineer on the other hand, presuming of course that the producer is not also the engineer as is increasingly the case, decides other aspects of the production. Howard Becker contends that „each kind of person who participates in the making of art works, then has a specific bundle of tasks to do,‟ (Becker 1982: 11) but the allocation of tasks is arbitrary, though nonetheless traditional. Roy Shuker suggests that: in the recording studio, the work of the sound mixer, or sound engineer, „ represents the point where music and modern technology meet‟ (Kealy 1979). Initially designated as „technicians‟, sound mixers have converted a craft into an art, with consequent higher status and reward (2001: 53). Despite its assumption of the constructed distinction  between art and craft (Bailin 1988, Dissanayake 1995) Shuker‟s description underlines the fact that „the appearance of autonomy of the individual artist is superficial ‟ (Becker 1982: 16). Each person working on the record has a set of creative concerns that are tied to their own reputation „for their own success depends in part on impressing those who hire them with their competence‟ (Becker, 1982: 25). In the case of the engineer, as they act as liaison between the  producer and the machinery being used, they will be making creative decision based fundamentally on what their own aesthetic will tolerate. In essence the engineer‟s primary task is to capture sound just as a cameraperson on a film set captures light (Emerick in Martin 1983: 256). The engineer needs to ensure that everything is recorded at the appropriate levels with, dependent on the project, no distortion or break-up and that the signal to noise ratio is appropriate. Like the  producer they also have to interpret the language used in the studio. When the producer or a musician asks to take the shine off the cymbals, or to make the bass sound fatter, deliver punchy brass, put some depth on the vocals or add a little blue or silver overall, they will need to be able to translate these obtuse requests into technical action that is cognisant with their own domain knowledge and field expertise. Therefore they need to be familiar with all the equipment from microphone types through to the software  programs being used. If things go wrong they‟re expected to  be able to fix them. Once everything is working optimally engineers are expected to work efficiently: It all depends on who‟s engineering and Rob Taylor is really good to work with. We got my vocals down in two days and we were really happy with that. Nick took in seven different snares to get the sound he wanted on each track.  Now they‟ve [Scott Chapman and Glenn Dorman] gone in with Rob Taylor and the three of them are gonna start arguing about [the mix] for a few days (Kate White, personal interview, 1995). With the engineer in place, as well as the musicians, songwriters, performers, managers and A&R people, each of whom deserves a similar account, it can be seen that each of these productive agents contribute their various expertise and reputations to this art world in microcosm. In doing so they move the work through recognisable stages. 4 The Stages of Creative Activity Each stage of record production has a set of decisions affecting the eventual creative output to be made within it. In parallel with this Tony Bastick has suggested that there are just two stages to creativity; intuition and then verification. This final stage, verification, is a period „i n which both the validity of the idea was tested, and the idea was reduced to exact form‟  (Wallas in Rothenberg & Hausmann 1976: 70). In working from Graeme Wallas‟s formulation that creativity involves four stages; preparation, incubation, inspiration and verification, Bastick saw that the first three could be subsumed inside the notion of intuition. Robert Weisberg (1993, 2006), however, contends that it is difficult to categorise each creative step in a universal set of stages, and can find little evidence, particularly of incubation, apart from self-reportage from creative individuals. It should be noted however that, even though Wallas‟s stages were based on „his own introspection and scattered observations‟ they have been widely accepted by many researchers (Rothenberg & Hausmann 1972: 69). As Csikszentmihalyi argues, despite these criticisms they do  provide a useful set of markers or areas one can begin working on in order to enhance our understanding of creativity. He also adds a fifth step, elaborati on, to Wallas‟s srcinal four: The five-stage view of the process may be too simplified, and it can be misleading, but it does offer a relatively valid and simple way to organise the complexities involved...It is essential to remember...that the five stages in reality are not  Proceedings of the 3 rd  Art of Record Production Conference 5 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Dec. 2007. exclusive but typically overlap and recur several times  before the process is completed (Csikszentmihalyi 1997:83). Csikszentmihalyi also asserts that: this classic analytic framework leading from  preparation to elaboration gives a severely distorted  picture of the creative process if it is taken too literally. A person who makes a creative contribution never just slogs through the long last stage of elaboration. This  part of the process is constantly interrupted by periods of incubation and is punctuated by epiphanies. Many fresh insights emerge as one is presumably just putting finishing touches on the initial insight…Thus the creative process is less linear than recursive. How many iterations it goes through, how many loops are involved, how many insights are needed, depends on the depth and breadth of the issues dealt with. Sometimes incubation lasts for years; sometimes it takes a few hours. Sometimes the creative idea includes one deep insight and innumerable small ones. In some cases, as with Darwin‟s formulation of the theory of evolution, the basic insight may appear slowly, in separate disconnected flashes that take years to coalesce into a coherent idea (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997:80-81). This staged approach to the creative process parallels to some extent the characteristic stages of recording which typically includes preproduction, production and  postproduction. 4.1 Preproduction Preproduction requires, dependent on the project, in-depth planning and preparation in organisational, equipment and budgetary terms. This is the stage typically used to identify the specific resources needed, to find suitable studios, and importantly to begin writing, revising, rearranging and rehearsing songs. Mark Tinson, producer of country artist Steve Gibson and rock band Freak Shop, describes his own modus operandi: When I work with say Steve Gibson, writing his stuff, he comes up generally with the idea for a chorus or a verse and a chorus. I just whip them into shape. If I have to write a vers e for one of his songs it‟s generally dictated from what the chorus is. So that‟s pretty much  just hack work for me. Writing with the Freak Shop is  pretty much the same thing. The lyrics are taken care of by Steve Mclennan. He usually has a melodic idea. I ‟ll usually come up with some sort of riff and then we'll just work it together between the two of us (Mark Tinson, personal interview, 1997). Rick Brewster, one of the songwriters from the Angels, also asserts that preparatory input was essential for the success of their records: They [producers Vanda and Young] were very influential in the early days around the first couple of albums particularly. Although they didn‟t produce  Face to Face  or  No Exit  , I think we called them executive producers. What that m eant was we didn‟t  put down a song without running it by them, both in the writing stage and in the recording. As always happens when you play somebody you respect a song and you ask them for their comments you take them seriously and the song changes usually as a result. It might be something as simple as losing a middle eight, or adding a middle eight or changing a lyric or whatever. So yeah they did a bit of that in the early days and basically just taught [The Angels] a lot about songwriting and arranging (Rick Brewster, personal interview, 1997).  Not only must a producer engage in this sort of  preparatory work, especially if the performer is under  prepared, but they must also ensure that items pertinent to the field, such as permits and clearances are obtained, insurance requirements and other necessary legals are attended to. Session musicians need to be  booked if they‟re required, whatever extra equipment or instruments that are needed have to be sorted out, programming time needs to be scheduled and transport and accommodation organised if necessary. Preproduction, therefore, also crucially involves working out the proposed budget. This budgetary function highlights the fact that without some form of financial  patronage (McIntyre 2007) most creative work in a modern studio will not happen. For the producer, if they‟re wise,  before the recording process begins they will negotiate, either with the record company who is primarily acting as a venture capitalist (Kazmierczak, 2003) or the artist who may  be financing the project through other means, an outright  payment, a salary plus bonus royalties, or a royalty - usually referred to as points. 4.2 Production The next stage, that is production, includes the actuality of recording all the material for the pro  ject. Just as Wallas‟s stage of illumination is often mistaken for creativity itself,  production is the stage of recording most people see as the  beginning and end of the process. However, if pre- production has been sound, the production stage may often  proceed on the basis of ensuring all of the necessary items of work are completed adequately and accounted for  properly. This stage conventionally includes tracking and overdubbing and can typically involve a number of people, songwriters, performing musicians, the engineer and the  producer all giving their creative input. For some songwriters these inputs can be seen as examples of constraint to their creativity, especially if they have an ontological base in Romanticism, rather than a set of contributing variables in the mediation of the creative system: You get into a studio situation and you‟ve got guitar  players wanting to go, „Okay, where‟s the solo fit into
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