The Musicology of Record Production and Recorded Popular Music

Submitting Institution

University of West London

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

The research community that has grown up around the Art of Record Production project is inextricably entwined with the professional and creative communities of record production practitioners and therefore the research permeates the practice and vice versa. The London College of Music (LCM) — University of West London (UWL), is at the heart of both of these communities, with staff immersed in both research and professional practice and is also engaging with the professional recording community through the Audio Engineering Society (AES). The highly vocational nature of the academic subject and the fact that research underpins the pedagogy means that LCM's research has a profound impact on professional practice. This comes from two directions. Firstly, this research has become central to pedagogy on record production in higher education around the world and is thus helping to shape the mind-set of the new wave of professional practitioners who are graduating from these courses. Secondly, the high level of engagement with the Art of Record Production projects by existing professionals, many of whom are now developing dual careers in academia, and their trade organisations means that they are engaging with, and even helping to shape, the research.

Underpinning research

LCM has been pivotal in the development of the study of record production and recorded popular music as an academic discipline since the early 1990s. The development of theoretical work on the topic has always been very closely tied to industry practice and research insights into the way recorded music is created, listened to and interpreted have both informed and been informed by the way professionals think and act. Allan Moore developed the notion of the sound box to describe the perception of spatialisation in stereo-recorded music in the early 1990s and developed the concept both during and after his time at LCM (then part of TVU). Between 2003 and the present Simon Zagorski-Thomas (SZT) has produced work on various aspects of staging in recorded music which expands on Moore's work (and William Moylan and Serge Lacasse in North America) as well as performance in the studio and, more generally, on the way to incorporate recording practice and recorded music into musicology. In addition, Justin Paterson presented his work on audio processing directly to current and aspiring industry professionals at the AES's annual convention.

SZT has been a pivotal figure in the development of theoretical work underpinning the pedagogy of Record Production in higher education around the world. In 2005 he established the Art of Record Production Conference. He has remained one of the conference's two permanent directors. The event, which attracts a mixture of industry professionals and academics, has been held in London, Edinburgh, Brisbane, Lowell (Massachusetts), Cardiff, Leeds, San Francisco and Québec City. The 2013 conference will be held in Oslo. In 2006 he co-founded the Journal on the Art of Record Production and was editor for three years. In 2009 he co-founded the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production of which he is currently co-chair.

Alongside SZT and Justin Paterson's published outputs, eight other members of LCM staff (Paul Borg, Steve D'Agostino, Mike Howlett, Mark Irwin, Katia Isakoff, Paul Ramshaw, Larry Whelan and Pip Williams) have contributed paper presentations, panel discussions and journal articles to the Art of Record Production conference and journal, interweaving their professional experience and research for presentation to a similarly mixed audience. There is a similar intermingling of practice and research at the Audio Engineering Society conventions where Katia Isakoff, Justin Paterson and Simon Zagorski-Thomas have all made presentations. Most of the department's staff engages in practice as research, much of it involving record production.

SZT's publications between 2008 and the present, and his central position in developing the international research community (and its disciplinary agenda), have been instrumental in developing a theoretical and analytical framework for examining the nature of recording practice and recorded music alongside existing historical research in the field. Moore and SZT continue to collaborate on elaborating the nature of recorded music, relating to spatial perception, the schematic nature of recorded music and cognitive processes informing its creation and interpretation. Moore edited the special issue of Popular Music Journal in which SZT's 2010 article appeared. He also contributed a chapter to Frith and SZT's 2012-edited collection. SZT has also been researching how performance practice and the recording process inform one another. His 2010 book chapter led to a current AHRC-funded research network producing a range of outputs.

References to the research

• Book: Allan F. Moore; 1993; Rock: The Primary Text; McGraw-Hill Education;

• Conference Presentation: Paterson, J. L; 2011; Creative Abuse in Time Stretching. Available at: [Accessed: 19 March 2013];

• Journal Article: Simon Zagorski-Thomas; 2008; `The Musicology of Record Production'; 20th Century Music; Vol 4(2);


• Journal Article: Simon Zagorski-Thomas; 2010; The Stadium In The Bedroom: functional staging, authenticity and the audience led aesthetic in record production; Popular Music Journal. Vol 29/2 (Special issue of the journal edited by Allan Moore);


• Book Chapter: Simon Zagorski-Thomas; 2010; `Real and Unreal Performances'; Chapter in Rhythm In The Age of Digital Reproduction; edited by Anne Danielsen; Ashgate Press;

• Edited Book and Chapter: Simon Zagorski-Thomas and Simon Frith (eds); 2012; The Art of Record Production: an introductory reader for a new academic field; Ashgate Press. (includes a chapter authored by Simon Zagorski-Thomas and another co-written with Simon Frith);


• Simon Zagorski-Thomas is PI on AHRC funded international research network on Performance in the Studio. Details of the project and the outputs so far (including the highly innovative on-line conference) can be found at:

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Details of the impact

The academic community in the field of record production is characterised by the large number of lecturing and research staff at universities who are also extensively involved in professional and creative practice in the area. Producers such as Mike Howlett, Phil Harding, Richard James Burgess, Mark Mynett, Steve Savage and many others who now have one foot in the academic world and one in the professional world, are engaging with the research, underaking PhDs, presenting papers at conferences and submitting to journals. Many of them are citing the writing of SZT and Allan Moore in their academic work and using it in their pedagogic practice in recognition of the influence this is having on their professional practice. SZT has, through his continued leadership in the ARP projects and his determination that ARP will maintain its bridging position between the academic world of research and pedagogy and the professional and creative world of record production practice, been a pivotal figure in developing the impact agenda in the study of record production.

In addition, research driven pedagogy is shaping the mind-set and professional practice of the new wave of producers, musicians and sound engineers; SZT's own research and his research leadership in the field have been instrumental in this. The reach of this research has extended throughout Europe, North & South America, Australasia and beyond. A survey for Ashgate press received responses from 40 universities in 10 countries, indicating an intention to use the Art of Record Production book in teaching and Ashgate sales figures so far seem to corroborate this. SZT has been invited to give guest lectures on The Musicology of Record Production and Analysis of Recorded Popular Music in UK, Germany and USA, and to examine research degrees that cite his research in UK, NZ and Denmark. In 2010 he was invited to teach a postgraduate summer school in Osnabrück based on his research with students from Germany, France, UK, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Poland and Finland. SZT's current visiting fellowship at Cambridge on Performance in the Studio involves working with undergraduate students from RCM, GSMD & Tech Music School to develop pedagogical tools. These will help a wider range of students and teaching staff in further HEIs to prepare a new generation of performers for work in the studio or concert hall. The department's research agenda is now informing teaching practice in vocational and theoretical courses around the world, underpinning the professional practice of students as they enter the world of work.

Alongside professional practice within LCM, this strand of research (both theoretical work and public dissemination of practice-as-research) has contributed to impact both directly and indirectly through participation in the following events, all involving international academics, representatives of industry organisations and professional practitioners, in variable combinations:

  • Oct 2004 — SMA / CHARM Study Day [Centre for the History & Analysis of Recorded Music]
  • Sep 2005 — 2nd CHARM symposium / 1st ARP conference (London)
  • Sep 2006 — 2nd ARP conference (Edinburgh)
  • Apr 2007 — 4th CHARM symposium (Royal Holloway College)
  • Sep 2007 — CHARM/RMA conference
  • Dec 2007 — 3rd ARP conference (Brisbane)
  • Nov 2008 — 4th ARP conference (Lowell, MA)
  • Mar 2009 — Rethinking the Postproduction of Sound: seminar (Copenhagen)
  • Sep — Dec 2009 — Making Records: public lectures at UWL
  • Nov 2009 — 5th ARP conference (Cardiff)
  • Oct — Dec 2010 — Making Records: public lectures at UWL
  • Dec 2010 — 6th ARP conference (Leeds)
  • Mar — May 2011 — Making Records: public lectures at UWL
  • May 2011 — ARP workshop at 130th AES convention (London)
  • Nov 2011 — Making Records: public lectures at UWL
  • Nov — Dec 2011 — public lectures by SZT at University of Massachusetts Lowell, Peabody Conservatory (John Hopkins University), Case Western Reserve University and Mid Tennessee State University.
  • Dec 2011 — 7th ARP conference (San Francisco)
  • Oct 2012 — SHOT Conference (Copenhagen)
  • Apr 2013 — Performance in the Studio (online conference)
  • Jul 2013 — 8th ARP conference (Quebec City)

The second form of impact is simpler to grasp but potentially more profound in effect. This is the influence of greater understanding about the process of both production and reception in recorded popular music. The development of an analytical framework alongside the vocational and historical approaches to recording is having an impact on the way that practitioners think about the process of production. By developing and encouraging a more nuanced narrative about the development of recording technology and practice, this area of research also stands to contribute a balancing influence on the process of canon formation in popular music, with potentially far-reaching effects on both practitioners and audiences.

Sources to corroborate the impact

The Art of Record Production website includes an archive of the programs of all previous conferences that indicates both the engagement of industry professionals with this academic conference and the contribution of various members of TVU/UWL staff to this on-going project: (free registration and login is required for some of these pages)

Book: The Art of Record Production, Ashgate. International sales (not including USA) as at June 2013.

"The hardback has sold 50 in total and it has been purchased by the normal UK library suppliers: Blackwells, Coutts, Gardners, Bertrams and some European library suppliers Missing Link and Massman both in Germany and a miscellany of others.

The paperback has sold 410 and again UK library suppliers as above plus Amazon and the Book Depository. European Library supplies include the above plus others and it has gone global to UAE, Japan, China, Israel, Lebanon, Australia, Kuala Lumpur. Private individuals have made up the bulk of sales."

Other references to corroborate impact:

  • Sr. Executive Director: Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy/ Grammies;
  • Professor at Carleton University, Ottawa and producer of Glenn Gould;
  • Recording engineer, record producer, former Chapter President and National Trustee of the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy;
  • Record Producer, mix engineer and educator,