The rise of the new amateurs

Popular music, digital technology, and the fate of cultural production

Authored by: Nick Prior

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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I recently spent some time in a popular-music recording studio. Not quite Abbey Road but a professional recording studio nevertheless. At its center, like an altarpiece, lay the mixing desk, its aura reinforced by a ring of synthesizers the likes of which I’d only read about in music magazines—a Roland TB-303, an old Mellotron, a Juno 106, a Yamaha DX7, a Moog. Next to the mixing desk sat a computer screen, with blocks of colorful data hinting at a mixing and mastering session that was to be more about software than hardware. For all their kudos as hardware classics, the synthesizers and outboard gear had been replaced by simulated versions in the form of “soft synths,” all-in-one studios, and software programs like “Band in a Box,” which allows users to generate music by inputting chord names, genres, styles, and rhythms. It was the sound engineer’s job to negotiate, via a series of menus and mouse clicks, a virtual desktop replication of the very equipment that surrounded him.

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