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Recording production is a complex, multistep, typically collaborative process that entails a shifting set of individuals inhabiting changing roles within spaces that house consider­ able amounts of specialized technology. As these roles and technologies feature promi­ nently in the aesthetics of Anglophone and Francophone popular music, they have been studied within such milieus for the longest period. This scholarship tends to understand the creative act as either the result of a prominent individual or something determined by the technologies used within studios. However, recent ethnomusicological scholarship has shown it is much more difficult to clearly situate agency within recording production, echoing theories of agency developed within the fields of anthropology and science and technology studies. The myriad uses of and significant cultural work that recordings can do show that one can’t assume that the goal of production work is simply to produce an aesthetic art object. For example, recordings can serve as a form of social action, and in many milieus the social values of the production process matter more than the financial success of the product. Ultimately, a nuanced consideration of agency within recording work produces important findings on the concept of creativity and the creative act.


This work was originally published in The Oxford Handbook of the Creative Process in Music, edited by Nicolas Donin, available at



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