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Like many other specialty, purpose-built spaces, we tend to think of recording studios in instrumental terms, meaning that the space is defined in relation to the nominal type of work that the space is instrumental towards. While audio recordings have been made in spaces since 1877, not all of these spaces tend to be regarded as recording studios, partly since so many recordings were made in environments designed for other types of work; indeed, much of the first seventy years of US and UK recorded music history transpired at radio stations, concert halls and lightly treated mixed-use commercial spaces (e.g. offices, furniture stores or drugstores where drapes might be informally used to deaden some of the reverberations and early reflections), as has been well documented by Schmidt Horning (2015) and Kinney (1999). In other national contexts, recordings happened at diverse locations such as Turkish municipal buildings (Bates 2016), ‘in the field’ in numerous colonies and postcolonial countries (Western 2018), or in the untreated living rooms of producers’ houses in Jamaica (Veal 2007). While there were early exceptions such as EMI Studios London (1931–) and Capitol Studios in Los Angeles (1956–), the architectural, acoustical and aesthetic conventions that are taken for granted today, and their relation to patterned workflows for making recorded music, only became firmly established and adopted around the world in the 1970s. And, there is nothing ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’ about these conventions: it easily ‘could have been otherwise’ (Mol and Law 2002: 11).


This chapter was originally published in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Music Production, edited by Simon Zagorski-Thomas and Andrew Bourbon, 125–39. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.



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