The Creative System of Engineering

  • Paul Thompson
Part of the Leisure Studies in a Global Era book series (LSGE)


Engineers are almost forgotten in the story of record-making and, where they are mentioned, they are rarely credited with having artistic or creative status. These views are problematically linked to inspirationalist and romantic conceptions of creativity and, although they have now been dismissed as myths (Boden 2004), these romantic distinctions between art and craft and consequently what is considered to be creative continue to pervade the recording industry, the media and the popular imagination. Because of this, engineers’ contributions in the recording studio continue to be seen as overtly technical rather than creative. This chapter offers an alternative take on sound engineering by presenting it as a creative system in action. Side A begins with a contextualization of the elements of the creative system so they apply to the creative task of engineering, and the Side B presents examples of the creative practices of engineering in commercial record production including Ken Scott’s kick drum mic’ing method and Marta Salogni’s process of mixing Björk’s ninth studio album Utopia (2017).


  1. Beer, D. (2014). The Precarious Double Life of the Recording Engineer. Journal for Cultural Research, 18(3), 189–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boden, M. (2004). The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. (1993). Field of Cultural Production (R. Johnson, Ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, P. (2010). Are We Still Rolling? Studios, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll—One Man’s Journey Recording Classic Albums. London: Tape Op Books.Google Scholar
  5. Case, A. (2011). Mix Smart: Pro Audio Tips For Your Multitrack Mix. Oxford: Focal Press.Google Scholar
  6. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1988). Society, Culture and Person: A Systems View of Creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological Perspectives (pp. 325–329). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Emerick, G. (1983). Recording Techniques. In G. Martin (Ed.), Making Music: The Guide to Writing, Performing, and Recording (pp. 256–265). London: Pan Books.Google Scholar
  8. (2008). Producer Grammy® Award Eligibility, Crediting Definitions. Available from: Last accessed June 2018.
  9. Gumble, D. (2018). We Talk to 2018 MPG Awards Breakthrough Engineer of The Year Marta Salogni. Available from: Last accessed May 2018.
  10. Hatschek, K. (2005). The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books.Google Scholar
  11. Horning, S. S. (2004). Engineering the Performance: Recording Engineers, Knowledge and the Art of Controlling Sound. Social Studies of Science, 34(5), 703–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Izhaki, R. (2008). Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices and Tools. Oxon: Focal Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kealy, E. R. (1979). From Craft to Art the Case of Sound Mixers and Popular Music. Work and Occupations, 6(1), 3–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lewisohn, M. (1988). The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. London: Hamlyn/EMI.Google Scholar
  15. McIntyre, P. (2004). Creativity and Cultural Production: A Study of Contemporary Western Popular Music Songwriting. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Macquarie University, Sydney.Google Scholar
  16. McIntyre, P. (2012). Creativity and Cultural Production: Issues for Media Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Meintjes, L. (2004). Reaching Overseas: South African Sound Engineers, Technology and Tradition. In P. Greene & T. Porcello (Eds.), Wired for Sound: Engineering and Technologies in Sonic Cultures (pp. 23–48). Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Music Producer’s Guild. (2015). Awards Categories [Online]. Available at: Last accessed Oct 2018.
  19. Owsinski, B. (2005). The Recording Engineer’s Handbook. Boston, MA: Artist Pro Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Perry, M. (2008). How to Be a Record Producer in the Digital Era. London: Billboard Books.Google Scholar
  21. Ritz, D. (2016). Understanding Skins—Resonant Drumhead Explained. Available from: Last accessed Feb 2018.
  22. Rogers, S. (2017). Susan Rogers Interview on Prince, Early Beginnings, Life After Prince, and Teaching. Available from: Last accessed Feb 2018.
  23. Savage, S. (2014). Mixing and Mastering in the Box: The Guide to Making Great Mixes and Final Masters on Your Computer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Sawyer, K. (Ed.). (2006). Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Scott, K., & Owsinski, B. (2012). Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record with the Beatles, Bowie, Elton & so Much More. London: Alfred Music.Google Scholar
  26. Swedien, B. (2009). In the Studio with Michael Jackson. London: Hal Leonard Books.Google Scholar
  27. Thompson, P., & McIntyre, P. (2013, December). Rethinking Creativity in Record Production Education: Addressing the Field. Journal on the Art of Record Production. Available from: Last accessed Feb 2015.
  28. Wolff, J. (1981). The Social Production of Art. London: MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zak, A. (2001). The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. London: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Recordings Cited

  1. Björk. (2017). Utopia. One Little Indian.Google Scholar
  2. Jackson, Michael. (1979). Rock With You. Epic: Off The Wall.Google Scholar


  1. Ken Scott interviewed at Leeds Beckett University UK—November 2017.Google Scholar
  2. Marta Salogni interviewed at Leeds Beckett University UK—March 2018.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Thompson
    • 1
  1. 1.Leeds Beckett UniversityLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations