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The Poetics of Rock

Cutting Tracks, Making Records

Albin J. Zak III (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 276 pages
ISBN: 9780520232242
November 2001
$31.95, £25.00
Other Formats Available:
After a hundred years of recording, the process of making records is still mysterious to most people who listen to them. Records hold a fundamental place in the dynamics of modern musical life, but what do they represent? Are they documents? Snapshots? Artworks? Fetishes? Commodities? Conveniences? The Poetics of Rock is a fascinating exploration of recording consciousness and compositional process from the perspective of those who make records. In it, Albin Zak examines the crucial roles played by recording technologies in the construction of rock music and shows how songwriters, musicians, engineers, and producers contribute to the creative project, and how they all leave their mark on the finished work.

Zak shapes an image of the compositional milieu by exploring its elements and discussing the issues and concerns faced by artists. Using their testimony to illuminate the nature of record making and of records themselves, he shows that the art of making rock records is a collaborative compositional process that includes many skills and sensibilities not traditionally associated with musical composition. Zak connects all the topics--whether technical, conceptual, aesthetic, or historical--with specific artists and recordings and illustrates them with citations from artists and with musical examples. In lively and engaging prose, The Poetics of Rock brilliantly illustrates how the musical energy from a moment of human expression translates into a musical work wrought in sound.
1. Writing Records
2. Tracks
3. Sound as Form
4. Places and Tools
5. Tracking and Mixing
6. Engineers and Producers
7. Resonance
Engineer and Producer Credits
Recordings Cited
Albin J. Zak, III is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Michigan School of Music. He is also a songwriter and recordist, and editor of The Velvet Underground Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (1997).
“[Zak] succeeds admirably . . . Some truly evocative prose makes much of this book pleasurable reading. This is a rich, textured study.”—Susan Schmidt Horning Technology And Culture
"Albin Zak's The Poetics of Rock is a brilliant and original study of how studio recordings of rock music have introduced an entirely new dimension of music composition. Bristling with acute insights and interpretations, this book should provide engaging reading for any serious student, scholar, or aficionado of rock, of composition, or of modern music culture in general."—Peter Manuel, author of Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India

"In The Poetics of Rock, Albin Zak offers an expert guide to how records are made, not only outlining in detail technical practices and procedures in a comprehensible way, but also thoughtfully engaging the myriad of aesthetic and musical issues that recording raises. This masterful study opens up important new areas of concern for rock and is a must-read for all scholars concerned with popular music and criticism."—John Covach, editor of Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

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