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Albin Zak

A person engaged primarily with the technological and acoustic aspects of sound recording. Engineers are charged with rendering musical events in an electronic form according with the event’s musical style and tradition. As such, they contribute a blend of technological and musical knowledge unique among a recording team’s members. As sound waves are converted into electricity and begin their journey along the electrical signal path, arriving finally at the listener’s ear, the engineer’s controlling hand and sensibility guide the way at nearly every step.

Historically speaking, engineers pursued an ideal of transparent representation, seeking to silence artifacts of the recording process and providing listeners with an impression of fidelity to the musical event. There was to be “no intrusion that is apparent on the part of the engineer,” averred Capitol Records engineer Carson Taylor. “He has to be a truly transparent entity.” On one hand, technological developments fed this aspiration to sonic realism with such inventions as the microphone and, later, magnetic tape. On the other, the tools of enhanced fidelity also offered greater potential for artifice and electronic intrusion into the acoustic musical moment, which postwar popular music engineers, in particular, took as a tacit mandate to develop techniques of electronic sound manipulation. As they manage the music-technology interface—whether disguising or displaying their skilled artifice—engineers are inevitably thrust into aesthetic roles, their technical craft tempered by subjective intuition....

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Music studio and composer’s collective. It was established in San Francisco in 1961 by Ramon Sender and Pauline Oliveros, and was soon joined by Morton Subotnick. Its first location was on Jones Street, but after the building accidentally burned down, the center relocated to a large building on Divisadero Street. It was not only the first electronic music studio on the West Coast but also became a hub of artistic activities and technological research. In addition to offering light shows designed by Anthony Martin, it hosted many composers, poets and artists, and programmed various concerts: the Sonics series, regular programming featuring avant-garde music from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, the three Tudorfest festivals, and other events. This is where in 1964 Terry Riley’s In C was first performed and in 1965 Steve Reich first played his It’s gonna rain. The center was the site of a number of technological developments with Bill Maginnis, also a composer, and, in ...