Gateway of Sound: Reassessing the Role of Audio Mastering in the Art of Record Production
Audio mastering, notwithstanding an apparent lack of scholarly attention, is a crucial gateway between production and consumption and, as such, is worth further scrutiny, especially in music genres like house or techno, which place great emphasis on sound production qualities. In this article, drawing on personal interviews with mastering engineers and field research in mastering studios in Italy and Germany, I investigate the practice of mastering engineering, paying close attention to the negotiation of techniques and sound aesthetics in relation to changes in the industry formats and, in particular, to the growing shift among DJs from vinyl to compressed digital formats. I then discuss the specificity of audio mastering in relation to EDM, insofar as DJs and controllerists conceive of the master, rather than as a finished product destined to listening, as raw material that can be reworked in performance.
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