The continuous development of new recording technologies and recording practices has had considerable impact on how popular music recordings are produced; yet our ability to articulate the impact of these technologies on the perception of sounds is limited. To describe what has been done to sounds in the mix often requires sound engineers to draw metaphorical comparisons with other experiences. Until now few scholars have studied the language of sound engineers. This article is based on a survey of metaphorical expressions used in interviews with sound engineers. The survey showed that sounds and sound effects are often described as forceful objects that act and interact in the mix. This interaction is characterized through expressions such as: the sound was ‘pulled back’ in the mix; the compressor was ‘holding down’ the sound; and the vocals were ‘pushed up front’. Using cognitive linguistic theory as a guide, this article argues that sound engineers’ use of force dynamic metaphors offers a better understanding of the structure and manifestation of recorded sound and the impact of record production on the listening experience.

The author, Mads Walther-Hansen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University. He received his PhD from Department for Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen, and holds an MA in Musicology and Ethnography. Walther-Hansen’s current research interests include music listening and music technology, specifically the impact of recording technology on the listening experience.

Read Mads Walther-Hansen’s article here.