‘Silence in the Studio!’

Collage as Retransition in Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother Suite’

Authored by: Shaugn O’Donnell

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138683112
eBook ISBN: 9781315544700
Adobe ISBN:


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Sophisticated technology and electronic effects have been essential components of Pink Floyd’s music from their earliest performances and recordings. For example, as early as May 1967 they employed live quadrophonic panning via their ‘Azimuth Co-ordinator,’ an original joystick device operated by keyboardist Rick Wright. 1 In the studio they continued the inventive audio practices of the EMI production team that also worked with The Beatles. The band’s consistent use of the Binson Echorec, both live and in the studio, exemplifies their interest in creating spatial and timbral effects simultaneously. Within this technologically rich aural palette, the sound-effect collage is Pink Floyd’s most identifiable sonic signature, as drummer Nick Mason highlights:

Once we realized their [sound effects] potential we quickly started introducing all kinds of extraneous elements, from the radio voice cutting into ‘Astronomy Dominé’ to the clocks on the outro of ‘Bike.’ This flirtation with ‘musique concrète’ was by no means unique—George ‘Shadow’ Morton had already used a motorbike on the Shangri-Las’ ‘The Leader of the Pack’—but it was a relative novelty at the time, and from then on became a regular element in our creative process. 2

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