The Production of Timbre

Analyzing the Sonic Signatures of Tool’s Ænima (1996)

Authored by: Kevin Osborn , Brad Osborn

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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In the infancy of studio technology, producers and engineers assumed a documentarian role in their reproduction of studio performances. But as equipment and practices evolved, the aims of popular music recording gradually shifted toward the production of a unified artistic sound world exhibited by a single album (e.g., The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds [1967]). American progressive rock band Tool’s multi-platinum record Ænima (1996) presents the opportunity to examine the role of studio production techniques in producing these “sonic signatures” that define the unified artistic sound world in the record. 1 The album’s remarkable timbre results from a tension between, on the one hand, the band’s self-imposed restriction to voice, guitar, bass, and drums; and on the other, the artistic liberties taken in the methods in which these instruments are recorded and manipulated at mixdown. Through a closer examination of how studio production affects Ænima’s timbres, this essay aims to address the paradox wherein an album’s unmistakable sonic signature is honed using only the most generic of instruments. 2

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