Except for being an astronaut, the easiest way to space travel and explore new worlds is to work in a recording studio: giant consoles and control centers occupy the environment; multi-color lights flicker; meters tick back and forth; hundreds of faders, knobs, and switches are present, some that are automated; the outside world is completely sealed off; and the captain’s (engineer/producer) chair resides at the helm of the console while the crew (musicians) man the machinery (instruments) and/or take their places behind the captain as the ship is navigated through space toward uncharted sonic and musical environments.
“Space travel” is used as a metaphor to describe the creative process of manipulating performed and created sound into a final composition through the recording, mixing, and production processes. The fantastic element of sound production is that sound is a physically intangible and ephemeral entity. Yet, it can be captured, manipulated, and fixed through electronics and the mind. The ability to control an invisible force lends mystique to the recording studio, power to those who manipulate sound, and awe to both insiders that work within the studio and outsiders who never experience the inner-workings but hear its product.
Ultimately, it is through the transformative process of taking original sonic components and rendering them into a final product that music and sound production becomes a vehicle for exploration, discovery, and travel.
The job of an audio engineer is to harness sounds and fix them in combinations to create new sensory experiences for listeners. Engineers manage the intangible by adding, subtracting, extracting, copying/pasting, altering waveforms, and manipulating the sonic character of sound. They have nearly complete dominance over sound, a radical ability since sound cannot be held or seen in reality.
The end product of an engineer’s work is to cement the intangible forever in a recorded form so that listeners can discover new musical worlds.
Overall, audio engineering is a machine for exploration, discovery, and unending travel toward the infinite.