Photo by  Jonathan Malm

Photo by Jonathan Malm

I read this quote a few weeks ago and couldn't get it out of my head:

According to ancient theory of art, the practice of sculpting has less to do with fashioning a figure of one’s choosing than with being able to see in the stone the figure waiting to be liberated. The sculptor imposes nothing but only frees what is held captive in stone.
— Martin Laird

Great stuff, huh?

It's insane to me how much different art disciplines relate to one another. Sculpting honestly has nothing to do with hearing, but this mindset totally applies in the mastering world.

I myself have tried the opposite approach to this "ancient theory of art" and have failed miserably. The minute I find myself reaching for a certain tool or trying something just to be fancy, that's usually the point things start going downhill.

Listening to a track with discerning ears and doing what's necessary to help it shine does the most good. But here's the hard part.

We often don't take the time to actively listen to the music long enough to know what figure within the stone to release.

We've all done it. Import the tracks, pull up your processing chain, hit play, and go to town. We fall into our ruts, habits, and workflows.

Just for clarification, there's NOTHING wrong with having a workflow or groove you follow, but if it drifts towards leaving less and less time towards the beginning of a project where you simply sit and listen, things need to be tweaked.

Conversational narcissists don't make great mastering engineers. They listen to only respond. For your lips to shut, then for theirs to fly open with more empty wisdom.

May we refrain from that in our craft - especially mastering. At the end of the day our clients pay us to listenWe must have the discipline and patience to first see the figure fully, and only then may we begin to figure out how to release him from the stone.

How have you released the figures in the stone in your art?


Michael Curtis

A mastering engineer and composer who loves helping you sound awesome.