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Toby Seay
Toby Seay
Professor, Music Industry

Contact:

Location:

One Drexel Plaza, GL105

Toby Seay is Professor of Recording Arts and Music Production in the Music Industry program. He has a long career in the music industry as a musician, recording engineer, technical consultant, and audio preservationist. As a recording engineer, Toby has recorded artists such as Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Delbert McClinton, Ringo Starr, David Wilcox, Kirk Whalum and many others. Toby has worked on numerous Gold and Platinum Certified recordings as well as 8 Grammy winning recordings.

Toby’s research focuses on music production and engineering practices that result in sonic signatures and audio recording preservation standards, specializing in multi-track materials. He is a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES); the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC); the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production (ARP); a voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammys); the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) President from 2017-2020; and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) Chair from 2020-2021.

Toby is the Project Director of the Drexel University Audio Archives, which is home to the Sigma Sound Studios Collection.

MS, Drexel University
BM, James Madison University

Publications:

Seay, T. (2020). The Recording. In: Schulze, H. ed. The Bloomsbury Handbook of the Anthropology of Sound. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

McNally, K., Seay, T. (2020). Studying Recording Techniques. In: Bourbon, A., Zagorski-Thomas, S. eds. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Music Production. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

McNally, K., Seay, T., Thompson, P. (2019). What the Masters Teach Us: Multitrack Audio Archives and Popular Music Education. In: Moir, Z., Powell, B., Smith, G.D. eds. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Seay, T. (2016). Sonic Signatures in Record Production. In: Papenburg, J.G., Schulze, H., eds. Sound As Popular Culture. Boston: MIT Press.

Seay, T. (2012). A Workflow Study of Migrating Analogue Multi-Track Audio Recordings to Digital Preservation File Sets. The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives Journal. (39) 41-50.

Seay, T. (2012). Capturing That Philadelphia Sound: A Technical Exploration of Sigma Sound Studios. Journal on the Art of Record Production. (Issue 6).

Seay, T. (2011). Primary Sources in Music Production Research and Education: Using the Drexel University Audio Archives as an Institutional Model. Journal on the Art of Record Production. (Issue 5).

Seay, T. (2011). Using Existing Institutional Resources for Establishing and Preserving Audio-Visual Collections. The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives Journal. (37) 41-46.

Conference Presentations:


Seay, T. (2020). EMT 140: What the Sound of Philadelphia sounds like. Sound Instruments and Sonic Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Conference. National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK.
Goold, L., Pratt, D., Seay, T. (2020). Time, Space, and Reflexivity: The Recording Space as an Instrument. 15th UK and Ireland Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. University of West London, London, UK.

Pratt, D., Seay, T. (2020). The Record Producer as a Nexus Facilitator: Understanding Musical Spaces and Conversation. 15th UK and Ireland Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. University of West London, London, UK.

Seay, T. (2019). Higher than 96KHz: A Case for Magnetic Tape. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Hilversum, NL.

Seay, T., Pratt, D. (2019). The Record Producer as a Nexus Facilitator: Understanding New Spaces and New Musical Conversation. 20th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Australian National University, Canberra, AU.

Seay, T. (2019). Laugh to Keep from Crying: 50 years to create the Nat Turner Rebellion album. 53rd Annual Conference of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Portland, OR.

Seay, T. (2018). Artists Find Creativity in the Audio Archives. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Accra, GH.

Seay, T. (2018). Making Sound: Exploring Engineering Practice in Havana. Crosstown Traffic: Popular Music Theory and Practice, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK.

Seay, T. (2017). Towards signifying an engineering ethos through Heavy Metal and Country Music. Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, Stockholm, SE.

McNally, K., Thompson, P., Seay, T. (2017). Another Take: Teaching Music Production Using Multitrack Recordings. Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, Stockholm, SE.

Seay, T. (2017). Keeping It Together: Considerations of Multitrack Media Processing. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Berlin, DE.

McNally, K., Thompson, P., Seay, T. (2017). The Sound of the Masters: Using Multitrack Recordings in Popular Music Education. Music Production Education Conference. York St. John University, UK.

Seay, T. (2017). Sheltered or Cloistered? Popular Music Resources Hidden from View. Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – U.S. Branch, Cleveland, OH.

Seay, T. (2016). Cultivating a Sound: The Local Culture of Content Mediators. Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, Aalborg, DK.

Seay, T. (2016). Listen to the Sound of this Room (Emulation). Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production, Aalborg, DK.

Seay, T. (2016). Shilling the Rubes: Bowie as Craftsman in Philadelphia. David Bowie Interart, Text, Media Conference. University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies, Lisbon, PT.

Seay, T. (2015). Uncovering the Philly Groove: Processing leaves the archives with shared solutions. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Paris, FR.

Seay, T. (2014). Record Production Practices of a Transitional Tape-based Digital Format. Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production. Oslo, NO.

Seay, T. (2014). Early Born-digital: Preserving the Content of a Transitional Tape-Based Format. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Cape Town, ZA.

Seay, T. (2014). Exploring Sound Elements and Agents Through Local Culture. Sonic Signatures Symposium, Aalborg University. Aalborg, DK.

Seay, T. (2013). Signature Sounds: Creative Practice at the Crossroads to Modern Music Production. Annual Conference of The Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production. Québec, QC.

Seay, T. (2012). Providing Quality Access Regardless of Restrictions: Serving Researchers While Protecting Commercial Materials. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Delhi, IN.

Seay, T. (2012). A Window of Opportunity: A Convergence of Styles, Performers and Technicians at Sigma Sound Studios. 46th Annual Conference of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Rochester, NY.

Seay, T. (2011). Capturing That Philadelphia Sound: A Technical Exploration of Sigma Sound Studios. Annual Conference of The Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production. San Francisco, CA.

Seay, T. (2011). A Workflow Study of Migrating Analog Multi-Track Audio Recordings to Digital Preservation File Sets. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Frankfurt, DE.

Seay, T. (2011). The Foundations of Sound Recording Reformatting and Migration. 45th Annual Conference of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Los Angeles, CA.

Seay, T. (2010). Primary Sources in Music Production Research and Education: Using the Drexel University Audio Archives as an Institutional Model. Annual Conference of The Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production. Leeds, UK.

Seay, T. (2010). Using Existing Institutional Resources for Establishing and Preserving Audio-Visual Collections. Annual Conference of The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Philadelphia, PA.

Seay, T. (2010). Using Multi-track Sources for Musicological and Music Production Research. 44th Annual Conference of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, New Orleans, LA.

Seay, T. (2010). When Copyright and Community Work Together: Recovering Lost David Bowie Multi-track Masters. 44th Annual Conference of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, New Orleans, LA.

Conference Panels / Symposiums:

2019 Long Term Preservation of Audio Assets. Audio Engineering Society 147th Convention. Invited panelist to discuss barriers to preservation and the fact that we cannot and will not save everything.

2018 Preserving Classic Multi-tracks for Use in the Classroom. Audio Engineering Society 145th Convention. Invited panelist to speak about accessing important sound recordings for music production education.

2018 The Challenge of Archiving Multitrack Recordings. Audio Engineering Society Conference on Audio Archiving, Preservation & Restoration. Invited panelist to speak about multitrack preservation issues.

2017 The Past and Future of Archiving & Preservation. Audio Engineering Society 143rd Convention. Invited panelist to speak about multitrack preservation issues.

2017 Raw Tracks: The Sound of Philadelphia. Audio Engineering Society 143rd Convention. Invited panelist to speak as subject specialist and archivist.

2016 Sound as Popular Culture: Sound Studies Symposium (6 October). University of Copenhagen. Invited panelist and PhD Colloquium scholar.

2013 UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Network on Performance In the Studio Online Conference (29 April – 5 May). Invited panelist to speak on the topics of [Techniques] in the Studio, [Aesthetics] in the Studio, and [ideas] in the Studio.

Toby Seay examines archival resources, sound recording techniques, and studio workflows as influencing factors in creating identifiable sonic signatures on sound recordings. Additionally, he examines audio preservation practices and standards, specializing in multi-track audio formats, and how these resources can be used within music production education and musicology research.

 

Toby’s research in popular music production is centered on Sigma Sound Studios and its role in the creation of the Sound of Philadelphia. The Sound of Philadelphia, often referred to as Philadelphia Soul, is an African-American soul music genre, which came to prominence in the 1960’s with its peak in the 1970’s. His particular focus is on the sonic characteristics that give the music recordings created at Sigma distinction from the music recordings created elsewhere. Using archival materials from the Sigma Sound Studios Collection in Drexel University’s Audio Archives, Toby focuses on the effect of non-musical entities on the Sound of Philadelphia, such as acoustical environments, recording procedures, and recording technology, making the distinction between the imprinted sounds of the captured recording versus the musical content of record production. This research sits at the nexus of sound studies, ethnomusicology, and popular musicology.

 

As an audiovisual archivist, Toby’s research focuses on multi-track audio preservation. Identified as a research gap in archival studies, the preservation of multi-track audio materials presents a unique, under-documented set of preservation conditions, such as format obsolescence, file and metadata management, and media preservation. This research looks at these complex conditions and provides metrics, models, and solutions for the preservation of analog multi-track objects. Furthermore, this research aims to showcase the importance of multi-track objects as research materials for music production research and education and how institutions with strong internal user-groups, such as musicologists, music production students, audio engineering students, and library science programs, are well suited to providing the necessary resources for the preservation of multi-track collections. Toby created the Drexel University Audio Archives as a laboratory for preserving the Sigma Sound Studios Collection (donated to Westphal College in 2005) and creating an accessible resource for music production.