Toby Seay has a long career in the music industry as a musician, recording engineer, technical consultant and audio preservationist. As a recording engineer, Toby was based in Nashville, TN and 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 interests include audio preservation practices and standards, specializing in multi-track audio formats and how these resources can be put to use within audio production education and research. With regards to audio production research, Toby deconstructs record production techniques within the field of musicology and sound studies, which looks at social and participant dynamics within the recording studio environment and the effects of workflow and recording techniques on musical production outcomes.
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
Seay, T. (2016). Sonic Signatures in Record Production: Mythology, Marketing, or Actuality? In: Papenburg, J.G., Schulze, H., eds. 2014. 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.
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.
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.