Cazz Blase salutes Helen Reddington’s book She’s at the Controls, a forensic examination of the gendered power play in the music sound engineering and production industry
In her newest book, She’s at the Controls, Helen Reddington reflects on her own experience as a young musician, surprised to hear of Elton John’s marriage to his sound engineer, Renate Blauel, in 1984. Not because (as was widely known at the time) John was gay, but because his sound engineer was a woman and, despite being five or six years into her own music career at the time, Reddington had never previously heard of a woman sound engineer. Flash forward 35 years to 2019 and Reddington is interviewing a woman who refers to herself as “The only female sound engineer in Britain”. This anecdote highlights in two ways just how little the situation has changed since 1984. For a start, Reddington knows that her interviewee’s description is not an accurate one, because she has already spoken to another British woman sound engineer – Felix Mackintosh – who also appears in She’s at the Controls. Second, her interviewee’s self-description reflects a continuing lack of awareness of women sound engineers within the music industry itself. It was this 2019 interview, along with Reddington’s growing frustration about the high dropout rate of women students from studio training on the various university courses she teaches on, which provided the stimulus for She’s at the Controls.
The first image shows a cropped version of the book’s cover design. The cover has a grey background with multicoloured and patterened lines which surround the book’s title. Below is a picture of a wavelength. This image is used with permission from Helen Reddington.