Tubby’s dub style: The live art of record production

Superb thesis regarding King Tubby and his unique sound. Written by
Sean Williams of University of Edinburgh. Click here for full document.


By no means is King Tubby’s sound entirely reducible to the tools he used, but I propose that the affordance of the tools and the way in which many of them were repurposed had a substantial effect on the identity of that sound. His repurposing of various machines such as the high-pass filter and the four-track tape, and the inherent limiting factors present in them, channeled his creativity and helped produce his distinctive style.

Given the paucity of written documentation of Jamaican music practices coupled with the variegated and often conflicting oral accounts, a material approach is one which, by focusing on the physical evidence expressed in the tools and technologies used, attempts to cut through the layers of mythology and reveal the working conditions in Tubby’s studio and some of the relationships between them and Tubby’s experimental music practices.

I show how criticism of this music can benefit from such a material approach, and this type of analysis can also be usefully applied to other electronic music makers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, and therefore be used as a way of comparing and contrasting diverse musical styles. However, this chapter focuses on showing how Tubby’s innovative use coupled with the material affordances in his instruments contributed to the sound associated with his studio, and clearly demonstrates the diffusion of the compositional process between the roles of engineer, producer, and performer – here unified in one individual.

Tubby’s Dub Style: The Live Art Of Record Production

Sean Williams

University of Edinburgh