Closing remarks: Music as Labour
Jason Toynbee (Open University)
Musicians who make music for the market, or are regularly employed, are workers. Can this apparently banal observation tell us anything about music as process? I draw on Marx, Arendt and MacIntyre among others to address this question, and examine some cases from popular and art music.
Jason Toynbee is Senior Lecturer in Media Studies in the Department of Sociology at The Open University. His research focuses on musical labour and creativity, and music and diaspora. Sometimes he examines these issues together, as in his books Bob Marley: Herald of a Postcolonial World? (Polity, 2007), and Migrating Music (co-edited with Byron Dueck, Routledge, 2011).
Jason began by reflecting how interestingly today’s papers have converged around common themes even though their objects of study are very different.
He identifies a variation in the willingness (of music creators) to reflect on their processes. What is practice as research – when is it more than, or the same as, auto-ethnography? These questions of method and approach are vital because of the slippery nature of ‘process’ in music making. There is a dominant view that music is ineffable – does that make the process of its making beyond capture? We must start, he says, with the ontological presumption that process exists, is manifest, and can be located. The answers, he suggests, are partly time-based, musical creativity being a real time process. Many of today’s researchers are phenomenologists, even passively.
A common theme today is that the musical process is partly social (Jason acknowledges that as a sociologist he would say this!). He asks ‘how do we divide up the making of music?’. Genre aesthetics raises questions of value in music-making processes. The creative process itself has value and is valued by society.
Jason’s presentation now moves to a discussion of ‘Music as Labour’. Why labour? There is, he asserts, a potential power to be tapped from a large theory that extends outside music to other kinds of labour. Comparisons are enabled. There is a danger of ethnocentrism; perhaps not all music making can be considered under the ‘rubric of labour’. Jason suggests that labour exists in many facets of music making, and not just in the obviously commodified world of commercial pop (he cites IRCAM as an example of ‘funded’ labour).
We look now at social theories of labour, covering Arendt and MacIntyre. He notes that Marx fundamentally believed that all labour is creative. Marx’s theory of labour is fully material, grounded in the body and the world (this approach he contrasts with Stravinsky and Stockhausen).
Creative musical labour is described as translation: horizontal, concertising and transcultural. “New stuff happens when musical materials are moved horizontally from one culture [I infer, cultural context] to another”. It is intensification: vertical, abstracting, endogenous (he cites serialism as an intended abstraction of functional tonality). It is differentiated by genre. Alienation plays a part – the division of labour may be outside creators’ control – ideas of abuse (indignation as a result of career frustration?), distortion and self-delusion. Jason closes by acknowledging the inherent contradictions in describing and understanding music as labour.
Putting the product back in the process: on fluxus, viruses, organisms and the Instant Composers Pool
In this paper I connect musicological interest in performance with the new materialism that is growing in the broader humanities, and use this background to argue for a reconsideration of the score in relation to performance.
I present some elements of my fieldwork with Dutch improvising group the Instant Composers Pool (ICP). The group has a background in Fluxus, the art movement that took flow and process as its central purpose, but that based all of its performances on written instructions that they called ‘scores’. Similarly, the ICP uses a vast amount of compositions in their still fundamentally improvised performances. One subset of these they call ‘viruses’, small notated fragments that can be instigated by the musicians at any moment, to disrupt, end, or redirect whatever the others are playing.
Drawing on the ‘philosophy of organism’ of A.N. Whitehead, I will reconsider the concept of the work as an organism, not in the traditional musicological sense of an ‘organic whole’, but as a fundamentally incomplete and adapting entity.
Floris Schuiling is a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, working under the supervision of Nicholas Cook. For his PhD, he investigates material sources of creativity in the performance practice of the Instant Composers Pool, combining ethnographic methods of observation and interviews with close listening and musical analysis.
Anthony Gritten (Royal Academy of Music)
Towards a methodology for research into musical distraction
Musicology’s performative shift emphasised two things. First, fluidity and dynamism are characteristic of all events, from creation to consumption. Musical meaning, for example, is made rather than discovered and thus evolves. Secondly, music poses questions about auditory perception with wider significance for how humans relate to the world, as with insights into proto-musicality in human development.
These two things pose methodological challenges to documenting musical processes. A persistent one is distraction. Distraction is omnipresent: art, work, war, sport, medicine, and travel. Culturally it overlaps with entertainment. Cognitively it relates to earworms. Ontologically it underwrites perception (but is usually criticised as inattention).
This paper discusses the functions of distraction and how to address these better in research. Of interest are perceptual shifts in listening, and how we might broaden our understanding of listening to be a fluid balance between attention and distraction, rather than, as generally presumed, a triumph of attention.
Anthony co-edited two volumes on Music and Gesture (Ashgate, 2006, 2011), and is contracted to co-edit Music and Value Judgement (Indiana). He has published in English and German, in artists’ catalogues, on continental philosophy, and in music journals. He is Head of Undergraduate Programmes at the Royal Academy of Music.
Sean Williams (University of Edinburgh)
Performing shapes: studio performance practice in realising Stockhausen’s Studie II
What are the benefits of spending 200+ hours executing highly repetitive technical tasks using old-fashioned equipment in order to make a new version of a 3 minute long piece of electronic music from 60 years ago?
I give a brief account of my working methods calculating parameter values, fixing and calibrating machines, splicing tape, measuring dB values using 50s technology and discuss issues arising including the effects of large scale repetition of physical tasks; the difficulty of implementing seemingly straightforward technical instructions; the role, hierarchy and detectability of errors; the need for reflexive practice to adapt the results of technical processes to achieve the desired results.
I demonstrate the sonic implications of some of my decisions by comparing the dramatic differences in sound when different techniques are used, and show the scope for musical and aesthetic judgement – interpretation and performance practice – in a seemingly solely technical process.
Dr. Sean Williams is a Leverhulme Early Career research fellow in the Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh, researching by practice the live and studio practices of early electronic music. He builds electronic instruments and performs with these in the ensembles Grey Area and the Monosynth Orchestra.
Corporeal cartography: navigating process in the development of an expressive system for dance, improvisation and sonic art
In recent years there has been increased interest in developing systems for interactive dance and music performance. This growth has been supported by sophisticated developments in motion capture technology as well as increased accessibility of wearable technologies and tracking devices. These developments facilitate the investigation and development of new approaches and theoretical developments in the relationship between the body and technology in terms of interactivity, mediation and embodiment.
This paper will present preliminary findings resulting from the authors’ own initial explorations into interactive and synesthetic relationships between sonic art and dance. Fundamental to this collaborative practice as research project is the repositioning of research focus from product to process. The paper will outline the authors’ approach to documentation of their creative process and examine how this contributes not only to the technical and artistic development of the work but may also reveal new paradigms.
Diana Salazar’s practice-led research examines spatial composition and interpretation in electronic music and associated issues of performance practice and cross-disciplinary discourse. Her compositional output includes fixed media work, work for instruments and electronics, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and improvised electronic laptop performance. Diana is a lecturer in Music at City University London.
Maria Salgado joined Kingston University as Senior Lecturer in Dance in 2009. She graduated in Ballet studies from The John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany. After her professional career (principal dancer at the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern and at the Thuringer Staatsballet) Maria graduated with a Masters Degree from the University of Surrey (2007). Her research focuses on choreographic practices and the history and practice of Natural Movement (1920-1939). She has taught and presented her research internationally and currently serves as Chairman of the Regional Advisory Committee (London and Middlesex) of The Royal Academy of Dance.
Session 3 (Chair: Jonna Vuoskoski)
Panel discussion: What are the challenges in researching processes?
With reference to studies carried out by members of the panel, we explore some of the methodological issues that are relevant to musical processes and their exploration, focusing on the challenges posed by three main questions: Where is the process situated? How do you capture processes? How do you make sense of the collected data?
Mirjam discussed some of the methodological challenges researchers face when undertaking fieldwork to investigate ‘creativity/originality’ in classical music performers (see project page and video). Should the process be short, medium or long? How long (musically) should the object under investigation be? The goal was to capture [instrumental] teachers’ and students’ working processes over time. Methodology challenges include – how to make the process visible, how to evaluate the respective perspectives of the researcher and performer (I infer, how to mitigate the observation effect and/or researcher bias). The solution chosen was participant-led video recall. These video recordings of participants were categorised as ‘inside the teaching studio’ and ‘inside the practice room’. The teaching studio sessions were 2-5 lessons; the practice room sessions were larger in scale, covering 9 sessions over 3 months and including public performance. This ‘participant led video recall’ approach handed over the responsibility for defining relative importance of particular processes/activities to the participants.
The footage was shot and participants were later asked to identify moments in the playback when they felt particularly ‘creative’. [JB note] – the criteria for participants self-defining this term were not specified, and I think this may be an issue for the research if it does not explicitly identify what is meant by ‘creative’. On its own, the word ‘creative’ is a difficult adjective to pin down. In this situation, it appears that ‘creative’ is being used as synonymous with ‘original’ but does this originality imply uniqueness, as most definitions of ‘creativity’ do? This was explored in the questioning session.
Ethical participation issues (data protection, anonymity confidentiality etc) were discussed. There were some consent issues (for example, willingness of teachers and students to allow cameras into their workspaces). This is a challenge for qualitative research generally, and Karen explored this issue in some detail relating to the specific ethical issues that arise from observing musicians using video. The key principle was establishing participant control and ownership over the creative process.
Mark then provided an overview of the project entitled Creative practice in contemporary concert music. He identifies two ‘intrigues’ – the presence of researchers, and the (sometimes conflicting) relationship between words and practice. The observer paradox (Labov) was invoked, and several examples were provided of this being an issue (including moments when instrumentalists would knowingly glance at the camera during observations). Different research subjects/performers responded differently (i.e. more or less self-consciously) to each other depending on their media experience. As the researcher/subject relationship developed, observations got easier, but at times the researchers became participants (for example, being asked by the composer under observation how a particular piece should end!). Mark identifies researcher presence as a potential challenge.
The next section discussed the difficulty of identifying the relationship between words and practice – what people say they are doing, and what they are actually doing. He phrased the researcher relationship as being influenced by the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’. Some heavily naturalised behaviours can be so internalised that they cannot be observed by researchers. The approach was to triangulate methods – observation, audio recording of process, and post-event interviews.
During the questioning session;
- The role of ‘creativity’ as a term was further defined
- Participants’ responses and ethics/trust challenges were clarified
- I learned a new word ‘methodolatry’ (meaning an inflexible adherence to a particular research methodology – see Braun and Clarke, 2006)
Mark Doffman is a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford. He is currently working with Eric Clarke on a three year project, Creative Practice in Contemporary Concert Music which investigates the distributed nature of creativity in contemporary music. From May 2014, Mark begins a 3 year Leverhulme Fellowship at Oxford on time and timing across a range of musical genres. Mark also works as a jazz drummer.
Mirjam James was Research Associate at the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP) at the University of Cambridge. She holds a MA in Musicology, Psychology and Politics (TU Berlin) and a MSc in Music Psychology (Keele University). Her PhD, on audio-visual perception, was awarded by TU Berlin and her research interest includes group communication, practice, performance and audiences.
Karen Wise was Research Associate in the AHRC Centre for Music Performance as Creative Practice, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge. Her PhD in Psychology (Keele) examined the musical skills, cognitive profiles and self-perceptions of adults self-identifying as ‘tone deaf’. She is also a classical mezzo-soprano and singing teacher.
(Chair: Ruth Herbert, University of Oxford)
Laudan Nooshin (City University London)
Between a rock and a hard place: discourse, practice and the unbearable lightness of analysis. Methodological challenges in studying creative process in Iranian (classical) music
Since the late 1980s, an important strand of my research has sought to understand the underlying creative processes of Iranian classical music, a tradition where the performer plays a central creative role and which is therefore often described as ‘improvised’, both in the literature and – since the mid-20th century and drawing on concepts initially adopted from European music – by musicians themselves. Methodologically, perhaps the greatest challenge is tracing the relationships between musicians’ verbal discourses – usually taken by ethnomusicologists as evidence of cognitive processes – and what happens in practice. Of course, the relationship is a complex one and the dual ethnomusicological methods of (a) ethnography and (b) transcription and analysis don’t always tell the same story. In the case of my work, there was a disjuncture between musicians’ discourse of creative freedom, albeit underpinned by the central memorised repertoireknown as radif, and the analytical evidence which showed the music to be highly structured around a series of what could be termed ‘compositional procedures’, but which are not explicitly discussed by musicians.
More recently, I have been working with younger performers – university-educated and cosmopolitan – who are developing discursive frameworks for their creative practice, including an explicit articulation of compositional intent and an intellectual-analytical approach to performance which is quite new to Iranian music. From the researcher’s point of view, such changes have made it easier to talk to musicians about detailed aspects of creative process, and the relationship between verbal discourse and musical practice has ostensibly become more straightforward. In this paper, I focus on the work of two musicians, Amir Eslami and Hooshyar Khayam, and explore both the broader ramifications of these changes for creative practice in Iranian music, and the methodological implications for those seeking to understand creative processes.
Laudan Nooshin is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at City University London. Her research interests include creative processes in Iranian music; music and youth culture in Iran; music and gender; neo/post-colonialism and Orientalism; and music in Iranian cinema. Recent publications include the edited volume Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (Ashgate). Her forthcoming monograph is
entitled Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity (Ashgate).
Joe Bennett (Bath Spa University)
Documenting collaborative songwriters’ creativity using Linear Event Analysis
(some of this work will be published in http://www.arpjournal.com in Dec 2013
Psychologist John Sloboda identified the methodological challenges in understanding composers’ creativity, and concluded that the best evidence of compositional decision- making was found in real-time reporting of composing as it occurs. Such ‘verbal protocol analysis’ has been attempted by a small number of researchers (e.g. Collins ) but such methods are necessarily interventionist and risk subjecting the composer to the observation effect.
Collaborative songwriting is immanently communicative, so some methodology problems can be solved through ‘linear event analysis’. Audio recordings are compared to computer- assisted iterative documentation such as ‘track changes’ edits and ‘save as’ audio files. These can then be compared with the finished song, and creative behaviours and motives can be inferred. In this paper the author will describe his emergent research into observation methodologies for songwriting, and outline the techniques he has used to try to answer the question ‘what do collaborative songwriters do’ in a musically meaningful way.
Keywords: songwriting, popular musicology, music psychology, creativity studies.
Joe Bennett’s research focuses on the creative practice and psychology of collaborative songwriters. Joe teaches on the MMus Songwriting at Bath Spa University, and director of the the UK Songwriting Festival. His guitar tuition books, articles and compositions are published worldwide by Music Sales, Rockschool, Total Guitar Magazine and others. As an expert witness forensic musicologist, Joe advises music lawyers, publishers, artists and songwriters on matters of plagiarism and musical similarity.
Nikki Moran (University of Edinburgh)
The ‘Improvising Duos’ Project: studying music in and as social interaction
This paper presents the methodology and some results from a British Academy-funded collaboration, the ‘Improvising Duos’ project. We recorded video, audio and kinematic data from 24 improvising musicians in 12 duo pairings, with the aim of analysing emergent properties of their joint performance. We set out to explore the extent to which observers could demonstrably judge ‘real’ versus ‘fake’ musician duos, thus making the behavioural manifestation of the musical interaction process into the object of analysis. We used 3D motion-capture animations of the duos to create a set of stimuli. These ten-second excerpts of duo performance included both authentic (‘real’) duos and but also ‘fake’ duos spliced from two different duo pairs. In an experiment, participants watched the animations and judged the authenticity of the improvising duo. Formally-trained musician participants were able to discriminate reliably between genuine versus synthetic duos.
Nikki Moran is Lecturer in Music at Edinburgh University. Her research and PhD supervision deals with empirical approaches to music and social interaction. Nikki’s teaching includes modules for the BMus degree and the MSc Music in the Community. She is also Programme Director for the new undergraduate degree, MA Music (Sep 2014).
Our opening speaker is Prof Eric Clarke, who opened the day with a discussion of the recent shift in musicology from a product-based to a process-based approach. He cited Christopher Hasty’s book Meter As Rhythm, which takes such an approach to rhythm. Eric cites Margaret Boden’s definition of creative products as “ideas or artefacts that are new, surprising or valuable” – this is the product-based definition I use in my own work (that is, I’m not researching songs that do not exhibit all three characteristics). This is contrasted with more nuanced approaches including Ingold (2007) and Howard Becker’s Ethnomusicology and Sociology (1989). Becker takes the view that ‘Art is something people do together’. All of these authors (including, I infer, Eric himself) eschew the idea of the ‘lone creative genius’. His view (and I agree) is that both approaches are necessary in understanding creativity.
He goes on to identify some of the challenges of research methodology, and notes that the documentation of process itself (for research purposes) can paradoxically create an artefact that is itself a product! Many of the artefacts (figures, scores, graphs etc) are fixed objects that do not fully represent the music – they are reductive of the music but not necessarily of its process – often to a single ‘snapshot’ of an aspect of the music (frequency curve, amplitude over time etc – for example a Sonic Visualiser diagram).
Artistic research on the phenomenology of modern pianism
Dr Mine Doğantan-Dack (Middlesex University)
This presentation concerns my artistic research project on the phenomenology of modern pianism, with particular focus on piano touch. After outlining the research process, which involves a continuously evolving movement between theoretical inquiry and practical exploration, I discuss the value-laden approach the artist-researcher needs to adopt in researching piano touch: such an approach necessitates moving beyond the interests of merely gaining new knowledge and understanding into an area where the artistic engagement and commitment to the ‘object’ of research, i.e. the nature of the experience of tone production and of the quality of the produced tone, requires an interested and subjectively valorized positioning of the performer-researcher. I also explain the challenges involved in studying the physical, psychological and aesthetic processes of cantabile pianistic practice on the modern concert piano from the perspective of the practicing artist, and argue that the process of insider research necessitates integrating embodied artistic practice into musical thought and discourse by thinking in and through the instrument-cum- sound.
Mine DOĞANTAN-DACK is a Senior Research Fellow in Music at Middlesex University, London. She is a concert pianist and a music theorist and has published articles on the history of music theory, affective responses to music, solo and chamber music performance practice. Her books include Mathis Lussy: A Pioneer in Studies of Expressive Performance (2002), and Recorded music: Philosophical and Critical Reflections (2008), Artistic Practice as Research in Music (in press).
Rees Archibald (Leeds Metropolitan University)
Performance seeking nothingness: using musical performance practice to explore ‘pure consciousness’
In traditional Japanese shakuhachi (Zen bamboo flute) performance practice, musical works and the instrument itself can be conceived of as processes facilitating specific psychophysical states. In this context, the focus of performance practice lies not in the presentation of a musical work for external appreciation, but in how compositional structure and instrumental design combine with the physicality of performer in the ‘doing’ of a piece. Engagement with a musical experience is important, but only in terms of how the physicality of ‘doing’ can engender specific somatic states.
Performing live, the author will present an analysis of a solo shakuhachi piece (named hon shirabe 本調) and discuss the musical characteristics of the work in relation to the physical design of the instrument and its performance practice. It will be argued that a combination of elements such as a focus on timbre, a welcoming of ‘noise,’ microtonal intonation, and the use of ornamentation as ‘unbalancing,’ in combination with an extremely demanding physical performance practice, lead a performer towards an immersive state which can be likened to Csíkszentmihályi’s (1990) ‘flow’ concept, or expressed as ‘pure consciousness,’ that being “pure, silent, and empty of all ‘phenomenal’ objects (Shear & Jevning 1999, p.194).”
Rees Archibald worked as a professional saxophonist in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Japan to study Zen bamboo flute in 1996. He is interested in investigating relationships between breath, body and conscious states using arts performance. His current work brings together a mix of devised physical movement, sonic arts, visual media, dance and Asian meditation systems.
Today I’m at the Royal Musical Association study day at the University of Oxford, presenting a paper about the methodological challenges of observing and analysing collaborative songwriters’ creativity. For the convenience of those who are there today I’ve pasted the references at the bottom of this post. An academic paper with more detail will be published soon in the Journal on the Art of Record Production (Issue 8, December 2013).
Documenting collaborative songwriters’ creativity using Linear Event Analysis
It is a little-known fact that almost half of the hit songs in the USA of the last 60 years were written by collaborative teams. Songs acquire immense cultural and economic value, and good songwriters are celebrated in the music industry, but collaborative songwriting practices remain largely unexplored by popular musicology or cognitive psychology. Psychologist John Sloboda identified the methodological challenges in understanding the creative mind of a composer, and concluded that the best way of acquiring evidence of compositional decision-making was real-time reporting of composing as it occurs. Such ‘verbal protocol analysis’ into composers’ creativity has been attempted by a small number of researchers (e.g. Collins) but such methods are necessarily interventionist and therefore risk subjecting the composer to the observation effect. Collaborative songwriting is immanently communicative, so some of the methodology problems identified by Sloboda can be solved through ‘linear event analysis’ – i.e. audio recordings of the songwriting process. This evidence base can be triangulated with computer-assisted generation of iterative documentation such as ‘track changes’ lyric edits and ‘save as’ audio files. These evidence bases can then be compared with the finished product – the song itself – and tentative conclusions about authorial intent and processes can be drawn. In this paper the author will describe his emergent research into observation methodologies for popular songwriting, and outline the techniques and systems he has used to try to answer the question ‘what do collaborative songwriters do’ in a musically meaningful way.
Keywords: songwriting, popular musicology, music psychology, creativity studies.
- Bamberger, J., 2003. The Development of Intuitive Musical Understanding: A Natural Experiment. Psychology of Music, 31(1), pp.7–36.
- Barnes, A., 2006. James Blunt goes to war with his mentor over royalties. The Independent on Sunday. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/james-blunt-goes-to-war-with-his-mentor-over-royalties-470496.html.
- Bennett, Joe. Collaborative Songwriting – the Ontology of Negotiated Creativity in Popular Music Studio Practice. In Journal of the Art of Record Production, 2011. Available from http://www.joebennett.net
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- Collins, D., 2007. Real-time tracking of the creative music composition process. Digital Creativity, 18(4), pp.239–256.
- Demers, J., 2006. Steal This Music – how intellectual property law affects musical creativity. University of Georgia Press.
- Hayden, S. & Windsor, L., 2007. Collaboration and the composer: case studies from the end of the 20th century. Tempo, 61(240), p.28.
- Hewson, J., 2009. Songbook: James Blunt. Available at: http://www.skyarts.co.uk/music/article/songbook.
- McIntyre, P., 2001. The Domain of Songwriters: Towards defining the term “Song.” Perfect Beat: The Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture, 5(3), pp.100–111.
- Moore, A.F., 2012. Song means : analysing and interpreting recorded popular song. Ashgate.
- Padgett, A., 2008. Rhetoric of Predictability: Reclaiming the Lay Ear in Music Copyright Infringement Litigation, The. Pierce L. Rev., 7, p.125.
- Sloboda, J., 1985. The musical mind : the cognitive psychology of music, OUP.
- Smart, G., 2007. Now Blunt goes back to war. The Sun. Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/bizarre/article246437.ece.
- Zollo, P., 1997. Songwriters on songwriting, Da Capo Press.