I don’t often blog my graduates’ work. And I’m not sure why I don’t; note to self – must do it more often.
Here’s a fine song by one of our ex-students (and graduate of our MA Songwriting) Sophie Madeleine, using some lovely ‘net collaboration with fans around the globe. Sophie’s debut album Love. Life. Ukulele. is available via iTunes or Bandcamp.
I ‘attended’ today’s OU conference (i.e. by logging on remotely using a web browser). AFAIK the conference was a first for the HE sector because the entire event was webcast live and archived (as well as Tweeted and blogged). Fellow geeks will be interested to know that we used Elluminate for real-time sharing of slides, audio and live conference chat, and the technology worked pretty flawlessly, with attendees from all over the world logging in live – I was one of 400 remote delegates (which represents quite a lot of CO2 if they had all attended in person…).
The fact that all the content was openly available on the Internet was in itself a significant gesture, but perhaps isn’t altogether surprising in the context of OERs, blended/distributed learning, increased remote working and a generally more web-literate scholarship community.
Many interesting questions arose, which I’ll try to summarise as a series of bullet points here;
- As any web user now has access to (some) information by a simple text search, how does this change the role of the academic teacher? Are we now informed aggregators as opposed to content generators?
- How practical is it for the HE sector (anywhere) to attempt to build web-based tools to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook – if our R&D will never be able to compete?
- Much online learning is moving from a ‘dot’ to a ‘slash’ approach i.e. the University no longer needs to own the top-level url for its content and institutions are increasingly relaxed about this (e.g. youtube.com/bathspauniversity or http://www.facebook.com/bath.spa.university ); what are the implications for the development of online resources to support T&L?
- What are the implications of the deliberate elitism (i.e. subscription model) of peer-reviewed journals contrasted with learners’ (and some international research communities’) expectations of open-ness? Is such closed learning under threat by ubiquity of information?
- Repurposing existing online materials (not just OERs but content from any source) is becoming an integral part of curriculum design – what implications does this have for staff recruitment/training/duties etc?
- How are student expectations changing in an all-you-can-eat information environment? How do we deal with ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ learners?
- How do we integrate multiple learning tools from different sources, including social networking? The OU have made a start with their Social Learn project – http://sociallearn.org/register/home
- HE’s traditional business models are based around geography, where learners attend in person; this is obviously still relevant for many subjects and learning styles, but as a learning model it predates the Internet. Has the web created different user expectations of access to learning, and are there implications for student ‘demand’ for HE courses?
Here are some relevant links;
- OU conference homepage (with Cloudworks interactivity if you wish to participate online)
- Twitter hashtag #ouconf10
- Long-form conference transcription
- Slides, videos and other resources
The conference continues tomorrow but I won’t be able to attend day 2 – I’m tied up with f2f meetings. One-to-one verbal interaction is still the way we humans communicate best, but it’s so darned inefficient…
Does this seem like a strange question? Surely we all know the answer? Well, this is something that’s been preoccupying my PhD research lately. To summarise the research itself, I’m investigating (between now and 2014) the methods that collaborative songwriters use, and the decision-making (and veto) processes that take place between two or more creative individuals. My methodology is a combination of interviews with successful songwriters, co-writing new songs with various people, and undertaking background research in various fields of study, mainly the psychology of creativity.
In any research you need to try to define your parameters, and the unexpected challenge arose when I tried to define what a (Western Popular) song actually is. Apart from the fact that it necessarily needs a vocal (or it would be an instrumental) it can become very difficult to find criteria that define ‘song-ness’. For every characteristic of ‘song’ you identify, you can find a successful example of a work that doesn’t exhibit it. For example, if we say the majority of songs are in 4/4 time (and I think most people would agree that they are) we can find tens of thousands that aren’t. If we say a song is around 3-4 minutes long, we’d be right most of the time, but I’m sure we would agree that All My Loving and Paranoid Android (2:09 and 6:24 respectively) are both ‘songs’. If we say that most songs have lyrics that are about romantic relationships between humans, we’d be right, but there are millions of songs that cover other areas of meaning (or deliberately have no meaning).
So I’m working on a ‘checklist’ that identifies the characteristics of most popular songs, to work out the size and shape of the creative ‘box’ in which songwriters operate. This is not to say that all songs will have all these characteristics, but rather to create a defining filter that enables us to measure the ‘song-ness’ of a piece of music, so that most songs would exhibit a majority of these characteristics. Here’s my first stab; feel free to drop me a line (via Facebook, WordPress, email or Twitter etc) if you have any suggestions for additions to the list. For now, these are not in any particular order, but eventually I may group the characteristics into music and lyric characteristics, and perhaps in order of relevance.
Song Identification Machine v 1.0
Most Western Popular songs;
- Have a single vocal
- Have a single central lyric theme or idea
- Include the title in the lyric
- Are sung between a two-octave range from bottom C to top C (C2 to C4)
- Are between 2 and 4 minutes in length
- Are lyrically about (usually romantic) human relationships
- Feature a single sympathetic character, portrayed by the singer
- Are in 4/4 time
- Remain in a single key
- Use underlying 4, 8 and 16 bar phrases, with occasional additions or subtractions
- Feature a repeating chorus that summarises the meaning of the song
- Feature a chorus that reaches a higher pitch than in the rest of the song
- Feature one, two or three characters (or a collective ‘we’)
- Are sung in the first person singular
- Start and end on the home chord (chord I) of the key
- End on a downbeat or a fade when recorded
- Feature an instrumental introduction of less than 20 seconds