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.
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
- Bently, L., 2009. Authorship of Popular Music in UK Copyright Law. Information, Communication & Society, 12(2), pp.179–204.
- Bugg, J., 2012. Jake Bugg interview: “I’ve achieved what I wanted to’ – Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopmusic/9718719/Jake-Bugg-interview-Ive-achieved-what-I-wanted-to.html.
- Cantor, J.S., 2006. Fearless Innovation–Songwriting for Our Lives: Inspiring Learners with Arts-Based Practices that Support Creativity. Multicultural Education, 14(2), pp.57–64.
- 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.
What do the following songs have in common?
The Beatles – You Never Give Me Your Money
Erasure – I Love To Hate You
Frank Sinatra (and others) – Fly Me To The Moon
Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
Train – 50 Way To Say Goodbye
Cat Stevens – Wild World
Type your comments here, or via Twitter/Facebook.
Last week I posted a research survey on this site to investigate the way listeners infer meaning from song arrangements. Thanks to all of the Facebook, blog and Twitter contacts who responded. Some of the respondents have asked me to publish the results, so here they are. The text below is part of a forthcoming research publication which should be available sometime in 2014.
Song, Performance and Track – a listening experiment
Joe Bennett, 26 Sept 2013
It is self-evident, or perhaps a tautology, that an audio recording of a song carries cultural meaning for the listener, but to what extent does the listener infer meaning (from the track) that was not created by the songwriter? To borrow from Allan Moore’s terminology, to what extent is the track one of the ‘means by which songs can mean’? To provide an objective/measurable example of the way ‘performance’ can create listener inferences I devised the following simple listening experiment, conducted using an online poll. Participants were asked to select randomly one of two unidentified recordings ‘Song A’ and ‘Song B’ and listen to only one of them. ‘Song A’ was Carole King’s 1970 recording of the Goffin/King composition Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? ‘Song B’ was the Shirelles’ recording of the same song from 1960. Importantly, both recordings share the same melody and lyric as each other, with near-identical harmony, but are performed in different styles (‘singer-songwriter’ and ‘1960s girl band’ respectively) and at different tempi. Listeners were asked to speculate about inferred/imagined events – that is, to provide information about the characters and story that is not provided in the lyric.
I’m currently undertaking some research into inferences in song – the story, characters and images that listeners imagine when they hear a recording or performance. At the moment I’m collecting data about two well-known recordings (take the survey – you’ll find out what they are at the end) and I’m trying to get as many responses as possible. The survey will take around 5 minutes (including the time it takes to listen to the song!) and there are 8 questions.
So please forward this link to everyone you know – and don’t forget to take the survey yourself.
This is a post for my Masters degree songwriting students, containing all the slides (with lyrics and YouTube clips) for today’s lecture session at the Songwriter’s centre in Corsham.
DE MAN, BRECHT (Queen Mary University of London)
A semantic approach to autonomous mixing
[abstract] There is a clear need for systems that take care of the mixing stage of music production for live and recording situations. The democratisation of music technology has allowed musicians to produce and distribute their own content at very little cost, but in order to deliver high quality material a skilled mixing engineer is still needed, among others. Mixing multichannel audio comprises many expert but non-artistic tasks that, once accurately described, can be implemented in software or hardware. By obtaining a high quality mix fast and autonomously, studio or home recording becomes more affordable for musicians, smaller music venues are freed of the need for expert operators for their front of house and monitor systems, and both audio engineers and musicians can increase their productivity and focus on the creative aspects of music production. Current automatic mixing systems already show adequate performance using basic extracted audio features or machine learning techniques, and sometimes outperform amateur mixing engineers.
However, few intelligent systems seem to take semantic, high-level information into account. The applied processing is dependent on low-level signal features, but no information is given (or extracted) about the band, recording conditions, and playback conditions, to name a few. This information, which can be provided by an amateur end user at little cost, could significantly increase the performance of such semi-autonomous mixing system. Moreover, using feature extraction for instrument and even genre recognition, a fully autonomous system could be designed.
Many sources, among which numerous audio engineering books and websites, report standard processor settings. These settings depend on the engineer’s style and taste, the band’s and song’s characteristics, and to some extent the characteristics of the signals. This involves preferential values for relative level, panning, equalising, dynamic range compression, and time-based effects.
In this paper a synthesis is made of the ‘best practices’ derived from a broad selection of audio engineering literature and expert interviews, to constitute a set of rules that define to the greatest possible extent the actions and choices audio engineers make, given a song with certain characteristics. Rule-based processing is then applied to reference material (raw tracks) to validate the semantic approach. A formal comparison with state-of-the-art automatic mixing systems as well as human mixes as well as an unprocessed version is conducted, and future directions are identified.
[JB comment - there was so much detail (and detailed audio) in Brecht's presentation that I confess I didn't manage to blog it in real time. The work is excellent and could, after further development, provide an obvious commercial/end user benefit. You can listen to the results of the automixing experiments, and find out more about Brecht's work, on his own website - http://brechtdeman.com/research.html]
MARTHA DE FRANCISCO (McGill University)
Martha de Francisco is a record producer and recording engineer specializing in Classical music. She is a professor for Sound Recording at McGill University in Montreal. An internationally acknowledged leader in the field of sound recording and record production, Martha has recorded with some of the greatest classical musicians of our time for the major record labels and in the best concert halls. She has credits on hundreds of recordings, mostly for worldwide release, many distinguished with the most prestigious awards. A graduate from the renowned Tonmeister program at the Musikhochschule Detmold, Germany, Martha was one of the pioneers of digital recording and editing in Europe during the 1980s. On staff as producer/engineer/editor with Philips Classics, she developed long lasting working relationships with many prominent artists. Martha has been entrusted with the recording legacy of international artists from Alfred Brendel to the Philadelphia Orchestra. Her list of recording artists includes the Beaux Arts Trio, Heinz Holliger, Oliver Latry, Gustav Leonhardt, I Musici, Truls Mørk, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Jessye Norman, the conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Neville Marriner, Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle, the Symphony Orchestras of Vienna, Montreal, Philadelphia, London, Caracas and many more. Martha has recorded in a variety of venues throughout the world: Vienna Musikverein, New York Carnegie Hall, Moscow Conservatoire, Bayreuth Festspielhaus, Tokyo Suntory Hall, Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Martha de Francisco is appointed as Associate Professor at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University and a member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology CIRMMT. Her research topics include the latest surround-sound techniques, music recording with virtual acoustics, studies on piano brightness and the aesthetics of recorded music. She was the producer/engineer of the acclaimed research and production project “The Virtual Haydn”, a recreation of the sonic characteristics of Haydn’s music played on reconstructions of his instruments performed (virtually) in his original rooms, a study of acoustics and interpretation. Martha is a frequent lecturer at international professional conferences, a regular judge at the main international student recording competitions as well as a sought-after guest lecturer at leading schools for higher education in Audio in various countries.
Martha’s talk begins with a discussion of her project at McGill ‘The Virtual Haydn’. It is fascinating work and I will not attempt to summarise it here – everything you need is on the project website. Read more…
ZEINER-HENRIKSEN, HANS T. (University of Oslo)
Vintage Instruments and Retro Technology in Popular Music Culture
[abstract] On the cover of the Norwegian electronica duo Röyksopp’s 2009 album Junior, Svein Berge is carrying a Korg SB100 synthesizer from 1975, while his partner Torbjørn Brundtland is holding a vinyl record. At concerts and in interviews regarding their production techniques the duo also emphasizes their use of a 1978 Korg MS synthesizer. Röyksopp exposes and celebrates instruments and a technology that in many ways are outdated – they may use these analogue synthesizers together with samples from old vinyl records, but the digital computer with a sequencer and software instruments is definitely playing a more central role in their productions. The celebration of old technology seems to be important even in music genres where a rather modern sound is being produced. I will discuss this fascination with old technology and ask whether it is stable and lasting, or constantly changing as David Pattie argues concerning the discourses on authenticity in rock culture (Pattie 2007). All types of technology or old instruments are not celebrated in the same manner. Using Wiebe E. Bijker’s theory of sociotechnical change (Bijker 1997), I will investigate processes within genres that lead one instrument or a type of technology into an elevated “vintage” position, and discuss to what extent its position is established once and for all or if it is an area of constant change and modification.
The “Brazilian electronica” of César Camargo Mariano and Prisma (1984-7): hybridization or tradition?
[abstract] In 1984, keyboardist César Camargo Mariano proposed the adoption of electronic musical instruments and MIDI systems in a Brazilian popular music repertoire. The successful first concert seasons in São Paulo led to a long-term project, named Prisma, which has been extended over the next thirty months encompassing the recording of two albums, each one followed by a nationwide concert tour. The main feature of the music was the mix of typically Brazilian musical elements with electronic sounds never heard attempted before in the country due to trade barriers on musical instrument imports and the unfamiliarity of local musicians with the new studio and stage practices. In spite of the fact that the Prisma participants focused on expanding the sound palette of a previously existing tradition, they eventually dealt with matters such as non-tempered noises as music composition materials, sequencer programming, tape editing and sound design. Hence one can ask about the nature of that concoction and its products. Would they fit perfectly within the borders of a previously constituted aesthetic territory or place themselves in an intermediate zone defined by indefinability and multiplicity? This last option leads us to the concept of hybridization, frequently approached by authors under a national perspective. Starting from the statement that there is no cultural purity but stabilized cultural traditions, this paper proposes a concept of cultural hybridization based on an intersection of texts and studies, to investigate a possible hybrid state resulting from the presence and influence of electronica in the music of Prisma.
MOREY, JUSTIN (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK)
MCINTYRE, PHILLIP (Univ. of Newcastle, Australia)
The Creative Studio Practice of Contemporary Dance Music Sampling Composers
This paper seeks to investigate some of the considerations that inform and help to determine the creative studio practice of contemporary sampling composers. Collaborative writing and production, specifically the co-opted collaboration implicit in using samples, will be assessed to consider those aspects of the production process which the participants consider to be authorial. These considerations include acts of listening, selecting and editing. In examining these matters this paper places, emphasis on how sampling composers actively constrain their options in order to promote a creative relationship with their musical material. Techniques such as, firstly, traditional sample manipulation, secondly, the use of a sample as an initial building block for a composition from which the sample is then removed and, finally, live performance in the studio which is subsequently cut up and treated as a sample, will be discussed. Case studies, in the form of semi-structured interviews with sampling composers, will be drawn upon to assess approaches to and views about these forms of studio composition. Read more…
ROMÁN ECHEVERRI, CARLOS GUSTAVO (Fundación Universitaria San Martín, Bogotá)
HERRERA, PERFECTO (Universitat Pompeu Fabra/Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya)
Automatic description of music for analyzing music productions: a study case in detecting Mellotron sounds in recordings
Download the entire presentation as a video with Carlos’ audio commentary here.
[abstract]In the last few years, digital music collections have become available via global networks in constantly- increasing amounts, prompted by recent developments in audio technology and the appearance of innovative online distribution platforms. Music Information Retrieval (MIR) -a growing and active interdisciplinary field of research- aims precisely at the problem of describing, organizing, categorizing, browsing and taking advantage of these large bulk of data in different contexts (analysis, exploration, recommendation, creation). Analyzing music recordings is now possible beyond the limitations of classical features (e.g., sonogram features) and collection sizes (i.e., a human-manegeable bunch of files). Therefore, an audio recording can be characterized automatically (with a non-negligible amount of errors that could require human supervision) with their music theoretical features (pitch, scales, chords, rhythm), similarity with other recordings, genre, production techniques or musical instruments. In this context, the detection of musical instruments in a specific piece of music might be highly relevant in the analysis of music recordings, as instruments define the timbral qualities in any piece of music. Perceptually, instruments are determinant of specific textures, atmospheres, contrasts and distinctiveness in a piece of music. Additionally, instruments give information on the genre, the historical and geographical origin of music. In order to detect a musical instrument in a recording, the acoustic features that make the sound of an instrument identifiable or remarkable must be found. To accomplish this, audio descriptors describing different timbre dimensions are extracted, quantified and coded from raw digital audio signals. Read more…
STEVENSON, ALEX (Leeds Metropolitan University)
The UK Sound: British Hip Hop Production Practice
[abstract only] The emergence of localised sub-genres of Hip Hop around the world has been well documented, however the genre of UK Hip Hop (or British Hip Hop) has been largely overlooked in scholarly research. Although largely an underground music scene with very limited commercial success, UK Hip Hop has been recognized as being pivotal in the development of the more commercially successful genres of Grime, Trip Hop and Drum’n’Bass. Existing research into UK Hip Hop has often been from a cultural or sociological perspective, and although there is existing research analysing the compositional approach of Turntablist groups within in UK, little research exists into the production processes of UK Hip Hop.
Whilst many UK Hip Hop producers acknowledge the influence of American producers in the development of their style of production, there is recognition of UK Hip Hop having its own unique sonic characteristics. This uniqueness has been attributed to the experimental nature of the genre, partly due to its underground status, and its incorporation of a wide range of other musical genres.
This paper aims to identify and explore the unique aspects of UK Hip Hop through analysis of the composition and production processes. Through the use of interviews with key UK Hip Hop producers, and the sonic analysis of key musical works, this research will focus on three key themes which impact on the production process; these are:
Access to and utilisation of technology
The influence of specific US Hip Hop producers
The integration of elements of other music genres
MEANDRI, ILARIO (University of Turin)
1967: the year of the “Ambient Machine”: Local adaptation of global technologies in the Italian film sound post-production process of the late Sixties
[JB note - this was a Skype-in session. Kinda weird at first, but as with all videoconferencing we all settled into it pretty quickly. Ilario did a great job communicating his paper through the tricky medium of live streaming video - especially as his subject was cinema foley!]
[abstract only] One of the main revolutions of the sound post production process in the Italian cinema of the late Sixties was the birth of independent Foley studios. Before 1963-1964 ca. foleys were employed as freelance artists working at the Foley-stages of the sound post production facilities in Rome. By the end of 1965 the Foley artists formed a cartel and founded a new independent business. The new Foley companies would now provide to the studios all the required post-production sound effects: Foley-stage sounds (hereinafter: FFX), non-sync ambient sounds loops (AFX) and moviola-synchronized special sound effects (SFX) – the last two had previously been the responsibility of the film’s editor or/and the direct-sound editor. This novelty led rapidly to a series of technical and process innovations. The first noteworthy one is the foundation of the Foley AFX and SFX sound archives. Over the following years, in building AFX and SFX for movies by Fellini, Leone, Risi, Rosi, Petri, Pasolini, and Monicelli – to cite but a few – Foley companies formed the core of the new archives which ended up by becoming one of the richest and finest sound collections in the world. Read more…
O’GRADY, PAT (Macquarie University)
Passive Studio-based Songwriting
[abstract] Studio-based composition is the use of a studio environment and associated recording technology to compose a piece of music. Brian Wilson and Brian Eno exemplify this process, where structure, timbre and textures are altered – sometimes drastically – by recording technology. This paper will examine “passive” use of recording technology for songwriting. By passive, I mean uses of equipment and studio production processes that, although creatively important, do not obviously alter the sonic aesthetic of the finished work. This paper seeks to broaden the concept of studio-based songwriting and composition.
A number of scholars have pointed out the importance of studio work to creative product. Cunningham describes Wilson as conceptualizing the studio as an instrument like a piano or guitar (1998, p. 75-76). Moorefield states that for Eno “what is being made is not a replication or extension of a concert experience, but something altogether different.” (2005, p. 54). Theberge adds that a “sound recording has become productive, not simply reproductive.” (1997, p. 216). These approaches involve an intensive use of recording technology, where it plays a significant role in the sound of the completed work. This paper argues that this conception of studio-based composition confines such practices to more experimental music styles such as electro-acoustic, or psychedelic rock or pop. Read more…
CARVALHO, ALICE TOMAZ DE (Université de Montréal)
The Discourse of Home Recording: Authority of “Pros” and the Sovereignty of the Big Studios
[abstract] This paper presentation proposes a critical analysis of the discourse of home recording. It questions home recording’s will to truth by investigating what makes its statements possible, or what is the system of rules that authorize certain things to be said within the discourse. Driven by enunciations regarding home recording’s “accessibility” and “democratization”, it analyzes the power/knowledge relations that have been produced and legitimized within the discourse, as well as what they enable and constrain, allow and exclude. Music magazines and Internet discussion forums form the corpus of this work. The methods used in this research are inspired by Michel Foucault’s theory and method of discourse and by the approach known as critical interpretation (Johnson et al., 2004). This papers’ analysis shows that the government in home recording seems to be exerted by two main subjects: recording professionals and home recording “pros”, who are overall characterized as well-off men. Moreover, the rules of home recording seem to be a replication and an adaptation to the home environment of the organizing principles of professional studios. This work suggests that “democratization” as enunciated and produced within and by the discourse of home recording articulates the discursive notion of a “contemporary accessibility” in terms of technology and knowledge to the exclusions – such as that of women and people of limited means – that make this discourse possible. These exclusions are legitimized through what is considered the “truth” within the discourse, as well as the norms and regulations established within it, which in turn follow the logic of the professional studio.
[JB note - I did not personally get to see Alice's presentation, so here is a link to a previous JARP paper that covered much of the preparatory work for this 2013 paper]
The Discourse of Home Recording: Authority of “Pros” and the Sovereignty of the Big Studios; Journal on the Art of Record Production, issue 7. November 2012.