Eurovision 2016 live blog

t1_2016[Next morning]

OK so I got two of the top three, and predicted Australia’s placing, but I underestimated the power of Jamala’s vocal, or perhaps the political impact of the lyric of 1944.


  1. Ukraine
  2. Australia
  3. Russia


  1. Russia
  2. Australia
  3. France


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What exactly did ‘Stairway to Heaven’ copy from ‘Taurus’?

And my Spirit is crying…

As mentioned in a previous post, the question of whether Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven (1971) copies a part of Spirit’s Taurus (1968) may soon be settled.

Representatives of the late Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California) are claiming that the four-bar introduction section of Stairway To Heaven copies a substantial part of his 1968 instrumental composition Taurus.

Judge Gary Klausner stated that a jury should be used, because the matter in question is necessarily subjective: “while it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure […] What remains is a subjective assessment of the ‘concept and feel’ of two works”.

So let’s compare the works – how similar are they?  [Read more…]

Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven

Led ZeppelinSo the Stairway to Heaven / Taurus controversy was back in the news yesterday, due to the fact that the dispute is to go to a jury in the US in May this year. I participated in a panel discussion about this a couple of years back for a Russian radio station.

In the next couple of days I’ll post proper transcriptions of the two with audio and some discussion points. For now, here’s an interview I did yesterday with BBC Radio 5 live, discussing the songs with presenters Sarah Brett and Ore Oduba.

One Voice or Another: The Re­recording of Blondie’s Hits #arp2015

Tiffany Naiman, UCLA, USA

Abstract: This talk considers the nuances of Debbie Harry’s aging vocal identity on the re­recordings of Blondie’s works “Atomic,” “Rapture,” and “Heart of Glass” that the band recorded for their 2014 box set, Blondie 4(0)­Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download. Chris Stein, guitarist and co­founder of Blondie, stated that the band re­recorded eleven of their best­known hits, “partially as an exercise, but also for sync rights.” The band was not working to add something creatively new to their songs, aiming to maintain a close fidelity to the originals so that when film and commercial producers approached them for their classic music, the band could offer new recordings for which they owned both the publishing and sync rights.

At the age of 69, Debbie Harry’s voice has changed since her early recordings in the late 70s and early 80s and the listener can hear her physical limitations. Though there are aesthetic choices made both musically and in the studio in order to manage Harry’s voice, her aging voice is not always consistent or coherent and these inconsistencies, these failures, open the door for my analysis of Harry’s vocality on these new recordings as compared to the originals. Questions surrounding the organization of musical sounds and the presentation of vocal identities provide an opportunity to consider structures of value within the vocal performances of aging popular music artists such as Debbie Harry. By analyzing Harry’s vocals and examining the journalistic and audience receptions of the new re­recorded tracks, I attend to the ways in which the aging female voice is situated within structures of value and authenticity in popular music.

[Read more…]

Recorded Popular Music as (Trans)Fiction: The Case of Eminem #arp2015

Serge Lacasse, Université Laval, Canada

Abstract: In 2013, Eminem released the song “Bad Guy” featuring on The Marshall Mathers LP 2. “Bad Guy” is described as a sequel to “Stan,” a song featuring on The Marshall Mathers LP launched in 2000. “Stan” relates the story of a disturbed fan of Slim Shady who murders his own (pregnant) wife in a way inspired by another story, this time related in Eminem’s “97′ Bonnie and Clyde” (from the 1999 The Slim Shady LP). Eminem’s characters, such as Slim Shady, appear and interact in many other songs recorded by Eminem, of course, but also by other artists (such as Tori Amos). How can we account for the relationships within this network of songs? How recording practices can contribute to the cohesion of these related phonographic narratives?

Indeed, although popular music has sometimes been approached as narratives (e.g. Frith 1996, Sibilla 2003; Lacasse 2006), and despite the fact that most popular music is founded on a form or another of storytelling, it seems that no theoretical model has approached recorded popular music from the angle of fiction. Fiction theory is a vast domain that could help us better understand and reinterpret a lot of the practices (including practices of recording) observed in recorded music when considered from the perspective of fiction.

Using Richard St­Gelais’s concept of transfictionality (St­Gelais 2011) the paper will unpack and characterise the different ways in which a group of Eminem recorded songs relate to each other on the level of fiction: “captures,” “sequels/prequels,” “interpolations,” or “systems,” these transfictional practices shed an alternative and revealing light on a corpus that is in need of a theoretical model for better analysing its effects on us. Moreover, recording technologies directly contribute to the establishment of these transfictional relationships, notably in terms of phonographic staging (Lacasse 2000; Zagorski­Thomas 2014).

[Read more…]

Creativity, Agency and Structure inside the Recording Studio #arp2015

Paul Thompson, Leeds Beckett University, UK

Phillip McIntyre, Newcastle University NSW, Australia

Abstract: Popular accounts of creativity inside the recording studio tend to romanticise and mythologise the record production process (Williams, 2008). These accounts present the artist as the sole creative entity during the recording process, thus endorsing the romantic ideal of a musical ‘genius’ whose artistic expressions are free from any constraint and even somewhat mystical (Zolberg 1990, Petrie 1991, Watson 2005, Sawyer 2006). However, it has been acknowledged that the production of art is always, to some degree, both constrained and enabled by the structures creative agents engage with (Giddens 1976; Becker 1982; Wolff, 1981; Bourdieu 1993). Furthermore, rather than placing the artist at the centre of the creative process there is growing evidence that creativity occurs through the convergence of multiple elements; an agent, a knowledge system (the domain) and a social organisation that holds the domain knowledge (the field), through a dynamic system of interaction (Csikszentmihalyi: 1988, 1997, 1999 & 2004).

Drawing upon current literature, interviews, case studies and data gathered from an extended ethnographic study in the recording studio, this paper explores the interrelated aspects of agency and structure as they apply to the record production process and illustrates their influence on the decision­making process with a group of musicians, an engineer and record producer as they collaborate inside the recording studio.

[Read more…]

Hyper­compression in Music Production: Agency, Structure and the Myth that ‘Louder is Better’ #arp2015

Robert Taylor, University of Newcastle, Australia

Was this album an opening salvo in the Loudness Wars?

Abstract: Achieving ‘loud’ recordings is a prevailing expectation within the creative system of music production. This is supported by the process known as hyper­compression and has resulted from the ‘louder is better’ paradigm; “the established assumption that a ‘louder’ recording will invariably, by comparison, be preferable to most listeners” (Taylor and Martens, 2014). Once one artist, seen here as a creative agent, had reached a new level of loudness all other creative agents had to follow so when comparisons were made between recordings, one was not seen as softer and in a sense, inferior (Weymouth, 2012). The existence and persistence of the myth surrounding the loudness of recordings, despite the accumulated scientific evidence regarding the deleterious effects of hyper­compression, has been largely overlooked within an examination the creative system of audio production. There is a distinct tension between the empirical evidence of applied science and the subjective interpretation of creative agents in that the practical use of hyper­compression continues unabated. As part of a larger research study, this paper examines these tensions from a systemic perspective where agency and the symbolic and social structures they engage with, operate within what Williamson and Cloonan define as the music ‘industries’. These industry sectors, or industries, operate as discrete systems themselves and also act, at the   same time, as part of a larger scalable system centered around the production and distribution of music recordings (artefacts). A synthesis of both objective and subjective viewpoints will be used to examine these creative systems (Csikszentmilhalyi 1998, 1999), coupled with Bourdieu’s theories of habitus and capital (1993, 1996), to expose the relationship between agency and structure in the use of hyper­compression as a creative tool.

[Read more…]