ARP Intuition and Collaboration in Popular Music Production #arp2015


Philip Chambon.

ABSTRACT:

Collaboration in a creative partnership is often an intuitive process in which separate artists interweave their experience and skills to inform an amalgamated product.

The process in popular music production from the initial inspiration for a track, through to the song writing, rehearsing, arranging, programming, performing, recording, mixing and mastering inevitably involves collaboration at some, if not all stages of this process. Music production has become “…a collective project between recording artists, musicians, producers and recording engineers” (Watson, 2014).

Even when one artist in the home digital studio performs these multiple roles, there is collaboration between the self, the subconscious and the imagined audience for the work (Harvey, 1999).

Intuition is a fundamental element in these collaborative processes, and is particularly relevant in the field of popular music creation and production. It can inform decision­making. It can discover problems that need solutions. It can find solutions in a flash ‘peak experience’ moment arising from apparently little pre­conscious thought. (Boyd, 2011: Csikszentmihalyi, 2013: Dewey, 2005: Harvey,1999).

This paper will explore how the role of intuition can underpin creative partnerships, and how this can contribute to innovation in the field and the dissemination of knowledge across both the academic and practice­based creative industries.

As well as providing an academic research context, the paper will draw on the author’s background as a practitioner in the areas of songwriting, performing, bands, sound engineering, production, and composing for contemporary dance and ballet, and film and TV.

Boyd, J. (2013) It’s not only rock ‘n’ roll. London: John Blake Publishing. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2013). Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins. Dewey, J. (2005). Art as experience. New York: Perigee. Harvey, J. (1999) Music and inspiration. London: Faber and Faber. Watson, A. (2014) Cultural production in and beyond the recording studio. New York: Routledge.

Philip begins by outlining his reasons for investigating intuition as part of the creative process, and then connects creative processes in songwriting and contemporary dance composition, both of which he has experienced as a practitioner. His first example is the music for ‘Swansong’ (1987), and he describes the brief for this work. Next, we hear a description of George Martin’s response to the question ‘why did you want to sign the Beatles’. Sir George’s response was ‘because I liked them’. An example of intuition, in this case, as the start of a very fruitful creative collaboration.

He cites Bennett (2010) and Carter (1990) in reference to creative partnerships. The Bennett quote is:

“This process of editorial veto is essential to the collaborative songwriting process, and may be one of the reasons that it is such an historically successful creative model[1]. Songwriters often describe their writing partner as a ready-made audience, an extra pair of ears or similar phrase (Carter 1990, p.4). The approval of a creative idea by the co-writer potentially doubles its chances of being a ‘good’ idea and risk-manages the subjectivity of the initial creator. This instant-audience effect, combined with the fact that more ideas can presumably be generated in a collaborative environment, may increase a song’s chances of success compared to a solo-written work.”

He also cites Alan Watson (p.34) who defines the creative process as a sliding scale between songwriting and production. Like many researchers in music creativity he cites Christopher Small’s (1998) influential concept of ‘Musicking’ and implies that this is inherently collaborative. Alvin Zak’s The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records (2001, p. xii) further supports the paper’s acknowledgement of the importance of teamwork in pop production.

Crosby – ‘freeing the intuition’

The next citation is from David Crosby who speaks of ‘freeing the subconscious mind’, relating these to Csikszentmihalyi’s five steps of Creativity – Preparation, Incubation, Insight, Evaluation and Elaboration.

Philip ends by describing the conditions for intuition to shape the collaborative process, including shared cultural reference points, emotional intelligence, the importance of incubation periods and the importance of the shared environment.

Comments

  1. Hi Joe, thank you for your incisive summary of my presentation at the ARP conference last Friday. The David Crosby quote by the way was from Jenny Boyd’s book – Boyd, J. (2013) It’s not only rock ‘n’ roll. London: John Blake Publishing.

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