Blame It on the Boogie – criteria for good pop music? #iaspm2017

Presenter: Dirk Stederoth – Universität Kassel, Institut für Philosophie

Mick Jackson
Mick Jackson, who wrote and released the original version of Blame It On The Boogie in 1978.

ABSTRACT: The presentation focuses on the question of whether there are criteria for measuring the quality of a pop song that go beyond the scope of a mere musical structural analysis. As many examples demonstrate, such structural analysis, which, according the criteria thereof, is derived from the aesthetic study of classical art music, offers rather unsatisfactory results when applied to pop music. In addition, it is questionable whether harmonic or rhythmic complexity, for example, is even a suitable criterion for the analysis of pop music. Against the background of this problematic situation, the presentation proposes an approach based on musical aesthetics, which assumes a fundamental tension between ideational musical structures and their categories (tonality, rhythmicity/the study of meter and composition) as well as the realization of music. The thesis of this approach proposes that pop music can not so much be considered from the structural perspective of this debate but instead from the perspective of realization. However, studying pop music for the perspective of realization requires comparable categories. These categories in the presentation at hand are sound, groove and performance. After this approach has been presented, I will also apply these categories of realization by means of a comparative analysis of the two versions of the pop song “Blame It on the Boogie” by Mick Jackson and The Jackson Five in order to establish the heuristic value of these categories.

Dirk opens his presentation with these historically concurrent versions of ‘Blame It On The Boogie’. We hear The Jacksons’ more famous version, then the earlier German version by original songwriter ‘Mick Jackson’ (no relation). Dirk tells the apocryphal story of how the song was discovered at the MIDEM show in the 1970s, and then immediately debunks this legend, stating that it was actually a more straightforward publishing deal because The Jacksons needed a more successful hit than their previous one.

Close to the Edge: investigating songwriting’s ‘plagiarism threshold’

Joe Bennett, Boston Conservatory at Berklee

[Presented at IASPM 2017, 26 June 2017]

Wicked.png
Stephen Schwartz’s score for ‘Wicked’ quotes 7 pitches from ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’… but does it infringe a copyright?

Here is the abstract, with references, for the academic paper I presented at the IASPM 2017 conference in Kassel, Germany. At the moment it’s just abstract, slides and references. If it ever turns into a full paper I’ll upload it to this website with the rest.

Abstract: The songwriter Stephen Schwartz once described his ‘Unlimited Theme’ (from ‘Wicked’) as a musical joke, using as it does the first seven pitches from ‘Over The Rainbow’.Schwartz believed that by limiting the number of copied pitches, he was evading an accusation of plagiarism. Schwartz’s belief in a legally defined plagiarism threshold represents a common misconception among musicians; there is a similarly widespread myth that copyright law permits a specific number of seconds of audio sampling (this has explicitly been contradicted in US case law). But borrowing and adaptation is a common form of creativity, and there is a real risk that if creators misidentify the line between influence and plagiarism, they might either inhibit their own creative freedoms, or inadvertently infringe copyright. This paper discusses the mythical plagiarism threshold, using examples from copyright case law, interviews with creators, and comparative analysis of musically similar works to explore the question “how much is too much”?

Download pdf of slides (or click image below)

Slides

References:

  • Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, 383 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2004)’. Harvard Law Review 118 (4): 1355–62. doi:10.2307/4093384.
  • Cronin, Charles Patrick Desmond. 2017. ‘Seeing Is Believing: The Ongoing Significance of Symbolic Representations of Musical Works in Copyright Infringement Disputes’. Social Science Research Network. https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2967590.
  • Demers, Joanna. 2006. Steal This Music – How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. Athens : University of Georgia Press,.
  • Grand Upright Music, Ltd v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., 780 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1991)
  • Schwartz, Stephen. 2004. Wicked’s Musical Themes Interview by Carol de Giere. http://www.musicalschwartz.com/wicked-musical-themes.htm.
  • Three Boys Music v. Michael Bolton 212 F.3d 477. 2000 477. 9th Cir.

 

Popular Music scholarship conference #iaspm2017

Selfie in Kassel
Selfie in Kassel, Germany, the venue for the IASPM 2017 conference. You had me at “Giant pink Les Paul on top of a 12-foot pole in the street”.

This week I’m at the biannual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Our hosts are the University of Kassel, Germany, and the conference features presenters from all over the world.

Our opening keynote speaker this morning is Robin James, whose academic work spans philosophy, pop music, sound studies, and feminism. One of the pleasing trends I’ve been seeing in academic conferences in recent years is the increased willingness of presenters (particularly younger scholars) to post their work online. Robin has generously shared not only her slides but the full text of the talk. The keynote goes into considerable depth, so I won’t attempt to summarise it here, other than to say how much I enjoyed Robin’s acrobatic thinking as she leapt gracefully from Pythagorean philosophy to big data, US neoliberalism, YOLO and Chill culture, and illustrated all of this with a brief musical analysis of Harry Styles’s Sign Of The Times (embedded below) and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

Wayfair, you’ve got just the soundalikes I need

Friends, musicians and soundmen (and women) – lend me your ears. Here are some Wayfair TV commercials in a playlist – let me know (Twitter @joebennettmusic) what songs you think they’re using as a template for the music. Disclosure – this is for academic research, not copyright/client work.

[Health warning – these ads have a level of cheesy catchiness that may be difficult to cure once acquired.]

 

Eurovision 2017 : live blog

1280px-eurovision_song_contest_2017_logo-svg

Next morning: the results

[edit – posted the next morning, Sunday 13th May 2017]

  1. Portugal
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Moldova
  4. Belgium
  5. Sweden
  6. Italy

My predictions were:

  1. Portugal (correct!)
  2. Italy (actually 6th)
  3. Sweden (actually 5th)
  4. (or 5.) Bulgaria (actually 2nd)

Not my best year so far, but not my worst either.

  • Successfully predicted the winner (Portugal)
  • All my top 3 were in the top 6
  • I was too snarky about the Moldovans (though I maintain it’s a terrible song)
  • I was right to stick up for plucky Bulgaria
  • The voters liked Belgium’s misery-fest more than I did
  • Italy might have scored higher but apparently self-sabotaged their performance on the night with a dancing gorilla.

[———–edit ends———–]

[original pre-live blog below, with videos embedded]

Predictions

[Written at at 9:14pm GMT on May 13th 2017, before voting begins]

  1. Portugal
  2. Italy
  3. Sweden

(Bulgaria also somewhere in the top 5)

How to use this blog entry

When the show begins, scroll down to the first performer (Israel) and read the text live along with the show, or just watch the videos. Intro

Welcome to the 2017 Eurovision live musicology blog, now in its seventh year. This site has provided live music analysis of the ESC final every year since 2011, previously during the UK live broadcast. Since 2016, the text has been written from Boston USA, 5 hours behind UK time and 7 hours behind the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev.

The Contest is now broadcast in the US, which would be a 3pm start time here, but the final usually (as this year) coincides with my students’ Commencement. So blog will still be ‘pre-live’, but the comments and predictions are published an hour or so ahead of the live broadcast of the final. This means I’m working from the published running order and watching the videos on the ESC website. For any non-Europeans who are unfamiliar with Eurovision, the Wikipedia page gives a great overview.

As before, I’ve posted predictions of the winners before the voting begins. 2015 is the only year so far that all three were correct, and in the correct order, but I’ve gotten close with the top few most of the time.

 

Live blog

(scroll down along with the show, or if you’re reading this after the show has ended, watch the videos)

1 Israel – IMRI – I feel alive

Lots of builds here, harmonically and dynamically. The whole song form is three big ramps; the first is from the intro through verse 1 to the end of chorus 1; the second from verse 2 to the end of chorus 2; then a drop bridge, with a final ramp to the end. There are really two 8-bar pre-choruses, both of which use the chorus chord loop of Ab | Cm | Bb | Fm – so you get the feeling of chorusyness two, arguably three times. The song could be called ‘breaking me to pieces’ and have a perfectly good chorus, but when he hits the high autotuned C note on the title’s “I feel alive”. I’m typing this based on the video – so for those watching it live, see how they manage that high falsetto note. His ability to hit it (or mime convincingly to it as a ‘backing’ vocal) could affect the score bigly. Sorry, typing this from America.

51%

[ABSTRACT] Appropriation and Copyrightability in Music Copyright

James Newton

I Hate These Blurred Lines: Wrongful Appropriation and Copyrightability in Music Copyright

Academic/copyright post: here’s an abstract (pdf) of a paper that I’ll be presenting with Prof Wendy Gordon next week at Boston University Law School.

James Newton
Flautist and composer James Newton, whose work ‘Choir’ was sampled by the Beastie Boys in’ ‘Pass The Mic’.

This is based in part on an earlier paper that we presented at the Art of Record Production Conference in Aalborg, Denmark in December 2016, a draft of which is embedded below with voiceover and music examples. As this is an academic paper about music copyright, it contains musical excerpts from the original audio recording. My first attempt to embed the video resulted in an automatic takedown (academic fair use YouTube dispute is in progress), so I’m trying again with a Screencast embed. Because the video represents commentary and (not for profit) academic research, I’m continuing to claim fair use. Let’s see how long the audio survives!

Abstract: We have two concerns with music infringement trials: The first concern is the process by which juries decide questions of whether a defendant copied too much from a plaintiff’s work. (This is the inquiry sometimes known as “wrongful appropriation” or “substantial similarity”.) This paper discusses the challenges of methodology in forensic musicology, and the musical and psychological difficulties of applying the ‘substantial similarity’ test fairly and objectively. (Bonadio, 2016; Gordon, 2015). We present an analysis of three disputes, with comparative audio examples – The Isley Brothers/Michael Bolton (2001); Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams/Marvin Gaye (2015); and Randy California/Led Zeppelin (2016).
Our second concern addresses copyright classifications, in particular, the contested relationship between the creative decisions that give rise to copyrights in “musical works” (compositions) and the creative decisions that give rise to “sound recordings” (sounds as rendered). We suggest that overlap between the two is common and should be better recognized. To illustrate the potential compositional contributions of performers and sound engineers, we utilize audio examples from Newton v. Diamond and other disputes.

Interactive album apps to engage the listener #ARP2016

A new interactive music format for enhancing listener engagement with recorded music

Rob Toulson

(more about Rob’s research)

screen322x5721Rob begins with a discussion of what it means to manipulate music ‘not as the artist intended’, citing DJ culture, mashups, sampling, replaced drum beats etc, from the 1950s to the present day. In each case he’s referring to the manipulation of the final stereo mix.

Examples given include DJ Dangermouse’s The Black Album and NIN’s The Hand That Feeds, leading us to more recent works such as Rock Band/Guitar Hero, Bjork’s Biophillia app, and Gwilym Gold’s Tender Metal music app (2012), an album that never plays the same way twice.

The Ghost Producer : Beyond the Sound Engineer #arp2016

Amateur Recordings and The Ghost Producer : Beyond the Technical Interventions of the Sound Engineer

Marzin Florian

IMG_1622.jpgABSTRACT: Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’, George Martin as the « Fifth Beatle », Teo Macero and the bonding of solo takes. The years go and the myths remain the same. Largely borne by a wind of romanticism, the record producer is often described as this « mixing hero » who could transform any uninspired composition into a classic that will be sung by a whole generation. If this paradigm of the record producer makes the amateur musicians who want to reify their creations dream, this utopian representation of the recording process quickly encounters a more pragmatic reality. Generally prohibitively expensive, the services of such producers are most of the time inaccessible for artists who aren’t financially helped by record labels. Consequently, a majority of amateur recordings are made in the context of the home studio, or within professional studios where the personal is a priori exclusively employed to be responsible for technical tasks.
Focusing on this latter situation, I will base my presentation on an ethnographic study to explain how the « function » of the record producer stays omnipresent in an amateur session despite the fact that the « profession » of the record producer is neither explicitly neither contractually embodied by the studio personal. Linking audio takes with oral exchanges that occured during the session, I will show that the amateur studio experience and its common one-personal-team organization incite the sound engineer to constantly overstep his initial technical functions, being thus a new mediation in which the ghost of the record producer will express.
On the basis of this specific study case, I’ll more globally try to highlight the increasing porosity between the producer and the sound engineer that, blurring all the past rigorous conceptual boundaries, is being to generate a new paradigm of music production.

MOOCs, online learning and disruption #ARP2016

MOOCs, online learning and the disruption of traditional education

Hans T. Zeiner Henriksen, University of Oslo

regular_8f559671-be48-458a-b427-c36a4b381b50ABSTRACT: Many large global industries have the last decade experienced major challenges in their way of operating caused by various forms of digitalization. Uber, Instagram, YouTube, iTunes and Spotify are all distributors of products and services that provide easy and inexpensive access to products and services without really producing anything themselves. In higher education business as usual is the general tendency, but the concern of new developments is starting to spread. Coursera, Udacity, edX and many others provide courses of high quality that reaches many students across the globe.
Music production courses are popular and are provided by several of these distributors (ex.: Introduction to Music Production from Berklee at Coursera). The Department of Musicology, in cooperation with the Department of Educational Technology, launched the first self-made MOOC at the University of Oslo via the virtual learning platform at FutureLearn for the first time in Febraury-March this year. It will be launched again in September- October, then in connection with an on-campus Bachelor course. In this presentation the future of traditional education will be discussed on the basis of our experience from producing and running a MOOC.

Hans begins with a description of MOOCs and an overview of providers via Coursera and EDx, focussing on Berklee’s Music Production courses – we see Prince Charles Alexander’s course as an example.

Narrative Meaning in Camel’s The Snow Goose (1975, 2013) #ARP2016

Record Production and Narrative Meaning: Two Recordings of Camel’s The Snow Goose (1975, 2013)

Ryan Blakeley, University of Ottawa

camelABSTRACT: British progressive rock band Camel’s third studio record, Music Inspired by the Snow Goose (1975), is an instrumental narrative concept album that musically mirrors the story of author Paul Gallico’s novella The Snow Goose (1941). Despite the absence of lyrics, the band implement a number of strategies throughout the album to effectively convey a cohesive narrative; these include the use of paratexts, recurring musical material, the musical representation of events and emotions, as well as segues between the tracks. In 2013, nearly forty years after the album’s original release, Camel re-recorded The Snow Goose from scratch; while relatively faithful to the original record, this version features changes to orchestration, extensions to certain tracks, and a vast difference in production values.
In this paper, adopting a hermeneutic approach and drawing upon the work of Simon Zagorski- Thomas (2014) on meaning in record production, I interpret how certain aspects of the The Snow Goose’s production afford meaning to the music and investigate how these meanings may differ between the two recordings. Further, I conduct a comparative analysis of these two recordings of The Snow Goose in order to explore differences in production that largely arise due to technological advancements. Ultimately this paper seeks to not only indicate some significant changes in the record production process over a nearly forty-year timespan, but also to demonstrate how the production process itself can play a key role in providing narrative meaning to – and ultimately enriching – an instrumental popular music album.
Zagorski-Thomas, Simon. The Musicology of Record Production. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Ryan’s categorises two types of concept album – connected narratives around a concept (e.g. Woody Guthrie) and specific linear narratives (e.g. Pink Floyd’s The Wall). The Snow Goose is the latter category – it tells the story of Paul Gallico’s 1941 novella.

Contemporary Plugin Development #arp2016

Why Innovate When You Can Emulate? Exploring Contemporary Plugin
Development And Potential Innovation

Andrew Bourbon

cla-2a-compressor-limiterABSTRACT: As software driven approaches to mixing audio have become increasingly prevalent there has been a continuous improvement in quality in these digital mixing tools. Mix workflow in the box has developed through the established workflow presented by a traditional mixer, with the DAW offering a combination of the tape machine and the routing and processing matrix to the end user. One of the most common categories of plugin is represented by emulation, with classic hardware modeled often to component level by developers looking to create devices as measurably close as possible to a hardware reference.
The second category of contemporary plug-in development is based around tools, which rather than focusing on copying an established tool instead are targeting specific mix elements or sonic signatures. Some companies such as Waves have built on the reputations of mix engineers, offering users an insight into their sounds through named plugins. The CLA Signature Series and the Tony Maserati Signature Series are two such collections based around element specific processors. The CLA collection offers processing around commonly understood mix processes, with the Maserati drums instead featuring more descriptive parameters such as thump and snap.
The third category of plugin development incorporates plugins which rather than basing their approach on existing hardware tools or established mix practice are looking to incorporate new approaches to mix processing.
In this paper I am looking to analyse current developments, looking at these categories and how innovation can be incorporated into new mix tools. Emulation of tools leads to a mix economy based around knowledge of the tools and the re-creation of existing mix practice. New tools offer a unique opportunity, with direct access to the characteristics of sound. Through analyzing existing tools it is possible to understand the important characteristics, incorporating these into new contemporary mix processors.

Today’s presentation was inspired, Andrew says, by a conversation he had with the head of an [unnamed] Pro Audio company, who stated that he was looking to develop more mass-market hardware products with fewer features in a ‘race to the bottom’. Andrew’s disappointment with this conversation has led him to investigate categories of plugins.

Black Magic: Shaping Audience Conceptions of Recording Practice #arp2016

Black Magic: Shaping Audience Conceptions of Recording Practice

Alan Williams, UMass Lowell

ABSTRACT

Recording practices were once closely guarded secrets – rarely remarked upon, barely acknowledged. But as public curiosity developed about the ever evolving sounds embodied in recordings, explanations and representations emerged that simultaneously served to reveal and obscure the processes that shaped the music that caught the ear of the listener. This presentation examines the formation of three distinct mythologies – technology as magical wizardry; technology as musical sham; and technology as marker of nostalgic value. In the first thread, audio technology is harnessed by creative geniuses, working in a realm far removed from the normative listener and/ or musician. In the second thread, audio technology is seen as bestowing talent where none exists, manufacturing inherently inauthentic product, and implanting the uncomfortable notion that all musical performance is potentially a sham. The third thread exhibits a selective memory that praises some forms of technology, while rejecting others, often posited as past versus present.
Building upon the work of Barthes, Théberge, Taylor, Keightley, and others, I will analyze media representations of recording practice from literature, film, television, and Internet memes to illustrate how each mythology is constructed and disseminated, and in turn how these mythologies inform the listener’s experience of recorded audio, and musical creation in general.

Alan’s first slide covers mythology and marketing, and he outlines the technological literacies he intends to discuss by playing Jerry Lewis meets the Theremin from The Delinquent Detective (1956):

He speculates that the scary/sci-fi 1950s context of the theremin was possibly a cultural allusion to the scary nature of Elvis, whom Lewis impersonates in the Theremin scene.

Analogue contemporary studio production #arp2016

Questioning progress narratives in contemporary studio production

Joe Watson, PhD candidate, University of Sussex

ABSTRACT

roland_tr606_lgIn our headlong rush to embrace all thing digital as synonymous with ‘the future’ perhaps we run the risk of forgetting important insights from the past. As contemporary cultures come increasingly under the rubric of ‘the digital’ might there be traction to be gained from a current, practical investigation of ‘the analogue’? This paper presents ongoing practice-based research into recording and production using analogue multi-track tape. The author has many years of experience engineering and/or producing using digital technologies (including Stereolab, High Llamas) and now turns his attention to the DAW’s analogue ‘forebears’ in self-production of his third Junior Electronics solo pop album. Given the skeuomorphic nature of the DAW, and its indebtedness to the legacy of traditional analogue engineering, what insights can be gleaned by engaging with the actual analogue equipment itself? As the DAW increasingly swallows up the whole studio (recorder, mixer, outboard, instruments, personnel) within the ‘square horizon’ (Virilio) of the screen, what can be learn by the digitally literate producer/composer from the extreme constraints of a fully analogue production process? The constraints placed on the making of this album are simple – there shall be no digital audio, or digitisation of audio, at any point in the production of the finished record – the album will be tracked to ½ inch 8 track, mixed to ¼ inch stereo tape and mastered to vinyl. Digital processes and media may be employed for purposes of documentation and demoing. What are the practical effects on the music produced if an artist used to ‘unlimited’ tracks is forced to work with only 8? What are the effects on the production process when editing is restricted to what one can achieve with a razor blade? Given the healthy currency of analogue technologies (vinyl, modular synthesis, cassette labels, traditional tape-based studios (such as Albini’s Electrical Audio)) why is ‘the analogue’ consistently periodised as digital’s early/obsolete ‘other’? This research forms part of the author’s PhD in Musical Composition. Methodology is practice- based, performative and diffractive (Haraway, Barad).

Joe’s presentation opens with a discussion of the semantics of ‘digital’ and the fact that the word can, today, be appended to almost anything. Implicit in the term, as applied, is the idea of superseding the old, analogue, outmoded model (of anything non-digital). He interestingly notes that sales of colouring books have recently increased, and speculates that some people may find an analogue activity appealing after working at a screen all day.

Gamifying Sonic Interfaces #arp2016

Gamifying Sonic Interfaces: an Interactive Music Engine as a Music Production Tool

By Maria Kallionpää & Hans Peter Gasselseder

ABSTRACT

pic7268039070008702154_maxAugmented- and virtual reality environments (and instruments) are playing an increasingly important role in the classical music culture of today. Even the music genres leaning on a fixed performance tradition have been affected by them. For example, the art of contemporary opera has been influenced by composers´ and stage directors´ search for new modes of expression. The use of augmented reality technologies in a stage performance is part of this development. An illustrative example is Van der Aa´s opera “Sunken Garden”, in which the live action on stage is combined with a 3D projection. Moreover, human-computer interaction has become a vital part of composing: various composers design their own music systems. For example, Karlheinz Essl has created “Sequitur Generator” which he uses in a whole series of interactive compositions. Moreover, his “Lexicon Sonate” is an independent system that can generate music by itself almost infinitely. The purpose of this paper is to provide information on how the interactive music techniques usually associated with computer game music could benefit various music professionals, such as, for example, composers, performers and music producers. We will focus on techniques and technologies used in procedural music. Certain computer game scores and sound installations represent this genre, as well as electronic real-time-based compositions that may or may not require a human performer. In the context of interactive computer games, dynamic music systems directly react to the gamers´ actions. Automatisation challenges the form, rhythm, and harmony in a musical work. Instead of a closed entity, a dynamic music composition is a never-ending story with an infinite number of alternatives; it gets created again in every performance.

Maria begins by outlining the abstract, and states that the project can be applied to two types of object – a ‘fixed’ musical object (where the goal is for the player simply to play the piece accurately) and ‘process’ objects, where a higher degree of interactivity and creativity is required. She also gives us a (long) history of generative music, observing that Mozart and CPE Bach wrote music for dice.

Experiences of remote ‘virtual’ real-time performance #arp2016

Jamming in The 3rd Room: Experiences of remote ‘virtual’ real-time performance and recording.

Zack Moir, Paul Ferguson & Gareth Dylan Smith

inside-front-coverIncreasingly, many of our daily tasks are carried out ‘virtually’ via digital networks, including Skype-calls, video tutorials, and collaborative editing of documents via the ‘cloud’. While these tasks can be undertaken using normal domestic internet connections, issues of latency and poor internet connection make meaningful, real-time musical collaboration problematic and impractical to the point of impossible. However, using Gigabit connections onto National Research and Education Networks such as JANET and GEANT engineers are able to establish extremely high bandwidth and low latency links. This, coupled with LOLA (a low-latency, videoconferencing system) means that engineers and musicians are beginning to find ways to facilitate real-time live performances with remote performers, across long distances. While this has been achieved successfully in a number of cases, the process is still nascent and more research is required to understand the implications, functionality, and limits of such a workflow. This is particularly important, given that companies such as AVID are leading us towards cloud-based music production.
The authors, in their capacities as musicians (Moir and Smith) and sound-engineer/producer (Ferguson) are currently conducting research into the the experience of collaborating musically using LOLA. Our research investigates the impact of this means of working on the musical experiences of collaborators, in a variety of musical contexts. We are exploring the potential for live performance, audio/video realism, integration into future workflow for record production, and teaching/education applications. Additionally, we are interested in exploring the limits of this
system by way of understanding how it may be better deployed and developed for future use. This paper will report on a qualitative study in which the authors present accounts of their musical experiences of remote rehearsal (in Edinburgh, London, and mainland Europe), pre-production, and recording using LOLA, and will discuss implications for future use in remote, real-time, collaborative record production.

Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) in Popular Music Production #arp2016

An investigation into the motivation behind the use of Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) in Popular Music Production
By Austin Moore, Rupert Till & Jonathan Wakefield

1176ln_la2a

ABSTRACT

Dynamic range compression (DRC) is a much-used process in music production. Traditionally it was implemented to control the dynamic range of program material to minimize the risk of overloading recording devices. However, over time DRC started to be used as a creative effect in addition to its traditional role as a preventative measure. In a professional recording environment, it is common for engineers to have access to several different types of DRC unit, each with their own purportedly unique sonic signature.
This paper sets out to investigate the following:
Which are the most commonly used types of DRC in popular music production?
Which are the most common music sources to process using these DRC units?
How do music producers describe the sonic signature of DRC?
What are the most common reasons to apply DRC in productions? Is it for dynamic range control or something else?
The research used a mixed methodology of grounded theory and content analysis to extract qualitative and quantitative data from a sample of 100 interviews spanning 14 years. The data came from a series of articles by mix engineers and producers in the magazine Sound on Sound. Content analysis was used to extract data relating to the popularity of compressor types and specific DRC units. Grounded theory was utilized to generate an overarching theory that would help to explain the motivation behind the use of DRC and also to gain insight into how producers described the sonic signature of the DRC process.
This study is part of a larger research project that investigates non-linear processing in music production with a focus on DRC and the 1176 FET compressor.

The Creation of ‘Paperback Writer’ #ARP2016

Examining the Creation of ‘Paperback Writer’: The Flow of Ideas and Knowledge Between Contributing Creative Systems

Phillip McIntyre & Paul Thompson

I’ve been following both Phillip and Paul’s work for many years; it’s good to see them working together on another paper (here’s a previous one about the Mellotron). Add in the study of songwriters’ creative processes, and this was a must-see paper for me. (Though TBH they had me at Paperback Writer).

ABSTRACT

From a creative systems view nothing exists in isolation (McIntyre, Fulton & Paton 2016). Consequently, a system such as a system of recording can sometimes appear to operate independently with well-defined boundaries, but it still depends upon other systems (Skyttner 2006, p. 38). There are then multilayered systems within systems in which: ‘a system in one perspective is a subsystem in another. But the system view always treats systems as integrated wholes of their subsidiary components’ (Laszlo 1972, p. 14). This interconnectedness of systems has been illustrated by Arthur Koestler (1975) using the terms ‘holon’ and ‘holarchy’ in which a holon is an aspect of systems that is both a part of something at one scale and, at the same time and at another scale, is itself a whole system. A holarchy is the multilayered heirarchy of these holons. Inside this nested world, system within system, one system is no more or less important than the others operating above or below it. Not only are systems part of these vertically arranged holarchies but they are also often connected horizontally through complex networks of many other similar systems. For example, the system of audio engineering has deep connections horizontally to the system of producing and the system of musicianship. These holons are linked vertically to the broader system of popular record production and at a different scale to the system of western music. This paper explores the scalabilty of creative systems by examining the recording and production of the Beatles’ ‘Paperback Writer’ (1966). It examines Paperback Writer’s production at the various scales of creative action, exposing some of the creative processes on an individual level and the sharing of ideas and knowledge between the creative group within Studio Three of EMI’s Abbey Road studio. The flow of ideas back and forth between the various contributing vertically and horizontally interconnected systems is also studied to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the creative systems that contribute to the song’s production.

Recording in the 1960s: the new (Cult)ure of the Studio #arp2016

 

IMG_1603.JPG.jpeg
One day, all conference programmes will look like this.

I’m here in Aalborg, Denmark for the 11th Art of Record Production conference. ARP is one of my favourite conferences, for the following reasons:

  • It’s a good mix of academics and studio practitioners
  • It has an open-access peer-reviewed online journal
  • It consists entirely of techy people, so the PowerPoints and sound systems always work
  • The entire conference programme pack can be carried in your pocket – see photo

Our first keynote speaker St John’s University’s Susan Schmidt Horning (New York). Susan’s research deals with the way musical style is shaped by developments in recording technologies. Her book ‘Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP’ is known to many ARP delegates.

IMG_1604.JPGSusan’s starting point is the technological, social and cultural upheaval from the 1960s, drawing a line from postwar technologies. Ampex tapes became the industry standard, based on the work of a company that began in Radar research. The major labels – RCA, Decca and Columbia – all began around the mid-20th century. They had a dramatic effect on recorded sound because they were monetising recordings, due in part to the empowerment of a new generation of young people with disposable income who could purchase the new pop product – the single, and later, the album.

Berklee’s Fair Music report

music20in20the20digital20ageMy first full session today at the CMS conference is presented by Berklee faculty members Peter Alhadeff and Luiz Augusto Buff. They are, today, analysing and critiquing Berklee’s Fair Music Report.

Peter begins with some caveats; he comments that the report deals particularly with the recording industry (and does not cover other music industries – e.g. live music and music education).  Second, he notes the support from Kobalt Music, whom he notes are a very particular type of publisher, with a particular interest in digital and many very large-scale song catalogues in their portfolios.