IASPM 2014: Collectivism and individualism: the Chinese song “Fill the World with Love”

The collaboration of collectivism and individualism: the Chinese pop song “Fill the World with Love”

(Lijuan Qian, Sichuan Normal University)

Lijuan’s paper focuses on how this pop song became incorporated into Chinese popular culture in the 1980s, and she opens with a discussion of humanism in China at the time, contextualised from Sartre and Marx. “the relation of transcendence as constitutive of man with subjectivity”. She suggests that the individualism and self-determination of Sartre’s humanism was at odds with some early 1980s Marxist thinking in China. Can love be a manifestation of humanism for those in China who have had a hitherto collectivist life experience? Some Chinese critics were concerned that any tendency towards individualism among intellectuals was a risk for society.

The song is representative of a move towards individualism, not least because its lyric is in the first person.

IASPM 2014 – Dynamic Popular Music

Dynamic Popular Music – The First Stages of a New Art Form

Keith Hennigan, Trinity College Dublin

Keith begins with an entertainingly ‘sci-fi’ way of looking at musical creativity – that is, speculating about the opportunity to make different choices at various stages in the composition’s development (and in its playback timeline). Dynamic Music is categorised (after Collins) as ‘Interactive’ (where the music changes in response to the user) and ‘Adaptive’ (where the user interacts with an additional element that in turn affects the music). Keith adds ‘Generative’ to the taxonomy in order to include music that changes due to internal systems [JB note – he comments that he was prevented for tech reasons from doing a live iPhone demo but I infer he was going to show us something like this – http://www.generativemusic.com/].

IASPM 2014 – Intertextuality and Lineage in The Game’s “We Ain’t”

Justin Williams, University of Bristol

[Friday afternoon here in the music dept at University College Cork, and after an early start (most of us flew in this morning) the first paper wakes us all up with some solid classic gangsta rap.]

Justin’s paper focuses on “We Ain’t” by rapper The Game (prod. Eminem) as an example of intertextuality in Gangsta rap lineage. Useful quote (didn’t get the origin?) – “the artist starts by imposing a culture on himself and ends by imposing it on others”. Justin discusses lineage, both literal (e.g. Rock Family Trees) and cultural, and expands on the themes from his book ‘Rhymin’ and Stealin’ – https://www.press.umich.edu/3480627/rhymin_and_stealin.

We hear verse 1 and the first chorus of the song – video below.

IASPM conference Cork 2014

IASPM 2014 conference poster
IASPM 2014 conference poster

I’m en route to the UK & Ireland IASPM conference in Cork. I was at the International one in Spain last year – the branch and International IASPM conferences leapfrog each other every other year, so for 2014 we’re back in our respective countries. I’ve submitted an abstract for the 2015 conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil (about chord loops in the Eurovision Song Contest – regular readers will know this is an interest). Waiting to hear if it gets through peer review.

So here’s my abstract for the forthcoming conference. This is part of a panel about similar themes — other presenters are Holly Holmes (Chester), Dan McKinna (BIMM) and Marcus O’Dair (Middlesex).

As always I’ll live-blog from the conference where possible.

Where is creativity? Locating intellectual property in collaborative songwriting and production processes
(Joe Bennett, Bath Spa University)

Songs lie at the centre of popular music’s Intellectual Property framework. They represent the starting point for the industry’s two most important creative products: the live performance or the recorded audio artefact. In the early 20th century, US and European copyright conventions were established whereby two separate objects could be ‘owned’: the song and the sound recording, the latter being a derivative work of the former. This state of affairs, where ‘song’ and ‘track’ are separate copyrights, remains at the industry’s administrative core, and has led to awareness among creators of the economic benefits of ‘keeping a slice of the publishing’.

However, in real-world songwriting and production situations it is not always easy to ascertain who contributed to ‘writing the song’ and who acted as an arranger, performer or producer. Inferring creative contributions from the audio artefact itself is fraught with methodological challenges; from a listener’s point of view, there is no experiential distinction between song and track. Drawing on the theoretical work of Moore, McIntyre and Csikszentmihalyi2, together with interviews with professional songwriters and the author’s own experience as a songwriter and expert witness forensic musicologist, this paper argues that the artificial administrative distinction between ‘song’ and ‘track’ is simultaneously a constraint upon creators and a silent driver of creative practice itself.

2 Allan F Moore, Song Means  : Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song (Ashgate, 2012); Phillip McIntyre, “The Domain of Songwriters: Towards Defining the Term ‘Song,’” Perfect Beat: The Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture 5, no. 3 (2001): 100–111; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Society, Culture, and Person: A Systems View of Creativity,” in The Nature of Creativity  : Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, ed. Robert Sternberg (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 325– 339.

IASPM day 5 final keynotes: Music as intimacy. Variations on music as urban place. Francisco Cruces (UNED, Spain) #iaspm2013

MadridMusic as intimacy. Variations on music as urban place. Francisco Cruces (UNED, Spain)

[abstract only]

Music has proved to be “good to think” the metropolitan space. Its chronotopical qualities can be followed largely in the uses of the musical metaphor by prominent authors (like Becker, Holbwachs, Finnegan, the very George Simmel) who looked to grasp in musical terms the urban experience -or, as the Chicago School would rather put it, “urbanism as a way of life”. The theoretical question which “Music as place” arises is then that of the many variants through which musical life on the one hand, and the built space of the city on the other, could be mutually related –an issue both of musical and urban imagination, as well of one of empirical import. In my speech I will elaborate on this theme. Assuming in advance that Sara Cohen’s monography (and subsequent work) has provided a powerful master narrative on the topic, I would like to explore to which degree Liverpool and Madrid might be, or not, considered as variants of a different kind on this “common theme”. More specifically, I will focus on the intimate, domestic and private spheres as crucial loci of metropolitan musical life. These are not always underlined, but deserve close attention: not matching the conventional, dominant images of “the city” as built public space, in these invisible realms the uses and meanings of music are also strongly produced and negotiated. They reveal simultaneously the ongoing centrality of the “tuning-in” (face to face) relationship, as well as deep changes in the urban common sense emerging in late modern Cosmopolis.

[JB note – with apologies to Francisco for not blogging the full presentation – my typing hands are experiencing fatigue/discomfort by now. However, the presentation was extremely engaging, especially in the context of the Liverpool presentation immediately before and the parallels he drew. If he publishes his work I will provide a link in this post at a later date.]

IASPM day 5: “Fish Don’t Know Water Exists till Beached”. Henrik Smith-Sivertsen #iaspm2013

Henrik-page1“Fish Don’t Know Water Exists till Beached”– Documentation of Music Production, Distribution and Consumption in the Age of Streaming. Henrik Smith-Sivertsen (The Royal National Library of Denmark, Denmark)

[JB note – Henrik is a professional historian and archivist who does not wish for any human endeavour ever to be lost – he is therefore delighted to offer his presentation in full here as a download. Download Henrik’s PowerPoint]


In recent years streaming technologies have changes the distribution and use of recorded music radically. The long predicted shift from cd’s and other physical media to Internet based platforms for music is now a reality, and music is uploaded, streamed, heard and shared across platforms and borders on various devices, and a general destabilization of the “old” system has already taken place. In this paper I will address the challenges of the streaming revolution from music archivist perspective. In times when music was primarily distributed via physical media, documentation of music production was relatively easy. Typically music published in and to specific regions have been collected and stored in national music archives, but how do such institutions cope with the digital reality and which implications does it have to future studies of popular music? Using a Danish case study on how a young female musician, Sys Bjerre, has made a career via the Internet and not least social media, I will demonstrate the challenges of digital archiving of music and the consequences for popular music research if music archives do not change the main perspectives from physical media to digital files on the Internet.

Due to some unexpected extra time becoming available due to conference logistics, Henrik’s presentation began with some contextual audio – be played us the video of the song ‘Malene’ by Sys Bjerre (a Danish hit with lyrics about a heartbroken character who burns down her boyfriend’s house). The song led to many YouTube responses, from fictionalised other characters in the story, starting with the boyfriend, and followed by other members of the family, including the parents, the grandmother (and, apparently, the cat). This participatory Internet meme took Denmark by storm. We will return to Sys Bjerre later.

IASPM day 5: Musical negotiation of segregated place in Cape Town: District Six: The Musical. Paula Fourie #iaspm2013

District Six albumMusical negotiation of segregated place in Cape Town: District Six: The Musical. Paula Fourie (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa)


Starting in 1986, the partnership between a white English-speaking South African, David Kramer, and a “Coloured” Afrikaans-speaker, Taliep Petersen, produced some of South Africa’s most commercially successful musicals to date. During Apartheid, artistic collaboration between members of different race groups was politically significant. Their first project, District Six: The Musical, dealt with the forced removal of certain population groups from this neighbourhood following its designation as a white area. This production, which was understandably problematic to the Apartheid-government, played to over 350 000 people in its initial three-year run, at times drawing together mixed-race audiences. Its controversial reception is reflected in the banning of four of its tracks by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Set in a local context, the music of this production perhaps surprisingly reflects an overriding engagement with American popular music. This paper explores notions of musical “authenticity” in a country marked by contested race identities and investigates the role of District Six: The Musical as protest theatre aimed at bridging racial divides through the facilitation of “collective” experiences revolving around remembrance of and identification with marginalized narratives.

The paper explores the Kamer-Petersen collaboration District Six The Musical through a Heideggerian lens. Paula’s presentation opens with a historical overview of the genuine and perceived history of District Six itself (partly perceived as a ‘place without apartheid’). The first two musical examples are Ghoemaliedjie “Daar kom die Alibama” and Nederlandsliedjie “Rosa”.

IASPM day 5: “Check the innovators!” Grass-roots historiography, musical appreciation, and community in the crate digging scene. Gabor Valyi #iaspm2013

“Check the innovators!” Grass-roots historiography, musical appreciation, and community in the crate digging scene. Gabor Valyi (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary)

[abstract only]

The discussions regarding the aesthetic merits of particular ‘texts’ and the significance of creative figures in relation to a collectively shaped canon has always been at the heart of fan culture as much as the ‘high aesthetic’. Within popular music studies, this omnipresent, thoroughly historicized “music talk” is most often discussed as means through which distinctive connoisseurs display their knowledge of group specific musical histories in order to claim membership and status. However, my paper takes a different route and explores the participative aspects of the aesthetic practices through which music enthusiasts engage with a shared musical history.

Drawing on ethnographic research in a trans-local, hip hop related record collecting scene, my paper describes the aesthetic practices – record collecting, the production of sample based hip hop beats, music journalism – of DJs, bloggers, hip hop producers, and other enthusiasts. Bringing together ideas from cultural sociology, literary criticism, and cultural history, I propose community of appreciation as a notion that focuses on the participative character of music appreciation and enables us to think through the ways in which this collective engagement with musical history work towards evoking a sense of community and belonging among participants. 

IASPM day 5: How Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents. Fabian Holt #iaspm2013

BoweryHow Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents. Fabian Holt (University of Roskilde, Denmark)

[abstract only]

In the past decade, legendary underground rock clubs on the Lower East Side have closed or moved to Brooklyn, while the Bowery Presents has established itself as the major player on the scene. Why and how did this happen? This paper introduces the idea that the general process of socio-economic gentrification in New York City has been accompanied by a major cultural shift in the cultural image of rock venues. Rock clubs have adapted to gentrification in their music programming, venue design, and marketing. Based on fieldwork and archival materials, the paper examines the contrasting images of the underground rock clubs of the pre-gentrification era with the contemporary image of the ballroom-style venue developed by the Bowery Presents. Drawing from urban sociology and music venue studies, the paper argues that adaption to gentrification can be identified in clubs across music genres. The popularization of indie rock via the internet, moreover, has helped create a new live music market for rock clubs. The paper builds the overall argument that live music clubs are deeply embedded in the urban social environment around the club and therefore requires theory that takes into account not only the music but also the complex character of urban life and media culture. 

“Cumbia, nena”: etnia, género y clase en la Argentina (Ethnicity, gender and class in Argentina) #iaspm2013

“Cumbia, nena”: etnia, género y clase en la Argentina (Ethnicity, gender and class in Argentina). Pablo Alabarces (Universidad de Buenos Aires-CONICET, Argentina)
[abstract only without commentary – the translation took too long!]

La popularización de la cumbia argentina, un proceso que ocurre en los últimos cuarenta años, implicó su transformación en la música por excelencia de las clases populares: la música de los pobres, su consagración como el género más popular, en el doble sentido de su consumo –las cifras de ventas la colocan como el género más vendido– y de su significación de clase. La cumbia argentina configura una escena compleja: es una escena transnacionalizada –aunque prescinde del diálogo con las otras cumbias latinoamericanas y a veces privilegia el intercambio con el hip hop– y a la vez se aferra a la idea de género, no como un repertorio de rasgos fijos –apenas la marcación rítmica– sino como una etiqueta que define un repertorio cultural, básicamente de distinción de clase social –una distinción a la vez negativa (no somos chetos –de clase media, pudientes) y positiva (esta es nuestra música, música de negros). Este trabajo quiere discutir esos caminos, señalando a la vez cómo el estudio de la cumbia –tanto sus textos, musicales o líricos, como sus prácticas (desde la producción a la danza)– pone en juego a la vez problemas de clase, género y etnicidad, posiblemente como ningún otro producto cultural en la Argentina contemporánea.

[translation – Google-translated with JB edits]

Cumbia in Argentina has become steadily more popular in the last forty years, becoming the quintessential music of the popular classes. It has been perceived as the music of the poor, and it has become the most popular genre in both senses of the word – sales figures place it as the best-selling genre, and its cultural significance a a populist form. Cumbia Argentina sets a complex scene: its scene is transnationalized, but it does not particularly open a musical dialogue with other Latin American Cumbia, sometimes favouring an exchange with hip hop. And yet it clings to the idea of ​​genre, not as a repertoire of fixed traits, marking just the rhythm, but as a label that defines a cultural repertoire of social class distinction – a distinction that is both negative (defined as NOT middle class or wealthy) and positive (this is ‘our music’ – music of black people). This paper discusses these issues, studying Cumbia from two perspectives – the texts, musical or lyrical, and their practices (from production to the dance). This mainstream genre brings together issues of class, gender and ethnicity, possibly more than any other cultural product in contemporary Argentina.

IASPM day 4: Popular Music as Prophecy (Rupert Till) #iaspm2013

Popular Music as Prophecy: Composing the Future. Rupert Till (University of Huddersfield, UK)

Attali describes how popular music organises the structures and movements of society into audible sound, before such socio-cultural developments are clearly visible. He described three eras of music and sound, as did Cutler and Frith after him. However he predicted in 1977 a fourth era of sound yet to come, focused on composition. This paper investigates this prophesied new world, discussing the implications of presenting creators of popular music as composers. It investigates how popular musicians describe their creations and what this means. It explores their aesthetics, why they write music, and what the relations are of their compositions to modes of mediation and distribution. It attempts to define popular music composition, and its relationships with songwriting, arrangement, improvisation and production. It asks what we might prophesy for the future of society, on the basis of a musical world where popular music composers circulate their music directly to their audience, in virtual and social media music communities outside of existing national geographic boundaries.

Rupert starts with his theoretical framework, citing Attali (1977), Cutler (1993) and Frith (1996). Allati has a ‘4th code’ focusing on composition [from his Four Stages of Music]. His Ritual (Oral – 10,000yrs)/Sacrifice (c.400yrs)/Repetition (recordings – c.100yrs)/Composition (deregulation – the future?). Attali’s view is that when the focus is on making and sharing music for pleasure we (will?) begin to enter the ‘composition’ phase.

He points out that popular music ‘composition’ deconstructs the elitism of the classical tradition and therefore may be more apt for a ‘Composition’ age. He then talks about songwriting and describes it as a ‘special case’ of composition, for several reasons, not least because it involves lyrics. He alludes to ‘team composition’ and the blurred line between songwriting, production and arrangement, especially in rehearsal/recording studio creative environments. In Attali’s view (1977, remember) was that in a notational ‘composition era’ these activities could be carried out at home, by an individual.

IASPM day 4: Viral videos and synchronization. Anahid Kassabian #iaspm2013

Viral videos and synchronization. Anahid Kassabian (University of Liverpool, UK) #iaspm2013


Historically, synchronisation has been understood as a guarantor of realism in film. However, the recent explosion of editing software has meant that very clever amateur video makers have been able to turn that on its head. Using synchronisation as a way to create humour in multiple new genres of very short videos, they focus on incongruencies between and among words, visuals, and oral material. Using this material, I will argue that synchronised audio and visual tracks are acquiring a new kind of meaning.

[JB note – Anahid mentions many specific videos in this presentation but I may have misheard some, so not all are cited exhaustively below because I fear I may mis-spell them. Excuse me while I kiss this guy – I’m off to Sarnies’ Bay.]

Anahid opens with a brief discussion of video ‘curiosities’ as she calls them, beginning with ‘light music’ and ‘visual music’, describing these as ‘experiments in producing synaesthesia for those of us who do not have it’. She introduces another ‘curiosity’ category whereby iPhones [other smartphones are available] are placed inside a guitar so only the vibrating strings can be viewed. Another cited example is a frame by frame recording of “Flight of the Bumble Bee” [a colleague at Bath Spa, Chris Blanden, has recently done one of these with Rondo Alla Turca – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiYCmtXp8mg].

IASPM day 4: Musical Chameleons – Fluency and Flexibility in Online Appropriation Practices #iaspm2013

Nenna. She came to rock!

Musical Chameleons – Fluency and Flexibility in Online Appropriation Practices. Maarten Michielse (Maastricht University, Netherlands)

This paper argues that music audiences who spend their free time remixing, mashing up, and covering popular music online are often not fans, as we perhaps might expect (Jenkins 1992, 2006), but rather ‘enthusiasts’: music hobbyists who work with any source material, no matter the original artist or genre (Abercrombie and Longhurst 1998; Geoghegan 2009). Remix enthusiasts, for example, tend to enter online remix contests of artists and songs that they often do not know or particularly like. Similarly, cover enthusiasts on platforms such as YouTube tend to work with a broad variety of different source materials, often choosing their songs pragmatically (in terms of popularity, actuality or the challenge that they offer) rather than affectively. This paper uses a combination of online participatory observations and qualitative interviews (see Hine 2000; Kozinets 2010) to show how music enthusiasts find joy in constantly broadening their horizon and developing, what Gouzouasis calls, musical ‘fluency’ and ‘flexibility’ (Gouzouasis 2005; see also Guilford 1967) in order to be able to appropriate ever new source materials in a quick and meaningful way.

The presentation opens with a playback of the song ‘We Came To Rock’ by ‘Nenna’ which was provided as source material for a recent remix competition. The song was derided by the remix community, but interestingly several remixers (who stated online that they hated the source material!) downloaded the files and remixed it anyway! Maarten challenges the prevailing mainstream view that remixers only work on music that they like. He states that remixing opportunities are limited to situations where the raw materials (isolated multi-track files) are available. He points out that filtering [e.g. nulling, hard pan etc] can be applied to isolate audio objects in a mix but it is sonically often unsatisfactory [I have suggested elsewhere in this week’s blog that the popularity of the Funky Drummer loop can be ascribed in part simply to its brief isolation in the mix]. So remixers often work with what Maarten calls ‘the usual suspects’ (i.e. mainstream successful/viral works) because this may mean that the remix may be appreciated by a wider audience. He stresses that remixers are not entirely cynical – rather, they want to engage with listeners and other creators – and this is part of the motivation for choosing mainstream work as the source audio for the remix.

IASPM day 4: The Cultural Capital Project: Towards Digital Music Monetization Based on Shared Culture #iaspm2013

The Cultural Capital Project: Towards Digital Music Monetization Based on Shared Culture. Ian Dahlman (McGill University, Canada), Brian Fauteux (Concordia University, Canada), Andrew Dewaard (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)


This presentation will introduce and outline the ideas behind The Cultural Capital Project, a collaborative research project funded by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, which explores the historical antecedents, theoretical trajectories, legal ramifications and technical components involved in the creation of a non-profit patronage system and social network uniting musical artists and fans. CultCap operates on three fronts: first, a social network of user-generated listening and sharing habits; second, opt- in tracking software that harvests the musical consumption of users, then suggests equitable compensation to artists through a micropayment subscription fee; third, a legal intervention aiming to provide a legitimate space for the digital consumption and promotion of music in which users are treated as stewards of cultural goods. Incorporating the multitude of individuals who propel the cultural industries with their creative labour, including fans, photographers, artists, labels and others, The Cultural Capital Project aims to establish a “radical monetization” of the music industry based on equity, connectivity and sharing. Integrating the ideas of Bourdieu, Attali, Lessig and more, this research argues — both legally and philosophically — for the recognition and compensation of music consumers in the cultural industries, and the establishment of a sustainable infrastructure to fully embrace shared culture.

[note – my blog summary below was typed at some speed, and may not have framed this complex paper as fluently as the authors would like. For those who wish to explore the Cultural Capital in the detail intended by Brian and his colleagues, please read the original paper, published online at http://www.iaspmjournal.net/index.php/IASPM_Journal/article/view/635]

IASPM day 4: Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén #iaspm2013

Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)
Chair: Hector Fouce

Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain) 2013

Mobile phones used as portable sound technologies entail a contemporary urban way of listening to music, which remediates previous ways of listening: youngsters and young adults who carry their phones in their hands, playing tunes loud, when being on their own or in group, using public transport, strolling in a Mall, walking on the streets, or sitting in a park or a square. This is understood as a way of sharing and signing the listening, which elicits controversies and generates online and offline debate. It is characterised by aspects common to other mobile phones uses: personal comfort when being in the move; the multi- sensuous relationship with the device, with the relevance of touch; personalisation as a form of mutual stylisation between people and devices; the creation of a personal space in public places; and the mobile as part of the public performance of how to be and act as a stranger. Some of these aspects related to territoriality, such as personal comfort and personalisation, are also characteristic of music listening and consumption, and both converge in this particular practice of digitally mediated lo-fi music listening.

Amparo started, appropriately enough, with a tinny playback of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance on her phone, which leaked into the microphone, briefly obscuring her voice. If this was unintentional it was apposite; if not, it was a brilliant piece of theatre! She then played back a video excerpt from Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986) where Spock uses his Vulcan powers to silence an obnoxious 20thC individual travelling on a bus with a loud ‘ghetto blaster’ – and is applauded by the fellow travellers.

IASPM day 3: Researching the British Musicians’ Union – Bridging Troubled Waters? #iaspm2013

Ten men in search of a gig.
Ten men in search of a gig in 1893.

Researching the British Musicians’ Union – Bridging Troubled Waters?
Martin Cloonan; John Williamson (University of Glasgow, UK)

This paper reports our findings one year in to a four year funded research project on the history of the UK’s Musicians Union (MU). Tracing its roots back to the formation of the Amalgamated Musicians Union (AMU) in 1893, the Musicians Union was formed in 1921 by an amalgamation of the AMU with the London Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians. Since this time the MU has played a key – but largely under- researched – role in British and international musical life. The research will result in a history of the MU and its work in key areas such as copyright, broadcasting, changing technology and labour market policy. Here we will highlight some of the problems which beset a union which sought to unite musicians across musical genres while dealing with a workforce which was often spread across numerous employers. Drawing on a number of case studies this paper will suggest that a better understanding of musicians’ collective organisations and their problems in organising popular musicians can provide many insights in the music industries more broadly and that the lessons of the past resonate today.

Martin begins by outlining the paper, which is delivered in the early stages of a 4 year AHRC/ASRC project, ending in 2016 with an exhibition. Methodologically they are working historically from MU archives, other archives (e.g. BBC) and broadcast/interview sources.

IASPM day 3: Pete Townshend’s Lifehouse Method: Technology as Shared Creativity. Roberto Bolelli

7.3. Musicians Revisited. Chair: Rob Bowman

Pete Townshend’s Lifehouse Method: Technology as Shared Creativity. Roberto Bolelli (Independent scholar)

Pete Townshend (The Who), after Tommy (1969), begins to work on the Lifehouse project: it preconizes the internet era and provides for the use of sophisticated technologies, but it will be brought to light only in 1999. Lawrence Ball, David Snowdon and Townshend elaborated the Lifehouse Method, launched on the net in 2007: the method’s software creates a musical ‘portrait’, from some data inserted by the participants. The site’s notes axplained that the 5 minutes of music, in case of any use, should be credited to Townshend-Ball, plus the realizer of the portrait. The site generated over 10,000 portraits and some examples were published on the website. One year later the page was shut down and the project was discontinued. Finally, in 2012 Ball publishes the double CD Method Music, in wich the composer develops the tests conducted some years before. This paper, after the description of the Lifehouse project and the Method, underlines how technology modifies the connection between production and fruition of music: the Lifehouse Method is an extreme example of that modification, illustrating the sense of ‘property’ of music in the internet era, although the aim of establishing a kind of ‘shared creativity’ is not took off.

IASPM day 3 – Keynote: Bruce Johnson

Corny image of a 1920s jazz band

Keynote: Bruce Johnson (Macquarie University, Australia): No Cogitation without Representation: gesture and cognition in early jazz.
One of the problems in exploring early popular musics is the dearth of direct documentation of largely unscored musical performances. The earliest documents of jazz for example were refracted through press reviews, low fidelity recordings, staged photographs and silent films, and in its crucial diasporic forms even this evidence was sparse to non-existent. This paper explores ways of engaging with early popular musics through its surviving, and often silent, representations. In doing so it ‘challenges orthodoxies’ about the relationship between musical cognition, its performance representations and its larger cultural contexts. It will review still and cinematic representations of jazz through the 1920s and into the 1930s, with particular attention to the Australian situation, and suggest that performance gesture might well be more of a key to understanding the larger ‘cognitive ecology’ of popular music than the idea of ‘representations’ usually implies. The paper suggests that all those corny 1920s images of jazz bands may be read not as representations of a form of music, but as integrated components of musical cognition, and as such provide a template for the analysis of the performance mannerisms of all popular music.

With apologies to Bruce for missing the start (an incident with a bus driver), I will not try to summarise the paper itself, but from what I could glean from the excellent second half and from the questioning, the abstract summarises his approach effectively. If he publishes this work I’ll update this post with a link to the document.

During the questions, Bruce came up with a wonderful truism that I will share here (paraphrased as accurately as I can remember); “as academics, sometimes we nuance our arguments so finely that we are in danger of not saying anything.” I agree wholeheartedly[1].

IASPM: Panel: Drumming, Drum Kits and Drummers (Gareth Dylan Smith, Matt Brennan, Bill Bruford)

A Phenomenological Study of Drumming. Gareth Dylan Smith (Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, London)

The presenter – a drummer in punk, blues, and riff-rock bands – explores the real-time, spatial, embodied experience of playing the drums, in an attempt to convey the essence of what it feels like to make music on the instrument, alone and with others, in various musical situations. The presenter draws on audio, video, metaphor, analogy and rich, intimate personal descriptions to convey the intangible – but known and, to many, familiar – sense of what it is to be a drummer in time, body and space. He uses the writing of Merleau-Ponty as a framework to discuss the ‘re-creation and re-constitution of the world [and of music] at every moment’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1945: 240). Also referencing ‘trancing’ (Becker, 2004), ‘groove’ (Feld and Keil, 1994), ‘listening’ (Jean-Luc Nancy, 2002), and the ‘magic ride’ (Hart, 1990), the presenter argues that a phenomenological lens is an essential element in understanding the art of drumming. Evidence from other musical instruments and disciplines is considered to build the case that such a view of how music is realised may be crucial to understanding musical experiences in cultures around the world, including in popular music where the drum kit and its emulation retain central roles

IASPM book launch: Introducing Global Popular Music: Made in Spain

SpainBook launch: Introducing Global Popular Music: Made in Spain.

Franco Fabbri (Università di Torino, Italy), Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University, UK), Silvia Martínez (Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, Spain), Héctor Fouce (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain), Martha Ulhôa (UNIRIO, Brazil)

Franco introduced the book by describing its origins; it was originally conceived as a number of essays on Italian popular music from different perspectives, written by Italian scholars in English for international readers. Discussions then moved into consideration of the possibility of looking at local popular musics all over the world. So this book is in fact the first in a series; the first book about Spain will be followed in the autumn by one on Italy, followed later by Brazil and Japan. Each 16-chapter book will conclude with a long-form interview with a notable artist/practitioner who has a long artistic history in the country in question, and internationally.