Binaurality and stereophony in 60s/70s pop #iaspm2017

Franco Fabbri: Conservatorio di Parma, Università di Milano (Italy)

Binaurality, stereophony, and popular music in the 1960s and 1970s

Mixing desk

In the early days of stereo recording, engineers would often mix without headphones, even if the final mix was intended for binaural listening.

ABSTRACT: Stereophonic headphones were first marketed in the USA in 1958. Binaural listening (via headphones) became one of the favourite ways for fans to listen to rock albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Stereophonic mixes, however, were not necessarily designed for binaural listening. Sound engineers rarely used headphones, and generally preferred to mix without wearing them, with some explaining that they couldn’t get a proper balance if they didn’t listen to the studio monitors. Often they would listen to the result of a mix with cheap shelf loudspeakers, or even car loudspeakers, claiming that those would be the most common sound sources used by the audience; strangely enough, headphones were not used for this purpose in the studio. While the association and historical overlap of stereophonic mixes, advances in studio technology and consumer audio, and the rise of psychedelia and progressive rock have been commented (more in accounts on or by individual artists/bands/producers than in general terms) the issues of binaurality, of stereophony, and of their relations with popular music has seldom been explored. The paper will focus on the musicological aspects of binaurality and stereophony, both at poiesic and aesthesic levels.

Franco opens with a history of the study of binaurality, leading us to the development of stereo audio in the 50s/60s, which provided two [and this is key to what follows] separate channels. He makes the point about the difference between binaural listening on headphones (which separates the signals completely) and binaural listening (which includes phase/delay between the signals). In the earliest experiments in binaurality, headphones were used first – and listeners considered headphones more ‘realistic’ than speaker-based stereo. Headphones were also not an option in the early days of cinema (he cites Disney’s Fantasia as one of the earliest movies with 2 channel sound)… because of the social aspect. Franco illustrates “it was difficult to kiss your loved one in the cinema wearing headphones”! [Read more…]

Technological tactility in mixing #iaspm2017

Brendan Anthony: Queensland Conservatorium (Australia)

Talking tactility: Technology’s influence on ‘feel’ in popular music mixing.

SSL

What does ‘tactile mixing’ mean when everything is digital?

ABSTRACT: One of the final creative stages in the popular music production process is mixing, and often creative brilliance not technical prowess is responsible for mix popularity. The arrival of digital technologies has affected a rapid change in mixing techniques and perhaps the subsequent overuse of various forms of technology can dominate and distract the mixers’ connection to creativity. In this instance technology should be an extension of consciousness, because mixing is a form of synesthesia and mixers should attempt to connect to creativity and emotion through their mix system. This author theorizes mixers can connect to the emotive paradigm of music via a personalized system designed around a preference of tactility and a sense of ‘feel’ when mixing. Therefore, this paper uses a qualitative comparative investigation into the popular music mixing process. This exploratory experiment involved five participants, who mixed two songs each, with varying forms of technology and tactility. The participants completed a questionnaire after the experiment so comparative data regarding the mixing experience was collected. Mix results were analyzed by the author and a thematic analysis supported by professional research completed the study.

[ABSTRACT ONLY – with apologies to Brendan for arriving late – the last few minutes that I saw sparked a fascinating discussion in the room].

Two Sides of the Moon: the virtuosic & primitive in rock drumming #iaspm2017

Mandy Smith: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Case Western Reserve University

Two Sides of the Moon: Mediating the Virtuosic and the Primitive in Rock Drumming

Keith moon

Keith Moon – “controlled chaos” deconstructed.

ABSTRACT: In live performances, The Who’s drummer Keith Moon flails his arms wildly, dazzles the crowd with classic “drummer face,” and dominates the entire kit, leaving no drum or cymbal unbeaten. In the midst of this pandemonium, however, he executes technically masterful passages and maintains a steady beat. Moon’s bodily performance style produces a visual and aural clash that embodies both chaos and control. He somehow manages to epitomize both “primitiveness” and virtuosity—two concepts often at odds in Western culture. This paper draws on recent scholarship on the body and groove, particularly Robert Fink’s concept of rhythmic tension and release, to argue that drums operate as a site where rock’s value structures are mediated because of the instrument’s ability to signify simultaneously the primitive and the virtuosic. I analyze two Who songs, “My Generation” (1965) and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971), to demonstrate how Moon manifests musically an important conflict in rock values—its competing aesthetic ideals of cerebral complexity and raw simplicity. By embodying both values simultaneously, Moon complicates debates over rock authenticity and lineages. This paper ultimately argues for an analytical consideration of the oft- neglected drummer to gain a deeper understanding of rock’s meanings and pleasures.

 

Mandy opens with an excerpt of Keith Moon playing Won’t Get Fooled Again, pulling “at least four awesome drummer faces” while playing to the headphone beat of the ARP synthesizer backing track, simultaneously achieving the primitive and virtuosic.

[Read more…]

Studying listening / recorded popular music #iaspm2017

Marta García Quiñones: Independent researcher

Studying listening to recorded popular music: a methodological overview and some suggestions for future research

ABSTRACT: It is normally taken for granted that popular music fans listen to recorded music, and that their preferences are mainly shaped by that activity. However, studying what happens while they are listening appears as a challenging task. While current neurobiological research seems to provide access to how our brains react to music (Levitin 2006), it has attained so far very limited results, and ultimately perpetuates a solipsistic conception of listening. In the last two decades popular musicologists, anthropologists and sociologists have proposed different qualitive research strategies, which are generally more sensitive to the varieties of human relationship to music and the diversity of listening contexts, and even occasionally deal with situations where music listening happens alongside other actions (Lilliestam 2013, Kassabian 2013). Yet, these methods may raise questions of representativity, and do not always allow a better understanding of the intersubjectivity of listening practices—that is, the fact that listening and appreciating recorded popular music is something that is often done with others, in dialogue with their opinions, and in a network of affective exchanges. This paper wants to contribute to the design of useful research procedures focusing on this particular aspect of the experience of popular music fans.

[JB note – this was presented in a room with some noise pollution from next door, and being sat at the back I didn’t catch all of it. At one point we were dealing simultaneously with an un-miced presenter, audio playback from the next room, and a local bell-ringing group practising in the church across the road! I’ve posted what I have below, but I suggest interested scholars should follow Marta’s work directly because this post really doesn’t do justice to the depth of the presentation].

Marta’s focus is on music listening in everyday life; she is interested in the effect of listening context on the listener’s perception. Her goal is to design situation-based models by which musicologists can interrogate how people hear music.

In a section about technologies, Marta reflects that new and old technologies often coexist simultaneously, and she makes the point that despite FM radio being a relatively old technology it is still responsible for a large number of listener experiences. She refers to AM/FM radio as the ‘centrepiece of audio’ among the 25-54 age demographic.

She makes an argument that the passive/solipsistic act of ‘listening’ to music is replaced in some scholarship with the more active act of ‘responding’ to music. She breaks down the literature on listener research into three categories:

  • Social Psychology, Consumer psychology and psychology of music (e.g. John Sloboda, Adrian North/David Hargreaves, Greasley & Lamont)
  • Sociology and communication studies (e.g. Tia Denora, Antoince Hennion, Raphael Nowak)
  • Popular music studies (e.g. Susan Crafts, Melissa Avdeef)

Marta notes that these authors make a significant contribution to listener research, but notes (as others have done, including me) that academics have a tendency to survey their own students, which may risk limiting the value of the evidence base.

Greasley and Lamont talk about the ‘Experience Sampling Method‘; Marta also discusses the Day Reconstruction Method and Tia DeNora’s work on participant-observation.

Popular song & literary scholarship (Brazil) #iaspm2017

Cláudia Neiva de Matos: Universidade Federal Fluminense

Popular song and literary scholarship: interactions between criticism and artistic creation

[ABSTRACT ONLY]

vm-e-baden

Vinícius de Moraes (right); one of several Brazilian poet/songwriters discussed in Marta’s presentation.

ABSTRACT: Brazilian popular song and literature have long been intertwined. The 19th-century “modinhas” were often created by setting written poems to music and in the radio era romantic songs often had literary style lyrics. Since bossa-nova and tropicalismo, an increasing number of artists, from Vinícius de Moraes to Arnaldo Antunes, have composed poems as well as lyrics. Besides, since the 1980s, as popular music gets more space and relevance as a subject of academic research, a new kind of connection arises, linking scholars and popular songwriting: professors and critics of the literary and linguistic fields, such as José Miguel Wisnik and Luiz Tatit, are also renowned songwriters and singers. They never or seldom write poetry, but they produce important books and articles about popular song. This paper will approach the artistic and critical production of those and other “mastersingers”, in order to discuss the following working hypothesis: when creating and performing songs get together with researching and analysing them, both art and science are affected; art offers new aesthetic proposals and forms; academic and critical work develop new perceptions and perspectives, with remarkable results to the analytical and theoretical approach of popular song.

[no commentary – with apologies to Cláudia, I arrived late to this session, but her discussion of the overlap between Brazilian poets, academics, and songwriters was fascinating and I look forward to reading her work if she writes it up at a future date].

Keynote: popular music studies / jazz studies #iaspm2017

André Doehring: Institute for Jazz Research, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria

Fish and fowl? Mapping the no-man’s-land between popular music studies and jazz studies

 

louis-armstrong3.jpg

Louis Armstrong stated many times that he loved Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians. Was he more open-minded than some jazz and pop musicologists? [spoiler: yes]

OUTLINE: In his article ‘Is jazz popular music?”, Simon Frith (2007: 10) has noticed that the “separation of jazz and popular music studies is an indisputable fact of academic life”. Indeed, due to their historically different developments, both disciplines have established sets of aesthetic norms, separate institutional bases, and specific methods to identify and cope with the musics they have found worth studying. Recently, Matt Brennan (2017) has shown the influence of music journalism on these scholarships. Ultimately, both succeeded – more (jazz studies) or less (popular music studies), at least in the German-speaking world – as distinctive disciplines with developed curricula. 

This keynote argues, by pointing to examples throughout the history of recorded music, that this neat division of the musical world is precarious because it prevents a fertile exchange between jazz and popular music studies; for instance, the development of (still) so-called New Jazz Studies during the last twenty years has only occasionally led to serious discussion in the popular music field. Moreover, this separation excludes a lot of musics, musicking and musicians in between these two fields. In particular, by using an example from the realm of electronic dance music, the lecture advocates a joint effort to fill the void in between the front lines of jazz and popular music that, potentially, may lead to structural changes in teaching and researching jazz and popular music.

REFERENCES:

BIO: André Doehring is professor for jazz and popular music research and head of the Institute for Jazz Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (Austria). Before, he has been assistant professor at the University of Gießen (Germany) where he received his doctorate in musicology and had studied musicology and sociology. He is president of the International Society for Jazz Studies (IGJ), member of the scientific board of the German Society for Popular Music Studies (GfPM), co-editor of GfPM’s online journal Samples and since 2017 of IGJ’s yearbook Jazz Research and Studies in Jazz Research. His main research topics are the social histories and historiographies of popular music and jazz, analysis, and music and media. Currently, he is involved into establishing a European network for transnational jazz studies.

PUBLICATIONS: Song Interpretations in 21st Century Pop Music (Eds. Appen/Doehring/Helms/Moore, Ashgate, 2015); “Andrés’s ‘New For U’ – new for us. On analysing electronic dance music” (Ashgate 2015); “Modern Talking, musicology and I: analysing the forbidden fruit” (Routledge 2016); “Male journalists as ‘artists’: the ideological production of recent popular music journalism” (Éditions des Archives Contemporaines 2017).

[with apologies to André for not hearing the start due to background noise as people came in]

André laments the relative historical disinclination of academe to be prepared to engage musicologically with pop and jazz. He states that there is still a percentage bias against non-classical musics, citing as evidence the tiny proportion of popular (as opposed to classic) musicology professorships in German universities. He leads us through the history of some pioneers, including Marshall Stearns, who founded the Institute for Jazz Studies in 1953 New Jersey, USA.  We are led through the gradual growth of jazz studies in (mainly US) Higher Education from the 1950s onward.

[Read more…]

Digital natives in the music industry? #iaspm2017

Koos Zwaan, Sabine de Lat and Mark van Everdinck: Inholland University of Applied Sciences (presenter: Koos Zwaan)

Digital natives in the music industry? How the Internet ecosystem is creating value for artists

DJ Angerfist

The Netherlands’ DJ Angerfist – he shares social media platforms with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

ABSTRACT: We will report findings from a large scale online research project looking at the value of online income streams for Dutch pop musicians. We have performed an analysis of the online activities of a diverse group of about 1100 Dutch artists, stretching the entire scope of popular music genres. By using cluster analysis we have identified a number of different archetypical artist strategies for using online possibilities for marketing, promotion and interaction with the audience. These quantitative findings have been enriched by doing interviews with a number of artist managers of artists who can be identified in one of these artist clusters. From our analysis we can conclude that different types of artists have strategic reasons for choosing a specific type of online strategy. Both theoretical and practical implications of this study will be discussed.

Koos opens with a quiz – who is back, and where? The answer, of course, is Taylor Swift is back on Spotify. Koos quotes from Swift’s 2014 Time interview:

“I’m always up for trying something. And I tried [Spotify] and I didn’t like the way it felt. I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify.” Taylor Swift, 2014

[Read more…]