Azealia Banks and Gender (2 papers) #arp2015

Stan Hawkins, University of Oslo, Norway

Kai Arne Hansen, University of Oslo, Norway

Track: B – Multipolarities

  1. Aesthetics and Gender Under Construction in Hip Hop: Azealia Banks
  2. Gender Production in `Chasing Time´
Azealia Banks

Abstract: Studying the art of production in popular music involves the subjectivities of artists, producers, engineers, and musicians, and their involvement in the recording process, which have a major impact on the composite recording. This joint paper sets out to locate the aesthetic effects of production as a means to gaining a better understanding of how human agency functions in this context. Our focus therefore falls on the spectacle of sound, with specific focus on the aesthetics of production in Azealia Banks’s 2014 album, Broke with Expensive Taste.

By closely examining a number of tracks from this album, we consider the twists, contours, turns, and transgressions of Banks’ performances. Employing a broad perspective, we draw on theories and methods found in film studies, media studies, and cultural studies to shed light on how processes of production stage the gendered body. Of paramount importance, we argue, are the production techniques that conflate the performer. These take place against a backdrop of referents and sonic markers that are culturally relevant. In the case of Banks, the numerous features that define her unique performativity distinguish her creative endeavors. The main objective of this paper is to throw a light on this through suggesting new ways of intersecting digitized sound, performance, and music technology. The intention is to expose the significance of recording aesthetics from a musicological standpoint. Accordingly, the analytical methods we advocate attempt to probe at the audio image in order to   reveal the signification of gender in relation to musical referents. It is the aesthetic effects of production that offer a platform for grasping how gendered subjectivity functions in popular music.

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.

Creative processes in Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s ‘I Should Be So Lucky’

This article is an excerpt from my PhD thesis, posted here after a discussion on the IASPM email discussion list earlier today. I’ve added some media to make it easier to hear the songs. Stock, Aitken and Waterman were one of several case studies I undertook to compare approaches to creative collaboration in songwriting teams (another was Mona Lisa by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans). I was particularly interested in SAW’s ‘hit factory’ approach and rapid production-line methods. Most of the quotations are from The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em: Songwriting Geniuses of Rock and Pop (Egan, 2004). Thanks to Mike Stock and Phil Harding for proof-reading and comments.

——-

4.5.4.   ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, 1987

SAW
Stock, Aitken and Waterman

In the late 1980s the UK’s most successful songwriting and production team consisted of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman (SAW). Between 1985 and 1990 they achieved more than 100 UK top 40 hits and sold more than 40m records. Stock and Aitken were the studio-dwelling songwriting/production dyad; Waterman did not write music or lyrics but acted as ‘publicist, industry insider and talent-spotter’.[1] All three were credited as songwriters on their recordings, and all received equal royalty shares of the publishing for the majority of the songs.[2] The SAW team provided songs and complete backing tracks for pop artists of the era, including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Mel and Kim, Rick Astley and Bananarama. Their success was such that long-established artists such as Donna Summer, Cliff Richard and Georgie Fame recorded their songs as singles in an attempt to capitalise on the ‘SAW sound’.

Sam Smith and Tom Petty – coincidental similarity or accidental copying?

Tom Petty, one-fifth of the co-writing team behind Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’.

This is a blog post about 5 bars of music. As reported in Rolling Stone and The Sun recently, the melodic similarity between Sam Smith’s 2014 song Stay With Me and Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down (1989) resulted in an amicable settlement between the writers and publishers sometime in 2014, resulting in Petty and Jeff Lynne, who originally wrote I Won’t Back Down, receiving a 12.5% share of the royalties. The PRS database in the UK confirms the share (members only access).

And subjectively, the songs are pretty similar, as bloggers had been pointing out since mid-2014.

But everyone was relaxed about the settlement, and Petty issued a  statement to this effect:

About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam.  All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen.  Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by.  Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.  The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention.  And no more was to be said about it. How it got out to the press is beyond Sam or myself.  Sam did the right thing and I have thought no more about this.  A musical accident no more no less. In these times we live in this is hardly news. I wish Sam all the best for his ongoing career. Peace and love to all. (Petty, 2015)

Here’s the thing. Petty used the term ‘accident’, which one might interpret as meaning the copying of the melody was inadvertent. Sam Smith’s representatives claimed that the similarity was the result of a ‘coincidence’:

The Impact of a good tune: Forensic Musicology as research

This article originally appeared on the Million+ blog website. Words: Joe Bennett.

Harrison
George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord was an early casualty of songwriter’s cryptomnesia.

The legendary conductor (and acerbic musical quote-mine) Sir Thomas Beecham once said: “a musicologist is someone who can read music but can’t hear it”. And it’s fair to say that, in terms of profile, musicology is not one of the highest peaks in the UK research landscape. Qualitative research in the arts generally can have a difficult time justifying its existence in an increasingly corporeal and impact-centred (some might say philistine) political agenda, and music has particular difficulties in this regard, being perhaps the most abstract art form of all. Sir Thomas’s view shows clearly and painfully how easy it is to accuse musicology of continually Dancing About Architecture. So it may surprise some readers to learn that my own field of research – creative processes and forensic musicology in popular songwriting – was part of an impact case study for my institution in REF 2014.

The Death of the Songwriter – attribution of creative ownership in popular music production #arpOslo2014

Screenshot 2014-12-05 18.46.19Here’s my own abstract and presentation from the Oslo conference. I was delighted to learn that in the audience was Jon Marius Aareskjold, a Norwegian sound engineer (and academic) who was actually involved in the production of ‘Irreplaceable’. We’ll be working together on a research paper about the track sometime in 2015.

Death of the Songwriter – ARP Oslo 2014 pdf version

ABSTRACT: The creation of recorded popular music has always been a collaborative process. Listeners enjoy an audio product that consists of a composition (usually with lyrics) that is arranged, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered. All of these activities combine in an object that creativity psychology would define as creative – that is, original and valuable (Boden 2004; Mackinnon 1963; Weisberg 1993). Sometimes creative contributions are fully demarcated but in practice there is often substantial overlap between roles, and individual creators frequently take on more than one role.

Drawing on the author’s research into creative behaviours in songwriting teams (Bennett 2012) and his experience as a forensic musicologist in copyright disputes, this paper discusses the challenges posed by collaborative popular music production, for copyright law and for the recorded music industry. The traditional binary allocation of creative activity across two objects (the ‘song’ and the ‘sound recording’) was developed many years ago and may no longer be truly representative of the way popular music is made. Creativity that is obviously derivative such as melodic quotation or audio sampling is a form of linear collaboration that makes authorial attribution particularly difficult, not least because of the complex interrelationship between moral and economic rights in copyright law.
Audio recordings of successful hits will be analysed to frame a discussion of the specific creative contributions that led to particular sonic outcomes; these will be contrasted with the Intellectual Property that subsists in the finished work. The paper proposes mechanisms by which the disparity between the extent of creative contribution and ownership of song copyright might be addressed.

Bennett, J., 2012. Constraint, collaboration and creativity in popular songwriting teams. In D. Collins, ed. The Act of Musical Composition: Studies in the Creative Process. Ashgate, pp. 139–169.
Boden, M., 2004. The creative mind : myths and mechanisms 2nd ed., London ;;New York: Routledge.
Mackinnon, D.W., 1963. The Identification Of Creativity. Applied Psychology, 12(1), pp.25–46.
Weisberg, R., 1993. Creativity : beyond the myth of genius, New York: W.H. Freeman.