Cruising for Burgers (Frank Zappa) #arpOslo2014

Martin Knakkergaard, University of Aalborg

IMG_0805ABSTRACT: Frank Zappa’s concept album Uncle Meat from 1969 can in many ways be seen as a key to his art, his view of society and his understanding of life. Even the title seems to cover a simultaneously humorous and odd, almost macabre and somewhat vulgar dramatic universe, and the long program note – Preamble – supports this impression with its semblance of mythology and caricatured science fiction.

In its concrete material Uncle Meat appears both textually and musically as a close-voiced pastiche – a multi-faced stretto, kaleidoscopically put together from a unique debris of mainly rock, jazz, musique concrète, pop, electronic and Neoclassical idioms, which, together with texts, is based on an occasionally absurd imagery, picturing human alienation, degradation and reification.

The paper is a rendering of Uncle Meat as a phonographic universe of its own, pieced together by descriptive analyses of a variety of the piece’ key elements, their phonographic realisation and implicit acoustical idealisations, in order to identify correlations and clashes between production, music, text and ideology. It is also a reflection on the relevance of Zappa’s collected works as a prophetic dystopia.

‘Stay Another Day’: … formula to create a successful Boy Band #arpOslo2014

East 17‘Stay Another Day’: A music composition and production formula to create a successful Boy Band

Phil Harding, producer and PhD candidate

ABSTRACT: Is there a music composition and production formula for a Boy Band? This question is rooted in the trans-cultural context of the 1990s, and it is important for musicologists, entrepreneurs, composers and producers to research this. My study is based on the phenomena of Boy Band success of the 1990s and I am looking at an empirically and theoretically grounded formula proposal that started then and could be contextualized today with ethnographic reflection. In this paper, I will use my own knowledge and experience in the Boy Band genre; I had success as a producer and composer in the 1990s with ‘East 17’ and ‘Boyzone’. I will then contrast this with the views of the managers of those bands – Tom Watkins and Louis Walsh. This will raise some questions around the compositional techniques and the music production technology used today both in professional studios and home recording facilities. What interactive media do composers and musicians in both regional and international contexts use for the collaboration process? Do composition and even recording sessions need to take place in the same room any longer? Pop act ‘The KLF’ (Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond) wrote ‘The Manual (How To Have a Number One The Easy Way)’ 1. This presented the idea of a formula to have a guaranteed No.1 hit single in the UK charts in the 1980s/90s. This will be explored alongside an analysis of data towards my proposed formula for a successful manufactured Boy Band.

Co-writing songs

Illustration by Andy Watt

This article originally appeared in Total Guitar magazine issue 229. Reproduced by permission. Words: Joe Bennett. Illustration: Andy Watt. Click the image to download a pdf.

There are very few jobs where you promise to give away half your wages before you get to work, but this is what happens when two or more people decide to write a song together. And they do it with good reason; did you know that almost half the number of chart-topping hits in the USA since 1955 were written by more than one person? But if collaboration is clearly an effective way of writing a song, how is it done? How do two brains work together to produce something truly great?

Forensic Musicology – interview in Danish broadsheet

Screenshot of newspaper article
Article from this week’s Weekendavisen. Click the image to download Danish version.

I was interviewed recently for the Danish broadsheet newspaper Weekendavisen, which ran a feature on musical plagiarism, referencing Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. The text below is a (partly Google-powered) translation from Danish. For any native Danish speakers reading this, the original will probably make more sense – download here: Weekendavisen article 24 October 2014.

Slørede grænser (Blurred Boundaries)

[translated from Danish. Written by Anders Boas. Reproduced in translation by kind permission of Weekendavisen.]

The same way that a house is made ​​of bricks, wood and nails, a piece of music is build of pitches, harmonies and rhythms. But the same way that very few people see each brick in a house, it is a minority that hear the individual notes when listening to the latest hit.

Guitarists – stop hurting the audience at small gigs

 

GFWGTRAMP-large
An amp stand that angles the cabinet towards your ears. The audience doesn’t know how much one of these can improve their lives.

I walked out of a gig last week. The bands were well-rehearsed and the front of house engineers were doing a good job. The venue was great and I was amongst friends, colleagues and students. But I walked out because I couldn’t stand the physical pain of being an audience member in that room any longer.

The gig in question was a showcase of songwriting talent (of which, say it ourselves, there is quite a lot at the University). For most of the performers, it was the first time these particular songs had been played in public. New lyrics, new melodies, new arrangements and new ideas for an audience to experience – and for the performers to reflect on and refine. Creativity in action. Exciting stuff.

Except that it wasn’t. There was no opportunity to experience the lovingly crafted lyric metaphors, exquisite keyboard melodies, subtle drum grooves and carefully programmed laptop soundscapes that the bands had worked so hard on in their writing and rehearsal sessions. Because a Fender guitar amp was one metre out of place.