Authenticity and the role of live musicians in hip hop production
ABSTRACT: Despite hip hop music’s origins as a live performance-based art form, utilising turntables and sound systems, the incorporation of digital sampling technologies gave rise to a sample-based aesthetic within hip hop production which traditionally rejected the use of live musicians. In his ethnographical study of hip hop production, Schloss goes as far as stating that as a hip hop producer ‘…it is the lack of samples – the use of live instrumentation – that must be justified’ (Schloss, 2004, p.67).
This sample-based aesthetic is strongly linked to the notion of authenticity within hip hop production (Schloss, 2004; Williams, 2010), however use of live musicians has been evident throughout the history of hip hop; from live hip hop band The Roots , the use of session musicians to re-play samples in Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 (1999) to the self-sampling approach of Portishead’s self titled album (1997). More recently in the UK, the formation of bands such as Introducing Live whose debut project in 2009 was to recreate note for note the entirety of DJ Shadow’s exclusively sample-based album Endtroducing (1996) with a 10-piece live band and the Abstract Hip Hop Orchestra who, inspired by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson orchestral tribute to J-Dilla (2010), perform live versions of classic hip hop tracks with a 16 piece ensemble, demonstrate the integral role that live musicians can occupy within hip hop performances that were once the reserve of the DJ and MC.
Mixing Time: The Use of Recording Technologies in Live Music Performance
Yngvar Kjus and Anne Danielsen, University of Oslo
Author keywords: Recording Techniques, Live Performance, Creativity, Communication
ABSTRACT: Along with the rise of computer-based music technologies, artists are bringing studio-related practices on stage. This allows different forms of composing, recording and sound processing to become integral elements of live music. In this paper, we study the considerations, efforts and skills involved with using these studio-related techniques in live settings, and ask how artists’ sense of creativity and communication are affected. The paper assesses existing research on the use of technologies in live music performance and attempts to establish a theoretical framework for studying evolving creative and communicative challenges of contemporary musicianship. We then present an interview-study with six artists in Norway, engaged in genres ranging from electronic dance music and electro-pop to improvisation-based live electronics. The analysis is organized in the same manner as concerts, starting with the preparations and then addressing the execution and the encounter with the audience. We identify substantial differences in the use of technology, particularly depending on whether performances are based on a studio work or are improvised live. The first requires transforming a record into a live performance, whereas the second entails the creation and manipulation of recordings on the spot. These endeavours demand different practical, creative and expressive efforts, which might fuel artists’ awareness of creative and communicative actions in live performance.
“What’s up with this ‘one’?!!!” („Was ist denn das für eine ‚eins‘?!!!”) Discrepancies between live- and studio-performance and the consequences for musical efficiency of artists/bands in the recording studio.
Usually the recording studio is being thought of as an environment which enables artistic performance of the highest standard. Several of the disrupting factors of live-performance are successively removed during recording sessions or the architecture of the studio does not allow certain aspects to appear in the first place. Therefore the artist should be able to achieve individual performance of the highest level but for several reasons this is often not the case. The proposed paper deals with the question why despite all the advantages of the recording studio in comparison to live-performance the musical efficiency of artists still seems to be limited by several aspects that are the result of this specific environment. The technological, sociocultural or simply musical provenance of these aspects will be described and analyzed:
Why do even accomplished musicians for example suffer from the so called „red-light fear“ once the recording process begins? What effect does the idea of the highest possible transparency of the audio-material have on the playing technique and what does that mean for the agents? Are there specific reasons why certain studio-situations are more strained or affected by higher expectations than others and in what way do discursive formations from internal and external provenance shape these configurations between agents?
The paper draws from data that was collected from 2011 to 2014 in several Berlin recording facilities and rehearsal rooms. The data will be reflected in my PhD-thesis in musicology that deals with the role and function of the producer in popular music. The manner of collecting information consisted of participant observation and non-structured interviews. The analysis of the data is carried out with a specific model which seeks to combine elements of Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of the field of cultural production as well as Michel Foucault’s analysis of power-relations, their origins and the technologies to sustain them.
Here’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.
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.
We begin this panel with a discussion of ‘pet hates’ in recording. The panel rises to the task impressively. Some hates include the loudness wars and issues of track compression (Pytten); horrible tracking rooms in the interests of authenticity; being precious about your ideas and resisting stretching them (Susan); and the boxy frequencies between 400Hz and 900Hz (Phil – “can anyone in this room tell me a good reason for boosting these frequencies, and tell me what instrument to do it on?”).
ABSTRACT: 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.
Susan begins with an audio-powered journey through her life in the music industry, including her work as audio engineer for Prince (covering the Purple Rain and Sign ‘O’ the Times eras). It is interspersed with anecdotes and career nodes commentary. This is all thoroughly enjoyable and I sense the crowd would have been happy with this being the entire presentation!
But she moves us on to the theme of the presentation, which is: what are musical emotions about? Emotions are temporary and affect the goals of the perceiver in real time. Music can’t further or block goals – so how does it affect emotion?
Susan’s academic study and research is in cognitive science, and she applies this to musical experience. She talks us through a brief ‘Psych 101’ of stages of response to a stimulus, contrasting dangerous situations with musical surprise. The stages are: cognitive appraisal (“this situation is dangerous” or “those chords are beautiful”), subjective feeling (feel afraid or feel impressed/moved), physiological arousal (heart beats faster/attention is focused), expression (you scream/smile) and action tendency.