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.
(co-written with Phillip Mcintyre, University of Newcastle – presented in Phil’s absence with his apologies for not being able to make it in person)
ABSTRACT: Sound engineering has historically been viewed as a technical rather than creative endeavour (Kealy, 1979), particularly within the commercial recording industry where the sound engineer, the record producer and the musician have an identifiable history of delineated unionised roles within the domain of record production.
There is general agreement in the literature that creativity may be best thought of as the bringing into being of ‘an idea or product that is original, valued and implemented’ (Wolff, 2000: 81) and there is growing evidence that creativity occurs through the convergence of multiple elements; an agent, a knowledge system (the domain) and a social organisation that holds the domain knowledge (the field), through a dynamic system of interaction (Csikszentmihalyi: 1988, 1997, 1999 & 2004).
Drawing upon current literature, interviews, case studies and data gathered from an extended ethnographic study in the recording studio, this paper explores the systems model of creativity where sound engineering is identified as a creative endeavour within the broader creative and collaborative system of record production.
Paul describes sound engineering as a ‘layer’ within music creativity, and relates his view to Boden’s discussion of creative myths:
ABSTRACT: In the mediating process from musical ideas to fully realized sound, music takes a lot of different forms and is shaped by a wide variety of actors. With recorded music, the somewhat logical or typical process consists in the following: the composers and arrangers write the musical ideas (sometimes), the performers and programmers make these ideas into sounds, the record producers and sound engineers capture and organize the sound into phonograms, and finally the record consumers (usually the listeners) reproduce these phonograms back to sound, or, in cases of remediation, the DJ or remixers use these phonograms to produce new ones. Of all these actors, only one is not commonly regarded as an artist: the record consumer. This begs the question: as the one usually responsible for record reproduction, and given that his role in the recorded music mediation process is not that remote from the one played by the other actors, could the record consumer be considered a fully fledged artist in the same way as his peers?
Although the answer to this question is certainly not the same for every record consumers, this paper will argue that a particular group amongst them, the hi-fi enthusiasts, has indeed elevated record reproduction to an art form. It will explain, by drawing on a comparison between the record production and reproduction processes (and more specifically between the roles of record producers, sound engineers, and hi-fi enthusiasts), how and why high-fidelity can be considered an “art of record reproduction”.
Yannick outlines a typical production chain from creator through to listener. It’s an impressive theoretical model, incorporating traditional musicology, performance practice, and a mediation stage that he calls ‘phonomusicology’ – the production chain of the audio from the producer’s studio role through to the hi-fi reproduction equipment.
ABSTRACT: This paper examines some of the specific provisions in the US Copyright Law that hinder ascribing joint authorship (and therefore authors’ rights) and performance rights to all parties—performers, producers, songwriters, engineers—in contemporary popular music practices. Taking as its starting point studio practices that might be described as “composition-in-recording,” two areas of US copyright law are considered. The first concerns the particularly strong role of the “work for hire doctrine,” which in effect has the power to appropriate the creative output of individuals, as well as a specific provision in the definition of joint authorship—that the contributions of each author must be independently copyrightable for a work to be considered jointly authored. These two provisions, it is argued, disproportionately hinder broad attribution of authorship in music production. Second, the paper examines the uncomfortable tension between the idea/expression distinction that undergirds US copyright law on the one hand, and the composition/performance distinction that provides different legal rights to composers and performers of musical recordings. Here it is argued that “composition-in-recording” considerably problematizes the validity of assigning different rights to “composers” and “performers” (which is further problematized by the narrow, quotidian definition of what acts constitute studio “performance”). The paper concludes by suggesting some specific changes to the US Copyright Law that could better bring into alignment studio practice and a broader ascription of authorship, as well as some justifications within legal theory for doing so.
Tom’s presentation covers an area that is related to mine – that is, we’re both interested in the relationship between the creative process in popular music recording and the law that governs ownership. Copyright protects ‘expressions of an idea’ rather than an idea itself.
I’m at the ARP conference at the University of Oslo this week. As always, I’ll be real-time blogging the sessions and providing links to other study materials where I can find them, or where the author provides them. Blog posts to follow session by session with the hashtag #arposlo2014.