Advocating for Popular Music Education – where do we go from here?
Steve Holley, Music educator
Steve begins with an overview of US music education generally, including high schools and universities, asking ‘why adapt now?’ and describing a necessary journey toward curricular adaptation. He takes us back to the mid-20thC innovators (USC, Miami, Berklee) who ‘took a chance on jazz’, and observes that the music education community thought they were crazy. Within 50 years of those early adopters, jazz in music schools had become mainstream. Steve believes that popular music education today is where jazz music education was in the 1950s, and predicts a similar trickle-down effect in future years, giving examples of schools where this is already starting to happen.
On the bus to the university this morning I introduced myself to the person sat next to me, who turned out to be John Bigus from my own institution (Berklee’s a great community, but it’s a BIG community, so it’s possible to work there for a long time without knowing everyone’s name). John is responsible for the PULSE free resource, available at pulse.berklee.edu, which is part of Berklee’s initiative to work with K-12 school age music creators and teachers.
John has been working with Bandlab, so there is an introduction from the company’s Lauren Henry Parsons, and our interviewer is Bandlab’s Michael Filson. It’s a cloud-based, free, 12-track DAW app (mobile app or browser-based) with 3.5m users across the world. It’s sponsored by the music instrument industry, which is why the end product is free for musicians – and a walled-garden version for students and teachers. It’s also part of a relaunch of SONAR’s Cakewalk.
Matthew opens with a discussion of the role of curriculum in popular music education, noting that the skills musicians gain in Higher Ed are arguably much more important than the qualification. Like the industry, he says, we must be ruthless in prioritizing meaningful musical career skills, rather than focusing on those elements that are the easiest to teach, or have heavily established pedagogies.
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.
“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.
(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: