PopMAC day 2: System vs. Self. Jim Dickinson #popmac

FountainSystem vs. Self. Jim Dickinson (Senior Lecturer. Bathspa University)

Stockhausen once described the Beatles as ‘Do Re Mi with Electricity’. This simplification of the standard western 12 tone approach, misses another fundamental component of popular music performance and composition, that of context. This paper will seek to expose the hidden complexities that exist between the notes of a given scale, by looking at harmonic, temporal and cultural difference as a compositional tool. In addition it will explore the juxtaposition of sonic material plundered from multiple sources. This approach has become the norm for a new generation of composers and in this post post-modern free-for-all of cut up audio and sampling, it would be easy to assume that all the creative possibilities of these techniques had been exhausted. This paper will challenge that assumption, by suggesting a more systematic approach to analysing and exploring the creative potential of harmonic, cultural and temporal dissonance, both in the traditional organisation of pitch and rhythm and in the use of plundered audio. Using musical examples taken from released records and pedagogical practice this paper will suggest that these techniques offer an alternative view of the perceived sonic, harmonic and temporal perfection of much of popular music’s current output.

Jim Dickinson is a senior lecturer in Commercial Music at Bath Spa University. As a recording artist he had numerous hit singles and albums, including a U.K number 1, as well as composing for television and computer games. Recent performances include Download festival 2012 and The Isle of Wight festival, main stage, June 2013. His main research interest is visual music, with a focus on the influence of the painter Paul Klee on the work of specific composers.

Jim’s first slide is of a Paul Klee painting, representing his research interest in ‘visual music’. He discusses (from PopMAC day 1) commonalities between papers, and cites the apparent paradox of popular music’s surface musical simplicity and how difficult it is to achieve excellence within it. He notes, citing Anne Danielsen’s keynote on microrhythm, that as popular musicologists we speak not of the ‘grid’ but of the ‘bits in between’. He notes Klee’s work as being musician-like, given that the picture on display is a single gesture (a one-line drawing of a human face).