RMA Study day session 1: Eric Clarke, Mine Doğantan-Dack and Rees Archibald

Faculty of MusicOur opening speaker is Prof Eric Clarke, who opened the day with a discussion of the recent shift in musicology from a product-based to a  process-based approach. He cited Christopher Hasty’s book Meter As Rhythm, which takes such an approach to rhythm. Eric cites Margaret Boden’s definition of creative products as “ideas or artefacts that are new, surprising or valuable” – this is the product-based definition I use in my own work (that is, I’m not researching songs that do not exhibit all three characteristics). This is contrasted with more nuanced approaches including Ingold (2007) and Howard Becker’s Ethnomusicology and Sociology (1989). Becker takes the view that ‘Art is something people do together’. All of these authors (including, I infer, Eric himself) eschew the idea of the ‘lone creative genius’. His view (and I agree) is that both approaches are necessary in understanding creativity.

He goes on to identify some of the challenges of research methodology, and notes that the documentation of process itself (for research purposes) can paradoxically create an artefact that is itself a product! Many of the artefacts (figures, scores, graphs etc) are fixed objects that do not fully represent the music – they are reductive of the music but not necessarily of its process – often to a single ‘snapshot’ of an aspect of the music (frequency curve, amplitude over time etc – for example a Sonic Visualiser diagram).

PopMAC Day 3: 42 years of Popular Music Analysis Teaching in 21 minutes #popmac

Tagg screenshotPopMAC Day 3: 42 years of Popular Music Analysis Teaching in 21 Minutes (2 years per minute). Philip Tagg #popmac

Philip accepts the ambitious timescale of today’s title, so states his intention to take an historical overview. Overview – Background and aim; ‘Tonality’; ‘Time’; ‘Totality’ or ‘form’; and ‘Que faire?’. He provides a brief CV in three acts – from practitioner and teacher with an increasing analytical approach since the 1970s. EPMOW articles came out 1998-2001 (encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World). He then notes the different undergraduate courses available (e.g. at Liverpool) – and highlights the problem of classification (using a wonderful ‘precipitation’ analogy). The history of tonal language, comparing variously ‘modal’, ‘pre-tonal’, ‘euroclassical’ and various arguably ‘post-tonal’ languages, which he asserts are not linear, observing that this is less a spectrum than an orbit as regards the analytical language of tonality.

Tonal terminology was naturally historically developed to define monometric music whose pitches divide tonally/chromatically into the octave, and that this is its strength and its limitation. We see some basic definitions with etymological language derivatives;

IASPM day 4: Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén #iaspm2013

Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)
Chair: Hector Fouce

Annoying tunes: mobile ways of listening. Amparo Lasén (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain) 2013

Mobile phones used as portable sound technologies entail a contemporary urban way of listening to music, which remediates previous ways of listening: youngsters and young adults who carry their phones in their hands, playing tunes loud, when being on their own or in group, using public transport, strolling in a Mall, walking on the streets, or sitting in a park or a square. This is understood as a way of sharing and signing the listening, which elicits controversies and generates online and offline debate. It is characterised by aspects common to other mobile phones uses: personal comfort when being in the move; the multi- sensuous relationship with the device, with the relevance of touch; personalisation as a form of mutual stylisation between people and devices; the creation of a personal space in public places; and the mobile as part of the public performance of how to be and act as a stranger. Some of these aspects related to territoriality, such as personal comfort and personalisation, are also characteristic of music listening and consumption, and both converge in this particular practice of digitally mediated lo-fi music listening.

Amparo started, appropriately enough, with a tinny playback of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance on her phone, which leaked into the microphone, briefly obscuring her voice. If this was unintentional it was apposite; if not, it was a brilliant piece of theatre! She then played back a video excerpt from Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986) where Spock uses his Vulcan powers to silence an obnoxious 20thC individual travelling on a bus with a loud ‘ghetto blaster’ – and is applauded by the fellow travellers.

IASPM day 2 plenary – “Under the Bridge” – Popular Music at the Margins

WigglesChair: Carlo Nardi

The Wiggles: Australia’s most popular unpopular musical export. Liz Giuffre (Macquarie University, Australia)
Children’s songwriters, musicians and performers The Wiggles have regularly appeared on the Business Review Weekly (BRW)’s list of highest paid entertainers in Australia, and have also become an unlikely embodiment of Australian success internationally. This paper argues that The Wiggles produce undoubtedly popular music for their target market, but given that this demographic is almost exclusively children (particularly those of pre-school age), they have been overlooked by the popular music academy. This omission reignites questions of exactly what is popular music, but also draws on cross-discipline arguments such as those in television studies which challenge how we gauge ‘quality entertainment’ and its audience. Children (particularly those of pre-school age) are not a demographic that is often considered in examinations of popular music or media (beyond studies of educational impact or narratives of children’s relative vulnerability to exposure to certain ideas or concepts), however I will show how the niche marketing and success of this band and their broader music and media work functions in much the same way as other popular music subgenres. I will show that The Wiggles remain unpopular with scholars and researchers because of the band (and wider franchise’s) continued focus on its core, preschool market.

IASPM day 2: Authorship and originality

IASPM outdoors[this session included my own paper which I will post separately with slides]

Authorship and originality. Chair – Anahid Kassabian

Authorship in the age of Digital Reproduction. Anne Danielsen (University of Oslo, Norway)
In the field of music, authorship traditionally resides in the musical work. In practice, this notion relies on the possibility of separating the performative aspects of music from the pre-composed. Authorship has thus been linked to the ‘frozen’ aspects of the musical process, to the structure that is left behind when the performance is over, either in the form of a notated score or a memorable melody. With the advent of recording techniques, the importance of the performance-related aspects came to the surface since in a recording also what were traditionally regarded as expressive means were fixed and thus possible to repeat. Previous to digital music production it was not possible to extract such performance-related aspects from the totality of the recorded sound. In the age of digital music production, however, this is different. In this paper I will discuss some examples of musical practice where the question of authorship is complicated, either because the creative contribution made by a specific author has not been acknowledged as part of the protected work, or because there are difficulties related to the very act of identifying wherein the authorship lies.

IASPM session 2a – Australia and New Zealand

Dialect and DespairSession 2a – Australia and New Zealand. Chair: Eric Hung

The Architects of Culture: Developing the Concept of a ‘Shared Listening History’. James Cox (Macquarie University, Australia)


As Schloss (2006) has suggested, Hip Hop practitioners are mindful of the culture’s history and traditions. This is true of Hip Hop artists in Australia and New Zealand, who are keen to promote their knowledge and respect of the culture’s history and traditions.

This paper will examine the ideas behind such a conservative selection of cultural works that form the basis for Hip Hop music. As Dimitriadis (2009) has suggested, a Hip Hop identity is often “worked through” by a complex positioning and re-positioning of texts between peoples. The selection of such texts forms a ‘Shared Listening History’ among Hip Hop artists in Australia and New Zealand. This allows for the construction of a Hip Hop identity worked out through interaction with these texts. A point reiterated by Australian Hip Hop artist Dialect, “[my music is] straight up Hip Hop music, concerned with preserving and respecting the culture’s traditions and origins [as] laid out by the architects” (Tang 2011, p.22).

Drawing on ethnographic research with Hip Hop artists in Australia and New Zealand, the paper exemplifies how a ‘Shared Listening History’ provides an important structure within the genre. Australian and New Zealand Hip Hop artists engagement with the “architects” of the culture has important implications on the ways in which these artists then construct their music and remain “authentic”.