Academic conference questions – translated

conf.jpgSo farewell, Kassell, as day 5 of the IASPM2017 conference winds down. Our German hosts have been fantastic, and the overall atmosphere has been, as ever, one of courteous collegiality and mutual academic admiration. Almost all of the questions from the floor have been in the spirit of inquiry, peer support and knowledge sharing.

Almost.

Below, as a public service, I’ve provided a list of some of the more ‘problematic’ questions that we hear from time to time at academic music conferences, with translation.

Thank you for a great presentation…
I’d like to tell you about my work.

Less of a question, more of a point, really…
I’d like to tell you about my work.

Have you read…?
I’m going to cite an out-of-print book you’ve never heard of and watch you squirm politely.

What’s the relationship of your work to [e.g.] the Andean nose-flute?
I’ve written a book about the Andean nose-flute.

One of the things that seems, to me, to be the case, based on the way you set up the inherent affordances available to the agents of this paradigm, is that, how can I really say this, well, there’s a difference between… well, more of a dichotomy… between the primary sources as they state their position phenomenologically, and the secondary sources, filtered as they inevitably are through the lens of scholarship and the attendant limitations of the contemporaneous evidence base available, although I have to say you do a great job of pulling those sources together given the inherent paucity of reportage from the primary participants, which I suppose is an inevitability due to the kind of retrospective material we’re dealing with here, and we all would support, as I’m sure everyone here agrees, the requirement to preserve the authenticity of that, even if the researcher is sometimes pressured by the field into creating taxonomies not necessarily intended for academic consumption by the original practitioners being studied, and that’s important, but only important inasmuch as the research community needs to define it for this particular sub-field, given that there are so many other sub-fields within which different taxonomies have been established; what’s your view?
It’s time for the coffee break and I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t want coffee.

How does the tabor syncopation example you played relate to Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital?
You musicologists know nothing about society.

In terms of the geopolitics you mention, what is the effect of the Dorian pivot-note key change halfway through bar 23?
You sociologists know nothing about music.

Recording in the 1960s: the new (Cult)ure of the Studio #arp2016

 

IMG_1603.JPG.jpeg

One day, all conference programmes will look like this.

I’m here in Aalborg, Denmark for the 11th Art of Record Production conference. ARP is one of my favourite conferences, for the following reasons:

  • It’s a good mix of academics and studio practitioners
  • It has an open-access peer-reviewed online journal
  • It consists entirely of techy people, so the PowerPoints and sound systems always work
  • The entire conference programme pack can be carried in your pocket – see photo

Our first keynote speaker St John’s University’s Susan Schmidt Horning (New York). Susan’s research deals with the way musical style is shaped by developments in recording technologies. Her book ‘Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording from Edison to the LP’ is known to many ARP delegates.

IMG_1604.JPGSusan’s starting point is the technological, social and cultural upheaval from the 1960s, drawing a line from postwar technologies. Ampex tapes became the industry standard, based on the work of a company that began in Radar research. The major labels – RCA, Decca and Columbia – all began around the mid-20th century. They had a dramatic effect on recorded sound because they were monetising recordings, due in part to the empowerment of a new generation of young people with disposable income who could purchase the new pop product – the single, and later, the album. [Read more…]

A day in the life of music listening

Boston skyline

Boston: view of the Charles River and city skyline

I was recently invited to write a blog piece for ‘Harkive‘, a music/sociology data collection project run by Craig Hamilton at City University Birmingham. He conducts a survey for one day per year, collecting qualitative data about music listeners’ habits. The aim of Harkive is for people to “share the story of how, where and why they listen to music”. The blog entries are an attempt to add colour to the data, detailing the real-world situations in which we experience music. Here are some examples of previous entries. My contribution is a single ‘day in the life’ of music listening – in this case, my activities on 14th July 2015. I found the act of reflecting on a whole day’s listening (including inadvertent listening) to be a surprising experience – there’s a lot more music around us than I had ever really considered. If you’re interested in contributing to the project here’s the link. [Read more…]

IASPM 2014 – Dynamic Popular Music

Dynamic Popular Music – The First Stages of a New Art Form

Keith Hennigan, Trinity College Dublin

Keith begins with an entertainingly ‘sci-fi’ way of looking at musical creativity – that is, speculating about the opportunity to make different choices at various stages in the composition’s development (and in its playback timeline). Dynamic Music is categorised (after Collins) as ‘Interactive’ (where the music changes in response to the user) and ‘Adaptive’ (where the user interacts with an additional element that in turn affects the music). Keith adds ‘Generative’ to the taxonomy in order to include music that changes due to internal systems [JB note – he comments that he was prevented for tech reasons from doing a live iPhone demo but I infer he was going to show us something like this – http://www.generativemusic.com/]. [Read more…]

IASPM conference Cork 2014

IASPM 2014 conference poster

IASPM 2014 conference poster

I’m en route to the UK & Ireland IASPM conference in Cork. I was at the International one in Spain last year – the branch and International IASPM conferences leapfrog each other every other year, so for 2014 we’re back in our respective countries. I’ve submitted an abstract for the 2015 conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil (about chord loops in the Eurovision Song Contest – regular readers will know this is an interest). Waiting to hear if it gets through peer review.

So here’s my abstract for the forthcoming conference. This is part of a panel about similar themes — other presenters are Holly Holmes (Chester), Dan McKinna (BIMM) and Marcus O’Dair (Middlesex).

As always I’ll live-blog from the conference where possible.

Where is creativity? Locating intellectual property in collaborative songwriting and production processes
(Joe Bennett, Bath Spa University)

Songs lie at the centre of popular music’s Intellectual Property framework. They represent the starting point for the industry’s two most important creative products: the live performance or the recorded audio artefact. In the early 20th century, US and European copyright conventions were established whereby two separate objects could be ‘owned’: the song and the sound recording, the latter being a derivative work of the former. This state of affairs, where ‘song’ and ‘track’ are separate copyrights, remains at the industry’s administrative core, and has led to awareness among creators of the economic benefits of ‘keeping a slice of the publishing’.

However, in real-world songwriting and production situations it is not always easy to ascertain who contributed to ‘writing the song’ and who acted as an arranger, performer or producer. Inferring creative contributions from the audio artefact itself is fraught with methodological challenges; from a listener’s point of view, there is no experiential distinction between song and track. Drawing on the theoretical work of Moore, McIntyre and Csikszentmihalyi2, together with interviews with professional songwriters and the author’s own experience as a songwriter and expert witness forensic musicologist, this paper argues that the artificial administrative distinction between ‘song’ and ‘track’ is simultaneously a constraint upon creators and a silent driver of creative practice itself.

2 Allan F Moore, Song Means  : Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song (Ashgate, 2012); Phillip McIntyre, “The Domain of Songwriters: Towards Defining the Term ‘Song,’” Perfect Beat: The Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture 5, no. 3 (2001): 100–111; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Society, Culture, and Person: A Systems View of Creativity,” in The Nature of Creativity  : Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, ed. Robert Sternberg (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 325– 339.

RMA Study Day session 3: Mark Doffman, Mirjam James and Karen Wise

Session 3 (Chair: Jonna Vuoskoski)

Mark Doffman (University of Oxford), Mirjam James (University of Cambridge) and Karen Wise (University of Cambridge)

Panel discussion: What are the challenges in researching processes?

With reference to studies carried out by members of the panel, we explore some of the methodological issues that are relevant to musical processes and their exploration, focusing on the challenges posed by three main questions: Where is the process situated? How do you capture processes? How do you make sense of the collected data?

CMPCP logo

[JB notes]
Mirjam discussed some of the methodological challenges researchers face when undertaking fieldwork to investigate ‘creativity/originality’ in classical music performers (see project page and video). Should the process be short, medium or long? How long (musically) should the object under investigation be? [Read more…]

Will You Still Love [This Song] Tomorrow?

Last week I posted a research survey on this site to investigate the way listeners infer meaning from song arrangements. Thanks to all of the Facebook, blog and Twitter contacts who responded. Some of the respondents have asked me to publish the results, so here they are. The text below is part of a forthcoming research publication which should be available sometime in 2014.

Carole King in the studio

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Song, Performance and Track – a listening experiment

Joe Bennett, 26 Sept 2013

It is self-evident, or perhaps a tautology, that an audio recording of a song carries cultural meaning for the listener, but to what extent does the listener infer meaning (from the track) that was not created by the songwriter? To borrow from Allan Moore’s terminology, to what extent is the track one of the ‘means by which songs can mean’[1]? To provide an objective/measurable example of the way ‘performance’ can create listener inferences I devised the following simple listening experiment, conducted using an online poll.[2] Participants were asked to select randomly one of two unidentified recordings ‘Song A’ and ‘Song B’ and listen to only one of them. ‘Song A’ was Carole King’s 1970 recording of the Goffin/King composition Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? ‘Song B’ was the Shirelles’ recording of the same song from 1960. Importantly, both recordings share the same melody and lyric as each other, with near-identical harmony, but are performed in different styles (‘singer-songwriter’ and ‘1960s girl band’ respectively) and at different tempi. Listeners were asked to speculate about inferred/imagined events – that is, to provide information about the characters and story that is not provided in the lyric.

[Read more…]