Experimental writing on popular music
Music and Technology 2
Vol. 4 Issue 2 Dec 2020
Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR), Birmingham City University, 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD, UK Managing Editors Craig Hamilton Sarah Raine Guest Editor Edmund Hunt
Editors Asya Draganova Nicholas Gebhardt Matt Grimes Dave Kane Chris Mapp Ed McKeon Sebastian Svegaard Iain Taylor
Designers Ian Davies Iain Taylor Cover design by Adam Kelly-Williams
Riffs is published twice a year. Copyright information Contributors hold the copyright to their submitted piece. They may distribute their work in the journal format as they see fit. Contributors also have the right to republish content without permission from the journal.
Riffs: Experimental writing on popular music (online & print) ISSN 2513-8537 Funded by the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR).
S T N E T N O C
Editorial Edmund Hunt
Moshino Royal: Talking tech, inspirations and bare basics for musicmaking Ian Davies
â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Bringing you the Meaning and the Knowledge Behind the Musicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;: Fan production and the control of meaning on genius.com Henry Morgan
HUMAN/MACHINE/RHYTHM Regan Bowering Signs and Scenes: Electro-acoustic composition and meaning Anna Murray Considerations of Utopian and Dystopian Futures of Music Sylvia Hinz From New Audiences to Surprised Performers: A transformation enabled by technology Silvia Rosani Switch, Blend, Aggregate, Divide: Multi-instrumental configurations and interactional dynamics in Garlic Hug Helen Papaioannou & Alessandro Altavilla
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EDITORIAL Edmund Hunt Guest Editor, Riffs Vol. 4 Issue 2
2 EUSSI 4 LOV
Almost half a year has passed since the publication of the first issue of Riffs Volume 4. Then, as now, the relationship between music and technology raises questions that strike at the core of what it means to be an artist in 2020. A number of the contributions to this issue were written early in the year, before the full magnitude of the pandemic was apparent. As such, it may come as a welcome relief that Covid-19 is barely mentioned in the following pages. Nonetheless, for many of us, the authorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; descriptions of live music will be coloured by our experiences of the past year. This need not lead only to nostalgia or pessimism. On the contrary, the breadth of this issue of Riffs is indicative of the diversity of past, present, and future music-making. For all its disruption, and despite the potential long-term changes that will form part of its legacy, 2020 is an anomaly. At the time of writing, there are already tantalising glimpses of a return to a more recognisable musical world. When current uncertainties have finally cleared, it is evident that technology will continue to play a role, perhaps even more vital than before, in a familiar yet altered musical landscape. Just as technology can draw together performers and audiences from across the world, it can also facilitate connections at a more local level. In his cover interview with Ian Davies, Moshino Royal (Rowan Coleing) discusses work created from a studio in Digbeth, almost within sight of Riffsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; epicentre at Birmingham City University. Although deeply embedded within the Birmingham music scene, Coleing notes how technology, in the form of easily portable hardware and software, allows him to create music anywhere. Henry Morgan also focuses on the ubiquity of technology, but from the perspective of online fan communities. In his study of genius.com, Morgan analyses the ways in which the siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s participants transcribe and annotate pop lyrics, becoming part of a complex, reflexive community of knowledge creation. As Morgan has noted, the shared endeavour of genius.com points to a sense of idealism, whereby technology empowers users to engage with, challenge, and subvert assumptions about hierarchies within the music industry. The potential of new technology to effect positive change is developed still further by the composer Silvia Rosani. In describing some of the approaches that she has incorporated into her practice, Rosani demonstrates how music technology might be used to subvert social inequality within the field of contemporary music. Focusing on issues such as nonstandard venues, hybrid electroacoustic instruments, engagement with non-musicians, and the perceived barriers between performers and audience, Rosani outlines a series of practical measures to address the points she raises. In contrast, imagined musical futures take a darker turn in Considerations of utopian and dystopian futures of music, by contemporary recorder player Sylvia Hinz.
Envisaging a post-apocalyptic world, Hinz explores how, in the absence of electricity, the musical performer might reclaim roles that were formerly undertaken by audio devices. While not wholly optimistic, Hinz’s words point to defiance in the face of adversity. As an expression of a deep, human instinct, music can survive even the most catastrophic events. Sylvia Hinz’s short poem draws attention to the experimental ethos that is at the heart of Riffs. Rather than occupying an intermediate, ambiguous space between writer and musician, text can be embedded within the artist’s sonic practice. Regan Bowering’s Human/Machine/Rhythm is a case in point. In applying the techniques of sampling to a pre-existing text, Bowering guides the reader through a series of processes, culminating in a highly performative piece of creative writing. In contrast to Bowering’s process-driven approach, Anna Murray examines text from the perspective of linguistics and semiotics. For Murray, the interplay of music and words can provide a framework for research and practice. With examples ranging from fourteenth-century musical manuscripts, to Japanese Noh performances, to her own work, Murray examines issues of meaning and communication in relation to the composer and score, performer and performance, and listener. Throughout her work, technology plays a central role in facilitating what Murray describes as a ‘multimedia’ approach to composition with text. Text is one of many strands forming the experimental practice of Garlic Hug (Helen Papaioannou and Alessandro Altavilla). As a multi-instrumental duo, Garlic Hug’s use of acoustic, electronic, and digital sound sources, processed and organised both with and without technology, forms part of a dynamic and evolving approach to performance. Papaioannou and Altavilla illustrate how instruments, technology, experience, and the wider musical community continually shape their practice. Reading about Garlic Hug, I am immersed in my own reimagining of the sights and sounds of live performance. I picture the two musicians, seated opposite each other, beside tables filled with instruments and hardware. Although just out of sight, the audience – made audible by an occasional cough or rustle of clothing – is a vital component of my imaginary tableau, filling the darkened space with an almost visceral tension. Throughout their writing, Papaioannou and Altavilla draw attention to ideas of fragility and awkwardness that inspire their live performances. For Garlic Hug, liveness seems closely linked to ideas of connection – between performers, audience, and the wider community of artists and practitioners. While these ideas might appear impossibly utopian at the end of 2020, it is a salutary reminder that our current, largely restricted experience of live performance is only transitory. Just as technology changes and evolves, so our experience of music – as performers, creators, and listeners – will continue to develop in unforeseen ways over the coming months and years. Thinking about music and technology in relation to Garlic Hug and all the contributors to this issue, I am reminded of the words that formed the prompt for Riffs Volume 4: ‘Technology is something I love and hate at the same time. On one hand the absence of any kind of technology means silence (or an environment of natural sounds which we hear much clearer because of the general silence); on the other hand, you need technology to make art.’ 
Having experienced the highs and lows of online music rehearsals, live streamed performances abruptly silenced by buffering, and interminable video meetings, I feel as though I understand Kubisch’s ambivalence and frustration. However, re-reading her words at the end of 2020, I am struck by another question. What about all the creators, performers, and listeners who, as a result of personal choices, circumstances, or a combination of factors, do not engage with technology? Despite the breadth and eclecticism of this issue, there are always more stories that could be told. As a creative, experimental publication, Riffs intends to provide a space for ideas, dialogue, and discussion that is larger than the sum of its parts. By now, reader, you have already stepped inside this space. As you take time to explore and discover what lies within, I hope you will find ideas that allow you to rethink, re-evaluate and reimagine your relationship with technology.
Edmund Hunt is a Derbyshire-based composer who writes instrumental, vocal and electroacoustic music. In 2018, Edmund became a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in composition at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, focusing on composition and live electronics based on the analysis of early medieval languages. During 2019 –20, projects have included an electroacoustic composition for Longyou International Festival, China, a Cohan Collective Residency to create a 20–30 minute dance work with choreographer Edd Mitton, and an ongoing Sound and Music New Voices work for dancer, string quartet and live electronics. Edmund is a co-investigator of Augmented Vocality: Recomposing the Sounds of Early Irish and Old Norse, an AHRC-funded research project which began in November 2020.  Christina Kubisch, ‘Artists’ Statements II, Christina Kubisch’, in The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music, ed. by Nick Collins and Julio d’Escriván, 2nd edn (Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 2017: 176).
MOSHINO ROYAL TALKING TECH, INSPIRATIONS AND BARE BASICS FOR MUSICMAKING
Ian Davies 2 EUSSI 4 LOV
What have you been working on this year? I've been working on a lot of dancehall recently. I try to be prepared for any artist, so I make sure that I keep up to date with current trends in UK music, but I also enjoy working with bands as I grew up recording rock/metal music. I work with a lot of drill artists in the studio; this is the most popular genre with the younger generation at the moment. I've worked with Murkage dave, Manga saint hilare, RTkal, Lekan Babalola and General Kaution, and I've also recorded vocals for companies like Sony and Pepsi. Where do you produce music at the moment? I work out of a music studio called MBC studios in Digbeth (Birmingham) as a recording engineer and spend most of my spare time there making music. However, I make instrumentals everywhere I go, so I do work from home, too.
What technology are you using regularly? I have quite a lot of gear but I mainly use a Macbook Pro, an m-audio soundcard and a microphone. I play guitar, so I normally have one of them kicking about. I also have a midi keyboard and a few amplifiers, but I mainly use plugins to add effects now, so a lot of the gear I have is gathering dust at home. However, all I really need is a laptop and some good headphones to make music, and if I'm recording an artist I'll need a soundcard and a microphone, too. Are you producing your own music or working with other artists? I've probably worked with about sixty artists this year as a recording engineer, and I've made instrumentals for them all. I'm currently working on an album with five artists that I've met over the last few years that I'm really excited about. We are aiming to release this album in the next few months. How much of your time is spent working alone? Most producers generally spend a lot of time alone, honing their skills. I've spent a lot of time working alone, making instrumentals and mixing and mastering songs. I really enjoy working with artists, but due to the lockdown rules it's been hard to get together. During this time, I've done a few sessions online with artists using applications with screen sharing like Discord or Zoom. Is there anywhere in Birmingham that inspires you creatively? The space I work in inspires me. I am constantly surrounded by great artists that want to work and respect my ideas; that means that I can make music that I like every day. Right now, the outside world isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t too inspiring, so I stress to everyone that they should look within and secure their surroundings. Create a space within which you can be yourself. Learn to be inspired by yourself and aim to be positively observant of your own workflow. All of this will be channelled into and improve the things that you create, which in my case is music.
Moshino Royal (aka Rowan Coleing) works out of MBC studios in Digbeth, Birmingham. Based out of his studio in Birmingham, Ian Davies is a freelance photographer specialising in commercial, portrait and marketing and PR.www.iandaviesphoto.com Cover image shot at www.iandaviesphoto.com/studio in Birmingham. Inner images shot at MBC Studios, Digbeth, Birmingham.
'BRINGING YOU THE MEANING AND THE KNOWLEDGE BEHIND THE MUSIC' FAN PRODUCTION AND THE CONTROL OF MEANING ON GENIUS.COM
Henry Morgan 2 EUSSI 4 LOV
Introduction Speaking at an event for venture capital firm First Round Capital in late 2013, Genius co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Tom Lehman jokingly drew comparisons between his site and The Talmud: 'The Talmud explains the Torah, and that's what Rap Genius does for the whole of the internet.' While presented in the context of typical Silicon Valley irreverence, this comparison nonetheless demonstrates the lofty goals of a website that began as a way to explain the lyrics of Hip-Hop songs and would soon promise to ‘annotate the world’. After a turbulent first few years and a brand relaunch in 2014, Genius has enjoyed accelerated growth following a partnership with Apple as an official lyrics service on the tech giant’s streaming platform Apple Music. Arriving at the front page of the site today, an uninitiated user could be forgiven for mistaking Genius for any other mid-scale music site publishing lyrics, articles, release information, charts and video content. But beneath the surface is an engine powered by fan labour – a massive user-generated database of metadata and lyrical analysis. Genius relies on users not only to transcribe the pop lyrics that generate much of its traffic, but to create extensive annotations on those lyrics, ranging from amusing behind-thescenes facts to insightful conceptual and textual analysis. Some Genius users also include comments and metadata about musical elements and techniques such as sampling, instrumentation and form in annotations; but since the majority of user annotations focus on lyrical meaning and context, this is the type of annotation discussed here.
Itself presented in the form of an annotated text, and supported by insight from several long-standing community members, this article outlines ongoing shifts in the meaning-making power structures that exist on Genius.com. Firstly the function and cultural context of the website will be explained, followed by a discussion of some key regulatory and motivational techniques increasingly employed by the company to guide its community of contributors. A brief profile of an influential, high-level Genius user is then provided, demonstrating the heightened levels of interpretive agency afforded at the top of the site’s hierarchy. The final section shifts slightly in focus, outlining recent changes in the nature of video content published by Genius – developments that suggest a gradual disempowerment of Genius users lower in the site hierarchy as well as a larger shift away from crowdsourced interpretation and toward a privileging of authorial intent. Overall, it is argued that these changing dynamics and developments of meaning-making authority on Genius signify declining support for the audienceorientated knowledge co-production that was previously central to the site, resulting in a recentralisation of epistemic authority. Online Lyrics & Interpretation Founded in 2009 at the tail end of the techno-cultural revolution commonly known as Web 2.0, Genius embodies several core principles associated with this moment in internet history: participatory practice, online community and digital democratisation. In support of these principles the site extensively utilises the iconic Web 2.0 technology of ‘wiki’ style webpages open to direct editing by users (O’Reilly 2005). In essence, Genius represents a combination of Web 2.0 ideals and tech innovation with the online fan culture logics of collective intelligence and expert knowledge in order to enhance another internet phenomenon – music lyric websites. Dai Griffiths has referred to the advent of online lyric archives as a ‘point of no return’ after which 'words in songs left their relatively stable publishing contexts and entered the unpredictable context of internet access and visibility.' (Griffiths 2001: 237). Online lyric transcriptions are audience-derived, frequently differing subtly in content and presentation to officially published versions, reflecting the various different ways in which a song can be heard.
These annotations contain additional information, but in a mirror of Genius itself also include quotations from a number of Genius users interviewed for this project.
Music lyrics have been made available online since at least the 1990s but came to prominence in the mid-2000s during a number of high-profile court cases from copyright holders (Young, 2005).
On Genius this process is taken to another level through its community-based project of annotation, discussion and explanation. The site represents an audience orientated process of collective meaning-making which is not beholden to forces of authorial intent, in which annotators are influential on the way in which users understand the music they listen to. Just as an important function of online lyric transcriptions is to clarify a hardto-hear line in a favourite song, Genius’ user annotations play a role in guiding or clarifying audience interpretation. Folksonomy is a Web 2.0 term describing ‘vast archives that people classify by tagging them with descriptive metadata’ (Santini 2011: 211). These bottom-up systems of collaborative classification have proven to be influential in online music communities, a famous example being the power of Last.fm tags in shaping the identity of music genres and even christening new ones (Trainer 2016: 411). Genius’ archive certainly qualifies as a folksonomy, but its interpretive dimension in particular raises questions regarding the stability and true ‘source’ of song meanings. Genius’ project of crowdsourced annotation might first appear to follow a postmodern perspective that questions the author’s position as sole originator of textual meaning, by offering audiences the opportunity to suggest their own understandings of lyrics. In practice however, users’ acts of interpretation are generally required to fit into a specific model of musical understanding that somewhat privileges authorial intent – a policy made possible by the access to vast amounts of secondary media and other evidence afforded to Genius users by the internet. Rather than asking the audience to suggest what they feel a song means to them, the site could more accurately be characterised as asking users to go and find out what the artist was trying to say, using Google and online music media as well as scouring social media for clues and evidence. Nonetheless, the audiencemediated nature of this process still provides scope for a certain amount of interpretive agency and creativity on the part of Genius users. Artists themselves can also make appearances on the site as users, and since at least 2011 Genius has incorporated lyricists’ own explanations of their music. Musicians approached by the company or those who provide proof of their identity are given accounts as ‘Verified Artists’ and are encouraged to proofread lyric transcriptions, provide information about the history of songs or explain the intended meaning behind their work.
Rather than a personal process between listener and music, on Genius interpretation is collaborative and hierarchical, resulting in popular readings that can become canonised and accepted by the community.
The potential presence of authors in the midst of fans discussing their work is a major selling point of the site to many users, and having an annotation met with a ‘Verified Artist’s approval (referred to as a ‘cosign’) is one of the higher honours a regular Genius user can experience. This form of approval is one of a number of internal mechanisms at work on the site that incentivise users to put effort into their online labour. Community & Hierarchy: IQ As the power and utility of categorisation and recommendation algorithms grows, folksonomic methods are not as popular as they once were. A site like Genius is rather more resistant to algorithmic obsolescence than other folksonomies since human minds still appear to be the best at interpreting artistic meaning in a satisfying fashion (George & Shamir 2014). But online nothing is futureproof, and the company has had to continually evolve in order to keep up with newer digital platforms and forms of participatory media that have appeared in the decade since its birth. Genius has remained true to the mission of explaining song lyrics, but over time the company has developed strategies (outlined below) to maximise user productivity and consistency. However, when these strategies are designed to target broadly defined markers of bad practice (frequently associated with the contributions of less experienced users) they frequently limit the capacity of certain users to make their interpretations heard. This particular problem will be explored in more detail later in this section. The Genius community’s collective identity is defined in this co-construction of metatextual knowledge, offering users the chance to prove themselves as interpreters or bring knowledge of their own to the table. But this rosy image was repeatedly problematised in my research by users who expressed dissatisfaction with a gradual lessening of community support, strict editorial standards and the privileged position occupied by prominent users. These last two complaints closely relate to the company’s methods of regulating site content. In order to maximise user traffic and revenue, Genius needs to keep the quality of the average Genius annotation as high as possible while simultaneously ensuring that users do not become disillusioned with their role as contributors. This balance between professionalism and fun is maintained through a combination of incentivised community initiatives and a strong user hierarchy that focuses on mentoring and strict oversight from experienced users.
‘I won’t lie. I’ve had a couple annotations cosigned by artists I like. That’s fucking cool as shit!’ Tom
Editorial standards mandated by the company are enacted by high-level users who work to train new contributors up and foster a sense of friendly competition. For the most part this arrangement functions well, but such a system inherently runs the risk of reducing diversity in annotation practices and closing down potential meaning, in the ideological pursuit of song interpretations that meet specific editorial standards and remain strictly true to the intent of the author. In the site’s guidelines, Genius identifies its contributors as ‘scholars’ – able to express their relationship with (and understanding of) the music they enjoy for an audience of the like minded. Users can ‘upvote’ and ‘downvote’ annotations, and those in search of community recognition can enter their contributions in weekly annotation competitions. Quality control is the responsibility of a subset of users who are awarded roles with extra permissions, the most populous of whom are called Editors. These users are expected to set an example in their own contributions, while also reviewing regular users’ annotations and keeping an eye out for promising new users to bring into their ranks. Mentor culture in the Genius community is exemplified by ‘Top to Bottom’, a weekly video seminar in which an experienced host leads a surgery focussed on a specific song, discussing each lyric and reviewing all existing user annotations to bring them in line with the site’s standards. A central feature of Genius’ community economy is a pseudo-currency called ‘IQ’. This plays a vital role as an incentive for all contributors, especially as a user’s IQ is displayed prominently next to their username. While far from the be-all and end-all of status on Genius, IQ remains a key signifier of user experience, investment and credibility. Bonus IQ is offered for participation in a number of ongoing community projects, organised under the banner of the ‘Glorious IQ Bonus.’ This program offers additional IQ rewards to Editors on the completion of specific tasks deemed to raise the overall quality of the site. These include simple jobs like annotating newly released music, ensuring that metadata is added to album pages and completing summaries of songs, artists and albums. One job that stands out amongst these is so-called ‘Red Removal’, involving the systematic rejection and removal of unreviewed user annotations.
Several users interviewed for this project believe that the editorial quality and consistency of user submissions has improved over time. Many interpretations are rejected on the basis that they are not meet on-site standards of plausibility or evidence of author intent. Annotations rejected on this basis are marked with the words ‘It’s a Stretch’. Any user with the Editor role is able to edit, delete or tag user contributions with the distinction of ‘Official Genius Annotation’. The Community Manager, (a now notably defunct Staff position on the site) played a key role in recruiting new Editors, as well as hosting this seminar. According to one user, this has resulted in ‘a massive decrease in the number of Editors being made.’
Mainly obtained through contributing content, IQ is also awarded when a user’s work is upvoted by other users, and when the corresponding page attracts a high number of views.
Bonus IQ can also be attained by accepting and providing edits on unreviewed annotations, but the mass removal of annotations by regular contributors are still an attractive way for users in higher roles to quickly boost their account’s standing, and potentially earn more substantive rewards. A large proportion of the site’s annotations remain unreviewed, so while competitive Red Removal is framed as necessary maintenance, one could argue that such incentivised purging of user annotations (frequently on the basis of formatting errors or rule technicalities) constitutes a systematic destruction of knowledge created by users lower in the hierarchy. In the site’s early years Genius annotations were much less strictly moderated, meaning many older annotations (or those from users returning to the site after spending time away) often break the very rules that have become central to Genius’ policy of striving for consistency and (ostensibly) objectivity. Such contributions use a large range of media-forms and engage in open subjectivity. Common examples include animated ‘reaction’ GIFs as well as profanity and pornography. While newer annotations have retained and even expanded upon elements of this multimedia approach in some respects, an annotation consisting simply of an embedded GIF without explanation certainly would not make the cut today. Contemporary annotations vary a great deal in length and depth. Some consist of simple observations about specific references, obscure slang or wordplay while others can contain several paragraphs of information contextualising a line with support from embedded media or quotations from primary sources. Annotations frequently feature hyperlinks to other pages on Genius, and such self-referentiality is encouraged in order to generate an interconnected and self-stabilising web of knowledge that encourages users to remain on-site. Most in-depth annotations are worked on by multiple users and built up in iteration over time. This practice of collaborative, iterative interpretation commonly breaks out on high-profile new releases, as the community races to provide the most insightful contributions. As Marwick has argued, for all the non-hierarchical and communitarian ideals associated with Web 2.0, the marketorientated strategies that accompanied the era’s technological innovations resulted in the emergence of highly competitive, status orientated environments (Marwick, 2013).
‘I’m a three-time winner of this contest where I decided to do nothing but delete or reject annotations for a weeklong period. The winner gets a 30-dollar gift card. This is just an event, like any other initiative.’ Aaron First-hand accounts from interviewed users frame the website’s past as something of a Wild West; a time during which annotations could be significantly more broad, profane and subjective in their content without risking removal. ‘I still get messages pretty regularly from people who ask, “why did you delete my annotation?” and they only summarised the lyric or it was just a picture of a naked lady, and they’ll say, “this is the way it’s always been done.” Well, things have changed in the last couple of years.’ Tom
Systems of ‘self-quantification’ are a recurring feature in such environments, providing individuals with social power in the form of many simple but quickly aggregated numerical markers and codes. Several users contacted for this project were quick to point out that the IQ system does not define their activity on the site. Despite these assertions, the competitive nature of collective annotation and practices like the IQ bonus (coupled with the social capital that comes with a high-IQ account) seem to suggest that there is at least some correlation between IQ and user status and identity. Whether or not this is a deliberate strategy by the site’s owners, Genius’ systems of contribution and interaction encourage and reward a race to the top of the hierarchy and compliance with moderation practices, as well as the site’s author-first ideology of musical interpretation. Community & Hierarchy: High-Level Users Many users who have attained a high level in the community strata take annotation very seriously, taking time and great care to research and compose their interpretations, and frequently specialising in particular genres, artists or music labels. As this section of the article demonstrates, one advantage afforded to these diligent users is a certain level of additional freedom in more subjective or esoteric analysis, which might be less tolerated were it present in the work of a less experienced user or if it were accompanied by markers of editorial bad practice that high level users have learned to avoid. This disproportionate balance of meaning-making power encourages new users to work their way up through community mentoring rather than striking out on their own. Aaron, a user interviewed for this project, is a high-level contributor holding the Editor and Moderator roles with a particular interest in creating high-quality annotations. Aaron’s user homepage on Genius acts partly as a showcase of his achievements on the site: the page’s left side displays more than ten colourful badges – trophies awarded to his annotations in various community competitions. A caption above one badge reads ‘This annotation was featured in the Best Annotations of 2018, the Top Five Annotations of February 2018 and won “Tate of the Week” during Black Panther’s opening weekend.’ Many of these annotations are on the work of Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, of whom Aaron is a big fan.
Likes, shares, views, followers, subscribers etc.
‘I think this was in February 2018, I’ll never forget because it was Black Panther’s opening weekend, so when that movie came out obviously the soundtrack dropped a week before that, everyone was going nuts annotating the lyrics and analysing the songs.’ Aaron
Pinned at the top of the page is an annotation of which he is particularly proud – an analysis of two lines from Lamar’s 2017 song ‘GOD.’ that first explains the nuances of slang and wordplay in the line, before suggesting that the famously religious Lamar is also making a veiled reference to the biblical ‘Tearing of the Temple Curtain’, citing both The Book of Exodus and the Gospel of Matthew to draw links between Lamar’s words and Christian scripture. The annotation then analyses the lyric in its wider musical context, reminding the reader that DAMN. (the album on which the lyric appears) was released on Good Friday, the same day the curtain was supposedly torn . Aaron is often creative in his use of primary sources, but admitted to me he has no ‘hard evidence’ to support his reading: I’ve kind of been looking at is like my doctoral thesis in a way. It’s an intense annotation and if I’m being honest it’s an interpretation of a line that is kind of vague, and it’s entirely possible that my theory on what that lyric means is wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that, but I would say I am about 98% certain that that is what Kendrick is talking about. The subjectivity inherent in Aaron’s interpretation is no more lost on him than the parallels between his relationship with Hip-Hop and the act of decoding scripture as a practicing Christian himself. Indeed, as it lacks a source this interpretation technically fails to stand up to Genius preference for evidencing author intent. Despite this, the annotation has been approved – spared in part due to Aaron’s reputation on the site and particular renown as an expert on Kendrick Lamar. One can only assume that if a new user were to make such a contribution, it would be at considerably greater risk of removal or at least being flagged with Genius Editor’s catch-all tag for unsubstantiated annotations: ‘It’s a Stretch’. Aaron’s status in the community plays a role in his ability to get away with such bending of the rules, but he has only achieved this status by adhering to the site’s standards and generally living up to Genius’ values of competition and overall deference to authorial intent. This indicates that despite the site’s strict community standards, some users are able to harness Genius’ Web 2.0 affordances as ‘technologies of the self’ (Bakardijeva & Gaden 2012), expressing their identity through meticulous curation of personal musical observations and well-researched insight.
“Slide on you like fallen drapes , God toss full of carnivals” Another annotation contains an embedded image of Lamar sporting a T-shirt printed with a bible verse to support his claim that it was referred to in a song: ‘I will obsess over every single word in an annotation and I will go back and re-read it, and work out how it can flow more, and then obsessing over this annotation I discovered the [T-shirt] picture and I realised the connection.’
Dedicated annotators like Aaron are a valuable source of content for Genius, as the site’s reputation for insightful interpretations draws in new users. The aforementioned editorial side of the site frequently features articles breaking down a new song based on community research and insight, spotlighting and praising user interpretations. While having content featured in a Genius Staff article is framed as a privileged reward, it remains a direct and uncompensated monetisation of fan practices by the website. Content hosted on Genius song pages has even made its way into other journalistic platforms in the past, showing that the value and influence of user annotations extends beyond Genius itself. The site has accepted user pitches for more directly authored editorial content in the past, but this practice is dwindling. Despite this, most users welcome any form of additional exposure for their work, especially given that several users I spoke to have serious journalistic aspirations of their own. Video Content and Verified So far, this article has demonstrated the impact of interuser hierarchy and regulatory practices on the freedom of interpretation and meaning making in the Genius community. In contrast, the final section outlines how recent changes in Genius’ online content strategy suggest a significant shift away from community-based interpretation entirely and towards a top-down model that gleans insight straight from the artists themselves. Despite this shift, Genius brand continues to trade on language derived from that community, presenting itself as a site for fans even while tightly controlling and lessening their overall interpretative agency. These changes have also coincided with the aforementioned decline in support for the users, reflected by the dismissal of several community-facing staff members. Rather than simply exposing Genius’ changing priorities as a company, these shifts must be understood in the context of more general trends in online content production. The socalled ‘pivot to video’ made by many digital media platforms in the latter half of the 2010s saw a distinct move away from written content in order to retain audiences who were flocking to YouTube. This raises the question of how such a pivot is achieved when a website is powered by written content generated by users. Rather than attempt to somehow transplant their community culture into short-form video, Genius opted instead to invest in highly branded YouTube-ready content focussing on the voices of artists themselves, rather than those of their audience.
A good example of this is the Pitchfork review of Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s 2018 album Kids See Ghosts, which actually cites a Genius annotation as a source (Greene 2018.)
In 2012 a short series ran on the Genius YouTube channel called Behind the Lines, featuring musicians discussing their lyrics on camera. Despite having the legendary New York rapper and Genius ‘Verified Artist’ Nas among those featured, the series saw little success. In 2017, comparatively late in the industry-wide pivot to video, (and with a significant rebrand) the concept was relaunched under the name Verified to great success. Though it cannot compete with community annotation in terms of quantity, the series is extremely prolific, and in this aspect, the author contends that Verified represents a major change in Genius’ method of attaining its most valuable resource: information about lyrics. Featured artists’ lyric explanations are also incorporated into the existing Genius annotation system. As the name suggests, the Verified series is conceptually tied to the longstanding role of ‘Verified Artist’ on the site. Explanations given in the videos are transcribed by Genius staff and added to the relevant song page on the site, complete with the green highlighting that singles out annotations bearing the verification of the author. As one might imagine, since the resulting annotations are transcribed from each artist’s verbal explanations, they often do not meet the strict standards required of regular users, and frequently break one of Genius’ cardinal rules: to never simply ‘restate the line’ in an annotation. Behind the scenes the community continues to work to build and perfect its vast library of musical metadata, analysis and interpretation, but as Verified continues to see success with a high proportion of new hits getting their own video, the community’s role as real-time interpreters is less important.
Before the series began, users would race to research and interpret new songs by their favourite artists as a community and perhaps even earning a coveted ‘cosign’ from the artist themselves if they happened to visit the site. Now, a significant proportion of popular new tracks are featured on Verified, the lyrics supposedly demystified, and the artist’s comments automatically transcribed as the official Genius annotation.
A key element to the new format is that artists are asked to perform a cappella vocals for the song in question, breaking to discuss the lyrics in between each stanza. While safe territory for rappers, this aspect has proven to be rather more divisive among singing guests, adding an element of rather obviously calculated potential virality when certain artists inevitably themselves (or less frequently, surprise the audience by courageously emerging from the ordeal with their reputation unscathed). To this end (and with an almost admirable level of transparency) the series has increasingly called upon what might charitably be called gimmicky booking choices, hosting a number of viral stars to boost the series’ popularity among a younger audience presumably disinterested in Genius.com itself. As of the writing of this article well over a thousand episodes of Verified have been produced.
Despite the recent decentring of community voices, Genius’ is still careful to maintain the image of a media company defined by musical expertise. In addition to featuring the authoritative tagline ‘bringing you the meaning and the knowledge behind the music’, Genius videos incorporate terminology from the site’s community culture into their musical news segments. In a recent video featuring the teenage creator of a viral dance challenge on TikTok set to ‘Savage’ by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, the host makes specific use of the term ‘cosign’ to describe the artist’s personal participation in the challenge set to her music (Hill & Abad 2020). The video explicitly identifies the Megan Thee Stallion’s personal participation in a fan-made dance challenge set to her song as being akin to the lyric ‘cosign’ of a Verified Artist: a form of author validation that can be earned through audience engagement. In this way Genius content still makes prominent use of language derived from its community culture while continuing to pivot away from its roots as a Web 2.0 platform. Furthermore, by covering contemporary audience-generated cultural practice on the enfant terrible video app TikTok in this way, Genius already appears to be scoping out new sources of fan labour removed from its now rather dated Web 2.0 contributor culture. Conclusion As the dominance of Web 2.0 practices fades in the face of a changing internet landscape, new forms of participatory culture have emerged. Apps like TikTok that thrive on visually orientated mobile internet culture have shown that audiences are as productive as ever, but the close-knit communities and co-construction of knowledge on platforms like Genius are no longer the cutting edge. As a brand Genius has enjoyed great success in its recent strategy; deftly evolving to reflect and harness new developments in online music culture as a whole without losing its identity as a major online source of knowledge and meaning ‘behind the music’. But since that very identity was originally derived from the labour of the site’s increasingly disenfranchised membership, can it be maintained in the era of Verified? Through its waning support for the Genius community, the company sends the message that it needs its users less and less as its business model divests ever further from the insight that results from that community’s labour.
Here, the term ‘cosign’ is taken from its original context of an artist ‘signing off on’ a user’s interpretation of their work and is instead used to as a more general expression of approval of her audience’s creative engagement – engagement that was instrumental in driving the song’s online popularity.
Without dedicated contributors generating a large proportion of its content, it is questionable whether the company will be able to retain its audience and its credibility. In outlining the shifting forms of musical knowledge production surrounding Genius.com, this article demonstrates the site’s responses to changes in the nature of online audience production, visible in both the role of hierarchies and regulatory practices on the site, and the company’s increased foregrounding of artist intent in recent years. As evidenced by the emergence of new platforms hosting subversive forms of audience participation and innovation (Coscarelli 2020), the disempowerment of collective meaning making on Genius does not signal an end to creative, influential audiences, but it would seem to confirm Web 2.0 ideologies of free market inclusivity inexorably lead to the recentralisation of power over officially accepted artistic meaning. Henry Morgan is a doctoral student at Cardiff University School of Music. He completed his MA in Music, Culture and Politics in 2017 with a dissertation exploring the relationship between traditions of net-art and ‘internet music’ subcultures online. Recently he helped to develop carmenabroad.org, a site that follows Bizet’s opera across time and space using interactive maps. He is currently working on a PhD examining discourses of identity and masculinity in internet-mediated electronic music. Henry is also a practitioner, making completely different music to the kind of stuff he tends to write about. firstname.lastname@example.org References Bakardjieva, M and Gaden, G., (2012). Web 2.0: Technologies of the Self. In: Bolin, G. ed., Cultural Technologies, The Shaping of Culture in Media and Society. Routledge. Coscarelli, J. (2020). Why Obsessive K-Pop Fans Are Turning Toward Political Activism. The New York Times, 22 June. Available at<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/arts/music/k-popfans-trump-politics.html>. [Accessed June 2020]. George, J. & Shamir, L. (2014) Computer analysis of similarities between albums in popular music. Pattern Recognition Letters. Vol. 45, pp.78-84. Griffiths, D. (2001) Words to Songs and the Internet: A Comparative Study of Transcriptions of Words to the Song “Midnight Train to Georgia”, Recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1973. Popular Music & Society, vol. 36. iss. 2. pp.234-273. Greene, J. (2018) Kids See Ghosts Review. Pitchfork. 11 June. Available at https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/kanye-west-kid-cudi-kids-see-ghosts/. [Accessed June 2020]. Hill, T. & Abad, R. (2020) Megan Thee Stallion's Savage Challenge Creator on Her Viral TikTok – Song Stories. Genius. 3 April. Available at <https://youtu.be/5jYe1HleqDM>. [Accessed June 2020].
Kehrer, L. (2016) Media Reviews: Genius (Formerly Rap Genius). The Journal of the Society of American Music. vol. 10. iss. 4. pp. 518-520. Marwick, A. E. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Yale University Press.McCurry, J. (2020) How US K-pop fans became a political force to be reckoned with. The Guardian. 24 June. Available at <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jun/24/how-us-k-pop-fans-became-a-politicalforce-to-be-reckoned-with-blm-donald-trump>. [Accessed June 2020]. Morris, J. W. (2014). Artists as Entrepreneurs, Fans as Workers. Popular Music & Society. vol 37. iss. 3. pp. 273-290. Nowak, R. (2014). Understanding Everyday Uses of Music Technologies in the Digital Age. Mediated Youth Cultures: The Internet, Belonging and New Cultural Configurations. ed. Bennett, A. & Robards, B., Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 146-161. O'Reilly, T., 2005. What Is Web 2.0?. Oreilly.com. Available at: <https://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html> [Accessed 10 May 2020]. Santini, R. M. (2011). Collaborative Classification of Popular Music on the Internet and its Social Implications. OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives. vol. 27. iss. 3. pp. 210-247. Trainer, A. (2016). From Hypnagogia To Distroid: Post-Ironic Renderings of Cultural Memory. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality. ed. Whiteley S. & Rambarran S. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2016), p.411. Young, I. (2005) Song sites face legal crackdown. BBC News. Available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4508158.stm>. [Accessed June 2020].
HUMAN/MACHINE / RHYTHM Regan Bowering
2 EUSSI 4 LOV
IMAGE: DREW SPENCER (CC)
Regan Bowering completed her MA in Popular music Research at Goldsmiths University of London in 2020, which followed her Undergraduate studies in Popular Music, also at Goldsmiths, in 2019. Her current research explores the intersections of popular music history, technology and audiovisual culture, with a particular focus on rhythm in relation to aesthetic and affective experience. During her Masters year, Regan was Editor-inChief for the first issue of Sonic Scope â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a new student journal on audiovisual culture and was named runner up for the IASPM Andrew Goodwin Memorial Prize. Prior to studying, she worked for 9 years in music in a variety of roles including event production, programming and event marketing in addition to performing as a drummer and percussionist.
27 Regan Bowering. Goldsmithsâ&#x153;&#x201C; University of London.
HUMAN/ MACHINE/ RHYTHM
1.1 Welcome! Thank you for pUidmsing the Akai MPC60. The Akai engineering team, my engineering team and myself have all worked very hard to bring you a product which we truly believe answers the needs of today's professional musician I am st.u-e that you'll find that the combination of innovative features, high somd quality, ease of use and attention to detail will be very useful in the process of composition, recording and perfonning. It has been said that techology has always had a profomd influence on art. Ifthis is true, I invite you all to take this piece of teclmology and use it to change the direction ofmusic for tomorrow. Now let's begin ..
Figure 1: Roger Linn, AKAIMPC60 Operators Manual (1989)
INTRODUCTION: TURN ON THE MACHINE An intriguing essay prompt, given to us in the final year of my undergraduate degree, challenged us to construct a research essay based on two given terms and one topic of our choosing. Modernism/ Technology/ Machine rhythm set me on a fascinating path via some of the relationships between different technologies, the AKAi MPC for instance, and the shifts in approaches to musical rhythm in styles such as Hip Hop and Techno. Fast forward to a year later, and I'm reading the essay
28 again for the first time. The writing feels rushed and clunky, the ideas are strung together, and the material has very little room to breathe. There was one section in particular which stuck with me when writing the original piece and I remember feeling disappointed that I did not have the space to dig into it further. If only I could take this fragment of the essay – I thought to myself – I could re-visit it from a different angle to see what other ideas could be teased out and what new understandings of the material could emerge. Wouldn’t it be great if I could take the bits I liked from the original essay and create something entirely new?
CUE the imaginary sampler.
One of the key techniques enabled by the design of the AKAI MPC is sampling. Snippets of pre-existing records – such as drum grooves, basslines, recording studio ambience, sonic effects and processing, or even single drum hits – could be fed into the machine. This material could then be looped, layered, juxtaposed with other samples and musical ideas and crafted into a new beat entirely. Drum machines pushed the boundaries of the possibilities of beat making, drumming and composition, forging new temporal, timbral and rhythmic territories. Fragments could be processed, sped up or slowed down, repeated, echoed and reversed in ‘inhuman’ ways, taking the possibilities of rhythm into new sensational directions.
An article by Red Bull Music Academy (Redbullmusicacademy.com, 2016) collated contemporary producer’s approaches to sampling through Digital Audio Workstations – now divorced from the drum machine sampler as a material object. The article serves as evidence for the continuing impact of the technology and the creative processes it is associated with. Using historical and contemporary approaches to sampling as a methodology of sorts, I will re-visit my undergraduate essay, select and extract material as ‘samples’ and snippets of ideas which will be reworked in a new context. In essence, I will remix my old writing in order to refresh my thinking in a cut-up style experiment which will provide a framework to contemplate the changing understandings of the human and the machine, the relationships between the writing process and the (imagined) compositional process of sampling, and to reflect on my experience of revisiting my writing and thinking. Through the juxtaposition, reframing, and synthesis of thoughts from the past with
29 thoughts of the present, I hope to discover fresh perspectives on the material that I missed the first time around.
A note from revision three:
Taking into consideration the feedback which this essay received during the blind peer review process, it felt necessary to include further instructions to myself as an additional layer of material to input into the imaginary sampler. This will allow me to reflect on each stage of the process as it is happening, therefore bringing the processes of editing, re-writing and re-thinking material to the forefront of the piece. What began as a two-step process has become a three-step process as I approach the work again for the third time, re-working what was already re-worked, developing my ideas in relation to the thoughts of others, and therefore staying true to the fragmented and collaborative nature of the sampling methodology I have already outlined.
PART ONE: INPUT SOURCE MATERIAL
INPUT SOURCE MATERIAL:
MY OLD ESSAY A re-worked sample from my Undergraduate essay (2019)
Rhythm machines The arrival of drum machines in the second half of the 20th century made possible new ways of feeling and constructing rhythm in popular music. The Chamberlin Rhythmate (1949) was one of the first, but it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t until the late 1970s that drum machines were developed for mass consumption. These machines, and the music they produced, often received criticism for their rhythmic rigidity which was seen as a threat to the more human, natural rhythmic feel of the drummer and the drum set. The LM-1 (1978), designed by Roger Linn, was one of the first machines to incorporate samples of real recorded drums as opposed the synthetic factory
30 sounds of the earlier machines. Furthermore, musicians could self-program their beats rather than rely on pre-set rhythms. This novel design feature allowed for a more ‘human’ feel which previous designs had lacked. The Roland TR- 808 and TR909 and the Oberheim DMX echoed similar developments, but the 1988 Roger Linn designed AKAI MPC60 will be my focus here, particularly in relation to beat making in Hip Hop.
Fig 2. AKAI MPC60
The AKAI MPC’s unique velocity and pressure sensitive pads were arranged on the interface in a square of four rows of four (See fig 2. AKAI MPC60), which differed from the linear, step sequence lay out of earlier machines. The ‘shuffle’ function was a pre-programmed feature first available on the Linn LM-1, followed by the MPC60, that allowed the user to add a swung feel to their drum patterns. This small modification had a monumental impact on popular music, especially since the 1980s. The duration of a sequence, note length, and the amount of swing that could be applied were all determined to some extent by the machine’s settings and programming, which potentially limited the possibilities for the production of beats. However, the addition of the swing function and the objects ‘playable’ design allowed beats to have a more ‘human’ feel that had been lacking in previous machines. The AKAI MPC’s more intuitive user interface helped to increase the fluidity of the user’s workflow. In particular, the addition of touch sensitive pads enabled producers
31 to physically engage with machine when programming beats in a more embodied and performative way. The tactile nature of this experience was more akin to the act of drumming as it made possible a more dynamic approach to groove production. Further to this, producers could sample pre-existing musical material which expanded the possible limits of rhythmic structure, sound, tempo and groove. A snippet of a bassline could form the basis of a completely new track or a single snare hit could be dissected from the original groove and looped to create an entirely new structure. Music of the past could be brought into close contact with ideas of the present; rhythmic ideas could sonically enmesh and interact in novel ways. The production of a groove could now be achieved through an assemblage that fused the sounds and techniques of the machine with the feel and nuance of human performance and recorded acoustic timbres.
Instruction number one:
Now, select two snippets from step one. Put snippet one to the side and save
for later. Take snippet two and dig in a little more.
SAVE SNIPPET ONE. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;A snippet of a bassline could form the basis of a completely new track, or, a single snare hit could be dissected from the original groove and looped to create an entirely new structure. Music of the past could be brought into close contact with ideas of the present; rhythmic ideas could sonically enmesh and interact in novel ways.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; (Bowering, 2019).
INPUT SNIPPET TWO. ‘The production of a groove could now be achieved through an assemblage that fused the sounds and techniques of the machine with the feel and nuance of human performance and recorded acoustic timbres.’ (Bowering, 2019).
To refer to my more recent work conducted during my Masters dissertation (2020), understandings of the human and technology in the latter decades of the 20th Century and into the 21st gravitated toward ideas which saw the human body and technology to be less distinct from each other. Prior to this, the understandings of the human and its ‘other’ (machines, people who did not fit within the white Western categorisations) were determined by humanist thought, categorised through the understanding that their characteristics were biologically determined and that inherent attributes separated each from the other. Discourses which challenged these earlier ideas of the human became more prominent in the mid 20th Century with thinkers including Foucault, who saw that gender, race and sexuality were a product of the wider structures of power, imposed on the subject by external cultural and ideological forces.
The relationships between the human and technology were re-thought in new ways at a similar moment, for instance McLuhan’s (1964) conception of media and Technology as an ‘extension of man.’ Furthermore, as I mentioned in snippet two, assemblage theory, which originated with Deleuze and Guattari (1980) positioned the human body in a more porous and intertwined relation with technology, wider socio-political systems and dynamics of power. When applied to music, including my example of J Dilla’s engagement with the drum machine, the framework of assemblage allows for an understanding of the relationship between the human body and the machine as more fluid and not limited to the physical interactions, but the ideas, techniques and processes used.
33 Instruction number three:
Return to original source material.
PART TWO: OPERATORS MANUAL
Fig 3 and 4. AKAI MPC60
The machine made human: Busta Rhymes & J Dilla ‘Still Shining’
For Hip Hop producers in the 1990s and 2000s in particular, the rhythmic feel or ‘bounce’ of a beat was integral to the overall aesthetic and was often an important articulation of the producers’ individual voice. J Dilla is a particularly important example of the ways in which producers explored what some have called the ‘humanising’ of the machine in music production. Using the AKAI MPC3000, a later version of the MPC, he developed innovative techniques that emphasised and exploited the machine’s functionality, including the shuffle function, or the ‘MPC swing.’ He combined this function of the machine with his own rhythmic feel using the touch pads and sampling processes such as ‘micro-chopping’ to create beats. In the Pharcyde’s ‘Drop’ (1995), he incorporated a Beastie Boys sample which was subtly weaved into the main structure of the groove. Through the creative exploration
34 of the machine, including its potential limitations, J Dilla added new rhythmic vitality to machine-created drumbeats. The instrumental for ‘Still Shining’ (1996) demonstrates the boundaries between the human and the machine becoming increasingly blurred through rhythmic ideas and techniques. J Dilla avoids the 4-bar looping feature in order to play through the entire track. The result is fluid and propulsive and the beat constantly plays with flow and motion, but then diverges or holds back. This approach opens up voids within the beat, creating and shaping space for Busta Rhymes, and then playfully stealing it away. J Dilla used the MPC’s physical playability, sampling capabilities and shuffle function to create a fluid relationship between the human and the machine, which contributed to the overall production of the groove. Here, the MPC becomes another participator in the generation of groove within the human-technological ensemble.
Instruction number four: Now, select one more snippet and save it for later.
SAVE SNIPPET THREE. ‘In tracks such as Busta Rhymes’ ‘Still Shining’ (1996), he avoided the 4-bar looping feature in order to play through the entire track. The result is fluid and propulsive, and the beat constantly plays with flow and motion, but then diverges or holds back. This style opens up voids within the beat, creating and shaping space for Busta Rhymes, and then playfully stealing it away.’ (Bowering, 2019).
In the musical context described above, prior to snippet three, the technical features (and limitations) of the drum machine were embraced by Dilla, creating a particularly dynamic interaction between the human ‘bounce’ and the technological limitations of feel, resulting in novel rhythmic results. In the context of my current experiment, how could I transfer a similar approach to my written work, exploring the
35 relationship between the human body, rhythm and the machine? Technological objects are shaped by how we use them and how others have used them in the past as Sara Ahmed (2019) explains, ‘We learn about something by considering how it is being used, has been used, or can be used. But what seems to point to the future (can be used) can just as easily refer back to the past (has been used). And what has been used in the past can just as easily point us toward the future; if use records where we have been, use can also direct us along certain paths.’ (Ahmed, 2019, 2223).
Fast forward to 2020 and many of the compositional methods related to the MPC, including the production techniques developed by J Dilla, have continued to inspired composers, drummers, producers and rappers across the globe. The ‘Dilla feel’ continues to be an influential rhythmic technique which articulates Dilla’s rhythmic feel, production techniques, or the drum machine’s functions in a variety of musical contexts. In an article by Red Bull Music Academy, producer Daedelus explained the influence of sampling techniques on his own process: ‘I like to treat everything in my songs like a sample,’ even though he no longer samples from vinyl and works using DAWs. He continues, ‘I really like touching audio and I feel like that is when a DAW operates best, when you are intimately interacting with a sound source. That’s one of the powers of sampling; that at any moment you can start to make twists and turns to the actual audio.’ (Daedelus in RBMA, 2016). In this case, the processes of sampling developed by producers such as J Dilla through technologies like the AKAI MPC are taken and reworked within the context of new, digital software and technologies. Considering these past uses of the machine, and the processes of sampling developed by different producers at different historical moments, I could attempt to apply these ideas and processes to my writing by re-writing the text as if I was producing a musical track, following the guidelines snippet one described:
REPEAT SNIPPET ONE. ‘A snippet of a bassline could form the basis of a completely new track, or, a single snare hit could be dissected from the original groove, to be looped and repeated to create an entirely new structure. Music of the past could be brought into close contact with ideas of the present and these rhythmic ideas could sonically enmesh and interact in novel ways.’ (Bowering, 2019).
What if words were treated like snare hits, basslines and kick drums, and snippets of sentences became rhythmic cells to be repeated or transformed into rhythmic patterns and musical narratives? What would emerge if I approached the text with the sampling process in mind, imagining the sounds and rhythms of the track as well as the sensory engagement between my body and the drum machine? In a similar way, McLuhan speculated the relationship between the human body and the technology of the television as one of ‘sensuous participation’ due to it being ‘profoundly kinetic and tactile.’ (McLuhan, 1964, 345, 456). More directly related to rhythm in music, Kodwo Eshun (1998) described the electronification of rhythm as sensory expansion. To quote from my recent MA dissertation, ‘Tempos and note values could be pushed to new extremes through drum machines and the rhythmic use of synthesisers. Kodwo Eshun describes the ‘humanly impossible’ time of the automatization of rhythm, as ‘rhythmatics’ which ‘opens up the posthuman multiplication of rhythm: the rhythm synthesizer’s spastic pulses seize the body, rewiring the sensorium in a kinaesthetic of shockcuts and stutters, a voluptuous epilepsy.’ (Eshun, 1998, 79, cited in Bowering, 2020, 28).
With these ideas in mind, for the final section I will create a short piece of writing constructed using a fragment from my old essay (see snippet three), in combination with the snippets of ideas I have explored thus far. This will result in an imaginary, sensory engagement with a technological object from the past as an experimental method for re-envisioning my old work.
INPUT SNIPPET THREE. ‘In tracks such as Busta Rhymes’ ‘Still Shining’ (1996), he avoided the 4-bar looping feature in order to play through the entire track. The result is fluid and propulsive, and the beat constantly plays with flow and motion, but then diverges or holds back. This style opens up voids within the beat, creating and shaping space for Busta Rhymes, and then playfully stealing it away.’ (Bowering, 2019).
“====== PLAY/ RECORD (RECORD READY) ======”
I’m at the MPC, the machines’ boxy, gloomy exterior staring blankly through me. “====== PLAY ======” The kick drum weaves around the shimmer of the hihat, fluid meets propulsive. It navigates the lower frequencies with a nimble bounce, circling, almost teasing Busta Rhyme’s lyrical flow. The rhythmic tension draws me in. Now we’re in motion, in motion, in forward, propulsive motion, but heavy, pulling me backward as I lean into the groove. My left-hand hovers, awaiting the twitch of my index finger which triggers the almighty THWACK of the snare, chased by the thumb of my right hand - Thu-thu-thud. My lean becomes a nod. I’m moving closer, hunched over and dancing, thinking, feeling with the machine. Busta’s diverging, his deep inhales of air leave momentary voids – ‘just a moment, let me take a breather’ “====== PAUSE ======” “======= RECORD ======” ‘RRROAW ROAW ROAW’ …Thu-thud-thud-thud…Playfully chasing…Thu-thudthud. ‘Till my dragon baby stop whining, I see my influence still shining.’ Thu-thudthud-thud. Thu-thud-thud-thud. ‘RRROAW ROAW ROAW’…. And then he withdraws his words, playfully stealing them away. “====== STOP ======”
38 “====== REWIND ======”
Instruction number five:
Sample and repeat.
“====== PLAY/ RECORD (RECORD READY) ======”
I’m at my laptop, closing my eyes and placing my fingers on the keys picturing the MPC’s boxy, gloomy exterior. Eyes open, meeting the screen in its illuminated immediacy. Open documents containing work in progress sit beside sticky notes which plan for the future, both of which are framed by my desktop image of a woman’s face inside a 1960s Television set…
Figure 5. Screenshot of my Laptop.
“====== PLAY ======” The kick drum weaves around the shimmer of the hi-hat, fluid meets propulsive. The tension draws me in. It navigates the lower frequencies (the lower frequency hum of the laptop’s inner mechanisms) with a nimble bounce (on the space bar), circling, almost teasing (Regan Bowering’s) Busta Rhyme’s lyrical (typing) flow. Now we’re in motion, in motion, in forward, propulsive motion, but weighted down (by my inbox), pulled back, leaning into the groove (of the sentence). My left-hand hovers (over the left hand side of the laptop keys), awaiting the twitch of my index finger to trigger the almighty THWACK of the snare (of the exclamation mark on beat one), chased by the thumb of my right hand - Thu-thu-thud (on the space bar). My lean becomes a nod, closer and hunched over (piecing together the fragments of a broken conversation – “Your connection is unstable”), and now I’m moving, thinking, feeling (the heat radiate from my overworked software, the clitter clatter of the keys, the smoothness of the metallic-covered casing) with the machine. Busta’s diverging, his deep inhales leave momentary voids – ‘just a moment, let me take a breather’ –
“====== STOP ======”
By taking the process of sampling, which I explored through the AKAIMPC60 drum machine-sampler, I have attempted to sample and remix my old essay. The purpose of this experiment was to see what would emerge from a creative self-conscious and self-reflective approach to revising my academic work. This method gave me the freedom to bounce off my own ideas or to look at them from a new perspective. The similarities between the writing and re-writing process and the processes involved in sample-based composition may seem abstract, but during this process I found numerous connections between my approach to writing and music production/ composition. By conducting the experiment through the drum machine as a
40 technological object, I was able to incorporate ideas and processes associated with the object and its uses, opening up a conversation between my present work, my past work and the past work of others across the practices of production and writing. In this sense, the collaborative nature of sampling became an important thread through its widening of the discussion between objects, creative practices, academic and non-academic writing and historical periods. McLuhan’s idea of the machine as an extension of the human body allowed me to think of the drum machine in relation to sensory experience and imagination. This became a jumping-off point for the final experiment where I combined the musical processes, writing processes, and technical processes in a sort of stream-ofconsciousness exploration. In the last section I repeated this process again and shifted my awareness back to my more immediate present – the laptop I was sitting at to write the essay. At this point, the two objects become intertwined, converging as a stream of processes, material qualities, and musical elements as I experienced them, thus highlighting the multiple temporalities, histories, uses and techniques which intersect as we experience material objects in an increasingly technologised world. REFERENCES
Ahmed, S. (2019). What’s the use? Duke University Press. Anon. (2015). ‘Roger Linn on Swing, Groove & The Magic of The MPC's Timing Page 2 of 3’. Attack Magazine. Available at: https://www.attackmagazine.com/features/interview/roger-linn-swing-groove-magicmpc-timing/2/ [Accessed January 13, 2019]. Avanti, P. (2013). ‘Black Musics, Technology, and Modernity: Exhibit A, the Drum Kit.’ Popular Music and Society, 36(4), 476-504. Bowering, R. (2019). ‘Technology/ Modernism/ Machine Rhythm.’ For the module Music and Modernities, Goldsmiths, University of London. Bowering, R. (2020). ‘Machine Pleasures: Rhythm and the Affective Experience of 20th Century Technological Change.’ Masters Dissertation, Goldsmiths University of London (unpublished).
41 Chude-Sokei, L.O. (2016). The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1 – 40.
Dinerstein, J. (2003). Swinging the machine: Modernity, technology, and African American culture between the World Wars. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Eshun, K. (1998). More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. Quartet Books. London. Gearslutz.com. (2019). ‘DJ Premier on using the swing function.’ Gearslutz. Available at: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/rap-hip-hop-engineering-andproduction/799726-dj-premier-using-swing-function.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019]. Greene, Paul D, and Thomas. Porcello. (2005). Wired for Sound: Engineering and Technologies in Sonic Cultures. Middletown, Conn. Wesleyan University Press. Henriques, J., Tiainen, M. and Väliaho, P. (2014). Rhythm Returns: Movement and Cultural Theory. Body & Society, 20(3-4), pp.3-29. Jackson, G. (2016). ‘Modern Approaches: Sampling,’ Red Bull Music Academy, Available at: https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2016/07/modern-approachessampling/ Accessed 7 July 2020]. Marshall, Jonathan. W. (2015). ‘Staging Critical History Within the Space of the Beat, or What Cultural Historians Can Learn From Public Enemy, NTM, MC Solaar & George Clinton,’ Medianz, Vol 15(1). Metafilter.com. (2019). ‘Funky Finger Drummer,’ Metafilter, Available at: https://www.metafilter.com/107324/Funky-Finger-Drummer [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019]. McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The extensions of Man. McGraw-Hill Education. London. Monson, Ingrid. (1999). ‘Riffs, Repetition, and Theories of Globalization,’ Ethnomusicology, University of Illinois Press, Vol. 43(1), 31-65. Perchard, T. (2011). ‘Hip Hop Samples Jazz: Dynamics of Cultural Memory and Musical Tradition in the African American 1990s,’ American Music, 29(3), 277-307. Potter, R. (1995). Spectacular vernaculars: Hip-hop and the politics of postmodernism (The SUNY series in postmodern culture). Albany: State University of New York Press. Ramsey, G. P (2003). Race music: Black cultures from bebop to hip-hop. University of California press.
42 Rose, T. (1994). Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, Conn: Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press; Published by University Press of New England. Scott Walker, L. (2017). ‘Instrumental Instruments: MPC60,’ Red Bull Music Academy. Available at: http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/11/mpcinstrumental-instruments [Accessed January 14, 2019]. Schloss, J. (2014) Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop. Wesleyan University Press, 150 – 164. Stewart, A. (2000). ‘'Funky Drummer': New Orleans, James Brown and the Rhythmic Transformation of American Popular Music,’ Popular Music, 19(3), 293-318. Swiboda, M. (2014). ‘When Beats Meet Critique: Documenting Hip-Hop Sampling as Critical Practice,’ Critical Studies in Improvisation - Etudes Critiques En Improvisation, 10(1), 1-11. Trask, S. (2019). ‘Akai MPC60 (MT Apr 88),’ Muzines. Available at: http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/akai-mpc60/1079 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019]. Vintagesynth.com. (2019). Akai MPC60 | Vintage Synth Explorer. Available at: http://www.vintagesynth.com/akai/mpc60.php [Accessed 13 Jan. 2019]. Vintagesynth.com. (2019). Chamberlin Rhythmate | Vintage Synth Explorer. Available at: http://www.vintagesynth.com/misc/chamberlinrhythmate.php [Accessed 8 Jan. 2019]. Weheliye, A. (2005). Phonographies grooves in sonic Afro-modernity. Durham: Duke University Press. Wilson, S. (2016). ‘The 14 Drum Machines That Shaped Modern Music,’ FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. Available at: https://www.factmag.com/2016/09/22/the-14-drum-machines-that-shaped-modernmusic/ [Accessed January 5, 2019].
Videography Akai MPC Software Tutorial - "MPC SWING" drum programming (J Dilla style request) (2013) YouTube video, added by Wolf D [online]. Available at: https://youtu.be/YkVtN_84qys [Accessed January 12, 2019].
Busta Rhymes - Still Shining (HQ) (2011) YouTube video, added by BlOOdYGueriLLA [online]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnWIGskWx68. [Accessed 14. Jan. 2019].
43 The Pharcyde - Drop (Official Music Video) (2017) YouTube video, added by PharcydeVEVO [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqVsfGQ_1SU [Accessed 11 Jan. 2019]. Images Figure 1. Linn, R. (1989). AKAI MPC60 Operators Manual. Figure 3 and 4. Vintagesynth.com. (2019). Akai MPC60 | Vintage Synth Explorer. Available at: http://www.vintagesynth.com/akai/mpc60.php [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019]. Figure 5. Bowering, R. (2020). Screenshot of my laptop screen.
SIGNS AND SCENES ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC COMPOSITION AND MEANING
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As a composer, my work is focussed on exploring the communication of meaning and music through a multimedia approach to text. This article will discuss this approach to composition, in which sound, words, image and the concert experience all contribute to the communication of a central meaning. Through examining two of my works, S:NP-VP-NP (and its companion piece words), and At Mii-Dera, it will touch on ideas of the score and live realisations as independent objects, and a structural compositional approach that runs through each layer of a work, from electronics to performance.
Scores and Signs As someone who is interested in the interplay of music and words, the area of music semiotics holds a fascination for me both as a lens through which to examine the communication of meaning and an architecture and stimulus for composition . Semiotics is the study of signs and their interpretation, generally associated with linguistics, and how we associate words or sounds with their real-world objects. Music semiotics, then, is a musicological approach that treats music as a system of signs which references both the internal and external , whether this be the meaning of a theme within a piece, or a particular motif as a symbol of love or death. Generally, semiotic approaches revolve around the work of linguists such as Ferdinand Saussure, Algirdas Julien Greimas and Charles Sanders Peirce via musicologists and philosophers such as Eero Tarasti, Raymond Monelle, and Morag Josephine Grant  (who argues convincingly for an approach that divorces semiotics and linguistics in experimental music). Thinking of music this way also poses a number of questions with both aesthetic and theoretical implications, which through examination can reveal different ways of considering the communication of meaning through music. Consider: a score consists of signs that communicate an idea to a performer, a performance consists of aural gestures which communicate something to the listener, a listener feels an emotional or physical response which may manifest in physical expression. Or question: when does a sequence of notes signify only something in reference to the piece of which it is part, and when something outside itself? Is the music itself the message, or its medium (in linguistic terms, is it ‘parole’ or ‘langue’)? These questions manifest in a number of dialectical pairings, as fundamental to musical analysis as that of tension ↔ release: signifier ↔ signified, architectonic ↔ processual, emergent ↔ formal. One of the most stimulating of these is that of the musical text (score) or act (performance) – or in Tarasti’s terminology, enunciate and enunciation. In other words, when we are looking for musical messages, in which should we be looking? The further we explore these paths of signification, the more it challenges the accuracy of the model we have held of musical communication:
Thus, music semiotics also touches on the areas of ontology, phenomenology, artistic intentionality and liveness in a way that is rich with artistic potential. My work with music and text explores how we use music to communicate the meanings of texts through finding deeper structural, symbolic connections between them: as well as a means of analysis, semiotics can give a structural framework for the creation of music that communicates textual meaning. Music which exists instead somewhere in this tangled web:
Perhaps philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson best articulated it when writing about the phenomenology of music : “what a composer creates is only the beginning, not the end…a music ‘work’ is something that takes shape over time”.
A Puzzle to be Solved All that said, the connection between linguistics and music in my work for harpsichord and live electronics S:NP-VP-NP (commissioned and performed by Dublin Sound Lab for Music Current Festival 2018) is a literal one; it uses the highly logical analytical methods of linguistics as a structural basis for an exploration of nonsense. Rather than searching for and expressing the meaning of a single text, it uses cryptic crossword puzzles  to explore the interplay between words, music, meaning and play. The meaning exists in the act of realization, in the solving of the puzzle.
Musical puzzles are not a new phenomenon – some best-known examples are probably J.S. Bach’s puzzle canon, or the instructions of Josquin des Prez’s Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales (1502), though my personal favourites are those of the late 14th-century ‘eye music’ , in which scores are highly visual, but in which these visual elements are not apparent to the listener. These works are fascinating because they are a kind of six-century presage of multimedia thinking, where visual and textual elements are found at every level of a work. Baude Cordier’s (c1380-1440) Tout par compas suy composés (‘With a compass I was composed’) is a kind of eternal circular canon, with the notation printed in the central circle, and texts in the surrounding smaller circles – one of which also includes the instructions for realising it.
Baude Cordier: Belle, Bonne, Sage (left), and Tout par compas suy composés (right)
Also found in the same collection, the Chantilly Manuscript, is Belle, Bonne, Sage (‘Beautiful, Good, Wise’), in the shape of a heart, with the additions of red notes and even a heart in place of the word in the text. These pieces are not only beautiful both to hear and see, but contain a sort of gorgeous levity, a touch of brightness and joy in the act both of composition and performance. S:NP-VP-NP too is a puzzle that must be solved to be performed; and like Cordier, attempts to introduce a little levity through the contrast between the seriousness of its musical content, and the nonsense of its textual content. The piece as a whole is based on the adaptation and application of a number of simple principles from various threads in the study of linguistics, such as Saussure’s langue/parole division of language into the abstract system of rules and their actual use in context respectively. While the harpsichord represents the langue, or the mechanical system of this musical language, the electronics, representing parole, provide context and additional interpretive expression through the creation of artificial spaces and effects in response to the cryptic clues and their answers. The score itself consists of musical cells analogous to phonemes and their allophones  (versions of the same cell with minor, ‘impertinent’ changes, i.e. changes in sound which do not alter meaning ). The analysis of the clues via constituency-based parse trees, breaking them down into nouns, articles, adjectives etc, forms the work’s structure – hence the title, short for Sentence=Noun phrase – Verb phrase – Noun phrase. The performer (in this case, harpsichordist) selects cells that correspond to these grammatical elements to slot into this structure.
Extract of score with example realisation The electronics also reflect this approach of modular deconstruction and reconstruction, consisting of a system of modular processes/elements which can be moved or reordered, creating from the basic grammatical cells, different sounds and moods. Thus the two performers work together to create a ‘solution’.
Screenshot of Max MSP patch for live electronics In performance, the audience was also given copies of the cryptic clues, however their experience is necessarily only of the answers as they were solved by the performers. True, the audience at each performance should in theory hear a different answer (not at all how cryptic crosswords work in practice of course!), but the question remains, how are they to know what they have heard is a puzzle at all? What difference does it make to an audience member how the piece was derived? The question was put well by Katelijen Schiltz : “as soon as a riddle is sung, it is no longer a riddle...the sung version of a musical enigma is a paradox par excellence: it is and is not (or no longer is) a riddle”. Perhaps this means that S:NP-VP-NP also counts as eye music. A consideration of this question led to the creation of a companion piece (created for Kirkos Ensemble’s FluxFest 2016 alongside an actual crossword based on Fluxus-related words), based on more cryptic crosswords. Rather than featuring complicated strict musical instructions, words is simply a set of cards, with the clue on one side and the answer on the back. They can be anything, used any way: Kirkos Ensemble have already performed it in a number of ways – as randomly selected text scores for a small ensemble piece, or, memorably, as the basis for a game of charades, with audience members acting out either side of a card, and the players responding musically. In contrast with S:NP-VP-NP, with words, clue or answer, puzzle or not, it really doesn’t matter. You, now, are also performing it, by answering, or even just thinking about the clues featured throughout this article. Maybe you’ll even respond out loud, your own private realisation.
Hypnogogia and Structural Ambiguity Similar semiotic processes for analysis and composition can be applied in less strict ways where the connection is not solely linguistic. Instead, a similar application of the study of signs and signification can serve the needs of atmosphere, impression and the senses above those of structure. Such is the case with the Japanese tradition of Noh, an artform of atmosphere and the sensory. Noh is a form of total theatre, with chant (performed by a primary actor, a secondary actor and a chorus), movement, music (consisting of three drums and a flute) and costume. It is extreme in its austereness, mannered in its ritual, and beautiful in its severity. The experience of Noh is one of a kind of “somatic arrest” ; the slow, steady solemnity leads the audience into a kind of hypnagogia – indeed it is common even to sleep during a performance. It is characterised by a unique type of hypnotic stillness, emphasised by the steady ritual of its pace. Even the movements of the main actor betray a kind of planar staticness, as throughout even an extended dance, the performer’s centre of gravity follows an utterly straight line, devoid of vertical movement . Rather than drama and fast action, Noh is a collection of exquisitely constructed scenes, of frozen moods. Jan Kott  described it as nature “floating; a movement stilled in its final gesture”. To create this single stilled gesture, Noh has its own language of signs, a unique system of symbolic musical, visual and movement gestures, using a ‘vocabulary’ and ‘grammar’ that was ritualised and then frozen in time hundreds of years ago. This is most obvious in the 型 付 – katatsuke, the movement patterns: the dance of Noh is comprised of the combination of these individual katatsuke, each a defined and named gesture. For example, perhaps the most wellknown of these is ‘shiori’, a gesture where the hand, slightly cupped as if catching tears, is held in front of the masked face, which is tilted slightly downwards. This gesture indicates crying; performed with two hands it is called ‘morojiori’ and expresses profound grief.
This approach is typical of each element of the whole – voice, drums, flute, or dance, each is composed of similar cells, whether motive, melodic or rhythmic. These cells exist independent of context of particular play, retaining their meaning regardless; the meaning of a particular play is found in how the cells are combined, aligning with each other according to a strict set of grammatical rules, ultimately in service of expressing the underlying message of the text. The presence of such rich symbolic language, as well as a natural system of signs, means Noh naturally lends itself to a semiotic approach to analysis – and thus to a semiotic approach to the composition of Noh-based music.
At Mii-dera live. Performed by Máire Carroll 2017. Commissioned by Kirkos Ensemble. At Mii-dera, my work for piano and live electronics based on a scene from the play 三井寺 – Miidera Temple, recreates one of these ‘frozen’ scenes. At an Autumn moon-viewing festival at Mii-dera Temple (where women are forbidden), a mother, driven mad by the loss of her son who has gone missing, appears. She climbs the bell tower and begins tolling the bell, telling poems of the bell and the moon, associated with Buddhist teachings. At the heart of the scene is a play on words: 撞く – ‘tsuku’ meaning to toll a bell, and ⽉ – ‘tsuki’, the moon. The madwoman’s ranting is full of imagery of beautiful contrasts, of the moon first hidden by clouds then illuminates the world with its pure light. It is also full of pathos, the wisdom of madness. This piece interprets the scene by using a structure of cells with symbolic and visual meaning. The electronics, consisting of gong and bell sounds, represent the moon, while the piano – which also borrows some of the tonal and rhythmic gestures of Noh – takes on the roles of clouds, trees or birds, which occasionally obscure our view. Sometimes the clouds rumble across and block it entirely from view, sometimes it is just flitting birds creating a kind of harmony. We as audience members are the participants in this moon-viewing party, while the grieving woman describes through sound the effects of light and shade as she tries to ‘wake from ambivalence’.
The scene is a beautiful example of ‘aimai’, a kind of ambiguity, vagueness  – specifically, 朧⽉ – ‘oborotsuki’, a phrase that is used to describe the kind of haziness of a moon behind cloud . Behind the woman’s apparent madness is her clear and pointed desire to find her son; she rings the bell so all things can be made illuminated. It is this sense of aimai that At Mii-Dera attempts to recreate. Unlike the Noh itself – and indeed S:NP-VP-NP – which is an image painted from many fine details, At Mii-Dera recreates this scene in broader strokes. There may be musical motifs which represent its elements (see the score below for sections corresponding to birds, trees, clouds), but these are in the form of gestures rather than the granularity of Noh’s ‘kata’-like cell structure. There is also an element of freedom, even of randomness, in its performance that does not exist in Noh. The bell sounds of the electronics are triggered by the pianist, but the actual sample that will play is randomised, meaning the bell or gong that will sound could be any pitch and any length, and requiring a certain degree of reactivity from the pianist.
More than this, all aspects of the score, whether scored notes, images or text, are open to being interpreted aurally, in any order the performer feels. Sections can even be omitted entirely; the score itself is a part of a realisation of the ‘piece’, it is an active visual component of the scene of At Mii-dera. Any given performance is just one of any number of possible iterations of a musical work; the ‘score’ represents yet another of these possibilities. It is more than just a guide for the creation of sounds in a live setting with a musician, it is a kind of textual performance that exists frozen in time, awaiting the collaboration that is a live interpretation. Thus, it is a constant work, “taking shape over time”.
Conclusion As can be seen from the two examples above demonstrate a ‘multimedia’ approach to composing with text, using musical semiotics as a theoretical frameworks for the layering of meaning throughout a work, from the first written note, to the production of a score artefact, to the performance and the engagement of the audience in that realisation. In S:NP-VP-NP, applying the rules of linguistic semiotics allowed the exploration of meaning through structure that would be otherwise impossible in the nonsense a strict framework for the exploration of a fundamentally nonsensical text – albeit one that had an ‘answer’. In At Mii-dera, the semiotic approach has been applied in a more free-hand way to understand both the musical and visual elements of Japanese Noh theatre, and the results applied to new material to recreate a ‘frozen’ scene from a play. As we have examined above, this framework allows us to create works in which score and performance (‘enunciate’ and ‘enunciation’) both carry communicative weight, and examine the question of where in music can we situate meaning – or in other words, create works that allow meaning to take shape over time.
Endnotes 1. The following is significantly indebted to the work of Eero Tarasti (especially Tarasti (2002)), and Raymond Monelle (especially Monelle (1992)). 2. My definition. 3. Grant (2003) 4. Tarasti (2002) 5. Based on Roman Jakobson’s functions of language communication model. 6. Gracyk/Kania (2011) 7. Created by collaborator Jamie McHugh. 8. “Musical notation with a symbolic meaning that is apparent to the eye but not to the ear”, Dart (2001). 9. Somewhat analogous to Philip Tagg’s definition of the ‘museme’ (Tagg (2012)), however that term usually refers to a minimal unit of musical meaning, akin to a linguistic morpheme, and therefore an order smaller than these. 10. In this case, these ‘impertinent changes’ can include small pitch changes such as a flattened/sharped note, or a changed articulation that does not fundamentally alter the gesture. The final arbiter of what constitutes a pertinent or impertinent change is the performer, according to their own realisation – indeed, this can be considered them performing in their own ‘accent’. 11. Schiltz (2015) 12. Kott (1974) 13. See the extraordinary diagrams of dancers’ movement in Yamanaka (2015). 14. Rather ironically, Japanese has a huge array of words that are used to define the exact type of vagueness being discussed. 15. Kott (1974)
Anna Murray is a musician and mixed media composer whose work explores language and textbased composition, graphic scoring and collaboration. From Ireland and living in Tokyo, she is a Japanese Government MEXT Research Scholar and a student at Tokyo University of the Arts where she is studying Noh theatre under Professor Takeda Takashi. She also holds an MPhil in Music and Media Technologies from Trinity College Dublin. Anna regularly performs improvised electronic music, both solo and in collaboration with other musicians, and ran an experimental/improvised music concert series in Dublin called Kontakt. She recently gave a talk about electronic music, random processes and liveness at Nerd Nite public science event in Tokyo. Recent works include 'my little Force explodes', written for Michelle O’Rourke and Lina Andonovska, commissioned by Ergodos as part of Morning Rituals at the New Music Dublin Festival 2019. Anna is a former concert promoter and artist manager, and ran the Association of Irish Composers for a number of years, including concert series, talks, and acting as Irish delegate to the annual ISCM Festival and Assembly. She has also worked as manager for experimental music group Quiet Music Ensemble, managed the NMDX international delegate program at New Music Dublin Festival 2018 and 2019.
Dedicated to music communication and discussion, Anna has worked as freelance music journalist for a number of publications, and was Assistant Editor of The Journal of Music, an online magazine of musical life. In early 2020 she released her second album of ambient improvised electronic music, Rndr II, her first album of beats-based electronica, These Are The First Words I’ve Spoken, and an indie rock album Goodbye Iowa with her band The Manhattan Syndrome. www.annamurraymusic.com References Dart, Thurston: "Eye music." Grove Music Online (2001; Accessed 10 Jul. 2020) Grant, Morag Josephine: ‘Experimental Music Semiotics’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Dec., 2003), pp. 173-191, Zagreb, Croatian Musicological Society Kott, Jan (trans Clarke, Joanna): ‘Noh, or about Signs’, Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, New Series, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1973/1974), pp. 683-692, Boston, Boston University (1973/1974) Monelle, Raymond: Linguistics and semiotics in music (Contemporary Music Studies Volume: 5), Routledge (2014) Schiltz, Katelijen: Music and Riddle Culture in the Renaissance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, (2015). Tagg, Philip: Music's Meanings: A Modern Musicology for Non-Musos, Mass Media's Scholar's Press (2012). Tarasti, Eero: Signs of Music: A Guide to Musical Semiotics, Berlin/New York, Mouton de Gruyter (2002). Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania, ed.: The Routledge companion to philosophy and music, London/New York, Routledge, (2014). Yamanaka, Reiko: ‘Expressive style in Noh: monologue, memory and movement’, Expressions of the Invisible: a comparative study of Noh and other theatrical traditions, Tokyo, Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hōsei University (2015)
Answers: umbrella; suppose; remonstrates; ship All crossword clues created by Jamie McHugh.
CONSIDERATIONS OF UTOPIAN AND DYSTOPIAN FUTURES OF MUSIC
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Praised for her equally fierce and bold dramatic performance style, Sylvia Hinz is one of the leading recorder players worldwide, specialised in contemporary music and improvisation. #recorderpower She studied recorder at the University of Arts Berlin with Gerd Luenenbuerger, experimental music with Dieter Schnebel, chamber music with Nigel North, and conducting / ensemble leading at the BAK Trossingen. Sylvia Hinz plays solo recitals and concerts with ensembles and orchestras, holds special interest in contemporary music and improvisation, also in unusual instrumental combinations and cooperations with other arts (e.g. painting, literature, sculpture), fosters international collaborations with other musicians, composers, artists in general. She works with many international composers, like e.g. Mathias Spahlinger, Michele Abondano, Charlotte Seither, Zeynep Gedizlioglu, Paulo Dantas, Shruthi Vishwanath, Tiange Zhou, Jeanne Artemis Strieder, and engages in #ArtAsActivism .In addition to contemporary classical music and improvisation, Sylvia Hinz creates music and performs with her industrial doom project Catenation and dissonant death metal band Coma Cluster Void. For more information and contact details, please visit: sylviahinz.com
the air is thick as i walk, i hear the sound of the coarse ground crackling under my shoes the dullness of the all-encompassing smog like the dullness of the devices since the power plants shut down since all data connections shut down since nothing works anymore since everything is forgotten since ... all we have left is our memory i remember things i remember the past world strong and untamed aspects of (human) nature. breath, wind, nature, storm, water, ocean, mountains, ...
i take over the roles the devices had once i am data collector i am data synthesizer linguistic experiments, chants, rituals, shakuhachi, wind stroking leaves, ... my recorder, my voice, found objects from nature, stones, leaves, debris airy, con voce, multiphonics, shadow, sputato, slaps, glissando, vibrato extremo, ... a multitude of allusions entangled to form a consistent language of sound me, my body and my instrument my imagination goes alongside with the sound.
2 EUSSI 4 LOV
FROM NEW AUDIENCES TO SURPRISED PERFORMERS: A TRANSFORMATION ENABLED BY TECHNOLOGY
Social inequality is undoubtedly central to the lack of involvement of so-called ‘new audiences’ with the contemporary music scene. Bull and Scharff (2017) highlight how class inequality in the classical music profession in the UK reflects issues of inequality evident in both the production and the consumption practises of the genre. However, they also stress how the imbalance in these two practises is connected and how inequality is perpetrated by the spaces in which classical music is commonly performed, and by the cultural institutions with which these spaces can be identified. This paper incorporates these observations and explores the approaches that I have developed in my own practice, which aim to subvert social inequality in the contemporary music field through the use of music technology. I will consider how my work as an artist is implemented mainly through two strategies. The first approach uses technology as a disruptive force, unsettling audiences’ typical thinking about social hierarchy. The second approach involves an investigation into reaching new audiences. In order to illustrate the application of these approaches, this article will touch upon four of my musical works. Frauenstimmen, for piano and live electronics, reveals details of the actual or pretended personal life of the performer to the audience. In Als ich ein Kind war, the electronics regulate intervals of time in which the performer variously sings and converses with the audience, encouraging them to share their childhood memories. White Masks combines a performance and an audio-visual installation through which the voices of the different audiences that the project meets are recorded and later reproduced to synthesise different environments and, thus, compensate for loss due to migration. Intermezzo 4, an installation of metal panels and motors, offers the audience the opportunity to use hybrid electroacoustic instruments to experiment with sound and experience free improvisation and musicking. From the features of the projects described in this paper, some conclusions will consider the effectiveness of direct contact and the use of technology to abate the boundaries between the music world and new audiences.
Strategies and Philosophical Approaches In this section, a range of potential strategies for highlighting the social implications of performances and accessibility issues will be discussed, while in the following section I will describe in more detail how some of these strategies have been implemented in my work through the use of technology in order to suggest temporary social relationships during a performance. Imagined Communities and Invisible Forces Since the stratification of social classes appears to be partially mirrored in the classical music profession (Bull and Scharff, 2011), at a performance level, the division between the audience, performer and composer reinforces the concept of role segregation. While music depends on the social dynamics that are essential for its production (see, for example, Born 2011), by using technology and interdisciplinary approaches, it is possible to make the energy between the performers visible and audible for the audience. Consequently, music should be regarded as ‘a field of relations’, instead of ‘a set of practices’ (Ouzunian and Papalexandri-Alexandri, 2014:36). It is the responsibility of the artist to be aware of how the audience can interpret the connections and social forms generated by a performance. Since ‘music conjures up imagined communities’, momentary and ‘virtual collectivities’ (Born, 2011:378) can be shaped through the assigning of roles to performers and audience members. Although these social structures would last only for the duration of the performance, they could have a more longlasting impact on those who experience them. Deterritorialization of Thoughts Through the Deterritorialization of Sound If one of the aims of a performance is to disrupt the distinction between roles, an effective strategy is to remove the physical division between the audience and performer in the performance space. Luigi Nono’s works opted frequently for ‘the revocation of the separation between stage and auditorium’ (Motte-Haber, 1999:301), and it is very likely that this decision was made to mirror his political views. Although only momentarily, in these works he offered the audience the opportunity to be part of a group where hierarchical distinctions were weak. Nono truly believed that, by guiding the audience through the creation of different acoustical spaces, it was possible to encourage their minds to abandon the ‘well-worn structures of thinking’ (Motte-Haber, 1999:302) in favour of pursuing new spaces of imagination. The use of electronics, alongside collaborations with visual artists or architects – such as the one between Luigi Nono and Renzo Piano from which the huge ark of Prometeo was created – supports sound artists/composers in their investigation of acoustical spaces. In doing so, a multiplicity of listening perspectives are suggested to the audience, who are sometimes free to choose their seat, or their position within the performance space. This is a first step towards the subversion of hierarchies. When producers attempt to ‘deterritorialise and create fractures within power discourses and practices’ (do Nascimento, 2001), or ‘to break down the walls between performer and audience member as well as the borders that define gender and art disciplines’ (Kurdi, 2018:34–35) in an interdisciplinary context, music becomes a rhizome with ‘transformational multiplicities’ (Deleuze, 2013:11–12). At this point, the deterritorialization can take place and the audience might open up to accepting new and fairer social structures.
However, the advantages offered by technology goes beyond sound spatialisation: it extends to the domain of sound analysis and synthesis. Some of the experiences described in the following sections will highlight how technology can be used both to suggest to the audience that the non-hierarchical social structure that exists during a performance can be transferred to real life, and also to highlight how the two situations are easily connected and can even be mistaken for each other. When sound analysis and synthesis are applied to human and nonhuman voices, it is possible to create performances that are based upon real life situations, or at least show strong similarities to them. If the human voices belong to a specific social context, the sound material derived from these voices is somehow projected onto a social plane – a plateau – as is the whole performance, thus determining another kind of deterritorialization (Rosani, 2016). Working with Non-Musicians Technology can be extremely useful when employed within the second strategy to abate the distance between new audiences and contemporary music. The experience of sound production in a notation-free context can be very fulfilling for those who are not familiar with the musical language and notation traditions. UPISketch software, developed by Rodolphe Bourotte in collaboration with the Centre Iannis Xenakis, the European University of Cyprus and the Creative Europe Program of the European Union, is an example of how it is possible to produce sound with no prior knowledge of musical notation (Bourotte, 2018). Workshops for young people, in collaboration with schools, can provide opportunities for this type of discovery (Landy, 2011). They can certainly contribute to narrowing the distance between the audience and classical music, in addition to empowering younger individuals from minority backgrounds (see, for example, the work of Born, 2011 and Landy, 2011), thus contributing to encouraging careers in environments where they are typically underrepresented, such as classical music. Fringe Venues and Accessibility In using technology, contemporary classical music sometimes overlaps with the field of fringe music and, as highlighted in Graham’s (2016) book, is able to reach new audiences because it is performed in venues beyond the established spaces of cultural institutions. Additionally, artists and institutions can attempt to address new audiences directly by organising performances with free entrance in public spaces. For example, in 2013 the London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF) organised free concerts and installations in a multi-storey car park in Peckham. The events were crowded, and it was easy to deduct from the participants’ behaviour during the performances that the organisers had attracted an audience made up of classical music adepts/lovers and of individuals who had no previous experience of attendance at these types of events. If free entrance is not an option that an institution can afford to consider, allowing people to pay what they can is a choice that some organisers have implemented to foster accessibility. The LA-based Kaleidoscope ensemble has been successfully employing a ‘pay what you can’ policy for three years to ‘help develop future audiences and engage with [their] whole community’ (Kaleidoscope, 2018).
Hybrid Instruments Against Stylistic Uniformity Finally, the use of hybrid electroacoustic instruments may offer audiences the opportunity to experiment with sound through a stylistically non-biased system. On multiple occasions, Kazuhiro et al. and Tanaka et al. (Gaye et al., 2010; Kazuhito et al., 2013) supported nonmusicians while they were developing their own instruments to perform improvisations with them on their own or in groups. The use of both diverse and accessible technologies and software enabled the participants to develop the sonic universes that they preferred, without being forced towards a specific style. These results are confirmed by the research of McPherson and Lepri (2020), who, after lengthy experience working with musicians and nonmusicians in the contest of augmented instruments, pointed out how the users’ musical productions made with specific tools are affected by the suggestions of the tools themselves. ‘Frauenstimmen' and 'Als ich ein Kind war’ (2017): A glimpse of the performer’s personal life In 2017, I had the opportunity to work on two compositions that explored the actual or fictitious details of the lives of the performers. A few years earlier, I had been inspired by the work of composer Johannes Seidl and video-maker Daniel Kötter. Their piece, for Neue Vocalsolisten at Biennale Venice, involved person-size displays which screened recorded details of the singers’ private lives while they stood to the side, wearing concert clothes and singing. As the recipient of the IMRO/Music Current Commission, I collaborated with pianist Xenia Pestova for the creation of ‘Frauenstimmen’, a composition for piano and live electronics. I asked Xenia to record her voice while talking about the important women in her life. The recording ran throughout the entire performance and was filtered live by the piano material. When we performed the piece at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, my contribution was to regulate the filters so that the spoken material would move from indistinct material, which simply contributed to a change in the timbre of the instruments, to intelligible text that the audience could understand. The arrangement of the speakers underneath the instrument and the addition of the dry signal from the instrument to the output of the filtered voice, provided the ability to reach the high level of synthesis between the instrument and the electronics. In a sense, the composition can be regarded as a lieder in which the pianist performs both the piano and the vocal parts. The second work, ‘Als ich ein Kind war’, was a commission from the Stuttgarter Kollektiv für Aktuelle Musik (S-K-A-M. e.V.); it was performed by the singer Natasha Lòpez at Kunstarum in Stuttgart. The vocal material was developed entirely around the frequency analysis of the words in the title , while the electronic material was developed from resynthesising fragments of this same text with different parameters. In terms of formal structure, the piece alternates sections in which the vocalist sings with segments during which she sits among the members of the audience, recalling some of her fictional childhood memories, and then encourages the audience to contribute with their own memories. The electronics are organised in such a way that a constantly and slowly varying bordone is played during the parts that are sung, whilst the spoken sections are framed within sonic environments that evolve from being sparse to become denser, thus initially giving space to words, and then later signalling the approach of a new vocal section to be sung.
This structural setting worked very effectively. It created enough intimacy for the audience to feel comfortable with sharing their memories, and it articulated the flow of the performance such that it would be perceived as a unique session. The amount of contributions from the audience provided me with a direct means for assessing the success of the interaction between the audience and the performer. Since I was afraid that asking people to talk about their private sphere may provoke a negative reaction from the audience, I was extremely pleased to see that they not only contributed, but, after the premiere, one of the audience members who chose to share a memory even thanked me and Natasha for the performance. Undoubtedly, some of the choices contributed towards creating the requisite intimacy that the audience members needed to take part in such an experimental performance. Performing in a small space such as Kunstraum was one of them. A video projected on metal sheets alternated images of the singer while she was performing and in her leisure time. Because I was interested in having a vibrating body present in the space and ‘in stripping down to the minimal’, I attached transducers to the sheets to avoid using speakers (Kurdi, 2018:34).
‘Frauenstimmen’, piano: Xenia Pestova, Festival Music current 2018 ‘White Mask’ (2016–19): Deterritorialization and humanised metal sheets ‘White Mask’, a piece for cello and live electronics, is part of White Masks, a cycle for cello, live electronics and resonating objects that I developed along with Frankfurt-based Esther Saladin and visual artist Inês Rebelo. The piece was born from the analysis and re-synthesising of a recording found in the British Library Sound Archive . The recording includes a conversation among four women who are talking about the lives of women in post-colonial Africa. The title of my composition is an allusion to Frantz Fanon’s book, Black Skin, White Masks (1986), and it aims to highlight the unstated roles and positions of the women involved in the conversation. During the performance of ‘White Mask’, the cello sound is projected live onto three metal panels, whose vibration adds a rattling to the sound of the instrument.
In doing so, the sound of the cello evokes the sound of a mbira/kalimba, which is characterised by the rattling of the caps attached to the body of the instrument. The cellist managed the amount of sound projection and the processing through a MIDI pedal. Both the rattle and the improvisation-based use of the electronics come from the desire to transform the cello into a non-Western music tradition instrument; a reaction to when the non-Western music tradition is forced into the context of the Western music tradition. The performance of the cycle requires the audience to be sitting around the positions where Esther plays; the metal panels are also among the seats, which are arranged with no apparent preferential direction. White Masks aims to explore loss and transition. As an event, it involves a performance for cello and live electronics and an installation through which the audience records their contributions on the project themes. Both are framed within the same visual installation. The voices, which are recorded, are processed and played back through transducers attached to metal sheets, so that they contribute towards building a community of objects resonating with the memories and thoughts of the audiences that the project had met previously in other venues, cities and countries. Reflecting upon individualistic societies which are accustomed to uprooting, the project aims to compensate for the loss of traditions, social relations and places, and attempts to accompany the audience through their own transitions. Given the concept described above, since the beginning of the project a key question has arisen: how to reach displaced people? By this, I mean people who have migrated, or whose families had migrated, or anyone else who, for whatever reason, has the feeling of being addressed as the other. Esther, Inês and I responded to this key question by deciding to perform in public spaces, and we agreed that the events should all be free. However, although these decisions enhanced the accessibility of the performances, only one performance – the Deptford Lounge (London, 2017) – seemed to offer the perfect circumstances to reach new audiences. In fact, in Deptford, Esther, Inês and I had direct contact with people who were not accustomed to attending art events. In addition to being a public library, the Deptford Lounge also hosts the Tidemill Academy, so we also had the opportunity to perform for the children who had just finished their school day, and who had interacted with our installation during the days preceding the performance. There are multiple issues inherent in this approach. One is the amount of work required of the people involved in the performance. Although having direct contact with one’s audience is rewarding and highly stimulating, it is not always feasible for the artists due to the time required to dedicate to the planning, installation and performances. They must be either particularly devoted to the project or have been awarded substantial funding for it. The other issue relates to the performance conditions. People who are not accustomed to attending contemporary classical music events might not be aware of a series of rules that are generally implied. Some of the families who attended our performance at the Deptford Lounge came in late, or left early. This occasionally caused noise and created some disruptions to the cellist, who was performing extremely complex solo pieces. The project could have undoubtedly been developed differently. For instance, the installation could have been set up at the Deptford Lounge while the performance could have taken place nearby at the Albany, a theatre with a more traditional stage-audience setting. Nevertheless, the three artists wanted to perform also for the people who generously recorded their voices and who would not have come to the theatre otherwise, similarly to how Trevor Wishart chose to perform ‘Encounters’ in places such as rest homes, so that his piece could be listened to by the people whose voices he recorded were included in it.
In 2013, I attended several of the London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF) concerts at the multi-storey car park in Peckham (London). Although music such as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Gueroâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, by Helmut Lachenmann, was at times drowned out by the noise of the overground, or of people coming and going, the concerts were all free, incredibly crowded, and extremely successful. Therefore, it is apparent that, with some care in terms of organisation, the people who regularly attend contemporary classical concerts and those who are total strangers to such performances can all enjoy the same events.
White Masks (installation) at Goldsmiths, University of London (London, 2016). Photo credit: Ashley Simpson.
White Masks (installation) at the Deptford Lounge (London, 2017).
White Mask, cello: Esther Saladin, Atelierfrankfurt - Frankfurt am Main 2019. Hybrid Electroacoustic Instruments (2019): The audience as performer As described earlier, one of the purposes of my work is to disrupt the boundaries between the audience and the performers to conjure up an imagined society without any hierarchical structures. While in residence in Seia at the Festival Dias de la Musica Electroacustica, I developed â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Intermezzo 4â&#x20AC;&#x2122;, a new part of the White Masks project. I set up a feedback loop between speaker drivers and contact microphones attached to three metal panels. By approaching the panel with the speaker driver, the panel starts vibrating and the sounds that are produced have a different frequency content according to the distance from the microphone. Once stimulated by the audio feedback, the sounds produced by the vibration of the panels can be extremely simple or complex in terms of both frequency content and grain. These sonic features enable non-musicians to improvise without having to consider parameters such as pitch and rhythm, hence avoiding the alienating feeling that they might not be familiar enough with Western music notation, playing techniques or music theory to explore sound. The panels were turned into hybrid electroacoustic instruments during my In Vitro Residency (Matera, 2019); I used four of them to develop an installation with DC motors, which moved the speaker drivers along the surface of the panels. A few months later, I worked with Kinga TĂłth, the sound poet, to create a performance with the panels for the launch of Maislieder, one of her most recent collections of poems. We performed at Stockwerk (Graz, 2019). She quickly grasped the essence of producing and varying the sounds with the movement of the speaker drivers against the panels and the twisting of the metal with the electromagnet. On this occasion, the use of a metal scrub sponge to stimulate the vibration and her texts added a feminist layer to the interpretation of the performance.
In November 2019, the same technological means were used to create an interactive installation for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. During its hcmf // shorts, I performed with five panels at Queens Market and later invited the audience members to interact with the installation. The people’s participation was impressive. Many of the audience members played with it and started short improvisations, which were a reaction to other people’s sounds. This is a successful example of role swapping, of disrupting the roles of the performers, the audience and the composers. Although some of the people who played at DME and the Queens Market in Huddersfield were not musicians, they improvised successfully with the hybrid instruments that I had designed, and they did so without the need to be instructed in advance on any playing techniques.
‘I need little to survive’, installation for the In Vitro Residency (Matera, 2019)
‘Intermezzo 4’, performance/installation with audience participation at the hcmf // shorts (Huddersfield, 2019). Photo credit: Brian Slater.
Photo credits: Brian Slater.
‘I need little to survive’, installation, In Vitro Residency, Matera 2019 Conclusions From the experiences described above it emerges that, although social inequality is present within both the production and the consumption level of contemporary classical music, it is still possible for those producing it to have an impact on the audience’s hierarchical vision of society and to have direct contact with new audiences. Nevertheless, to do so, artists need the support of cultural institutions to reach new audiences and to organise workshops and performances that are designed for young people who are still in school. The inclusion of technology to enhance the creation of acoustical spaces and the promotion of interdisciplinary projects – which can act on different levels on the audience’s subconscious – requires longterm funding and open-minded institutions and performers. Technology can be crucial when it comes to opening a dialogue between sound and people who are unfamiliar with musical notation. Cultural institutions that manage performance spaces therefore need to be ready to welcome and assist artists who combine sound with visual elements, avoiding issues with security or tight setup schedules. The flexibility of venues that regularly put on nonmainstream music events is notable. This is one likely reason why experimental performances seem to occur in such places. Free events in public spaces, or spaces that are already populated by new audiences, are key to accessing these new audiences. While performing in such places certainly have downsides, such as noise, the events can still be enjoyable for classical music experts and newcomers alike. Although a significant amount of work still needs to be done to challenge the pervasive hierarchical structures and practices of genres such as classical, by conjuring up more equal societies through performance, music can instigate conversations relating to class structures and associations with particular genres, and disrupt the institutional tolerances of hierarchies. Significantly, the combined efforts of both music and sociology researchers are required to address the above-mentioned themes. Highly interdisciplinary research must therefore be developed to deconstruct the dynamics of the music industry and practice for the benefit of new audiences in the future. However, such approaches would be bolstered by further research on the sonic and physical features of hybrid instruments and their use within classical music settings. The most up-to-date advances in technology and software communication should be regarded by artists and programmers alike as opportunities to weave new threads between frayed social fabrics.
Endnotes 1. When I was a child, my translation. 2. More information about the technical procedures that were applied can be found in my PhD thesis (Rosani, 2016). Silvia Rosani studied composition at the conservatoire in Italy and at Mozarteum Universität in Austria. Recently, she completed a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she currently works as Associate Lecturer. Silvia holds a 5-year degree in electronic engineering and works with software for audio analysis and synthesis, neural networks for machine learning, microcontrollers and the IoT. Her research focuses on the disruption of the boundaries between audience and interpreters through the use of visual elements and technology to create temporary less hierarchical communities within the performance space. Her music is performed internationally by ensembles such as Neue Vocalsolisten, ÖENM, Platypus Ensemble and Vocal Arts Stuttgart, conducted by Angelika Luz, and by soloists such as pianists Anna D'Errico and Xenia Pestova. Her work has been performed at festivals such as Venice and Salzburg Biennale, MATA Festival (NY, USA), ECLAT (Stuttgart, Germany), Wege durch das Land Festival (Segelflugplatz Oerlinghausen), Grains of Sounds (GOS, San Francisco), the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Dias De la Musica Electroacustica (DME, Lisbon) und Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. She was Fellow in residence at the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart, Germany), Le Vivier (Montreal, Canada), In Vitro Residency (Matera, Italy) and at the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction in Salzburg (Austria). Silvia was in residence at ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany) through a n EASTN-DC residency and in 2021 will be in residence at the Center for New Media Culture RIXC in Riga (Latvia) through EMAP/EMARE and at the Experimentalstudio of the SWR (Freiburg, Germany). She is currently collaborating with hornist Deepa Goonetilleke – Ensemble Linea – to develop a new work for horn and live electronics thanks to a Virtual Partner Residency granted by the Goethe-Institute. References Bianchi, O. (2018). Orango. [ONLINE] Available at www.oscarbianchi.com/compositions/orango [Accessed on 23 August 2018]. Born, G. (2011). 'Music and the materialization of identities'. Journal of Material Culture, 16(4), pp.376-388.Bourotte, R. (2018). UPISketch. [ONLINE] Available at www.rodolphebourotte.blogspot.com/2018/06/upisketch.html [Accessed on 27 August 2018]. Bull, A. and Scharff, C. (2017). ''McDonald's Music' Versus 'serious music': How Production and Consumption Help to Reproduce Class Inequality in the Classical Music Profession'. Cultural Sociology, 11(3), pp.283-301.
do Nascimento, Gonçalves, F. (2001). 'Performing the trojan horse: Laurie Anderson’s strategies of resistance and the ‘postmedia era’'. Body, Space + Technology, 2(2). [ONLINE] Available at www.brunel.ac.uk/depts/pfa/bstjournal/2no2/ journal2no2.htm [Accessed on 27 August 2018]. Deleuze, G. (2013). A Thousand Plateaus. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto. Gaye, L., Tanaka, A., Richardson, R., Kazuhiro, J. (2010). 'Social inclusion through the digital economy: digital creative engagement and youth-led innovation'. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, IDC June 9-12 2010, Barcelona, Spain. Graham, S. (2016). Sound of the underground: a cultural, political and aesthetic mapping of underground and fringe music. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Kaleidoscope (2018). FAQ. [ONLINE] Available at www.kco.la/faq/ [Accessed on 24 August 2018] Kazuhiro, J., Parkinson, A. and Tanaka, A. (2013). 'Workshopping Participation in Music'. Organised Sounds, 18(3), pp.282-291.Kötter, D. (2010). Freizeitspektakel. [ONLINE] Available at www.danielkoetter.de/projekte/freizeitspektakel [Accessed 23 August 2018]. Kurdi, M. (2018). 'Healing Community and Working Through the Body'. ARRAY - The journal of ICMA, Summer 2017, pp.34-35. [ONLINE] Available at www.computermusic.org/media/documents/array/Array-2018-special.pdf [Accessed on 227 August 2018]. Landy, L. (2011). ’Sound-Based Music 4 All’ in ed. Dean, R.T. The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 25. Le Vivier (2017). Communion. [ONLINE] Available at www.levivier.ca/fr/calendrier/38884 [accessed 26 August 2018]. McPherson, A. and Lepri, G. (2020). 'Beholden to our tools: negotiating with technology while sketching digital instruments'. Proceedings of the NIME 2020, July 21-25, 2020, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Motte-Haber, de la H. (1999). Klangkust: Tönende Objekte und klingende Räume. Bremen: Laaber. Ouzounian G and Papalexandri-Alexandri M. (2013). 'Correspondences'. Current Musicology, 95, pp.33-52. Rosani, S. (2016). 'Magnifying lenses: How the spectral analysis of the voice - human and animal – can be used to strengthen the connection between text and music', PhD Thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London. Stone-Davis, F. J. (2015). 'Vocalising Home: An Interview With Trevor Wishart'. Contemporary Music Review, 34(1) pp.5-21.
2 EUSSI 4 LOV
SWITCH, BLEND, AGGREGATE, DIVIDE: MULTI-INSTRUMENTAL CONFIGURATIONS AND INTERACTIONAL DYNAMICS IN GARLIC HUG
Helen Papaioannou and Alessandro Altavilla
Introduction: Background to Garlic Hug Our duo Garlic Hug was inspired by a curiosity to experiment with ideas, scenarios and processes that change the way we interact with each other during a performance. Inherent to this has been a combination of analogue, digital and acoustic instruments, which we use as a floating set of possibilities to draw from. As a relatively young project, we have explored different ways of performing with these sound sources within a single set, as well as exploiting their potential to create switches in sound palettes and their associated contexts. These persistent changes in instrumental configurations come together with shifts in the nature of our interaction, as we enjoy remoulding our relationship from piece to piece. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve become increasingly interested in the performative qualities of our live sets. This has been both a consequence of ideas that demand certain performative and sonic characteristics and motivated by curiosity to explore the affordances of particular devices. In this article, we consider how our mixed setup drives and facilitates heterogeneity in our musical interactions and style. We also consider our varying experiences of risk when performing with a multiinstrumental setup, which we explore as a productive, integral and mutable part of our practice.
Our approaches to instrumentation and the dynamic of our duo are of course affected by our individual backgrounds. Alessandro’s work spans across digital media practices, within which music and sound are part of a playful experimentation with materials and processes. His work focuses on mediation and transformation of listening experience through the design of interactive artefacts. Helen’s work as a musician often explores patterns, sounds and textures as/through game-like interactions, which might evolve through improvisation, within particular scenarios, or be communicated through scores. While Helen’s background relates more to composing and improvising with instrumentalists and playing in bands, Alessandro is more familiar with performing and composing solo with a laptop, rarely involving premeditated rhythmic synchronisation, and he is generally less at ease when playing patterns using keyboards or pads. Conversely, our initial explorations as Garlic Hug were Helen’s first experiments in live electronic music performance, though this has developed within her practice since then. We embraced our different experiences by performing in ways that were less familiar to us, both individually and as a duo, sharing the coordination of the different elements of our setup. Initially, our mixed bag of instruments arose simply from trying different ideas with what we were fortunate to have at hand. Subsequently, instead of reducing this into a more streamlined setup, we enjoyed and exploited switches from one group of instruments to another, as well as the changing atmospheres and sounds that came with it. As Garlic Hug, we most often perform in small community venues, independent arts spaces or pubs, though our approach is influenced by experiences in various contexts as practitioners and audience members. This includes local band scenes, scored music performed in the concert hall, improvised music, electronic music performance and digital media art. These scenes of course encompass various approaches to performance, instrumentation and technology. Our duo grew out of an amalgamation of these influences and a shared curiosity to blend, switch and jam these ideas together in a single project. Some Perspectives on Multi-Instrumentalism and Heterogeneity Part of the excitement of watching a one-person-band, busker or performer centres around the feat of coordinating limbs, hands, feet and mouth. The performative quality of playing multiple instruments at the same time, or switching between them, is important to Garlic Hug, however, our approach to multi-instrumentalism focuses less on dexterity or virtuosity, and more on the switches that this setup allows. We use a mixture of instruments with which we have varying degrees of familiarity, from several years of experience to things that we try for the first time. A number of musicians have explored groups of instruments as a sort of meta-instrument and considering some of these artists raises pertinent themes. The live solo performances of ICHI feature numerous instruments that he has built himself including klaxons, wind instruments and percussion. Along with ICHI’s musical imagination, much of the fun of his performances centres around his collection of unique objects. Each song is met with a feeling of anticipation for which new instrument will appear, and what its sound will be. In performances we have attended and on his album Maru, ICHI uses this array to draw upon a different palette of sounds from piece to piece, as he changes the configuration of instruments. These switches create playful and continual shifts not only in the visual and theatrical aspects of performance, but also in the particular sounds of each instrumental combination.
Though different in terms of performativity and soundworld, the music of Ashley Paul also circulates around a multi-instrumental setup. This commonly consists of saxophone, clarinet, guitar, voice and percussion. She has developed a unique approach to these instruments, in which she tends to explore constellations of sounds and textures from multiple sources. ‘I sort of have intentionally kept a naivety with [the guitar]...I’m really uncomfortable playing the guitar...that discomfort is something I really want to keep in the music...the challenge, logistically of playing live, is something that fascinates me…it’s just a really weird thing doing the two things, you know the saxophone and the guitar and just the actual physicality of it and I think that really impresses itself on the sound of the music.’  Paul describes this discomfort as a positive tension, with attention directed towards multiple instruments. Our experience of performing in Garlic Hug is similarly coloured by an awkwardness when simultaneously playing more than one instrument or changing instruments. We are particularly interested in a multi-instrumental setup that facilitates quick leaps between different musical contexts or atmospheres. For example, the duo of the Bohman Brothers tends to use a plethora of un-amplified and amplified objects to drive characteristically heterogeneous sets. Contexts associated with a harmonica differ greatly to a bowed piece of metal or a beer can, and the variety of the objects they tend to include contributes to this heterogeneity. In our experiences of the Bohman Brothers’ performances, they avoid looking at each other, sat side-by-side exploring their table; when they do look at each other or have a conversation, the mood transforms. These mechanisms of change create sonic and performative shifts in their duo dynamic, such as reciting pieces of found text between lengthy periods of improvising, or simply playing a tape recording. Performing with laptops and samplers alone hold the ability to draw from a great variety of sound sources. Electronic music duo Blectum from Blechdom (Bevin Kelley and Kristin Erickson) have a characteristically playful approach to sampling from divergent sources, alongside synthesised sounds. As described by Tara Rogers, their collage-like mix of mini-musical worlds, ‘references pop and electronic music traditions only to turn them inside out’ , typically jamming together divergent materials without, in their view, consideration of traditional high and low musical hierarchies: ‘nothing is sacred, so we don’t really value any material more than other material...we don’t have a bar where we put good music and bad music.’ Their snowballing of a number of different materials or associated styles resonates with our own collage-like approach. Bevin Kelley describes how the duo interact and improvise through ‘a unifying theme or constraint’, such as a ‘common fantasy world’, creature or character, during a performance.  We tend to think of our Garlic Hug sets as conglomerations of mini-scenes, some with tight focuses or restrictions, and some as inhabitations of a character or an extra-musical context, in which we don’t have pre-defined interactions.
This could be more traditionally musical (e.g. a rhythmic pattern), or an extramusical environment, such as characters reciting chant in an imaginary ritual, or inhabiting creatures from the Italian countryside. We use these shared themes or constraints as a way to create and navigate switches within our sets, some which evolve through improvisation and some which we premeditate beforehand. Indeed, in live sets of electronic music, there is usually more than one way of producing similar sounds. This might range from producing sounds using their original sources - such as playing a synthesiser - to designing and performing one’s own digital instruments, to executing code or hitting playback on a DAW. We combine a number of approaches, exploiting and enjoying different relationships and interactions. As parts of our sets include ideas composed before performance, many of our operations would be simpler if we didn’t perform them manually. Why then, do we sometimes choose not to do so, while in other cases, we find it necessary? These are on-going questions for us, pointing to topics that we find productive, even motivational. The live performances of electronic duo Matmos can differ considerably to each other in terms of style, sounds and sometimes instrumentation. Laptops and a variety of synthesizers make up a core part of their setup, and though this varies, their tendency is to perform using multiple electronic instruments. In an interview, Drew Daniel describes that in one rendition of their setup, his deliberately unsynced laptops allow him to fluidly draw on ‘families of rhythms’ in Ableton Live.  This is clearly connected to a particular musical intention, as Daniel is ‘free’ to ‘pull apart’ rhythms and tempi.  Daniel also suggests that some instrumental choices relate to the sense of risk and discomfort in performance: ‘Playing electronic music live raises the question of how to avoid your own control freak desire to avoid error and embrace something the audience can actually perceive as being built up live…Why should I prefer something where the edges the seams are showing when I can play something perfect? The problem is that it’s too easy to be perfect in electronic music. That’s why I don’t sync my two laptops.’  Daniel correlates his perception as a performer with the experience of the audience, though his collaborator M.C. Schmidt points out that: ‘It’s weird, it’s mostly a philosophical problem. Does the audience perceive it? One imagines they do, but that’s from my position.’  This is a reminder of the common discrepancies between performers’ perception of events and an audience’s experience. Comments made to us by audience members have revealed how moments that seemed humorous to spectators did not mirror our own experiences, and vice versa. Mishaps, in which our rhythmic synchronisation has fallen apart, have sometimes seemed intentionally so from the perspective of some audience members.
Nevertheless, Daniel’s identification of a desirable fragility within his own experience of performance points towards a feeling that we have often noted in relation to our own instrumental setup. For us, this precariousness revolves around the transiency and changeability of our instrumental groupings, which are linked to rapid switches in mindset and scenario. Rather than refining a single approach to performance, we enjoy the experience and precariousness of combining multiple approaches. Our Instrumental Aggregate A typical Garlic Hug set comprises a range of acoustic, electronic and digital sound sources, and we play facing each other with the audience on one of our sides to facilitate eye contact. We are as interested in exploring a pocket drum machine, dictaphone, party hooter or saxophone as we are in experimenting with complex affordances of multi-purpose devices such as a laptop. Amongst other smaller objects that vary, for now at least, we have a core setup. Helen usually plays either baritone or alto saxophone, a drum machine that she plays using a midi pad controller, and her laptop running the live coding environment TidalCycles and text-tospeech software. She tends to focus on one instrument in each part of the set, but changes between pieces, while Alessandro enjoys mixing instruments together simultaneously. He usually plays analogue synthesizers and sequencers, a portable dictaphone, a coil pickup, a laptop simultaneously running various software (Max, Supercollider and Ableton Live), and external midi controllers. The sample banks and sequential or pattern-based affordances of samplers, drum machines and TidalCycles often link to beat-centred worlds of dance music, whereas the saxophone and keyboard-controlled analogue synths sometimes lend themselves to more riff-based ‘songs’. Our field recordings and use of the dictaphone link to a wide variety of contexts and listening scenarios. We tend to focus on the sum of a number of simple parts or operations, which has been both a result and intention of our setup. As for Helen’s saxophone, it is seldom treated as a lead instrument. So far, we have avoided processing the sax, preferring to explore contrasts and coalescences with other sound sources. The analogue monophonic synths in our setup have particular physical and sonic characteristics that afford different types of interactions, from playing riffs using the keyboard to modulating drones using a semi-modular synth, or the self-noise feedback of some of the boutique-style devices. As these instruments are all relatively small, we are able to position them on two medium-sized tables so that we can quickly switch or blend them, and we tend to bring all of our instruments to rehearsals and performances. This allows us to think about our pieces as constellations of different devices and to exploit the instrumental affordances and characteristics of groupings. Running different software on our laptops allows us to operate in a number of ways, such as to trigger field recordings, to play an electronic drum kit with a midi controller, to launch prewritten sequences, or to type code. Sometimes this serves to coordinate simultaneous actions or instigate long processes across different software that don’t require our continual input. One example is the use of mappings in which midi controls and the mouse are shared between different software. As a result, sounds change or evolve as a consequence of this interaction feedback between different software.
This might involve moving the mouse to control a parameter in Max MSP, or moving between clips in a DAW, which affects a different control in an underlying Supercollider patch, leading to surprising evolutions and changes in sounds. While a laptop might sometimes provide an anchor of metronomic beats, at other times it offers us unpredictable happenings that we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t foresee â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or wish to. The laptop acts as a microsite of multi-instrumentalism and different performative dynamics in itself, with its own complex and layered affordances, which at one time might serve to anchor pre-structured ideas, and at others drives or contributes to improvisation.  As in the music of ICHI and Blectum from Blechdom, the sounds heard at the beginning of a Garlic Hug performance donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t necessarily foreground what is coming next. For us, the sense of choreographing changes from one part of a set to another, as a sort of postmodern collage, has accrued importance as a way to facilitate or exaggerate rapid shifts between soundworlds, instruments and atmospheres.
Garlic Hug performing at Jabberwocky in Sheffield, 2019
Shift, Blend, Divide: Navigating Risks and Interactions in Performance Our instrumental switches and somewhat choreographed sectional changes drive a feeling of precariousness in our experience of a performance. They involve shifts to different types of interactions between us, and changes to contrasting sounds or textures, which bring the potential for multiple facets of human, computer and electronic errors. This has become a memory game of keeping track of what instruments are running, checking our settings, who should be cueing what, and navigating our tables. Our duo dynamic shifts, as we move between improvisations and loosely or strictly structured pieces. Therefore, in certain sections, we have a very clear musical intention from the outset, whereas other moments evolve without such preconceived ideas. Our structured pieces reveal something of our different approaches to idea generation. Alessandro’s ideas are usually rooted in a ‘what if’ scenario; what if we were to apply a process to particular media, or to leave long or independent processes with devices or media play out by themselves. Helen’s ideas for Garlic Hug tend to grow from a process of interaction between the two of us. Such ideas might grow from specific sounds, though sounds or media are often inserted into games or scenarios, or a rhythmic relationship. These different outlooks inform the initial kernel of pieces, which are then developed collaboratively, perhaps demanding specific instruments, or growing from processes, devices, scenarios or characters. The points at which our methods and ideas intersect, overlap, or contrast make for stylistic, sonic and performative heterogeneity. We now discuss some examples of sections from previous performances, to explore our typically mutable relationship throughout a set. The two of us shift between having overlapping roles and strictly divided parts. In Snazzy Jacket , we each perform one half of a continuous, symmetrical, interlocking pattern. This piece originated from an interactional idea, into which we insert contrasting sounds on each beat, which we manually trigger with MIDI controllers on a sampler, synth, or saxophone. This simple pattern would be more rhythmically accurate if it were programmed into a sequencer. The enjoyable aspect of our human step sequencer - at least from our perspective - is the performative challenge of interlocking our parts by triggering or blowing the sounds in time. We feel that this impresses itself on the overall sound, and these wobbly rhythmic inconsistencies are desirable. The risk of calamity in this piece has been great fun for us, with the idiosyncrasies in rhythm and the growing pressure to maintain the pattern resulting in a giddy tension. With time we have become more familiar with the pattern, which has opened up greater license to experiment with different sounds on the fly. However, with an increase in confidence, the thrill also diminishes a little over time.  This changing relationship to the piece underlines our feeling that an element of awkwardness is one of the factors that drives our continued interest in it.
Visualisation of Snazzy Jacket. We have felt more ambiguous about such tensions and instabilities in other pieces. Rolly Goes Rogue (Rolly ) is our most song-like piece, structured around sequenced beats and a patchwork of contrasting sections. Helen plays sax and Alessandro splits his attention between different devices, playing multiple synths and using controllers to simultaneously trigger various samples and clips. This is exhilarating, but it can be fraught without preset recall functionality, relying on memory and turning knobs and switches, for which small increments can dramatically alter the sound. When we don’t manage to coordinate our parts and the abrupt changes in sound, the resulting music can fall flat, at least in comparison with our intentions (e.g. an awkward silence, a feeble synth sound paired with a saxophone blast, followed by a distracted saxophonist failing to hit a note). This is by no means unique to Garlic Hug; the same could be said of all pieces that involve complex or contrasting sectional changes. We wish to highlight how our changing instrumentation from piece to piece impresses itself not only on the sound, but also on our interactions and experience of performance. Having discussed the merits of simplifying these operations, we have made some modifications, such as removing certain instruments that seemed superfluous.  However, over time the multiple-device set-up has proved to be the more enjoyable option. The combination of devices and the somewhat unpredictable outcomes afforded by their presetless design bring more room for variation from gig to gig, and sonic surprises that avoid a tiresome sense of exact repeatability for us as performers. As with Matmos and Ashley Paul, this discomfort within the seams that keep us together is an important part of what enlivens us. There is a sense of riding the border between synchronised, coalescing parts and breakdowns in our interactions. This sort of dynamic often recurs at different points in a performance, however we don’t have a desire to maintain this approach throughout an entire set. Launching recordings, YouTube clips or self-evolving processes (e.g. across different software or synths) offers shifts to different atmospheres and related contexts, with the focus directed towards a type of listening that does not involve us so dynamically or centrally as performers. Initially, we both described a strange awkwardness in not seeming to ‘do’ anything in these moments of a performance, though we have come to enjoy these chances to listen in a different way, without necessarily playing anything.
Found or chosen recordings have often served as springboards for pieces or improvisations. One part of a performance grew out of found samples of a dog barking and an unrelated found tape of an educational resource about birds. In our improvisations, we might explore recordings within their original medium—in this case the dictaphone—through sampling them, or in combination with improvisation with other instruments. Though there are likely tacit agreements underlying our improvisations, we have far less prior-agreed communication, and the aggregate of instruments becomes a pool of possibilities to draw upon, explore or react to in the moment.
Screenshot of TidalCycles used for a performance of Algokyritmo, mixing live coding (lines 44-48) and text-to-speech (lines 50-56) Though neither of us identify principally as livecoders, recently we have both independently dabbled in improvised programming, particularly upon moving to Sheffield, where the Algorave scene is an influential part of live coded music. Our first Garlic Hug sets involved lengthy improvised programming, though as this has been part of a playground of other approaches to performance, we don’t project our screens to the audience, as is the norm in live coded music.  However, in considering the idea of presenting code to an audience, we thought about sonifying it. Using our computers’ text-to-speech (TTS) functionality, we became enchanted by the poetic, unpredictable features of intonation, rhythm and pronunciation, especially when slowed down in different TTS languages (e.g. Italian or Greek, in relation to our cultural backgrounds), and drenched in church-style reverb. This became the basis of Algokyritmo, which arose from improvisations and developed into a saturated soup of heavy bass and disjointed beats in which we are not always sure who is making what sound. As such our musical roles often feel less divided. We are bound together by a shared global rhythm (in our heads), which shapes a loose coalescence of our parts over the timescale, but here we have our heads down, concentrating on the screen while we type code.
Error messages when executing code affect the division of our attention (e.g. analysing the code, fixing the code, abandoning the code, and listening), and the duration between trying an idea and hearing it, and so we experience a very different temporal and listening experience, both with resulting sounds and each other. Audience members’ perception of such ‘errors’ will vary, but they are often less apparent than breakdowns in our manuallytriggered, repetitive and synchronised patterns. Errors in our code, or a mismatch between intention and output, might impact upon pacing, or wildly change the sound environment and patterns in unintended ways. In these cases, the results of ‘mistakes’ are rather open-ended, from the scale of serendipitous and pleasingly unexpected changes, to calamitous events that entirely break the musical flow or texture, or errors that cause our systems to crash. We aim to strike a balance between maintaining enough contact with the practice of improvised programming in order to have some command over musical direction, while leaving enough space for unexpected events, something afforded by instigating processes in Max/MSP which evolve in the background, or random selections of samples in TidalCycles, shaped by typing patterns whose outputs have a varying degree of predictability. For pieces with intended outcomes, such as Rolly or Snazzy Jacket, it can be difficult to recover from breakdowns in communication. Opinions about how the performance is impacted upon will vary from person to person, but from our perspective our aim is to maintain a connection to our original structure. In many other parts of our performances, we don’t have the same intended outcomes or need for synchronisation, and indeed we often interact with and explore our instruments in ways that don’t always require our continual input. In some cases, we feel as though we are rhythmically turning the wheel by counting time in our heads whilst manually beating out patterns on controllers or playing the saxophone. In other moments, running the rhythmic grids of drum machines or software sequencers channels our interactions in a different way. When playing with multiple, concurrent processes across different software or hardware synthesizers, and especially when attention is divided between them, there is often greater space for evolutions outside of our direct manipulations of sounds. Our perception of risks and interactions with our instruments therefore changes considerably within each section of a performance, creating a constellation of different tensions and experiences of control, interactions and relationships. Conclusions When performing as Garlic Hug our relationships with instruments change throughout a performance, informed by our approaches to composition and improvisation and the affordances of our aggregate of devices. These shifting tensions and mechanisms of change are at the heart of our approach, moving back and forth between structures with ragged seams, moments of poised synchronisation and open-ended improvisations. Our experience of these qualities will change as we become more familiar with instruments, software and pieces.
Throughout these first experiences of playing together, maintaining some sense of fragility or awkwardness in each section of a set has sustained our interest in musical ideas and on reflection this is perhaps one of the reasons that we don’t commit to one approach. This is characterised by instrumental aggregates that afford different ways of performing and listening to each other, which we don’t attempt to unify towards a single performative ethos. This is all part of the fun for us, as we thrive on the challenges of navigating shifting relationships, paces and sound environments, which are afforded by our multi-instrumental setup. The persistence to change within these shifting tensions is the glue that binds Garlic Hug together. Endnotes  Ashley Paul in interview with Derek Walmsley, ‘Tusk Festival 2015 - In Conversation with Ashley Paul’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ampRrjvL8XQ (accessed 15/11/2019).  Tara Rogers, ‘Bevin Kelley (Blevin Blectum)’, Pink Noises, 235.  Kristin Erickson, Interview de Blectum from Blechdom – Music – LUFF 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTvMFs7weGI (accessed 23/10/2020)  Bevin Kelley, ‘Interview de Blectum from Blechdom’  Drew Daniel, ‘Machine Love: Matmos’, 2010, https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/1223 (accessed 01/11/2019) I dem  Idem  M.C. Schmidt, ‘Machine Love: Matmos’  See Magnusson, T. (2010). ‘Designing Constraints: Composing and Performing with Digital Musical Systems.’ Computer Music Journal, 34(4), 62–73.  We have plans to make a collection of similar hocket pieces based on hockets.  In Rolly, we decided to sample certain sounds rather than also bringing along specific keyboards and smaller objects to performances.  TOPLAP https://toplap.org/ (accessed 01/12/2019) & algorave https://algorave.com (accessed 01/12/2019) Garlic Hug ’s debut EP will be released in early 2021 by Aphelion Editions. Alessandro Altavilla is a composer, artist and researcher based in Sheffield. His work spans across digital media practices, investigating sense of place, perception of sonic experience, and mediation of listening practices through digital music performances, sound and media art. He gives workshops in Sonic Interaction Design and his works have been shown at Biennale of Art in Marrakech, Invisible Architectures (Newcastle Upon Tyne), Papey Listskjul (Orkney, Scotland) Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival (Hawick, Scotland). He is an associate lecturer in Interactive Media at the University of York. Helen Papaioannou is a musician based in Sheffield. She has a fascination with the dynamics of group interaction, and composes for acoustic instruments and electronics. Her new solo project Kar Pouzi intertwines baritone saxophone and electronics, often drawing out intensity from persistent cycles and repeated sounds. Helen’s compositions have been performed by various musicians and ensembles, and she improvises with a range of different collaborators. She has played as one third of the band Beauty Pageant, and as a member of the trio HOKKETT.
References Magnusson, T. (2010). ‘Designing constraints: Composing and performing with digital musical systems’. Computer Music Journal, 34(4), pp.62-73 Resident Advisor (2010). ‘Machine Love: Matmos’, Resident Advisor, 13 August 2010. Accessible online at: https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/1223 Rogers, T. (2010) Pink Noises. PLACE: Duke University Press Walmsley, D. (2015) ‘Tusk Festival 2015 - In Conversation with Ashley Paul’ [Video]. Accessible online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ampRrjvL8XQ Discography Blectum from Blechdom Live on KXLU 7/2/10. Accessible online at: https://vimeo.com/13085235 Blectum from Blechdom, Hous de Snaus (Tigerbeat6, 2001) Blectum from Blechdom, The Messy Jesse Fiesta (Deluxe, 2000) ICHI, Maru (Lost Map Records, 2016) Ashley Paul, ”If only goodnight” (Wagtail, 2009) Ashley Paul, “ It’s the Heat” (Wagtail, 2010) Ashley Paul, “ Lost in Shadows” (Slip, 2018)
Experimental writing on popular music Riffs: Experimental writing on popular music is an innovative and challenging journal funded by the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) at Birmingham City University. Riffs provides a platform for the publication of experimental pieces on popular music and was launched in February 2017. The contributions are made available Open Access through the journal website (www.riffsjournal.org) and a limited edition print run. Riffs has a strong DIY and experimental ethos. We aim to push the boundaries of popular music research, communication, and publishing. The next step for the editorial board at Riffs is to develop a creative and experimental space for not only publishing finished pieces, but also offering an online forum for thinking through the ways in which we analyse, understand, and communicate. As one of the largest centres for popular music research, the BCMCR at Birmingham City University offers a wealth of global networks and potential readership. Our editorial team and wider researcher community expand our reach further, with active participation in a range of international research networks to include IASPM, MeCCSA, the Punk Scholars Network, Subcultures Network and the Jazz Research Network. Beyond academia, Riffs is keen to develop relationships with industry, particularly in Birmingham, through events and collaborations. Through these connections, we aim to develop an international and active readership. Photograph: www.iandaviesphoto.com Ⓒ 2012 - 2021 | All Rights Reserved
Contributor Guidelines Riffs: Experimental writing on popular music welcomes pieces from all disciplines and from contributors from academic, industry, or creative backgrounds. Each issue will be based on a prompt, but responses can vary depending upon the contributor’s interest and experience. As the journal title suggests, we are most interested in pieces that take an experimental approach to the consideration of popular music. For examples of previous interpretations, please visit our journal website. Abstracts submitted to Riffs will be considered by the editorial board, with full submissions subject to peer review. Word Limit: 2,000-4,000 (excluding references) Please do not submit full dissertations or theses. All contributions to full issues should respond to the prompt and take an experimental approach to undertaking and/or communicating research on popular music. We also welcome shorter written pieces, audio, and visual pieces to include photo essays. Format: Please email submissions as attachments to the editorial contact given below. All articles should be provided as a .doc or .docx file. All images and web-ready audio or video clips should also be emailed as separate files, or through a file-sharing platform such as WeTransfer or Dropbox. Further author guidelines can be found on our website. Bio: Please include a short (up to 300 words) bio with your name, institutional affiliation (if appropriate), email address, current research stage within your article, and other useful/interesting information, positioned at the end of your piece. References: If you refer to other publications within your piece, please list these in a ‘References’ section at the end. All clear formats of referencing are acceptable. Discographies and weblinks can also be detailed at the end of your contribution. Please use endnotes rather than footnotes. Submission: Abstracts for our bi-annual prompts should be emailed to email@example.com Please note: Riffs shall be entitled to first use of the contribution in all the journal’s different forms, but the author remains the copyright owner and can re-publish their contribution without seeking the journal’s permission. Riffs reserve the right to decline to publish contributions if they are submitted after the agreed deadline and without the assigned editor being informed (and agreeing to) a new submission date.
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