Baoding Iron Ball

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Famed as one of the three treasures of Baoding, China, these balls give off different sounds – one high and one low.  They are known to build up physical strength and remove diseases.  I am hoping to use these on one of my tracks.  If it works, it will give a very unique, calming feel.

Instrumental music referencing

This is the title track from the album Rock Formations by Yawning Man.  It actually said in a review on the front of this album when I bought it that it is an essential album for anyone working in the stoner rock scene.  I couldn’t agree with this statement more.  I listened to it the whole way through and only noticed at the end that it had no vocals at all. For music to be able to capture you and create so much imagery in your head without vocals is something special. Yawning Man are a big influence for me at the moment.

A spin off band of Yawning Man, Yawning Sons have a similar approach. Instrumental, atmospheric and full of character and emotion. Of course, my music isn’t going to be just like these bands but I would imagine there will be some reference to them in that I hope I can create an atmosphere like these bands do, particularly in my instrumental pieces.

Short and sweet. Another instrumental piece I particularly like for its simplicity.  There isn’t many layers and there isn’t much going on but it works.  Sometimes more is less – something I must remember when trying to add layer after layer to something that sounds better left alone.

Again, short and sweet. Again, not too much going on, not too many layers. However, again, it works so well. Something like this, about a minute in length is a great addition to an album.  It usually works well slotted near the end of an album, where it can act as a nice interlude.  Something like this, about a minute in length, is something I am considering doing myself.

Reading…

So, reading has officially begun for the dissertation.  I have started by reading a book called “Machines – masters or slaves of man?” by Meredith Thring.  It talks about the differing thoughts people have on society.  It examines an affluent but more dehumanised society against a creative society in which quality of life is viewed as more important than consumption of goods. With my dissertation being about the effect of technology on music eg. internet, music editing software etc, this book seems as though it will be extremely helpful.

First task for the Live module

For our first task in this module, we were to get into groups and respond to a piece of writing by Deleuze called Societies of Control.  The basic idea of this piece is that we are all part of something bigger.  Everything is owned by something else.  My group focused on mass production and advertisement when approaching this task.

The only stipulation was that it had to be between 30 and 60 minutes.  Our idea was to play and record an almost entirely improvised piece.  The only predetermined part was that there would be an initial riff known as the production riff.  This symbolised production in it’s simplest form.  Repetitive and straightforward.  After looping that initial production riff we were free to take the piece wherever we wanted.  The idea was to build up layer after layer until it turned to chaos.  This would symbolise the bombardment of mass production and advertisement.  The initial production riff is still there but when it is removed there is nothing but chaos and mess.  Once that was done we added various advertisements and at the end repeat the same McDonalds advertisement over and over to represent the repetitive and forceful nature of advertisement.

Here it is:

http://mixlr.com/csm/showreel/csms-mixlr-11/

 

Dissertation Brief 2 – Introduction and Chapter Overview

‘The creating and consuming of music in the digital age’ –

 Have new technologies been positive or negative for music?

This dissertation will be focused on the impact technology has had on music.  From music editing software through to social media, this piece of writing will attempt to cover all important technological advancements that have impacted the world of music.  These advancements have changed the way in which people develop, create, consume, share and value music so it is easy to see why this topic is of great importance in understanding the modern world of music.

From this topic, readers can learn why the music business is how it is today and how it differs from the old model.  Readers will learn how the power of the big companies has been somewhat lost to the public and how releasing and accessing music is easier than ever and the effects this has had.  This research topic can be taken many different ways as technology is always expanding.  Day by day, new advancements are being made and for anyone interested in music, whether it is business or simply listening and playing, it is useful to understand what is going on around them.

The way this dissertation will be presented is as follows:

Chapter One:  Where was music before the digital revolution? 

This will include an overview of the way the music business worked before what is now known as the digital revolution took over.  ‘The Music Industry’ by Patrik Wikstrom is a good book to reference for this chapter.  It talks directly about the digital revolution and how the industry has dealt with it, or failed to in some opinions.  This chapter is a brief reminder of how things were and how things changed.

Chapter Two: The Internet

Perhaps the biggest factor in this entire topic, the internet has revolutionised the world.  In term of music, it changed everything.  As it is such a wide topic, this chapter will be split into sub sections.

Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace and so on, social media is an incredibly powerful weapon in any musician’s arsenal.  In the modern day, it is essential for any musician to work on these platforms.  It keeps them in constant contact with their fans and allows them to share anything new that is happening at the click of a button.  It is also useful for promoters, venues, managers and more.  Social media has been rising for years and it looks like its power will only continue to grow.  The book Social Media and Music: The Digital Field of Cultural Production by H. Cecilia Suhr should be useful for this.

Downloading and Streaming – Napster, Limewire, Pirate Bay, Spotify and the hundreds of other downloading and streaming services that have allowed consumers to access music for free are important to include in this research topic.  Illegal downloading and free streaming of music has had a huge impact on big record companies and on musicians themselves.  Some have shown their support for it and embraced it whilst others have lashed out against it.  It is a heated debate that has been going on for years.  A good book for this chapter is Fortune’s Fool by Fred Goodman.  This book focuses on the crisis the music industry faced when the internet appeared.

Online Audio Platforms – This refers to sites such as Soundcloud, Reverbnation, YouTube and CD Baby.  This section will look at how easy it now is for anybody to share their music with the world and how it can sometimes lead to major success.  Of course, this can cross over with the social media section as all of these websites can be linked together.  This is a massive difference from the old model where the music heard was largely controlled by the big companies.  These sites have made it possible for anyone to share music and as a result, there is far more music in the world than ever before.

Chapter 3: Music Editing Software

The way in which music is recorded and mixed nowadays is far more advanced than ever before.  This chapter will cover the pros and cons of programs such as Pro Tools and focus on how recording music has become much easier at times.  Other focuses may be auto tune and pitch corrector and how these enhancers have impacted music.  An article by Lessley Anderson from the website ‘The Verge’ may be helpful here.  It talks about auto tune and ‘fake’ artists.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/27/3964406/seduced-by-perfect-pitch-how-auto-tune-conquered-pop-music

Chapter 4: Music on the Go

This chapter is going to be about how music is available nearly anywhere and anytime.  Main points of focus will be portable devices such as iPods and mobile phones and wifi (again linking with the internet chapter).

Chapter 5: Live Music

This chapter will question how the digital revolution has affected live music.  Many people see no need to go to a gig when they can listen to the artist for free at home or better yet, stream the performance online.  Other people still go to gigs but are more interested in capturing the whole performance on their mobile phones and uploading it to the internet than actually watching the show.  This chapter aims to unfold the current state of live music.  There are plenty of articles that can be referenced when it comes to this topic.

Conclusion

The aim of this dissertation is to answer whether or not people have become more productive and creative as a result of technological advancements in music, or if it has made people lazier.  It is designed to answer whether or not a world with far more music is a good thing, or if it was better when there was less music but musicians had to prove themselves to be heard, and as a result ‘better’ music was heard.  These types of questions are completely two sided and there is no ‘right’ answer for them as such, but this research is designed to give readers a stronger knowledge of the subject.

 

Some references to get the ball rolling…

It is important for me to listen to and analyse as much music as possible so I have plenty to reference.  I am looking for all sorts of inspiration from overall vibes and atmospheres down to individual drum sounds and guitar tones for example.

This song is one I am referencing for a currently unrecorded song that I have.  I want to capture that acoustic sound held together by the droning electric guitar.  Although a modern band, this song reminds me of something that would be heard in the 60’s.  I need to think about how I’m going to create this sound.  Light percussion, a gentle acoustic guitar sound, the droning sound of the repetitive chord from the electric guitar, soft vocals that give off a soothing yet slightly unsettled feeling.  I want to get this sort of vibe for one particular song of mine so this song should be extremely helpful for me.

Although I enjoy the whole song I have mainly included this for the transition into the solo at 3:01. I love that build up with the rumbling bass and guitar and the almost over EQ’d tom toms that then drops into this psychedelic sonic world.  The guitar, bass and drum sounds in this solo are a strong reference for me too.  I think they are all at the ideal levels and when the vocals come in it fits together perfectly.  Another song that should be useful for me to reference.

Mark Lanegan is a huge influence to my vocal approach.  I could have chosen any song really but this is one in which the vocals are heard clearly.  I like the raw, gritty sound of the vocals.  They seem very real and not over produced.  They seem heartfelt and gripping.  This is an artist I have been and will continue to be listening to a lot of when recording my songs.

Work Experience – summary

Although the third year has begun, I realised I didn’t post about the results of my work experience…

Over the summer I completed my work experience that was part of the PDAR module.  This took place at Ty Du studios in Rogerstone, Newport.  I attended for 5 days – Monday to Friday.  When I arrived I was shown around the studio and got to know Alex, the man who runs Ty Du.  He asked me about the work I have done in university and told me about the sort of work he does.

During the week I was there, he had no bands booked to come in and record so instead we looked at some of the songs he had recorded the week before and was still in the process of mixing.  This involved guitar based music with rap and hip hop vocals (Somewhere between Rage Against The Machine and Dog Eat Dog).  He showed me some mixing techniques I hadn’t seen before and encouraged me to speak up if there was anything I thought needed changing.

We also looked at some soundtrack music he had been making to be sent off to America.  He worked alongside another producer somewhere in England and together they created 2 to 3 minute pieces of music designed for film trailers.  He showed me the steps he had taken in creating a piece of music and continued to work on it when I was there.

So, overall it was an interesting experience and a good contact has been made.  I was able to see the work schedule and demands a working producer has to follow from day to day.  If I were to say anything bad about the time I spent there it would be that perhaps I didn’t actually do too much myself.  By this I mean it involved me watching and listening a lot but not actually doing too much.  This probably would have been different if there were bands recording but that’s just how it worked out that week.  However, by watching and listening I was still able to learn about different mixing techniques and ideas.

Introduction to the new module

In this module I will be continuing my project that I began last year which involves creating a solo album.  I have already recorded a few songs and plan to record as many more as I can.  When I have my collection of songs, I will choose a final track listing for my album.  The songs I’ve already got have been mixed but I will be revisiting them at a later date for a final mix and master.  The songs are written and performed entirely by myself and recording and mixing is done with the help of a friend.  As well as the audio content I will also be thinking about artwork and visual content to accompany the work and hopefully make the project feel much more rounded and complete.

Over the following months I will continue to research the scene I am working in and build up a list of references for my work.  After the research and creation process I will be thinking about post production issues, packaging, marketing and publication.

Dissertation – general ideas

‘The creating and consuming of music in the digital age’

This is the basic idea of what I will be researching for my third year dissertation.  I am still interested in understanding the impact technology has had on the world of music, with the internet being an important factor.  It is something that we all use today and has completely revolutionised the way in which people share and consume music.  It is an area that is constantly changing and expanding into new territories and it is because of its importance in music today that I have chosen to study this topic.

I agree with the conclusions I reached in my dissertation literature review but they are not detailed or precise enough.  I will need to expand on my ideas and also give strong alternative arguments against them to make it a reasonable and accurate discussion.  This will come when I start researching this topic properly in the third year.   The dissertation literature review was extremely useful in teaching me what other musicians, philosophers and other writers thought on the topic and it gave me an excellent starting point which I can now work from.

Questions I am trying to answer include:

  • Have new technologies and the internet made artists do more or do less?
  • Have new technologies been positive or negative for the music business?
  • Do people rely on technology too much these days?

These are all relevant in questions in the study of music in 2014. The possibilities now available when creating, sharing and selling music are at an extremely advanced stage and there are no signs of it slowing down.  It seems as though everyday there is something new happening in music technology.  In 2014, we are far enough through the digital age to be able to analyse what has happened, what is happening and what will happen next.  It is important for musicians and those who work in the music business to slow down and take a look at what is going on around them and if it is benefiting them.  If not, then they must think about how they can make a change.  These questions will provide me with plenty of possible directions to take my dissertation.

I am not currently reading any books but now the term has started again and I can access the library I am going to make sure I read more books more regularly.  Over the summer I have however been looking at a lot of debates over the use of auto tune and how it has affected the ‘realness’ of music.  This is something that may be useful for me to look at in more depth as it is a clear example of the way technology has impacted music and it would be a great topic for me to apply to my three questions.  Some people will say it has had a negative impact on music while others are not too bothered either way.  It is my aim to understand why people react to it in the way they do.

I plan to structure this essay in the form of a two sided argument.  I will break up the piece of writing into main categories first, and then talk about different topics within that category.  So, categories may include music editing software, downloading and streaming services, social media and portable devices.

So, in the category of music editing software, I may include a discussion on Pro Tools for example, and give the positive aspects and negative aspects of its presence in the music world.  Perhaps it has made recording and mixing music easier, but what are the consequences?  Has it made artists and producers lazier?  Has it made all music sound too similar and perfect?  I will ask questions like this and attempt to offer both sides to the argument fairly.  I am hoping this technique will give me a clear, educated conclusion by the time I finish this dissertation.