School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Shaping Popular Music - Seminar by Dr Alinka Greasley

29 April 2015

Time: 3:00 - 4:00pm
Venue: Eng. 2.09 Engineering Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

Research concerning musical shaping in performance, carried out within the Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP), focuses on the traditions of Western classical music. Although this has increased our understanding of musical shaping, it is questionable as to whether all the findings of such research may be directly applicable to Western popular music or whether this broad genre may engender different conceptions of musical shaping. There are fundamental similarities between the music played by popular and classical Western musicians, such as musical materials, instruments, and processes of collaboration and collective creativity, but there are also many differences, one of which is the greater prominence and exploitation of technology in popular music than in general classical practices (Théberge, 1997). To what extent can the findings of existing research concerning shaping in classical music be applied to popular music? To what extent does the greater prominence and exploitation of technology in popular music influence shaping practices? First, the performer’s role in shaping the music in live performance will be explored drawing on evidence from popular musicians who responded to a questionnaire study on musical shaping (Prior, 2010; 2012a) and work in the popular music field. Second, the role of performer, producer and technology in shaping music in the recording studio will be examined, drawing on existing literature in the field which includes accounts provided by professional popular musicians and music producers (Blake, 2009; Frith & Zagorski-Thomas, 2012; Théberge, 2001; Toynbee, 2000). This will include investigation of the ways in which popular music recordings are shaped by recording techniques and technological practices more broadly, drawing on the work of authors such as Katz (2004), Théberge (2001) and Warner (2003), among others. Third, the ways in which popular music recordings may be used in performance will be discussed, with a focus on the perspectives of DJs using the idea of musical shaping in their work (Greasley & Prior, 2013). A final section will summarise the varied notions of musical shaping that arise from these different perspectives and explore their implications, as well as the limitations of exploring a flexible and widely-applicable metaphor such as shape in a genre as diverse as popular music. Potential future research directions will be discussed.

Dr Alinka Greasley is Lecturer in Music Psychology, School of Music, University of Leeds, where she teaches music psychology at all levels, and leads the MA Applied Psychology of Music programme. Her research lies mainly within the field of social psychology of music, and her interests focus on people’s experiences with and uses of music in everyday life, including musical preferences, categorisation of musical genres, functions of music, music listening behaviour, electronic dance music culture and DJ performance practice.