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All sessions take place on Thursdays at 4pm on Zoom. UK times are displayed (BST/GMT).

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12th January 2023, 4-5pm (chair: Elsa Marshall)

Covers, Memes, and Musical Reimaginations

  • Meme and Variations: How YouTube Mashups of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" Became a Thing (Scott B Spencer, University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music)

  • All the small things: Communicating the bigger picture (Lou Aimes-Hill, University of Leeds)

Meme and Variations: How YouTube Mashups of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" Became a Thing

Scott B. Spencer, University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music

Abstract: This study looks to emerging video memes based on John Coltrane’s Jazz classic, "Giant Steps." It involves personal interviews with a number of creators of "Giant Steps" memes, tracing their influences, creative mindsets, and the trajectories of their digital pieces. It especially looks to one of the first influential memes, "Giant Steps in C," which was created by saxophonist Caleb Curtis through a in-depth application of Zynaptic’s Pitchmap software paired with a careful video edit of a live performance of Impressions by Coletrane. The resulting video – which presents a version of the challenging modal piece in a single key – spurred many others to create their own video and audio responses, and (may have) started the current trend. The study also engages with the blurred trope of Jazz performer/audience/critic, as today’s popular media platforms democratize and make accessible video response/comment box/share.

The fields of Musicology and/or Ethnomusicology have not been well-equipped to work within this new realm, as most academic theory is built on classic ideas of score study, personal observation, co-spatial and co-temporal engagement, and ethnographic method.  The intent of this project is to expand the academic toolset to better deal with these digital texts; to tease out the cultural context around "Giant Steps" memes; to grasp and document the intentions behind the creation of pieces within a genre of memes; and to understand this trope’s placement in larger meme culture.

Bio: Dr. Scott B. Spencer is an Assistant Professor of Musicology (World Music) at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. His research explores the intersections of oral tradition and digital culture. He has published in the journals Explorations in Media Ecology, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and a variety of edited volumes. He also edited the book The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity. In addition to teaching, Spencer runs the Sound in Sacred Spaces working group - sponsored by USC’s Levan Institute for the Humanities and UCLA's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture. 


All the small things: Communicating the bigger picture

Lou Aimes-Hill, University of Leeds

Abstract: This paper explores the power of the cover version in communicating the Christmas message.

‘Christmas advertising is ingrained in UK culture[…]’ (Mogaji 2019) and for fifteen years the John Lewis Christmas advert has been a festive fixture on UK television screens, with all but three of the commercials being soundtracked by a cover version of a well-known popular song. The covers, versioning originals from Elton John to Guns ‘n’ Roses have seen both established and emerging artists following a seemingly formulaic process of production to release stripped back, slowed down, piano ballads with wistful vocals, that have accompanied everything from grumpy children and men in the moon to lonely penguins and trampolining wildlife. 'The Beginner’, was released by John Lewis in early November 2022 and immediately labelled ‘the most unapologetically depressing thing in human history’ (Stuart Heritage 2022). I would like to contest this statement and explore how a melancholic, cover of a pop-punk classic, moves the narrative of this advert far beyond the minimal dialogue and traditional Christmas visuals; by ‘engaging the listener in a historical duet with lyric and lineage […] a delicate and dichotomous dance between past and present, place and possibility’ (Plasketes 2005).

Bio: Lou Aimes-Hill is a second year PGR with the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on the currency of the cover version as a form of Coronamusic, with the working title ‘Covers as Coronamusic: A currency for community and communication of the self’. She has recently worked on papers for conferences on authorship and authenticity, and workshops on adaptation during the COVID crisis. She particularly interested in understanding the role and impact of creativity and music making in times of crisis and, in addition to her research, holds an MA in music performance and a PGCE in post compulsory education.

26th January, 2023, 4-5pm (chair: Jenny Citarelli, University of Hartford)

Digital Mediations

  • Transmedia and Intertextual Hauntology: Steven Wilson’s “Drive Home” and 505 Games’ Last Day of June (Lori Burns and Patrick Armstrong, University of Ottawa)

  • Songs of Kinship: On the Mediations of Hyderabad’s Marfa Baaja (Khadeeja Amenda, National University of Singapore)

Transmedia and Intertextual Hauntology: Steven Wilson’s “Drive Home” and 505 Games’ Last Day of June

Lori Burns and Patrick Armstrong, University of Ottawa

Abstract: Videographer Jess Cope’s 2013 video treatment of Steven Wilson’s “Drive Home,” develops an emotional visual story featuring two puppet figures whose emotional expressions bely the limitations of stop-motion animation. This music video travels into a video game (Last Day of June, 505 Games, 2017), in which the gameplay is grounded in emotionally-driven motivations. Our analysis illustrates how the game materials shape a transmedia and intertextual narrative, drawing upon a theory of narrative that is centered on human subjectivity and also relying upon the concept of literary and media hauntology. Not only does the original song become the basis of this game, but many of Wilson’s other songs are used for the musical score. We map the musical content of the game, with the aim of illuminating an intertextual network of songs that intersect to communicate the tragic and hauntological narrative of Last Day of June.

Bio: Lori Burns is Professor of Music at the University of Ottawa. Her interdisciplinary research merges musical analysis and cultural theory to explore representations of gender in the lyrical, musical and visual texts of popular music. She has published articles in edited collections published by Ashgate, Bloomsbury, Cambridge, Garland, Oxford, Routledge, and the University of Michigan Press, as well as in leading journals (Popular Music, Popular Music and Society, The Journal for Music, Sound, and Moving Image, Studies in Music, Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online and The Journal for Music Theory). She is co-editor of The Pop Palimpsest with Serge Lacasse (2018), The Bloomsbury Handbook to Popular Music Video Analysis with Stan Hawkins (2019), and Analyzing Recorded Music with Will Moylan and Mike Alleyne (2022).

Patrick Armstrong is pursuing an MMUS in Piano Performance at the University of Ottawa, where he completed a BMUS in 2018. He has received scholarships and awards from the SOCAN Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Orford Music Academy, and the Domaine Forget Academy. His compositions have been performed by prestigious Canadian musical ensembles, including the Thirteen Strings Orchestra and the Bozzini String Quartet. He has presented his research on progressive metal at the International Progect Network Conference in Sweden (2018) and Canada (2021), as well as IASPM-Canada (2019). He has published an article in Metal Music Studies 7/3 (2021) and has several forthcoming chapters in edited collections.


Songs of Kinship: On the Mediations of Hyderabad’s Marfa Baaja

Khadeeja Amenda, National University of Singapore

Abstract: This study is on the technological mediations of marfa baaja, a musical band performance in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, India. Marfa is the name of a percussion instrument similar to the kettle drum, and baaja refers to band music. Marfa baaja voyaged across the Indian Ocean to Hyderabad along with the Siddi and Hadrami migrations. The Siddis migrated in 1850 and the Hadramis in 1797 from Abyssinia (in present Ethiopia) and Hadramawt (in the present Republic of Yemen) respectively. They played a major role in the Nizam’s (the ruler of the then Hyderabad state) military and currently live in African Cavalry Guards and Barkas, respectively. Marfa baaja is an integral part of occasions of joy in the city, from weddings to baby births. There is no structured way of learning marfa as it is transferred from one generation to other.

I study the technologically mediated life of marfa baaja, which is up on platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram and TikTok. As a sound without a historical past, these mediated marfas are creating a recorded past for future generations. What happens to marfa baaja, a music that has no written past or method of study, when technology-aided mediations happen? As a community that is purely based on lineage, will the bringing up of technology be a breaker or maker of the existing kinship? The interrelationship of music of the mediated marfa and the original marfa is studied as a link between their ancestors, present and future.

Bio: Khadeeja Amenda is a graduate student in the Cultural Studies in Asia programme at the Department of Communication and New Media, National University of Singapore, Singapore. She has an MPhil in Media Studies from the Centre for Media Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her doctoral work is on the relationship between sound and senses in creating past and present listening practices in Hyderabad, India. Her research interests include sound studies, sensory studies, visual anthropology and media anthropology. The presentation is part of her ongoing doctoral ethnographic work.

23rd February, 2023, 4-5:30pm (chair: Elizabeth Hunt, University of Liverpool)

Music and Sound Practices

  • Library music between “art” and “craft” (Júlia Durand, CESEM - NOVA University of Lisbon )

  • Understanding the Art of Sound (Andrew Knight-Hill, University of Greenwich)

  • A Study of Temporality in Japanese Film phenomenological reflections on the in-betweenness of sound (Sascia Pellegrini, School of the Arts of Singapore)

Library music between “art” and “craft”

Júlia Durand, CESEM - NOVA University of Lisbon

Abstract: Library music has grown significantly since its transition to a digital medium, with an unprecedented number of musicians turning to it either as a full-time occupation or as a side activity. While it is predominantly described (and disparaged) in terms that highlight its industrial aspects (such as a prolific composition based on tried-and-tested formulas), I propose that examining library music exclusively through this perspective does not allow us to fully grasp the nuances of how composers engage with this musical practice, often making sense of it not only as an “industry”, but also as a “craft”.

Drawing from qualitative interviews with composers and other library professionals conducted over a period of four years, I inquire into how these agents view library music as a craft and a site of apprenticeship where they may “safely” (anonymously) hone skills that will be useful in other, more prestigious projects (such as bespoke scoring for media). In particular, composers who write both for libraries and for other musical contexts tend to establish a rigid distinction between the two, rooted on a duality between “art” and “craft”. I will explore how composers shape their activity around this distinction, presenting their library music as a “craft work” separate from “artistic” pursuits. This is manifested, for example, in their use of pseudonyms, their discussions with peers (where standards of competence and usefulness prevail over ideals of “originality” or “self-expression”), and in the approaches and strategies they adopt for their library work.

Bio: Júlia Durand is a musicology researcher at the NOVA University of Lisbon. She is a member of the Center of Sociology and Musical Aesthetics (CESEM) and takes part in the activities of its Group for Studies in Sociology of Music (SociMus) and Music and Cyberculture (CysMus). In addition to several papers on music and audiovisuals presented at international conferences such as Music and the Moving Image, her research has been published in edited volumes and in the journals Music, Sound and the Moving Image and Revista Portuguesa de Musicologia. Her PhD focuses on the production and use of library music in online videos.


Understanding the Art of Sound

Andrew Knight-Hill, University of Greenwich

Abstract: This is about how sounds communicate, how they make us feel, how they tell stories. Revealed through conversations with world leading creative professionals working in the UK, US and Europe, it unveils hidden spheres of creativity, exploring the artistic practices which underpin some of the world’s leading Film Sound and Electroacoustic Music.

Bringing together an eclectic mix of practitioners, our goal is to reveal new perspectives on sound practice, to demystify processes and offer up new perspectives that de-center technological and descriptive (declarative and didactic) approaches to knowledge, instead embracing new possibilities for celebrating creative practice in sound, acknowledging the artistry and creative practice that already exists in the field, while providing new accessible insights that might contribute to opening out routes of access into sound practice and increase the diversity of creative practitioners.

The parallel worlds of Film Sound and Electroacoustic Music share a common medium (sound), and many of the same tools and processes (digital audio workstations, plugins, microphones etc.). But there has been a chasm of communication between these sister fields. With support from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via a Leadership Fellowship grant our project has sought to bridge this divide, to bring these two worlds together in dialogue, seeking to compare and contrast approaches, insights and inspirations, to reveal where the two fields might speak to one another in mutually beneficial ways.

Bio: Andrew Knight-Hill is a composer of electroacoustic music, specialising in studio composed works both acousmatic (purely sound based) and audio-visual. His works have been performed extensively across the UK, in Europe and the US. Including performances at Fyklingen, Stockholm; GRM, Paris; ZKM, Karlsruhe; New York Public Library, New York; London Contemporary Music Festival, London; San Francisco Tape Music Festival, San Francisco; Cinesonika, Vancouver; Festival Punto de Encuentro, Valencia; and many more.

He is director of the Loudspeaker Orchestra and the SOUND/IMAGE Research Centre at the University of Greenwich, he is currently an AHRC Leadership Fellow with his project Audiovisual Space: Recontextualising Sound Image Media.


A Study of Temporality in Japanese Film phenomenological reflections on the in-betweenness of sound

Sascia Pellegrini, School of the Arts of Singapore

Abstract: This presentation investigates the absence, presence, and in-betweenness of sound and music in selected movies of the post-war Japanese film industry. Japanese film presents a distinct aesthetic, more often than not reverting to sparseness and parsimony in the treatment of sound and music: a modality in stark contrast to the operative use of such mediums in western films of the same historical period.

I therefore examine a distinct notion of in-betweenness resonating with the concept of ‘Ma’ (間) a word that stands for pause, gap, or emptiness in the Japanese philosophical tradition: ‘Ma’ transcends the definition of space and time intervals, collapsing any dichotomies and differentiations of space-time relations.

Drawing connections between selected works of film directors Yasujirō Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, and Kiyomi Kuroda, all of whom have a particular relationship to the concept of ‘Ma’ (間), I maintain that the absence of sound is permeated with Husserlian’s retention and protention: a presence just passed, or yet to be. ‘Ma’ (間), the notion of in-betweenness, Deleuzian rhizome, disperses the rigid post-cartesian dichotomy of absence-presence in sound and music.

By examining the specific relation of Japanese film to music, this presentation holds that the dialogue between moving images and sound is never absent: rather that sound in Japanese film, even when unheard, is prepared, or amplified by its ostensible muteness; by the temporal protraction of still and silent moments. A presence of sound and music in-between, that requires an act of reconnaissance, a pause for contemplation.

Bio: Sascia was trained in percussion, piano, and composition at the Italian Conservatory G. Puccini (IT) and at IRCAM (FR). Sascia’s expertise is in intermedia, and interdisciplinary arts, with a strong background in music composition and dance choreography: he has conducted courses in Academies and Universities in Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. His contributions and articles have been featured in symposiums, conferences, magazines and journals from the US, Lithuania, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea. In recent years Sascia has developed a close collaboration with the composer Ben Boretz and the singer Yungchen Llamo. He has performed in Italy, France, Germany, China, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong, where he collaborated with major dance companies. Sascia is a Composition and Integrated Arts Teacher at The School of the Arts of Singapore and Editor for the Open Space Magazine (NY). He is currently a PhD candidate with the University of Dundee, Scotland.

9th March, 4-5:30pm (chair: Lori Burns, University of Ottawa)

WORD – MUSIC – IMAGE: Collaborative Interpretations of Multimodal Expression in Popular Music Video

Carla Colletti (Webster University), Christopher Doll (Columbia University), Karen Fournier (University of Michigan), Kate Galloway (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Sarah Louden (NYU Steinhardt), Victoria Malawey (Macalester College), Brad Osborn (University of Kansas), Tyler Osborne (University of Oregon), Nico Schuler (Texas State University), Rachel Short (Shenandoah University), Philip Stoecker (Hofstra University), Evan Ware (California State Polytechnic University-Pomona)

WORD – MUSIC – IMAGE: Collaborative Interpretations of Multimodal Expression in Popular Music Video

Abstract: This panel presentation includes a facilitator plus twelve music theorists who have collaborated in three groups of four to interpret multimodal expression in popular music video. The work has emerged from a Society for Music Theory peer workshop that took place in New Orleans (November 2022) but was not open to an audience. We would like now to present the results of this collaborative analytic research to the BARN audience.

Working with a variety of analytic approaches for the interpretation of the musical, textual, and visual content of music videos, the three groups conduct collaborative analyses of the following music videos: Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” (2018); St. Vincent’s “Cruel” (2011); and Tanya Tagaq’s “Aorta” (2016). These three videos feature a range of genres (R&B, alternative rock, and experimental electronica), as well as a range of musical–cultural subjectivities. Organizing our ideas around representations and subjectivities (Monáe), narrative and discourse (St. Vincent), and embodiment and gesture (Tagaq), we analyze the three channels (modalities) of expression—lyrics, music, and images—in order to illuminate the emergent messages and meanings. While each participant focusses on one aspect of a given music video, an analytic dialogue develops through the assembly of interpretive perspectives. It would be rare for a single analyst to accomplish what is gained by this collaborative model.

Thank you for joining us!