Room 2, Session 1 (9:30 – 11:00) [BACK TO PROGRAM]

How have composition, song writing and arranging changed since the proliferation of technological tools in recording, and writing music? What are the tensions between originality and external influences (genre, commerciality etc) in contemporary song writing and composition?

Each presenter’s video ‘paper’ can be viewed below – the video immediately below is the conference discussion

Ming Yue (University of York)

What then is Chinese Music Today?—On the Stylistic Formation of Contemporary Chinese Composers

Musical works by Eastern Asian composers often find themselves being labelled “exotic” and are habitually pigeonholed by Westerners into “the same group”. Yet, the works that are widely appreciated by Modern Chinese composers (such as Tan Dun, Chen Qigang, Zhou Long, etc.) deliver music that is both metaphysically and technically individualistic, and “are sometimes aesthetically complete opposites.”  This paper begins with the composer Chen Qigang’s artistic declaration that: “The soul of a real artist is initially humanistic, then cultural, and finally it can be turned into an ethnicity or a nation” (Chen Qigang, 2022).   From a then-young Chinese composer’s perspective, the author discusses the compositional factors and music demands shaping the individual voices of three “Western-cultivated” Chinese composers (Chen Qigang, Tan Dun, and Wang Xilin), outlining the personal encounters that impacted the metaphysical and aesthetic pursuits revealed in their individual compositional styles. The talk will culminate in the introduction of the author’s own cross-cultural piece for traditional Chinese instrument Sanxian and Chinese Contemporary-Classical dance. The goal here is to highlight her interdisciplinary blending of indigenous elements, i.e., Chinese Classical Dance, contemporary techniques and ancient literature, with the aim of relaying her humanistic concerns and political claims in her music.

Bea Redweik (Goldsmiths College, London)

This presentation poses as an experiment, a prompt to expand the field of songwriting. My focus rests on process within my own ongoing artistic and research practice. Multimodal experience calls for multimodal articulation, therefore I employ multidisciplinary forms of autoethnographic documentation of my iterative practice, highlighting elements typically regarded as extrinsic to songwriting and placing them at the heart of attention. Themes in the spotlight will include embodiment, scale, slowness, unfinishedness, and the everyday.

My presentation is grounded in my Practice Research PhD (titled Songs as Process – Collapsing the Commercial Product through Embodiment), which disrupts normative epistemologies of popular song in response to a dominant discourse that understands popular music as commercial product – the recording. My antidote, and catalyst, is a radical foregrounding of process and an active decentring of product. In popular music making (as framed in my research), the recording is artefact (albeit a very important artefact), and the practice is the work – ongoing, seeping, changeable, multi- directional, multimodal, and non-linear. In other words, practice is process.

Calling the primacy of the commercial product into question, my investigations of songwriting process actively embrace this understanding of a practice as multimodal, discovery-led, and ultimately transdisciplinary. Performing, re-instantiating, and documenting my own process, I lean on experimentation and repetition, drawing on filmmaking, installation, writing, and performance art, bringing these disciplines right into songwriting and treating them as reciprocities.In this presentation I will expressly reference my ongoing project of generating process films, which turn songwriting inside-out and cleave a space for contemplating the tentative, the speculative, the flawed, and the repetitive – exploring what artistic consequences may follow a collapse of the commercial product in songwriting?

Adrian Hull (University of Portsmouth)

I would propose to detail my research-through practice in musical composition. Specifically, assessing and addressing the challenges and opportunities of working with software libraries (Spitfire audio’s BBC Symphony Orchestra Professional) to create pseudo-realistic orchestral compositions, that explicitly extend would-be physical possibilities of performers. Structured around the theme of viruses the work reaches back to 2007 and consists of a suite of orchestral compositions. The presentation will explore the boundaries between digital and physical performance and musical examples from the compositions will be given to detail how there is an attempt to exist in the liminal space between the two, whilst remaining true to established canons of orchestral composition.