Educational Philosophy Part 2

Know one self, develop mastery of one self

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Continuing on from my previous blogs in this series; I am a practitioner across multiple disciplines. My formal post-compulsory education qualifications include engineering, business, governance, teaching, education and sound production. I have held coal face type positions, project management and consultancy positions, numerous senior and executive management positions including leading a corporation in a managing director role, and have acted on several boards in governance roles. I have undertaken many more lessor accredited and non-accredited training programs across these disciplines and many industries. There are too many to list in name and content focus. I have been very fortunate to live in an era, a country and be of a gender and class where my access to knowledge is virtually boundless. What I have discovered over time, core to the range of roles I have engaged in professionally, irrespective of the discipline or industry, is knowing one self. Underlying what many are referring to as soft skills [see blog] , or as Light et al refers to as “Transferable skills – which include communication, teamwork, leadership, ethics, problem-solvingand information technology, etc – support the economic requirement of flexibility and adaptability which graduates expect to use in their future employment and careers, as well as in their life practices and activities”(Light at al 2009, 11). Skills which will enable people to manage themselves within society, and conduct themselves competently and professionally within industry.
As introduced in my blog Music Practitioner – Part 5 blog, “Ryan considers it essential for a creative arts practitioner to look deeper into self (Ryan 2014,77). Having been involved in multiple practice across disciplines, I would suggest that Ryan’s view equally applies to all practice. From the mid 1990’s there was a leadership movement present in most industrialised societies. Referred to by some as the new age management movement, industry or discipline leaders such as Tom Peters (Peters and Austin 1985), Michael Gerber (1988), Stephen Covey (1992), Anthony Robbins (1991), Deepak Chopra (1996) and Wayne Dyer (1992) presented seminars across the globe to concert halls of leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and  practitioners across a broad range of industries. The seminal message was very simple: for success you need to develop yourself as a practitioner. In order to do this, irrespective of your role or function, you will need to continue to develop your self until you have a degree of mastery of your self. Recent observations show an increased number of higher education learning support resources – what once had the singular focus of ontological, epistemological and methodological content – now reference learners and their self, their social and cultural considerations, their emotions, their learning styles and intelligences (Marshall and Rowland 2013, 2-16).
Core to my beliefs, a practitioner must get to know one self on many levels. For one to be able to interact and engage with others at an effective level, one must first understand oneself. I believe we as humans have multiple layers or facets which makes each of us truly unique. I personally like the analogy of an onion, peeling back each layer one by one as we progress through life, revealing another layer of our complex selves. For me, to consider my self as a learner practitioner, I must also include into my consideration, my self.  This should not perhaps be surprising given my higher degree research study is that of an auto-ethnographical study of my practice: an emergent research study that will no doubt have me revealing multiple layers of distinctions and understandings about my self, as I progress along my path – revealing my information of my practice, and my self.

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Layer 1: My Background

I am a white male of european descent, born and raised in Australia by post-war baby boomers. I was raised and schooled christian, but have since spent time in both Japanese and Indian cultures for extended periods of time.  I share a culture with my life partner of Indian cultural background. As a result, we consciously developed a fusion of values and beliefs that were minutely agreeable over several decades to form our own unique culture. We have now been married for twenty-five years.
I was Australian public school educated. I was an above average student – working hard to achieve this – but several events inside and outside of my schooling discouraged my continuing engagement. I had found music, and by mid-high school I had lost interest and I left to pursue an alternative option – a trade. I recall the school counsellor advised my parents that the trade I was leaving to pursue was unlikely to keep me engaged for long; but my parents left the decision to me. Within two years I found the trade role was straight forward – just not interesting. By the third year, I found I spent most time at work in the medium sized business office serving customers, managing their expectations and developing the centre’s poor systems. By the fourth year, I was researching returning to school in order to enable me to enrol in a business degree.
Due to my school grades, my aptitude test, and my work experience, I was accepted into tertiary education. None of my family (immediate or extended) had pursued tertiary studies previously (I recall at the time only 11% of Australians went on to higher education). Having departed high school prior to Year 12 and having missed many of the formative subjects that the tertiary course content developed on from. I struggled through engaging in the course content to varying levels. I however chose to spend much of my time socialising and exploring the limits of being young and free in Australia and overseas. My love for and interest in music developed exponentially at this time, and I returned to a single-minded focus of music practice.
I left for overseas immediately after completing my final year, to which would become a significant period in my life. I got a role consulting with Japanese industrial organisations regarding their training and development. I was trained in educational practice and also delivered training across many industries.  I also formed an originals band with both locals and Internationals; played local venues, community events and festivals; writing, co-managing, and co-producing. I experimented with engineering on both analogue consoles and experimented within the developing digital technologies.
Upon returning back to Australia, I formalised my teaching experience, and gained diverse experience across a range of post-compulsory educational institutions –  including tertiary – experimenting, designing curriculum and programs, and teaching across a broad range of educational approaches (Milwood 2013). Additionally, I continued to develop and practice music – from writing to performing.
After several overseas ventures consulting with International organisations,  I formalised my education experience with a Masters degree. During this time, I was recruited by several educational institutions to assist them with leadership, curriculum design, developing systems, financial management, human resources management, strategic marketing, business development and governance. I continued with my music practice, outsourcing to many bands playing local venues and community events. I also engaged in community music programs as a mentor and coach.
During this time I took a leave of absence and studied at California’s Music Institute (MI) at the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT).  I also ventured into the virtual world of music production (Pro Tools and Logic Pro) and explored the world of virtual instruments in contrast to the acoustic or electric instruments I had experience with until then.
 After a three year professional stint overseas, I returned to Australia and formalised my engineering and production experience in a course at SAE. One year later, I was invited to teach as a sessional Lecturer, which over time progressed into my current role as a Senior Lecturer. I am now formalising my broad Creative Practice in a professional doctoral program at Queensland University of Technology. What I am finding though, is that I am actually formalising all of my practice to date, across all disciplines and industries, with one of the two agreed outcomes being two original cultural productions (EPs) of my music and audio practice.

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Layer 2: My generation

The types of information I ideally need to know prior to entering a education and training role, is to know myself.
I was born into Generation X (Gen X) – which has been referred to as the lost generation. As one of the smallest generational cohorts in terms of births, as a Gen Xer I found my parent’s baby-boomer generation to be quite overwhelming in terms of their large personalities and regular group get togethers. They were vocal, opinionated and highly engaged in living life to the fullest. As I was growing up, I recall I  struggled to find my voice at various times, often feeling relatively invisible. My dad worked in a senior Corporate role which occupied his days, including often his evenings and the weekends. He was well intentioned by volunteering to manage our local rugby teams, but the reality was that he was often unavailable due to work commitments. I would say therefore, that my father was relatively disengaged from me and my brother and sister’s lives. When I was almost seventeen years of age, my parents accepted an international position and moved overseas. This situation forced me to become independent virtually overnight. My parents were a very loving and compatible couple towards each other, and travelled extensively as part of their Corporate lives, inviting me over the Australian summer season. I have definitely absorbed these influences as my life with my partner has demonstrated, along my global travels.  I am also confident that my experiences of feeling invisible and voiceless at times allowed me to feel comfortable in engaging in other cultures of Japan and India.
Technology has played a major role in my life, having lives across many forms of developing media: from black and white television, to colour, to digital; computers from large room punch card devices, to personal computers, to portable laptop devices; landline to portable to mobile telecommunications devices; studios from large format studios to project studios to portable studios; analogue, digital and now digital virtual technologies in the music and audio field; This rapid change has aided me to being quite flexible and adaptable. One aspect that I have never felt a desire to embrace is gaming – digital or virtual. I was always too busy being physical or embracing physical instruments.
 As a result, I believe I possess the typical Gen X characteristics of: self-reliance;  seek a balanced life across work, family and interests; am relatively comfortable with technology; and comfortable working in non-traditional structures (environments,reporting lines, time of day, etc). The one train I do not share with fellow Gen Xers is my lack of adoption to DIY culture. I embraced punk is spirit, but not in activity.
“Whilst I am a very self-reliant practitioner, my over riding philosophical stance embraces the 10,000 hours trades philosophy of skilled craftworkers” (Ericsson et al 1993 in Page 2004)
I guess it is the phenomenologist within me, perhaps tied with my libran value of the aesthetic.
“In both myself and others, I value and believe in the merit of the the development of a skill, a trade, a craft, or art – for that practitioner developing specialist knowledge and tools over many thousand’s of hours of practice, to ultimately express one self through the development of a uniquely personalised quality end product. I accept at last that this is integral to how I conduct my self in my practice and life” (Page 2004).

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Layer 3: My paradigm

As I outlined in my  Research Practitioner – Part 2  blog, my ontology is one of phenomenology. Specifically, I view the world through an experiential phenomenological lens. Experiential Phenomenology professional practitioners tend to be less interested in the philosophy of phenomenological method than its practice and application:
“In existential phenomenology the focus is on individual’s experiences of being-in-the-world” (Grace and Ajjawi 2010, 198).

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Layer 4: My epistemology

My epistemology is empirical, relying on my senses of observation and experimentation.  It therefore should not be surprising that the methodology using a mixed-method qualitative methodology, including that of: practice-led research, evocative auto-ethnography, reflective practice, and reflexive practice, over the two projects. Reflecting on my life across numerous disciplines, I recognise I am the archetype who has to experience activities in life, rather than just theorising about it at arm’s length. Irrespective of my creative, sporting, or professional endeavours of education and management, I learnt early that I need to experience something to understand it.

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Layer 5: My approach to all forms of practice

As introduced in my blog Educational Philosophy Part 1“My life philosophy is one of constant and never-ending improvement. It has been consciously so for over the past decade. Irrespective of what field or discipline I am operating within, I practice every day, in some way towards. As mentioned in Layer 2 above, my over riding philosophical stance embraces the 10,000 hours trades philosophy of skilled craftworkers (Ericsson et al 1993). I value the development of a skill, a trade, a craft, or art, developing specialist knowledge and tools over many thousand’s of hours of practice, to ultimately express my self through a uniquely personalised and developed content, information knowledge base and skill level. I consider this approach integral to becoming a professional practitioner.
As part of this practice, I also make time to reflect every day at some time upon some aspect of my diverse practice, referenced against other practitioners, whether peers or those who I value their cultural production. My focus is to gain clarity, greater understanding, increased insight, considering possible alternative workflows I could have pursued, and decide what form of practice I will pursue the next opportunity a similar circumstance arises” (Page 2004). 
I note that the life-long learning philosophy I have outlined aligns to what Billet and Newton refer to as a learning practice (Bradbury et al 2010, 52); and the daily practice I describe is both reflective practice (Schön 1983) and reflexive practice (West in Bradbury et al 2010, 66).

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Layer 6: My learning styles

In terms of a personality type, I demonstrate characteristics of Littauer’s hippocratic approach as a sanguine (expressive), choleric (driving). I also have relative high levels of melancholic (analytic). Irrespective of the personality type I have taken over the years, I consistently test to these types. Having been immersed within Japanese culture for many decades, it not surprising that my blood type [Funukawa blood types]also matches constantly with the range of my personality type tests (Littauer 1986, 235).
As a left-handed person, I draw predominantly on the right-hemisphere of my brain. “The right-hemisphere appears to be responsible for certain spatial skills and musical abilities and to process information simultaneously and holistically”. That is not to say that I do not have access to the left-hemisphere of my brain, attributes which are usually noted as “analytic processes, especially the production and understanding of language, and it appears input in a sequential order” (Springer and Deutsch 1993, 5).  I am a swimmer and previously a jogger, so both sides of my body, including the hemispheres within my brain have since a very young age got equal attention in their development. In terms of my music practice, I developed a degree of ambidextrousness playing a two handed instrument over about four decades. However in order to develop my music practice to another level, about a decade ago I decided to develop a fingerpicking style of playing (in contrast to straight single note or rhythm playing) using both a plectrum and my lower three (3) fingers. Whilst this style is now very natural, it took considerable time reprogramming my quite limited rhythmical left arm (strumming arm). As a result, I now find I have similar levels of dexterity, accuracy, strength, rhythm and feel from the fingers between both my right and left hands now.
In learning educational kinesiology (EK) such balance is not always the norm. It is not uncommon for people in their day to day activities, to develop one side of their body, and therefore one side of their brain in greater proportion to the other side. Through EK I learnt exercises to do when I feel that I have lost a degree of balance due to my everyday activities. These exercises allow me to “integrate both halves of the brain”again –  and sometimes apply to my students as I feel it is appropriate and required –  “to make learning both easier and more enjoyable” (Parker and Stuart 1986, 16). I consciously continue to exercise and develop my right side of my body, and therefore my left hemisphere of the brain,  in order to maintain a more of a balanced life, and be flexible to switch my orientations when the situation requires it of me.
I am naturally a visual, kinaesthetic, auditory thinker. The core language characteristic is: “Speaks from personal experience a circling way” (Markova 1992, 65). This is perhaps not surprising to my peers and students who may have experienced this within the class room environment. It is also possibly goes a long way to explaining my affinity to circular curriculum (see below Layer 7 for more on this). But to suggest that I am only this would be incorrect. As per my natural hemisphere orientation, I have consciously developed myself in this regard to be comfortable across multiple thinking orientations such as. In any ways, my doctoral research study is an opportunity to demonstrate a range of thinking orientations.
According to Gardner’s multiple intelligences “each human being is capable of seven relatively independent forms of information processing with individuals differing from one another in the specific profile of intelligences that they exhibit”(Gardner and Hatch 1989, 4). 
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Figure I – Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences chart (2015)
The intelligences that I exhibit are in no particular order or priority, and I have found to depend upon the environment and context at a particular point in time. They are: visual/spacial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, interpersonal, naturalistic and musical/rhythmic intelligences. Depending upon the situation, I have also learnt to develop over time both my verbal/linguistic and my logical/mathematical intelligences.
In terms of learning types I demonstrate an affinity to Gawith’s multi-sense learning – physical and emotive learning (1991, 2-6); and that a baker in terms of learning type. That is, I “like to see the whole cake in the mind’s eye first. Bakers feel most comfortable when they can conceive of each part or ingredient in terms of what it contributes to the whole. Bakers tend to be visual, inventive, holistic, intuitive learners. They are driven as much by what feels right as what the book says is right” (1991, 9). But as previously mentioned, I have consciously developed myself learning types
As mentioned in Layer 5, I value and believe in a committed approach to becoming a professional practitioner. I am motivated to learn to constantly improve.  It is now firmly integral within my core being. I have tried and have found to be unable to extinguish my desire to learning. I also attribute this desire to learn as an underlying reason why I have been able to overcome some of the learning challenges I experienced in my undergraduate degree, following being somewhat unprepared as an early school leaver.
This blog series is planned to continue with Educational Philosophy Part 3a.
References
Bradbury, Helen, Nick Frost, Sue Kilminster and Miriam Zukus. 2010. Beyond reflective practice: new approaches to professional lifelong learning. New York: Routledge.
Chopra, Deepak. 1996. The seven spiritual laws of success: a practical guide to the fulfilment of your dreams. New York: Random House.
Covey, Stephen R. 1991. Principle centered leadership. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Dyer, Wayne W. 1992. Real magic: creating miracles in everyday life. Sydney: Harper Collins.
Ericsson, K.A., Krampe, R.T. and Tesch-Römer, C., 1993. The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological review100(3), p.363.
Gardner, Howard and Thomas Hatch. 1989. “Multiple Intelligences go to school: educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences.” Educational researcher 18 (8): 4-10.
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences image courtesy of:  Gardners’ MI   Accessed 28th March 2015
Gawith, Gwen. 1991. Power learning: a student’s guide to success. Melbourne: Longman Chesire.
Gerber, Michael E. 1988. The E Myth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Grace, S and R Ajjawi. 2010. Phenomenological research: Understanding human phenomena. Researcing practice: A discussion on qualitative methodologies. Rotterdam: Sense.
Light, Greg, Susanna Calkins and Roy Cox. 2009. Learning and teaching in higher education: the reflective professional. London: Sage.
Littauer, Florence. 1986. Your personality tree. Dallas: Word Publishing.
Markova, Dawna and Anne R Powell. 1996. How your child is smart: a life-changing approach to learning. Los Angeles: Conari Press.
Marshall, Lorraine and Frances Rowland. 2013. A guide to learning independently. 3 ed. New York: Open University Press.
Millwood, Richard. 2013. Learning Theory v6_Millwood.D2.2.1.20130430  Accessed 28th March 2015
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2015a. Educational Philosophy Part 3a Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2015b. Research Practitioner Part 2 Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2014. Soft Skills Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2010 Music Practitioner Part 5  Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2004. Educational Philosophy Part 1 Accessed 28th March 2015
Parker, A and J Cutler-Stuart. 1986. Switch on your brain: a guide to better reading, concentration and coordination. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger.
Peters, Thomas J and Nancy Austin. 1985. A passion for excellence. The leadership difference. London: Dorling Kindersley.
Robbins, Tony. 1991. Awaken the giant within: how to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Ryan, Mary Elizabeth. 2014. Reflective practice in the arts. In Literacy in the Arts, edited by G Barton, 77-90. London: Springer.
Schön, Donald A. 1983. The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. Aldershot, England: Arena.
Springer, Sally P and Georg Deutsch. 1993. Left brain, right brain. 4 ed. New York: WH Freeman & Company.
Vision blueprint image courtesy of:  Vision Blueprint   Accessed 28th March 2015
Bibliography
Armstrong, Thomas. 1999. 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences. New York: Plume Books.
Covey, Stephen R. 2013. The 8th habit: From effectiveness to greatness. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Covey, Stephen R. 1989. The 7 habits of highly effective people. Melbourne: The Business Library.
Gerber, Michael E. 2005. E Myth Mastery. New York: Harper Audio.
Gerber, Michael E. 1999. The e-myth manager: why management doesn’t work – and what to do about it. New York: Harper Business.
Lawrence-Wilkes, L. & Chapman, A. 2015. Reflective Practice. Accessed March 28th, 2015 http://www.businessballs.com/reflective-practice.htm
Peters, Thomas J. 2003. Re-imagine! London: Dorling Kindersley.
Peters, Thomas J, Robert H Waterman and Ian Jones. 1982. In search of excellence: Lessons from America’s best-run companies. London: Dorling Kindersley.
Pieper, Martha Heineman and William Joseph Pieper. 1999. Smart love: the compassionate alternative to discipline that will make you a better parent and your child a better person. Boston: Harvard Common Press
Sperry, Roger W. 1975. Left-brain, right-brain. Saturday Review 2 (23): 30-32.
– ©David L Page 30/03/2015
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.
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Critical Listening Part 2b

cooltext170963325809258Critical Listening task

As I introduced in my Critical Listening Part 2a blog yesterday [March 2015], the reference track I am going to critically listen to today is:
“The Real Thing” written by Johnny Young, performed by Russell Morris, produced by Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. Released in 1969 in Australia under the label of EMI/Columbia , it was tracked and produced during 1968 and 1969 at Armstrong Studios in Melbourne, Victoria.
The Real Thing stamp - Image                                     (Australia Post stamp 1998)

Genre

The genre is Psychedelic Rock, and due to its heavy studio production basis, it follows the British version of Pyschodelic Rock. British Psychedelic Rock exponents in this era were:  Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds, Procol Harum, and The Moody Blues (George-Warren and Romanowski. 2001). Additionally, there a number of non-Psychedelic Rock bands such as The Beatles and The Small Faces who produced albums or singles in the Psychedelic Rock genre (Max TV 2015). Psychedelic rock as a genre was established attempting to create a soundtrack to the emerging experimental and social drug culture of the day – relaxant and hallucinogenic drugs such as marijuana, mushrooms, and artificial produced LSD. As the psychedelic movement developed, people started identifying with alternate beliefs and spiritual philosophies from a number of global cultures such as Indian (Hindu), Eastern (Buddhist) and American Indian (Shamanic) cultures.
Therefore the musical characteristics and sonic qualities of psychedelic rock were to simulate and replicate the experiences of a user whilst under the influence of these mind-altering drugs.  Included in the performances and productions were: electric instruments including the newly developed keyboards and synthesisers of the day; electronic sound effects including the newly developed samplers; musical form including extended improvisation and solos; and world music influences such as non-Western music form, scale, instruments including percussive, stringed, wind and vocal chants of numerous cultures from Indian, Eastern and American Indian cultures (Wikipedia 2015).
As introduced in my blog “Music Practitioner Part 2 – What brought me here” [October 2014], although “Russell Morris was an acoustic pop performer of the day, playing either 6 string or 12 -string guitars -….  this song uses the basis of acoustic music (acoustic guitars, bass, drums) with layers of keys, processing applied and sampled sounds (such as news recordings, laughter, choral bomb sirens and it concludes with a bomb blast) over the top” (Page 2014).

Musical Characteristics

The Real Thing PT Session Screenshot.20150312.P1.png
The tempo of this track is 189 bpm, in a 4/4 time signature. The song is 6 minutes 16 seconds in length (I trimmed the blank opening 6 seconds of the track within the DAW) – 298 bars – more than double the length of the usual pop song of the day in length. [Though there was however a 3 min 46 second version played on radio].
The structure of the song as it was written was a AABA form with A being the Verse, and B being the Pre-Chorus and Chorus. However, as it was produced in its psychedelic rock form, most of the second half of the B sections (chorus) were extended into what I am calling a Chorus Refrain (and labelling B+ or B++ or B+++ depending upon the length of it).  Therefore, overall the song structure is: A A B A B B+A B B++ B B+++:  I have listed below the structure, and noted the main musical elements (instrumentation) as they are added in each of the sections, and the harmonisation (chords) as well.
  • Intro [Bar 0] – acoustic guitar – D A E B
  • Verse 1 [Bar 9] – bass -D A E B
  • Verse 2 [Bar 19] – acoustic guitar – B E A E B, B D A E B
  • Pre-chorus – [Bar 27] -drums and tambourine – B
  • Chorus [Bar 31] – D F G Bb D
  • Verse 3 – extended [Bar 39] – organ and harmony vox  – B E A E B, B D A E B
  • Pre-chorus – shortened [Bar 57] – B
  • Chorus [Bar 60] – D F G Bb D
  • Chorus Refrain {extended form of chorus}[Bar 68] – choral vox – D F G Bb D
  • Verse 4 [Bar 85] – acoustic style keys
  • Pre-chorus  {irregular} [Bar 103] – multiple choral vox
  • Chorus [Bar 106]
  • Chorus Refrain {extended form of chorus} [Bar 114] – D F G Bb D
  • Pre-chorus [Bar 122]
  • Chorus [Bar 131]
  • Chorus [Bar 139]
  • Chorus Refrain – with extreme sonic manipulation {Bar 147]  – D F G Bb D
    • Introduce Samples [Bar 187]
    • Keys and Processing [Bar 226] – hi-fi
    • More extreme Processing [Bar 242]
    • Bomb Siren [Bar 258] – lo-fi
    • Bomb blast [Bar 285+] – very lo-fi in places
  • end [Bar 298]
The harmonic progression as listed above is very simple. In fact, it is very repetitive when it is played in its originally written format on an acoustic guitar. In this highly produced format, this song in many ways depends upon the extreme contrasts of musical and sonic variations throughout; however most notably from Bar 114 there are a variety of points of interest included in order to hold the listener’s interest in the song* {*It is interesting to note that Bar 114 represents 2 minutes 22 seconds, which is around the usual length of a song in that era}.
This is done in four primary ways:
  • maintaining a very simple lyric to the song throughout;
  • repeating of the structure {A A B A B B+A B B++ B B+++:) so that it is repetitive, expected and therefore easy to follow;
  • changing the musical elements within the arrangement such as:
the changing of the instruments frequently throughout the later half of the song allowed my interest to be maintained, as I was not able to predict what was going to feature next.
adding other points of interest such as the samples from a wide range of social and cultural situations also helped me to maintain my interest as again I was not able to predict what was going to feature next.
  • with the changes to the musical elements came sonic differences of timbre, pitch and amplitude, adding another layer of interest and unpredictability for the listener.

Sonic Qualities

This song is clearly psychedelic rock in character, with numerous technical processes applied. There are multiple textual layers that Meldrum’s production team achieved via the recording, overdubbing and processing techniques applied.

Recording techniques applied

In 1969, the four track recording device had recently been expanded to included devices capable of recording eight tracks simultaneously. “‘The Real Thing’ was recorded on an eight-track machine” (Max TV 2015).

Overdubbing applied

Going through the above listing of musical elements contained in this song, it is a safe to assume that the track count would exceed eight tracks, necessitating a process of overdubbing the additional required tracks. As I listened to the song, it was clear to me from verse 3 that overdubbing was to be a central aspect of this production.  The article The Story of the Real Thing, notes how elaborate this production was over a relatively long period of time. “The song just grew and grew. ‘The Real Thing’ became the living thing. It was like an alien monster in the basement” (Max TV 2015). In my 2014 blog Music Practitioner Part 2 – What Brought Me Here I noted it had been reported that Meldrum was heavily influenced in this production by the “likes of US Producer Phil Spector, and his wall of sound style” (Page 2014); a production style that not only relied on maximising tracks in the recording process, but also layering of overdubs to build up the sonic texture of the song.

Processing techniques applied

But the most obvious technical characteristic in this production, linking it beyond dispute to its’ psycholdeilc rock genre, is the extreme use of time-domain processing.
From the song’s introduction it is obvious a heavy dose of reverb is being used. Reverb provides an element of spaciousness into a recording suggests the song’s sound stage is in a different space to where the song was actually tracked. Large amounts of natural reverb indicate a very large space, and by applying large amounts of reverb processing the producer leads the listener to imagine the singer is in another location. The large amount of reverb processing used here aligns to the experimental and social drug culture of the day, helping transport the listener to an imagined ethereal, mystical or drug-induced state. From the first verse [Bar 9], the liberal use of reverb is noticeable exaggerating the sibilance in Morris’s vocal line. Adding time-domain processing to high frequencies will exaggerate the quality. In the production of another genre – eg jazz – such processing is likely seen to be indicative of poor tracking or mixing processes. However, in this context and genre, such sibilance is used deliberately to support the magined ethereal, mystical or drug-induced state.
From verse 3 excessive flanging is introduced, applied to both the music and the vocal line. As the song progresses, this becomes more of a feature of the song, with excessive amounts of reverb, delay, and flanging to name a few, further supporting the imagined ethereal, mystical or drug-induced state, and I for me, adding interest levels for the listener.
Because of the large amount of processing applied to the song progressively, the sonic quality became quite lo-fi from verse 3, and degenerated from that point into extended periods of poor quality signal. From the third Chorus Refrain at bar 145 the signal was noticeably distorted in places, a sonic quality not usually associated with a pop song of that era.
The dynamics of the song vary dramatically across the entire song, with instrumentation, sampling, amplitude, frequency and processing constantly changing, quite often drastically within a particular section of a song. For example, at bar 225 the signal returned to a typical hi-fi quality for about six bars with the return of some acoustic recorded keyboards. However, at bar 331 the distorted and heavily processed signal was reintroduced.  At bar 242 the signal degenerated further into a very poor quality lo-fi signal and was immersed in the deliberate state of sonic and arrangement chaos until the end of the song.
The use of these technical features, the extent and the amount of processing, along with the full use of the stereo field with liberal use of panning., helped create and place the listener in a mystical or drug-induced type state as the producer had intended. Target achieved – bullseye!

 

target

Tools used to assist in the analysis of a reference track

Analysing  a reference track is an exercise in Critical Listening. As mentioned in last month’s blog, it will take time, practice and considerable dedication to learn to listen for the nuances of the cultural production – the genre, musical and the sonic qualities to a level of mastery. As audio engineering is a craft and art that relies not only the auditory, but also on visual cues as well, you will note some of the tools I have used: my DAW, Pro Tools as the primary tool, along with several plug-ins. I used a Pro Tools session to confirm the tempo, the time signature, and analyse the structure of the song. In terms of the sonic analysis, visual cues I used as part of this Critical Listening task were: virtual meters, spectrometers and vector scopes to confirm what I was hearing with my ears. I suggest these tools can also assist aspiring engineer in the development of their critical listening skills.
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(AE 2015)
Next month [April 2015] we will continue to develop our Critical Listening skills to a deeper level.
References
AE 2015 Music note montage in the universe image courtesy of: Angelic Exorcism (AE) Studio Projects  Accessed 11th March 2015
Australia Post 1998 stamp image courtesy of Australia Post.com. Accessed 4th October 2014
George-Warren, Holly and Patricia Romanowski. 2001. The Rolling Stone encyclopedia of rock & roll, edited by Jon Pareles: Touchstone.
Page, David L. 2015. Critical listening Part 1  Critical Listening Part 1  05/02/2015  WordPress.com blog. Accessed 11th March 2015
Page, David L. 2015. Critical listening Part 2a   Critical Listening Part 2a  11/03/2015  WordPress.com blog. Accessed 11th March 2015
Page, David L. 2014. Music practitioner Part 2 – What brought me here  Reflective Practice Part 1 – What Brought Me Here  05/10/2014  WordPress.com blog. Accessed 11th March 2015
Max TV. 2015. The story of the real thing  http://www.maxtv.com.au/news/the-story-of-the-real-thing.aspx  Accessed 11th March 2015
Wikipedia. 2015. The real thing (Russell Morris)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_Thing_(Russell_Morris_song)  Accessed 11th March 2015
 The Real Thing article courtesy of  The Real Thing Accessed 11th March 2015
 The Wall of Sound article courtesy of  The Wall of Sound Accessed 11th March 2015
– ©David L Page 12/03/2015
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.

Critical Listening Part 2a

~Music_staff Blue
(AE 2015a)
Critical and analytical listening is a skill that separates the experienced audio engineer – particularly mix and mastering engineers – and aspiring engineers. Over the next six months I will cover theory and tasks for aspiring engineers to develop their critical & analytical listening skills. As part of that process, I introduce a task today that is a necessary step for the aspiring engineer to undertake in order to develop ones’ critical listening skills.
As I introduced in Critical Listening Part 1 last month [February 2015 blog] “Critical listening, the ability to hear musically and sonically – technically, is an essential attribute of a music producer” (Page 2015). Critical Listening (CL) is a learnt skill as a result of investing thousand’s of hours of listening critically to audio tracks. Aspiring audio engineers need to develop their ears, something that will require motivation and proactive discipline to commit to practicing on a regular basis. In order to separate ‘listening as a fan of music’ and ‘critical listening’, an aspiring practitioner needs to set aside time, scheduling a number of sessions per week to deliberately practice the discipline of critical listening. It is critical that this practice time is when your ears are fresh, when you will not be disturbed, and when you have access to some quality monitors and a DAW. Making such a commitment will be perhaps your most important decision in your development of one of the core audio engineering skills – your critical listening ability.
The first step is to choose a piece of music to analyse. My advice here is to choose a track you are already familiar with – that is, something that you like. This will assist you in the process of drilling down into the depths of the song, as you are already probably familiar with the features of the genre, and specifics of the song such as music characteristics and sonic qualities: even if you have not yet consciously set aside time to analyse the song in such a detailed manner.
In Critical Listening Part 1 I noted a song that was particularly influential on my development as a creative practitioner. Out of both respect, and I suppose a tribute to the significance of this song, I intend to use it as a reference track for one of my upcoming music productions.The Real Thing stamp - Image                               (Australia Post stamp 1998)

What is a reference track?

A reference track is a track you will use to ‘reference’ against throughout the process of the music production. In many ways, it could be considered a target for the production project; a target around which a building plan can be developed, an architectural plan for your song that has been designed, discussed, agreed and finally acted upon, and then evaluated at certain points in time along the process to confirm the target is likely to be achieved.
target
The reference track should therefore form an agreement as such between the artist and the producer of what the project objective is to be; what they are aiming at, and how the artist would like the final sound of their cultural production to be most similar to. And agreement between the artist and the production team.
The reference track is also most likely to play homage to the genre the artist is most aspiring to: who they are aspiring to sound like – stylistically, musically and sonically. What ‘reference’ track will your artist choose as their plan, their guide track for their production project? What sound do they desire for this specific production project?
Use of a reference track minimises the possibility of any issues later, avoiding a possible disagreement regarding the final product that was produced with difference of opinions between the artist and the producer of what the target was meant to be.

Why use a reference track?

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The reference track specifies the genre, and outlines the specifics of the song such as the music characteristics and sonic qualities that will become the producer’s development plan for the particular production. If you do not have a reference track as starting point, a plan for your production as such, how does you producer know what the song should sound like overall?  What mood should the song should evoke? What shape should the song should take?  What musical qualities should be included? If you do not have such a plan, how does the producer know what instruments should be included? And if known, how does the producer know what the various instruments are required to sound? If you do not start with a reference track, how do you know what sonic qualities you as the producer will aim for in the production?

What are the elements of a reference track from a critical listening perspective?

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A ‘reference’ track is essentially a building plan, an architectural plan for your song, outlining the genre, and what musical and sonic qualities are most desired.
The genre will generally indicate a number of characteristics such as mood (happy, sad, reflective, anger); message (everyday life, relationship, political, spiritual); perspective (1st person, 3rd person narrative, 2nd person conversation, no lyric); likely instrumentation; likely musical structure; likely sonic qualities (hi-fi, lo-fi); social and cultural characteristics (era, target market demographic, cultural significance, para-musical intentions, aesthetic in context).
The musical characteristics include such as musical form; rhythm (tempo, time signature,stress, contra rhythms); harmony (key, harmonic progression, contra harmonies); melody (melodic curve, contra melodies); improvisation; instrumentation; timbre (colour of instruments used); arrangement; elements of interest (form, rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, improvisational,instrumentation or arrangement hooks) .
The sonic qualities of amplitude, timbre, stereo image, spectral, dynamics and time-domain.

Resources to analyse a reference track?

Analysing  a reference track is an exercise in Critical Listening. As mentioned, it will take time, practice and considerable dedication to learn to listen for the nuances of the cultural production – the genre, musical and the sonic qualities to a level of mastery.
Audio engineering is a craft and art that relies not only the auditory, but also on visual cues as well. Visual cues such as meters, spectrometers and vector scopes have traditionally all assisted the audio engineer to confirm what they are hearing with their ears. In today’s world of virtual digital technology, not only can we access a large range of meters and graphic scopes, but we can also rely on the additional visual cues of the tape (ie digital wave form in each track), and the virtual stave documents that can be generated from within the DAW. All of these tools can assist the aspiring engineer in the development of their critical listening skills.
Music_staff_+_notes_2560x1600.v1c
(AE 2015b)
Self-learning task: schedule a critical listening period into your schedule over this coming weekend. Ensure you ears are going to be fresh, you will not be disturbed, and in a conducive listening environment with quality listening monitors. Choose a familiar song, and listen for clues regarding the genre, musical and the sonic qualities to a level that you have not practiced previously. Note down your findings. Repeat the exercise several days later, and not down your additional findings following the second critical listening session.
I have provided an example of such a critical listening task in my blog Critical listening Part 2b [March 2015].
References
AE 2015a Music note montage in the universe image courtesy of: Angelic Exorcism (AE) Studio Projects  Accessed 11th March 2015
AE 2015b Music note montage in the universe image courtesy of: Angelic Exorcism (AE) Studio Projects  Accessed 11th March 2015
Australia Post 1998 stamp image courtesy of Australia Post.com. Accessed 4th October 2014
Page, David L. 2015. Critical listening part 1  https://davidlintonpage.com/2015/02/05/critical-listening-part-1-2/  05/02/2015  WordPress.com blog. Accessed 10th March 2015
Pulsating image courtesy of: Image Accessed 10th March, 2015
The Real Thing article courtesy of: The Real Thing Accessed 10th March 2015
– ©David L Page 11/03/2015
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.

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