All things music theory theory and the practice of music theory related: rhythm, harmony, melody, improvisation, alternative chords, staves, chord charts, development of technical skills, development of physical skills, orchestration, instrumentation, development of applied emotional skills to enhance one’s practice
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here for the previous blog.
(AE Project Studio 2015)
My current studio and live microphone stocks a modest range of dynamic microphones, dynamic ribbons, condensers, tubes and contact microphones. The range of microphones include: Shure 57s, 58s, Beta52As & SM7Bs; Electro Voice RE20s; Sennheiser e935s, e945s, e906s & MD441Us; MXL 550s & 551s; Rode NT-USBs, NT1s, NT3s, NT5s, NTRs, NT4s & NTKs; Audio Technica AT2020; AKG C414XLIIs, P420s & CGN523Es; Mojave MA101FETs, MA1000; Neumann TLM193, OPR87C, OPR87I & OPR84s; Royer 121s; RCA77s; DPA 4099s; IK reference mic; a Zoom H6 XY and MS mic; Sony lapel mics; and a range of contact mics. This stock allows for versatility in most recording scenarios that have been presented to me; of course coupled with great instruments, amplifiers,outboard processing hardware, interfaces, consoles, and of course artists. But sometimes, in certain scenarios, even these are not enough.
Current Research Study Project
In my current doctoral research study project, I have designed a composition requiring me to source sonic samples of significant aspects of my life. Water is one of the most significant and influential elements in my life and my life partner’s lifestyle [see blog or Media Use Part 1], I felt a need to be able to record water samples across a range of contexts which I have experienced. The ocean, rain, waterfalls, swimming pools, and domestic water use. However, this needed to occur without causing damage to my current range of microphones. Ready and portable – armed with my Zoom H6 -my research project would not be complete without the range of real water samples – out in the environment. However, I also felt a need to record sonic samples of water from a submersed perspective. Of my current stock of microphones, there were none that allowed me to record in a submersed scenario, without needing a further layer between the microphone and the element of water, such as by using plastic bags or tubs, duct tape and silicon. I therefore felt an alternative solution was needed.
I researched my options, exploring what other audio engineers have used to gather some water-based samples. I finally decided to purchase a fully submersible microphone, and I now received what will be the latest microphone to add to my stock of studio and live microphones: an Aquarian Audio Products Hydrophone H2a-XLR microphone.
A hydrophone microphone is designed to be immersed in water – natural or salt water – multiple times without degrading from excessive water damage or corrosion.
The Aquarian Audio hydrophone microphone is quite compact, measuring just 25mm wide, but 46 mm long. It weighs just 105 grams.
It is a condenser microphone, requiring 48v power in order to charge the electro-static transduction process. As such it is extremely sensitive, with minimal extraneous noise. “The hydrophone sensor is cable of picking up sounds from below 20Hz to above 100KHz” (Aquarian Audio Products 2016). Designed for deep water where maximum microphone bandwidth can be achieved, the Aquarian Audio Hydrophone apparently boasts an operating depth of up to 80 metres. However, the model I purchased came with a 9 metre cable, a length I thought was more than adequate for the sample events I am looking for.
Using a Hydrophone – Context
Having just received the microphone, I am still yet to venture out into a deep water environment where I can test the microphone to its full capacity. However, I was keen to immediately test the microphone to get an idea of how sensitive it was going to be, how accurate it was going to potentially be in capturing the original sound source, and how much noise it may or may not inherently have. Using my Zoom H6 with this hydrophone to gather a number of preliminary samples, I considered the options I had immediately around me. I chose the 60,000 litre salt water fibreglass swimming pool found in our front garden as my first test environment. A place where my partner and I have spent considerable hours over the past two decades, it is surely a significant part of our lives, and therefore somewhere I am going to need to gather sample events for my composition. In saying that, embarking on this test I acknowledged there would be some limitations of using this test environment to trial the functionality of this condenser microphone. Namely, the structure of the pool – the pool is 4 metres wide, 9.5 metres long and 1.9 metre deep (reducing to about 1.4 metres in the shallow end) and made of a fibreglass shell with the sides and bottom curved into one continuous surface. Due to this particular environment, the hydrophone microphone would likely display a narrower bandwidth than what it would optimally have in deeper waters; and the captured sound source was likely to include the original sound source and a number of reflections off the hard surfaces of this domestic swimming pool. Irrespective, as I was going to need samples of this environment eventually, I considered it a useful initial test environment.
Using a Hydrophone – Part 1
The first 5 sample events I believe demonstrate the sensitivity this condenser microphone has in underwater situations. I was surprised how sensitive the microphone was, despite the large amount of water residing between/separating the subject and the microphone capsule during these recordings. As indicated above regarding the reflections, the captured sample events demonstrates a cacophony of sonic textures resulting from a fusion of both the intended sound source and its’ multiple reflections.
Note also the frequency range of each sample event relative to the micopphones’ depth and proximity to either the surface, the bottom, or the sides of the swimming pool. I have been reminded that in a shallower water environment: there is likely to be less fully developed low frequencies due to the shorter distance between any surfaces. Additionally, in calm water conditions the sound waves under the surface are likely to rebound back off a flat water surface, phase cancelling the original signal below it. This phenomena of a varying frequency range is particularly noticeable in Using a Hydrophone – Part 2 sample events 7 and 8 when the condenser microphone capsule is being bounced up and down at variable depths under the surface, and then breaches the surface of the water. Listen and compare the frequency range and the sonic texture of each sample event as the condenser capsule moves through the water.
In the first sample, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set to 6 (of 10). My friend (the subject) was in the pool and approximately 2 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles under water in the direction of the microphone. The reverberations off the nearby pool surfaces are quite noticeable from about 1/3 third into the sample event, providing a minor delay of the original signal until the end of the sample event.
In the second sample, the hydrophone was maintained in the swimming pool at a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set to 7 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 3 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles. The overall levels are softer in this second sample event while she was mimicking what she had done previously – with the exception of when the hydrophone capsule got knocked by something (tall volume spike midway) – despite the gain level being increased marginally. See image i below. The reverberations off the nearby pool surfaces are quite noticeable from about one third into the sample event, providing a minor delay of the original signal until the end of the sample event for the second third, but then decays and releases back to mainly the original signal in the final third of the sample event. As a result of the decaying signal, the amplitude reduces. With the return to the original signal in the final third, there is greater clarity of the signal.
Image I – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 1 (top) and Sample Event 2 (bottom)
In the third sample event, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was maintained at 7 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 3 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and trying to talk underwater. I note that despite her being farther away from the hydrophone capsule than she was in the first sample event, as she was trying to talk loudly under water toward the microphone capsule, the audio is louder than both sample events 1 and 2. As you can see in image ii below, the overall mass of the wav file is exponentially greater in this third event than both the previous two sample events, with the subject’s speaking voice producing far greater mass and density than she did when blowing bubbles underwater. This mass and density represents increases in sound pressure levels, and reverberant signals, resulting in a cacophony of sonic textures. Had I included a longer sample, you would observe, as per the sample event 2, at a certain point the signal decays and releases back to mainly the original signal, with reduce amplitude, but greater clarity.
Image II – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 1 (top), Sample Event 2 (middle, Sample Event 3 (bottom)
In the fourth sample event, the hydrophone was submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was maintained at 5 (of 10). The subject is in the pool and approximately 0.5 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and blowing bubbles. Sonically, this fourth sample event demonstrates a cacophony of sonic textures, resulting from excessive sound pressure levels due to the close proximity of the transducer relative to the sound source, and the accompanying reverberant signals from the multiple surfaces of the pool. The inherent distortion results from excessive sound pressure levels, with an over-gained signal. For non-audiophiles: note the clean flat line along the top of the wav form indicating a form of dynamic limiting. Given that no dynamic processing was used to achieve this limiting of the audio signal, the limiting effect indicates acceptable gain levels for the equipment were exceeded, resulting in what is referred to as digital (signal) clipping. See image iii below (top wav form).
Image III – Pro Tools 12 Sample event 4 (top) and Sample Event 5 (bottom)
In the fifth sample event, the hydrophone was maintained at a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level is reduced to 5 (of 10). The subject was in the pool and approximately 0.5 metres away from the hydrophone, facing it and trying to talk underwater. As you can see in image iii above (bottom wav form), the overall mass of the wav file is exponentially greater in this fifth event than the previous sample events, with the subject’s speaking voice producing far greater sound pressure levels than she did when blowing bubbles underwater. Sonically, this fifth sample event is heavily distorted due to the excessive sound pressure levels due to the close proximity of the transducer relative to the sound source. The digital recording is therefore clipped given the amplitude far exceeded the specified gain levels of the equipment. For non-audiophiles: in this example the cleaner flatter line along the top of the wav form – relative to the previous example – indicating extreme limiting of the audio signal. Again, as no dynamic processing was used – it similarly indicates excessive sound pressure levels at unacceptable gain levels for the equipment, resulting in severe digital (signal) clipping across almost the entire length of the audio wav file. It is also worth noting the very thin sound of this sample event as a result of the absence of low frequencies in the shallow depths; and yet as per sample event 4, there is a cacophony of sonic textures given the multiple reverberant signals arriving from the numerous surfaces of the pool.
Using a Hydrophone Part 2
In the following examples, I gathered a number of sample events using the hydrophone closer to the surface of the water line. I hope the sample events further show how sensitive the hydrophone microphone is, effectively capturing sonic qualities of very subtle movements.
In the sixth sample event, the Zoom H6 track 3 gain level was set at 6 (of 10). The hydrophone was being dragged along the surface of the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace. The sound of rushing of water is the wake of water that the small condenser capsule (25mm wide, but 46 mm long, weighing 105 grams.) is creating and capturing as it breaches the surface of the water. I think you will agree that this confirms both the sensitivity and low noise levels of this particular microphone. The deeper frequency you hear (boomy quality) in the audio file is when the transduction surface of the microphone capsule is re-submersed under the surface of the water.
Sample event 6wp indicates that it is the same sample as sample event 6, but with post-production audio processing added. In the studio – following recording the sample – I chose to add two (2) reverb processing devices – a Eventide and a Lexicon reverb – to the initial audio file. While doing this, and listening to the altered sonic textures of the audio, I am imagining the many applications that I could use such an effect in my sonic compositions and sound design.
The seventh sample event is a similar execution as sample event 6, with the hydrophone being dragged along the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace, but being bounced in and out of the water in an approximately 30 centimetre arc. The popping and gurgling sounds are occurring as the capsule breaches the surface of the water (popping), then followed by the re-submersion (gurgling). It is a similar but more exaggerated version of sample event 6, with the sample event’s frequency varying dependent on where the condenser microphone capsule is relative to the water: being just under the surface, at depth (only about 30 cms in this example), breaching the surface, or above the surface of the water.
The eighth sample event is a similar execution as sample event 7, with the Zoom H6 track 3 gain level remaining at 6 (of 10). The hydrophone was being dragged along the surface of the swimming pool at a relatively slow walking pace, but being bounced in and out of the water over a much larger arc – approximately 1.5 metres. This is a more exaggerated version of sample event 7, with the popping and gurgling sounds associated with the breaching and re-submersion are relatively deeper in tone due to the greater depth, speed and height the capsule was dropped from, back into and under the water. Sonically, you may hear what sounds like wind noise in this audio sample event. I noted at the time that this was due in combination to both the faster movement of the capsule above the surface of the water after breaching; but also partially due to the wind in our local area picking up nearing the end of the test. You will also note that near the end of the sample event you can hear a voice – talking, describing my actions. This voice was captured by the microphone capsule after it had breached the surface of the water, with the speaker’s mouth about 2 metres away.
The ninth and last sample event had the hydrophone submerged in the swimming pool to a depth of about 1.5 metres held stationary. The Zoom H6 track 3 gain level remained at 6 (of 10). The subject was approximately 2 metres away from the hydrophone drop point, swimming up and down the pool in freestyle form. The low frequency plop occurred every time the subject kicked her feet, with training flippers on. The bass frequency was pronounced, reverberating off the surfaces of the pool, producing a sound somewhat similar to a deep tom sonic boom after the skin had been struck. And yet, the hydrophone microphone still clearly captured what sounds to be running water – the sound of the subject’s hand and arms entering and breaching the surface of the water with each and every stroke. Again, I am imagining the many applications that I could apply some processing to this sample event, and use such an effect in my sonic compositions and sound design.
The Aquarian Audio Products Hydrophone H2a-XLR microphone is an extremely sensitive fully submersible condenser microphone, with minimal extraneous noise. It is well designed and constructed to be impact resistant, using sturdy materials. Whilst it is designed to be submersed in a far greater depth than I have tested to date, I believe I have made a good purchase with this hydrophone, something that will complement my current stock of studio and live microphones. I believe this microphone will allow me even greater versatility in a range of recording scenarios that I can foresee me being presented. I daresay I will probably now go searching further afield, exploring less predictable outdoor terrain, and feeling the need to be less mindful than I usually would taking my more expensive studio microphones. I am looking forward to progressing my sonic compositions and sound designs using water samples across the range of contexts which I have experienced in my life – the ocean – including boating, body surfing, snorkelling and scuba diving – rivers, waterfalls, natural pools, and domestic water use – in order to capture specific sample events that represent significant events and memories. I look forward to this next chapter in my creative practice.
It is intended for this series of microphone-related blogs to continue.
AE Project Studio Microphone Case image courtesy of: DLP Pinterest site Accessed 28th August, 2015
The series of memory blogs that follow this Introductory blog are part of David L Page’s creative process – reflecting on selected significant events in the early stages of his life, and associating sonic and musical textures that best represent his memory of those significant events. The collection of associative memories will then be formed into a composition – The Dark Years: A Boy Who Was Beaten – which David L Page will produce as a fifteen (15) minute soundtrack of the first stage of his life. This cultural artefact is to make up one part of his Doctoral Project 1 submission.
Doctoral Research Study Abstract
The aim of this Doctor of Creative Industries Research Project is to investigate both my DIY music practice and my self as a practitioner during the process of creating and producing a cultural artefact (EP). My research study is designed to be a mixed-method qualitative study: a practice-based, ethnographic study that is to include a first-person narrative of my personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of my music practice. As an auto-ethnographic study, I designed the project for me to be performing the dual primary roles of being both the practitioner as subject, and the researcher. Such a multi-tiered examination represents a significant departure from current discussion of music practice, developing praxis of contemporary music practice. In this Project 1 research study exegesis submission I narrate the process to date, highlighting observation around my practitioner self, and my music practice and the emergent distinctions integrated into my developing music praxis.
Blog Posts as part of the Reflective Practice journaling process
Welcome to David L Page’s recollection of his story.
These blogs are David’s attempt to share his recollection of the most significant events of the early stages of his life, as best as he can – events that David believes have shaped the development of his self, or the development of his musical self.
The deep reflective practice process David engaged in as part of his creative practice, saw him over some time, situating himself back in time, delving deeper and deeper into the place and the event. Of course, as much as he could possibly do decades after an event, when so much distance has occurred in terms of time and place – David’s aim was to recall as much of the kinaesthetic, the auditory, the visual, the olfactory, or even the gustatory sensations of the particular time and place – of that particular significant event. This is not entirely a new experience for David, merely describing the process he has always intuitively put himself through in his creative practice endeavours, particularly in his music practice – creation, performance, or production. The difference in this research study is however, David had to learn how to more consciously focus in on the selected suite of significant events – at a scheduled time – to more deliberately situate him self back in time, whilst recording the data of each of his in-situation experiences.
You will notice that the various blog posts – more often than not – David has included associated visuals or images, to accompany the written text, along with the attached associative sonic and musical event. David’s intention was to be able to share his in-situation experience with his audience as much as he could. David trust’s these blogs will appeal to either the kinaesthetic, the auditory, or the visual senses of the audience. With more advanced technology, or perhaps an alternative medium, David would like to – in the not too distant future – also share his in-situation olfactory and gustatory sensation experience with his audience.
David L Page’s Reflective Practice process
David requested for it to be noted: the output of each reflection of a significant event arrived as a result of a range of catalysts. David found his deep reflective re-expereinces occurred as a result of a range of catalysts used stimulate memory recall. These included: a calendar date; a visual image in a photo album for example, a book – quote, passage, or once just the cover – , a magazine – with handwritten notes in the borders, the internet – pictures or articles, or his vast stock of past writings – streams, prose in working, lyrics in working. On a few occasions the catalyst was something David saw in life that reminded him of a time or place; at other times a blurred visual image or colour that reminded him of a past time, place, or event; at other times, a sonic texture he heard in his head situated him back in time; or by a sound he heard as he conducted himself in his every day life. At other times, an old song or piece of music, a musical phrase or motif that triggered a memory – something in someone else’s composition, on occasion something he played on an instrument ; at other times, it was a smell – weather, forest, water, toilet freshener, food cooking; at other times, it was a taste – some deliberate, others by accident; and at other times, it was a feeling he had, and recalled a past time, place or event. On many occasions, it was while he was working in another form of practice, something was said or happened that triggered a memory. David noted these down on a phone message or in iNotes, to return to explore them to a greater depth when he had the time to reflect, and more deeply drill down into the particular event.
However, what ever the catalyst, it was unusual for David not to have reverted to the written word at some point in this deep reflective process. At the base of all of David’s practice, lies writing in some style, form, or medium. More often than not in practice, David engaged in streaming his consciousness onto the page – physical or virtual. This streaming could have been just ramblings from his mind, not quite sure yet of what he wanted to say, but trusting he had to get it out, and down onto the page for some greater future benefit. All writings after all, were to make up the wide range of data to be collected in this research study Project 1. Therefore, David made a special effort not to judge the merit or worth of that data at the time – in the moment of performance of his practice, at any particular time. He gathered it all. Often, emotions accompanied these streamings, deepening the in-situation experience. Sometimes these emotions were easily tapped; but most often David had to draw his self in over many hours, days, weeks or months, in order to arrive at what he could finally accept was the essence of that particular significant event. More often, possibly than David would like to admit, tears flowed as his in-stuation experience intensified, reassuring his self of the value and merit of this significant event and the particular in-situation experience, at that time. Sometimes a narrative flowed out of this streaming in the form of a tale; at other times, as prose; at other times, as song-type lyrics; and at other times, distinctions regarding his self, or any one of the forms of his practice – be it creative, research – reflective and reflective, or education and learning. [for more information about a multi-faceted/multi-dimensional approach to practice, see Research Practitioner Part 16 blog].
In terms of this Research Study Project – and most particularly – this series of deep reflective memory blogs – he observed that there was no particular order of the stimulations. On some occasions David commenced in the digital audio workstation (DAW), composing from whatever memories he held of the significant event at the time – associating sonic or musical textures that he felt best represented those occasions, and assisted to return him to the in-stutation experience. At other times, David began in an excel chart, reflecting on the significant event, and allowing thoughts, feelings, images and aural events to return him to the in-stutation experience. On other occasions, David used the writing process to return him to the in-stutation experience.
However, irrespective of what practice or what medium David commenced the deep reflective process, David recycled through most of these processes and mediums – usually multiple times – in no particular order. With each cycle, David deepened the level and intensity of experience, in order to arrive at a deep reflective in-stutation experience, to gather the range of data for this research study Project 1. You will therefore observe in the following sixteen (16) blogs, a variety of layouts, formats, writing styles, graphics or images; along with accompanying links to an equally wide variety of associative sonic and musical textured events.
David’s hopes, as you join him in his journey back to the first stage of his life, you will start to hear his voice emerge through the multi-modal narratives of these sixteen (16) significant events. He trusts you will get a sense of how David gains clarity of his self, as he gains a better understanding of his identity, musical identity, and how his musical self developed over the first twenty years of his life. This research study was always to be an immersive study; a a first-person narrative of David L Page’s personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of his music practice.
We welcome you to his journey…..
[NB: Included in each memory blog is a link/s to the associative sonic and musical textures that David feels best represent his in-situation memory of each of the particular significant events].
Message from David L Page
In the early 1990’s I returned home to Australia following a very productive period in creative practice overseas “performing and writing, including recording and experimenting in production. It was a wonderful period for me – one that I hoped would never end” (Page 2014). I recall I arrived home with a new self-image in terms of my creative practice.
In an attempt to develop my practice for my next stage of life, I undertook a number of creative writing courses. The outcome of these programs were a number of pieces of prose, of key moments within my life while I was growing up [see for example, Boy]. A number of the instructors and peers at the time noted my ability to re-situate my self back into the moment of a past event, in some way re-experiencing that experience, in order to then write about it. It was a technique I had developed and practiced, already using this technique across some of the forms of creative writing I engaged in – streaming my consciousness and song lyrics. This technique applied to writing lyrics aligned with my desired confessional singer-songwriter role. A really positive outcome of these creative writing courses was not only the prose, but perhaps more so, my acceptance of this practice as a conscious, deliberate process that I could now apply to another form of my creative writing, prose.
In early 2014, as I was re-considering the focus of my Doctoral Research Study (I had already been accepted), I began brainstorming my journey as a music practitioner. I was very keen on reflecting on more eras, to recall:
how had I arrived at where I was at as a music practitioner?
what life experiences had influenced who I was, or wasn’t, as a music practitioner?
I wanted to articulate these key life experiences into a fluid narrative – my autobiography – of my journey to date. I did return to some of the prose written in the early 1990’s as well as other pieces of creative writing I had done at other times across my life. This reflective exploration took several months, resulting in the narrative overview, Music Practitioner Part 1 – Beginnings (MP Pt1 – Beginnings) blog. I would like it noted though: when I first started writing this autobiography, I had no thought or consideration about doing a soundtrack around my life’s significant events. I had considered at this stage that I would write in the style that I had always done – in an acoustic folk pop song musical style.
Fast forward to 2016 with me now engaged in my Project 1, some 25 months after I had written the MP Pt1 – Beginnings blog, In my search for a thematic idea for my compositions (songs), I started focussing in on more specific events across my life. This then led to another event, and then another, and then another. This process spanned approxiamtely four (4) to five (5) months, arriving as some thirty-five (35) significant events. I then considered how I was going to derive a musical project out of these significant events, arriving at the idea of focussing in on associative memories of each of the significant events. I would – through reflection – associate musical and sonic events for each of the significant event; and then craft the sum of these associative memory events into a soundtrack as the cultural production output for my research study. A musical and sonic collage of my life, if you like.
I knew a challenge for me was going to be to contain the length of the composition – short enough to maintain listener interest; and yet long enough to authentically represent the sum of these significant events. But with thirty-five (35) significant events, it was going to be too long a composition for one Project. I however noted that there was a natural division within the significant events of two time frames that I could possibly divide between my Research Study Project 1 and Project 2: up until twenty (20) years of age; and post-twenty (20) years of age. I decided that it would be logical to have Project 1 represent the associative memories of the first twenty (20) years of my life.
I started experimenting with some sonic events, directly inside the digital audio workstation (DAW). Whilst I gained confidence with my vision, I found that I easily lost focus within each event, and could create some musical or sonic events that were less authentic, less congruent to me of an associated memory. The blogs evolved as a way to more specifically focus in on a range of highlighted events, drawing my self into each of them to determine the actual particular significance of the event. I found by immersing my self into each event via a number of written forms (prose, lyrics, narrative), I could deepen the in-situation experience, and better recall a range of kinaesthetic, auditory, visual, olfactory, or even gustatory sensations of the particular significant event. After experimenting across a number of these significant events, I learnt to trust the physical and emotional responses of these in-situation re-experiences as they occurred. For me, the actual sixteen (16) significant events narrated are real. Whilst immersed in this creative practice, I noted experiences including an inability to breathe, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and body pain. I relived experiences that brought up emotional responses such as joy, sorrow, fear, sadness, nervousness, loneliness, loss, and feelings of abandonment and shame whilst in-stuating my self within these significant events, and writing these blogs. My planned research study was always to have been a first-person narrative of my personal journey: an emergent study, revealing aspects of my life I had not previously considered fully, or perhaps fully understood. I expected this journey was potentially going to be revealing, and at times, confronting, True to my expectations, it has been.
I trust that you as the reader can in some way experience my re-experiences of significant events within my personal journey, that I now choose to share.
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: Beginnings Part 1f
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [Bowie 2016].
Creative practice and identity
Hartley refers to these inhabitants of the DIY cultural domain as DIY citizens:
“DIY citizenship harvests the same fields as DIY culture, but is not confined to spectacular subcultures or youth activism. It’s just as likely to occur among – for instance – suburban woman who have leisure to stay at home and browse the internet and who, it transpires are busy inventing senses of themselves..” (Hartley 2005, pp111-112).
Kuznetsov & Paulos and Prior refer to these inhabitants of the DIY cultural domain as the new amateurs. The new amateur seeks a wide range of interests with engaged commitment (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010; Prior 2010). Interests are as wide and as varied as one can imagine. Of the more popular trends televised on commercial networks are: real estate-based activities such as renovation and landscaping; sport-based activities including team and solo rock-climbing, abseiling, mountain-biking, parachuting, to name but a few; leisure activities such as camping, trekking, travelling; and creative activities. Popular examples of creative activities include art and craft-based activities such as drawing, sculpture, pottery and glass blowing; fashion-based activities such as clothes and jewellery design and making; food-based activities such as cooking and cake decorating; IT games-based activities such as playing – solo, team and competing – and design; drama-based activities such as script-writing, acting, prop design and construction, and musical theatre; and music-based such as instrument-making, song-writing, production techniques and music-making. Having interviewed hundreds of people over a number of years regarding their creative activities, Csikszentmihalyi & Robinson found people engaged in such creative activities as listed above “because they enjoy what they are doing to the extent that experiencing the activity becomes its own reward” (1990, 7). However, the activities I have referred to here are somewhat traditional types of creative activities. Cultural consumption and production has continued to change significantly in the new millennium. Creative activities – creative practice – are no longer restricted to these types of activities (Taylor and Littleton 2012, 4). “An expanded and extreme set of creative practices is subverting well-understood categories of the arts and culture, collapsing the borders between traditional and the innovative, …… the everyday and the celebrity, the professional and the amateur” (Haseman 2005, 158). In analysing a range of contemporary creative practice, Haseman found the following five (5) characteristics worthy of a millennia definition:
Creative practices involve interactivity;
Creative practices are intrinsically hybrid;
Creative practices embrace new sites and forms of cultural production;
Creative practices are orientated towards multi-platform, cross-promotional means of distribution; and
Creative practices are not approached as if they are commercially irrelevant (Haseman 2005, pp167-169)
Creative practice as an expression of self
McRobbie (1998, 103) believes that millennia practitioners engage in creative activities for intrinsic motives as Czikszentmihalyi & Robinson found. However, McRobbie progresses the conversation, finding creative practitioners in her study using their “creative work as an expressive extension of self”. More specifically, as Taylor & Littleton report: “creative work is a means of self-actualisation” – a medium for the creative practitioners to discover themselves, on the path to realising their full potential (McRobbie in Taylor & Littleton 2012, 31).
In terms of the range of creative practice, music-making is acknowledged in research as being significant in terms of the development of self. Hargreaves et al (2002) discuss how music facilitates self-expression and development, allowing the self to transform, and construct new identities. Frith (1996,124) argues that “Music constructs our sense of identity through the direct experiences it offers of the body, time and sociability, experiences which enable us to place ourselves in imaginative cultural narratives.” Bennett (2000, ii) concludes that “music is produced and consumed by young people in ways that both inform their sense of self and also serve to construct the social world in which their identities operate”.
The self and creative practice
Ryan develops the relationship between creative practitioners and self: Ryan considers creative practice to be not limited to an expressive extension of the self, but essential practice for creative arts practitioner to look deeper into the self:
“Self-awareness and identity are significant both in the study of the arts and in becoming an artist, as aesthetic inquiry and performance are constituted by subjective self-expression in relation to objective conditions” (Ryan 2014,77).
Velosa and Carvalho’s (2013) “Music Composition as a way of learning: emotions and the situated ‘self’ “ and Taylor’s (2008) “Pink Noise: Queer Identity and Musical Performance in a local context” both stress the importance of situating the self within the context of the creative practice interest, in order to study it. As do Taylor’s (2012) and Peraino’s (2006) studies of gender. Webber (2009) clearly reinforces these perspectives in “In music and in life: confronting the self through auto-ethnography” with his claim that it is necessary to situate the self within practice – in order to be very familiar with that practice – in order to properly understand and analyse that practice:
…. “without that familiarity, there is no validity at all. One cannot “situate” without intimate self-knowledge. One cannot analyse ethnographic material, auto or not, if the “subject” is unfamiliar or unconnected with their own experience. Ethnography of any name is about situating the individual experience within culture” (Webber 2009, 268).
Contemporary music-making praxis
Aside from the examples provided above, contemporary music-making practice is more often described and explained in contemporary music production textbooks in terms of technology, creative location, music style or suggested workflow; often as independent elements of music-making practice (Owsinski 2005; Owsinski 2013; Owsinski 2014; Owsinski 2010; Huber and Runstein 2014; Izhaki 2013; Gilreath, 2010). In just the short time I have engaged in this pilot study of my music-making practice, I have observed an interdependency of these elements. However, inclusive of the elements are both motive and self. I have observed questions of self arise during moments of reflection in my music-making practice, both on site and away from site. Further, I found that such reflections were actually beneficial to my practice, better preparing me for practice, refining my focus on the theme I was in need of, and as such was guiding my practice. By the end of the first month into my pilot study, I realised my Praxis was in need of a fundamental review. In Praxis version 4 (figure I below), I had laid out my practice on the left (blue section). Acknowledging my observation and reflection immediately following any questioning of my motive, I would spend some time away from my practice, within my self. As this process was always after practice, away from my practice site, I chose to place this pink section, to the right of my practice.
Figure I – Praxis v4 (Page 2015)
Year 2016: 4th Observation
However, in after just four (4) weeks of engaging in this pilot study, I had now observed quite an alternative view. I had observed that the self was in fact driving my practice – preceding my practice, at the forefront of my practice. As such, I decided it would be more accurate to represent the self relative to the practice.
Figure II – 4th Observation (Page 2017)
In Praxis v5a (see figure III below) – within the first month of my doctoral pilot study – I now recognised the self was actually the lead element in practice, in effect driving my practice. I inverted the Praxis chart v5a to have the self represented in pink on the left, with motive in green, at the bottom, and with my music-making practice, represented in blue following on the right. Yes, I was now acknowledging that it was my self that was underpinning my practice. Not the other way around that I had assumed just four (4) weeks prior. This was a significant shift in how I had viewed my practice previously, where (for example in Praxis v4) my self was an element, but not necessarily driving my practice.
Figure III – Praxis v5a (Page 2016b)
The ten (10) elements of praxis v5a were now seen to be:
Global Song Composition Style (process vs product)
Likely specific song composition style workflow
I understand Haseman’s comment to be: creative practitioner’s approach in a commercially-minded way – focussed and committed as Rogers (2013) was quoted as finding in an earlier blog. I do not interpret Haseman’s point 5 to be that creative practice in the new millennia must be commercially self-sufficient.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study – Part 2a (Page 2016c). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
Bennett, Andy. 2000. Popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place. New York: Palgrave.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly and Rick Emery Robinson. 1990. The art of seeing: an interpretation of the aesthetic encounter. Santa Monica: Getty Publications.
Frith, Simon. 1996. “Music and identity.” Questions of cultural identity: 108-27.
Gilreath, Paul. 2010. The guide to midi orchestration. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal.
Hargreaves, DJ, D Miell and RAR MacDonald. 2002. “What are musical identities, and why are they important?” In Musical Identities, edited by RAR MacDonald, DJ Hargreaves and D Miell, 1-20. Oxford Oxford University Press.
Hartley, John. 2005. “Creative Identities.” In Creative Industries, edited by John Hartley, pp106-116. Carlton: Blackwell Publishing.
Haseman, Brad. 2005. “Creative Practice.” In Creative Industries, edited by John Hartley, 158-176. Carlton: Blackwell Publishing.
Huber, David Miles and Robert E Runstein. 2014. Modern recording techniques. 8th ed. Burlington: Focal Press.
Kuznetsov, Stacey and Eric Paulos. 2010. “Rise of the Expert Amateur: DIY Projects, Communities, and Cultures.” In Proceedings of the 6th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Extending Boundaries, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 16-20, 2010, edited, 295-304. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1868914&picked=prox: ACM.
McRobbie, Angela. 1998. British fashion design: Rag trade or image industry? New York: Routledge.
Page, David L. 2015. Figure I – Praxis 4 image courtesy of David L Page. Created 1st December, 2015
Peraino, Judith Ann. 2006. Listening to the sirens: musical technologies of queer identity from Homer to Hedwig. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Prior, Nick. 2010. “The rise of the new amateurs: Popular music, digital technology and the fate of cultural production.” Handbook of cultural sociology. London: Routledge: 398-407.
Question mark image courtesy of: Cool Text Accessed 27th January, 2016.
Research image courtesy of: Research Accessed 28th January, 2016.
Rogers, I. 2013. “The hobbyist majority and the mainstream fringe: the pathways of independent music-making in Brisbane, Australia.” In Redefining mainstream popular music, edited by Sarah Baker, Andy Bennett and Jodie Taylor, 162-173. New York: Routledge.
Ryan, Mary Elizabeth. 2014. Reflective practice in the arts. In Literacy in the Arts, edited by G Barton, 77-90. London: Springer.
Taylor, Jodie. 2012. Playing it queer: popular music, identity and queer world-making. Bern: Peter Lang.
Taylor, Jodie. 2008. “Pink noise: queer identity and musical performance in a local context.” Paper presented at the Music on the Edge: selected refereed papers from the 2007 IASPM-ANZ Conference, Dunedin, New Zealand. jaspm.org..au.
Taylor, Stephanie and Karen Littleton. 2012. Contemporary identities of creativity and creative work. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Veloso, Ana Luísa and Sara Carvalho. 2013. “Music composition as a way of learning: emotions and the situated self.” Musical Creativity: Insights from Music Education Research: Insights from Music Education Research: 73.
Webber, Colin. 2009. “In music and in life: confronting the self through auto-ethnography.” In Music ethnographies: making auto-ethnography sing – making music personal, edited by Brydie-Leigh Bartlett and Carolyn Ellis, 261-273. Bowen Hills: Australian Academic Press.
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: Beginnings Part 1e
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [Bowie 2016].
The self emerges as a focus of mine
For many decades I have asked questions of my self, though in isolation of my music-making practice. The earliest recollection of me considering my self commenced in my mid to late teens. Certain events occurred: first, the death of a close friend; followed a couple of years later with the passing of my adored grandfather. Spurred by a number of other circumstances, I made sudden and sweeping change to the trajectory my life was on. The change was mostly unconscious: impulsive would be an accurate description of my sudden change.
Studying business at higher education level
The following year I commenced University studies, being accepted into a business undergraduate course, with management and communication as my streams. Why a Business Degree? Emotionally, it was as far removed from a trade and the people I had recent experience with, as I could go. Secondly, I looked to the business owners around where I was doing a trade, looked at the cars they were driving, the clothes they were wearing, and the houses they were living in. I compared the glimpse of their life, to mine. I wore trade clothes, crawled under grease and oil dripping cars all day, and then went home with grease and oil reminders in my hair, under my fingernails, and engrained in my skin. Often, I had the skin from my knuckles removed, and burns on my forearms from undoing rust frozen bolts around hot exhaust pipes. Thirdly, perhaps most significantly, I had received a lot of feedback that I had developed sense for certain aspects of business. I recall receiving regular feedback from peers and customers in my trade workplace regarding my skills in customer relations – reliable, trustworthy and competent. Additionally, I realised that I had an advanced sense for systems within engineering contexts, and the workplace. Of course, in commencing a business degree I was also following the footsteps of my father who worked for a large US corporation at the time. My dad was a sales executive and our family entertained his peers regularly in our house in the evening, or on weekends. My dinner table and social conversation was discussing all aspects of business – macro and micro.
With central modules of sociology embedded into the curriculum every semester, I immersed myself in learning the “nature and development of society and human behaviour” (Hornby 2005, 1,453). Embracing the HE undergraduate experience, I sought answers to life. I recall taking full advantage of any research essay in exploring topics of my interest. These included what could be considered quite typical works within a Business undergraduate program such as that of Elton Mayo, Abraham Maslow, Douglas McGregor and William Ouchi (Robbins et al 2009, 51; Griffin 1996, 54); but also included the works of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Singer 2001), and popular cultural works such as that of Eric Fromm (1997), Colin Wilson (1980), John Lennon (Wenner et al 1971) and George Harrison (Harrison & Taylor 2017). I also took advantage of the opportunity to explore other cultural values and beliefs systems such as Indian and Japanese philosophical approaches. I recall I was enquiring as to how cultures around the globe approached structuring society, and how the values and beliefs of the people within those cultures enabled them to function within the society. The more I read, the more I considered my own situation:
who am I?, and
what do I value and believe?
Particularly influential for me at this time was the work of Maslow. Maslow proposed that all humans work through in their life, a hierarchy of five (5) needs. These were:
“physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualisation. In terms of motivation, Maslow argued that each step of the hierarchy must be satisfied before the next can be activated, and that once a need was satisfied it no longer motivated behaviour. Moreover, Maslow believed that self –actualisation – that is, achieving one’s full potential – was the summit of human being’s existence” (Robbins et al 2009, 51).
At that time in my life, in need of something to anchor my self, I recall making a conscious decision that the pursuit of achieving one’s full potential, was a worthy life pursuit. The more I explored the idea of self-actualisation, the more I read and considered motives across cultures, fields and disciplines, the more the idea of achieving one’s full potential resonated with me.
Focus on the self gains momentum as a social phenomenon
As outlined in blogs Doctoral Research Study – Parts 2a through 2e (Page 2015a), along with the rapid and broad technological changes of the past four (4) – five (5) decades, society has also significantly changed. Mechanisms such as social structure used to inform people as to their identities – who they were, and how they should view their self. As social structures in certain societies have changed, the need has arisen for members to review who they are, how they see themselves, and what they want out of their life:
“The ethic is individual self-fulfilment and achievement is the most powerful current in modern society. The choosing, deciding shaping human being who aspires to be the author if his or her own life, the creator of individual identity, is the central character of our time” (Beck in Taylor and Littleton 2012, 31).
The pursuit of improving lifestyle and image are now a focus of the inhabitants of the DIY cultural domain:
“Each person is engaged in shaping ‘who I am’, including through the construction of life narrative and the conscious presentation and manipulation of the external self. The later is presented through behaviours, bodily appearance and the many aspects of contemporary life which constitutes ‘lifestyle’ ” (Taylor and Littleton 2012, 31).
 A business base has provided me a very good base in understanding the business machinations of society. I have been involved in several businesses and organisational roles where my business qualification has greatly assisted my roles. In saying that, there were no Creative Media tertiary courses at the time. The closest type course was a Bachelor of Arts, or creative media-based trade courses. There were of course music programs, but they required entrance examinations along the lines of the formal AMEB music examination, of which I hadn’t ever studied/been trained in. The tertiary institution I attended was breaking new ground for tertiary institutions in Australia: one of the 1st examples of problem-based learning in Australia, with sociology and communication integrated within the curriculum. Understanding both sociology and communications has assisted me in just about every aspect of my life and practice since that time. Practice in the tertiary course’s group work allowed me to develop my soft skills, which has supported my growth and development in all aspects of practice.
I had just spent four (4) years in an engineering trade, serving an apprenticeship. My experience was unusual, as I spent a considerable time running the service centre. This opportunity arose due to the high staff turnover within that organisation. As I was indentured for four (4) years, I could not leave without jeopardising my trade qualification. Additionally, as a motorcycle club member with the organisation that ran the Castrol 6 Hour Motorcycle Production race in Sydney, I was involved in developing systems for the scrutineering of the motorcycles to ensure compliance with the entry rules and regulatory requirements of that race.
Self-actualisation is perhaps one of the few ideas that has remained with me over the past three (3) decades, irrespective of my location or practice.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study – Part 1f (Page 2016c). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: Beginnings Part 1d
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [Bowie 2016].
As I continued on my Project 1 Doctoral Pilot Study, I took the next step to return to explore my practice.
Working in my practice
Once I had established the methods and tools to assist me in my research study as outlined in the previous blog, I was ready to again engage in practice. I believe I was now organised in terms of how I was going to gather and host the recorded data from my pilot study, ensuring reliability, transparency and in preparation for later synthesis and analysis.
As I re-engaged in practice, I started at the beginning – the creative stage. This is the stage where I needed to clearly establish what creative work I was going to produce; what creative work I was inspired to produce. As outlined in Chapter 2, my original study problem was stated as:
why I felt connected to my music-making when using physical instruments, and why I largely had never felt connected to my music-making when using digital virtual technologies.
I therefore thought a good starting point for my Project 1 Research Pilot Study was to consider the six (6) elements of Praxis in turn:
Numerous questions arose, some of which were:
· what was I going to create?
· what style of music would I make?
· in which of the varied locations I have access to, would I choose for this Project 1 Pilot Study to be conducted?
The elements, and the relationship of the elements
In going through this process, I realised I was already starting to form an opinion about the interrelationships of these six (6) elements. For example, if I wanted to create a particular organic style of music – folk for example – this music style choice would suggest the types of locations to be able to satisfactorily capture the acoustic tones in an appropriate manner (for example, in a controlled studio environment). This location would then suggest what technology options may be available (for example, condenser or tube microphones, a range of pre-amps, equalisers, dynamic and time-domain processing I could have access to); which would in turn suggest a workflow. If I was to change any of these variables – for example the location – to for example a small club, and plan to record folk music in a live environment – then I would more than likely, need to reconsider the options of technology I employed, which may in turn suggest an alternative workflow.
In going through this initial process, I highlighted an additional four (4) elements that needed to be considered in greater detail:
global song composition (process vs product), and
likely specific song composition style workflow
The first of these – reference track – is something that I introduce to my HE audio students, beginning from Trimester 1. The reference track represents (see reference track blogs in mixing) the plan – the agreement as to what style of music I am to create, the instruments likely to be used, the arrangement and the tempo. The reference track would also suggest a mood of the song. Is it a love song? Is it a song about loss or longing? Or, is it a song about hope or victory?
I then considered what my approach to the composition process may be – that of product or process. Was I going to write to a pre-confirmed brief: an end-product approach? Or was I going to allow the song to organically develop: a process approach?
Finally, how was I going to commence the songs? Was I going to start with an instrument – the rhythm, the harmony, or the melody? Or was I going to start with the lyrics? (see specific song composition blog 2010).
Again, I realised that as I changed any of these elements, it had a flow on effect to what discrtiminatory choices I would make regarding the other elements within my developing praxis. In my mind, I was now gathering evidence of one of my initial questions regarding the relationships of the elements of praxis. There was increasingly evidence that there was an interrelationship between the now ten (10) elements of praxis.
The focus of my creative practice
In these early stages of creative process, it is important to develop clarity as to what the Project 1 Doctoral Pilot Study EP was to be about. In going through this consideration, I observed my self leaving the technical parameters of my music-making practice, in order to consider my motive for practice. What was my motive for making this particular EP? Yes – as I had stated in my Project brief – the Project 1 doctoral pilot study five (5) track EP was primarily to be both a discovery and educational process, allowing me to investigate to discover what I actually did in my music-making practice. However, it was the creative motive that I was most focussed on now: the creative motive. I had decided within my Project Brief that this Project 1 Research Pilot Study EP was to be ‘representative of some aspect of my life: past, present or future envisioning’. However, as it was now time to create, what specifically was this to mean in terms of a composition?
Connecting to my creativity
This part of the creative stage requires me to go into a state, which is quite uncomfortable for me. This is not a new process to me to go through. It is a usual step that I take to arrive at a place where I begin to engage in creative practice. I have learnt over years to be able to consciously place my self into this state. I start by turning my focus inward, and becoming very introspective. As I drop my self deeper into this state, I become more aware – firstly of my surroundings, and then progressively I realise a connection to memories – past events and emotions. Whilst in this internalised state I focus in on an issue or topic that I feel connected to – a personal or social issue or topic that resonates with my self. In order to maximise an authentic connection, I take my self deeper, and become progressively more introspective. I am looking for a place where I feel in tune with my self. In this place – in this state – I have clarity of thought, and am in touch with my feeling and emotions. From this place, I can access a range of life experiences and emotional states. This is my starting point in creative practice. I start to practice, streaming ideas surrounding these issues or topics, consciously onto a page (physical or virtual). I find in this state I can write furiously, and for long periods of time. I connect to my guitar from this place, whether in the writing stage, or literally, on a stage performing. I find in this state, my emotions are aligned with my motivational intent. It is almost as if the world slows down, and I can play what I need to play in order to express my self. Again, it can be a fast and furious expression, or a really slow and delicate expression. It depends upon the emotion I need to express. As mentioned, it is not uncommon for such states to last long periods of time. I also sing from this place – in this state – whether in the shower, at rehearsal, or on a stage performing. Once I arrive in this place – in this state – I realise a connection to an inner place: an inner space where authentic connection exists between what it is I want to express; and the creative expression.
Creative streaming – aka Creative Flow
This was not a new process to me to go through, nor a new state for me to be in. I have placed my self here hundreds – possibly thousands – of times before over the past three (3) to four (4) decades. Csikszentmihalyi & Robinson refers to such a phenomenon as creative flow. Creative flow is said to hold the following criteria:
The practitioner’s attention is solely focussed on the creative practice;
the practitioner has “no awareness of past and future” – they are in the moment;
the practitioner has a “loss of self-consciousness and transcendence of ego boundaries”;
the practitioner requires “skills adequate to overcome challenges”;
the practitioner is intrinsically motivated, not requiring extrinsic rewards (1990, pp6-8)
From this place – in this state – I have demonstrated I can creatively stream prolifically, and for hours on end. When in an intensely prolific creative period, I have been known to remain in this type of state for three (3) to four (4) days at a time. I have become quite adept at dropping my self into this state, and when required, consciously pulling my self out of this state. However, it still did not minimise the discomfort I feel when in this state. My discomfort is revisiting and re-experiencing certain life experiences and emotional states. Sometimes the depth and rawness of those times and emotional states are more than I would have hoped to re-experience, at the time.
As a music-maker I have learnt that I need to be respectful of the creative energy process – be grateful for the ongoing opportunity to create – embracing the opportunity, allowing such creative energy to flow when it was ready to. I am well aware of times when I have not had the opportunity to creatively express – at times when I am starved for creative energy: when my ‘creative mojo’ evaporates. As a music-maker I feel this evaporation of creative energy is the equivalence of creative death. It is perhaps one of my greatest fears: to lose touch with my creative energy. For that reason, I embrace each and every opportunity for creative practice when creative energy avails itself. Even if that means experiencing discomfort in revisiting past events, or facing personal insecurities such as:
what is the message that I want to communicate in this composition?;
how am I going to realise the dual roles of subject (music-maker) and observer (pilot study researcher) effectively and efficiently?
will I be able to connect creatively within this pilot study situation, within the time frame?
what happens if I don’t connect creatively, effectively experiencing starvation of creative energy (ie writer’s block)?
what is it that I am trying to realise?
what is it that I trying to create?
what is it that I am trying to express?
who is it that wants to express?
that is, who am I as a music-maker?
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study – Part 1e (Page 2016b). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.