Thursday, 11 August 2011

Forum for Innovation in Music Production and Composition

The Forum for Innovation in Music Production and Composition (FIMPaC) took place at Leeds College of Music on May 12 and 13 in association with Journal of Music, Technology and Education. It is an annual academic conference where the goal is to: “bring together composers, producers, music industry representatives, academics, educators and research students to discuss their practice, research and industry experiences.”

For music academics it’s a great place to exchange thoughts and get introduced to new research from our peers out there. The event is a combination of paper presentations, demonstrations of new technology, poster presentations and top quality mingling. Personally it also is a much-appreciated return to my Alma Mater, Leeds College of Music, the Hogwarth’s of Music. And yes, the first time I travelled there, I boarded a train from a platform at King’s Cross Station in London!

Some speakers at FIMPaC 2011:

Keynote by Professor Leigh Landy of De Montfort University and editor of Organised Sound.

Bill Drummond of 'KLF' and 'the K Foundation.' (More on him at the bottom of this post.)

Dr Mark Slater and PhD candidate Adam Martin of the University of Hull. Respectively a former tutor and fellow student of mine.

The main topic of this year’s papers was to investigate the idea of ‘liveness’ in performance, production and live music. For conference overview and schedule, please click here. For abstracts, please leave me a note.

Poster presentations:

Amongst the poster presentations it was great to see Dr Bruce Wiggins back at FIMPaC. He has formerly presented a paper on his work with Ambisonic, and for those of us just briefly acquainted with mixing in surround-sound, his astonishing level of technical insight can be hard to follow in a half an hour paper presentation. His new invention however, a VST plug-in to work in surround with Ambisonic while listening on stereo headphones, is both very useful and very easy to understand when you get your hands on it. As Dr Wiggins himself pointed out, it is not really a tool to produce final mixes on, but it is a great tool to do parts of the mixing process while being on the fly. It also provides students the possibility to work on their mixes while sharing only limited surround-studio facilities.

Another poster presentation was by electro acoustic composer Louise Rossiter from the University of Edinburgh. She has previously done an acoustic ecology research-project at the University of Aberdeen called ‘Projekt Berlin.’ Recently she has been engaged with her ‘Life Story Work.’ This builds on the experiences from Projekt Berlin. She is researching on the use of acoustic ecology as a therapeutic and educational tool for children and young people with troubled backgrounds. Her research paper ‘Acoustic Ecology as Therapy?’ is by the time of this writing due to have come out and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Bill Drummond at FIMPaC 2011:

This year was especially interesting to me because the ‘headline act’ was the unpredictable and thought-provoking Bill Drummond. After having made a fortune on pop-music production and taught everyone how to have top-chart hits the easy way, he has turned completely in his views on pop-music and is calling out for a new approach to music all together. His current stand on music and my own are quite far apart, but I find his writings thoroughly entertaining and his call for authenticity is a great input to the debate around music production. The material for his presentation was gathered from his book ‘17’ and was presented in a very theatrical way. Seeing his presentations and reading his writings it appears he has moved from pop music into pop theatre and writing.

I can’t help but think that Drummond is expecting more from music than what music presumably ever can deliver. I get a sense that he is trying to do with music what Nietzsche and Solomon was doing to life. Setting out from the same nihilistic place, Nietzsche tells us we’re doomed and Solomon tells us how to find hope. For Drummond, music seems to become life, and recorded music has become nihilistically meaningless to him with consumption. After his session I asked him if he ever thought he would find the answers that he was looking for (since I think he is looking for more than answers regarding music). He paused, looked puzzled and said: “Well, a spiritual journey is never over, is it?” I believe we hold different views on that, but his point is clearly taken. He did reveal though, that the ‘17’ project has a finite date (when he is even going to burn his Land Rover!).

Drummond likes to do things with a big bash and he likes to provoke. He used to sell a lot of records, but now he sells a lot of books where he makes a case against the record. His appeal against recorded commercial music has become so commercial that even record shops and branded clothing stores sell his writings! –Writings that are calling for a year zero approach to music that are being sold in already dying record shops! I find it humorous!

Whatever his conclusions will be after the work on ‘17’ I am really looking forward to see what it is! Drummond’s stories and arguments are truly enjoyable even if one is inclined to think differently than him. Maybe especially then!

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