Designing the rock/pop sound-box 1966-72

This one-year project was funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) to the tune of £44,000 during 2006-07. The purpose of the project was to develop a typology for the different types of mix observable in the early years of pop stereo, prior to the adoption of a template ( which we call the ‘diagonal mix’) which has become normative across most of popular music since the early 1970s. The project identified three earlier types of mix, the ‘triangulated mix’, the ‘clustered mix’ and the ‘dynamic mix’, each of which was further subdivided, and observed the relationship over the period between these types of mix (and their decline) with different genres of popular song. A list of the recordings which constituted the data for the project can be found here. Papers incorporating some of the results were presented at the York twentieth-century music conference, the first CHARM conference, the Mexico IASPM conference and a popular music conference in Parma, all in the spring and summer of 2007. Two journal articles are currently in press. My project researcher was Dr. Ruth Dockwray.

Evidencing transferable skills in music

This short project, undertaken on behalf of the NAMHE (the National Association for Music in Higher Education) with funding to the tune of £10,000 from PALATINE (the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Dance, Drama and Music), was charged with identifying good practice in the delivery of transferable skills; substantiating the need for music in higher education through its affordance of transferable skills, which are required for a wide variety of post-university careers; and identifying ways of facilitating change and development in certain aspects of the curriculum in order to promote and enable successful delivery of key transferable skills. Research methods were based on a questionnaire to the NAMHE membership, follow-up discussions in some instances, and an extensive review of literature. The project report was published on both NAMHE and PALATINE websites in early 2008. My project researcher was Dr. Ruth Dockwray.

The meanings of spatialization in popular music recordings

This twenty-month project was funded by the AHRC to the tune of £160,00 during 2008-09. The purposes of the project developed out of Designing the rock/pop sound box: its aim was to produce a theoretical understanding of how spatial location operates in recordings, in conjunction with an understanding of other analytic domains. It focused on the issue of space viewed in three specific, mutually interdependent ways: most recordings imply the inhabiting of a particular kind of virtual spatial area by virtue of the relative density of sound events, their timbral quality, and the degree and type of reverberation applied; recordings do not fill their virtual spatial area uniformly, requiring the construction of a rudimentary grammar for types of density; ‘spaces’ appear in a recording taken with respect to time, often as the absence of sound, rather than the presence of a lack of sound. The project asked how these signify, in terms of a rich hermeneutic method which drew from ecological perception, cognitive modelling, proxemics, auditory scene analysis, persona theory and the 'sound-box'. The project researcher was again Dr. Ruth Dockwray, working with myself and my colleague Dr. Patricia Schmidt.

The Progect: from Genesis to Re-evaluation

This international project, which began in early 2010, started from the realisation that within academia, progressive rock is considered to be:
* almost entirely a British development within popular music;
* dominated by a small number of bands (Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, perhaps a few others) whose status has become canonic;
* a form of music predominantly consumed in the United States;
* historically situated between psychedelia and punk (in the early and mid 1970s), and has been effectively dead for a generation.
The aim of The Progect is to argue against, to demonstrate, and to provide evidence for, the extreme limitation of this view. Contributors to the project are working with the following five themes:
* addressing the activities and outputs of progressive rock musicians working outside the UK;
* addressing the work of less visible British musicians during the 'long '70s';
* addressing the consumption and reception of progressive rock elsewhere in the world (both in Europe and in continents bordering the western and southern Pacific);
* addressing the renewed visibility of progressive rock which has taken place since the early years of the 1990s (and, indeed, its continuation through the intervening years);
* addressing the assumption that the scope of what 'progressive rock' encompasses is known, is fully defined, and is complete (and thus addressing its overlaps with ambient music, with heavy metal, and with other genres).
The Progect began with a round robin email in early 2010, which generated expressions of interest from more than 30 academics worldwide. A first conference was held in late 2014, the proceedings due to appear early in 2016. A second conference is currently being planned.