21st Century Composer as Producer

“21st Century composer as producer: utilising technology as a creative tool in the composition, realisation and performance of new music”

This is the title of my research proposal for admission on the PhD programme at the University of Queensland.

I am ever so excited to be finally starting this thing up! To finally begin seriously discussing and actively creating the music I’d love to hear. Music I’d love to produce. And I’m glad I’ve waited this long, everything about this feels just right - from the possibility of working with Dr Robert Davidson (who starts at UQ in July) to the fact that the college have let me scale back my hours a bit and that I’m finally set up with a great studio to work in after years of moving around and not being settled anywhere. It’s as if the stars have aligned and the universe is letting me know that it’s a good time for me to become a student once again.

Here ’tis:
“Composers working as freelancers in the world today are increasingly being called upon to understand current technology, to then realise, record and produce their own works in a studio environment. This extra work could be viewed as a chore or ‘necessary evil’, but I prefer to think of it as a wonderful creative opportunity to explore.

New distribution methods continue to proliferate and it is through recordings, rather than concert performances, that composers have a presence in these channels.

The rise and evolution of music technology over the last 50 years has dramatically changed the way music sounds and is experienced by its audience. Recording techniques and the synthesized, sampled, affected, manipulated sounds made possible by new and diverse means have altered the sonic palette - radio, film/TV, music download sites and interactive games have created new contexts for music to be experienced and consumed.

The vast arsenal of music technology tools available today allows experimentation and the exploitation of new sounds, textures and colours. These advancements facilitate the realisation and recording of original music with more ease and less expense, allowing the composer to manipulate recorded performances further by means of digital effects, spatial mixing, looping and sampling.

Hardware such as effects pedals, digital effect sends and MIDI triggers can be implemented into live performances through the close placement of microphones, live mixing and speaker positioning. Sophisticated sample libraries can now effectively imitate the sounds, textures and articulations of a symphony orchestra. New software applications are becoming increasingly abundant, allowing the composer-producer to manipulate sounds in ways previously thought impossible.

As well as being a composer, I am also a music technologist and have access to a project studio containing a collection of useful hardware and industry-standard software applications. I intend to explore the creative possibilities of Logic Pro 8 (sequencing software) for sound creation and 5.1 mixing, the KAOSS pad for live filter effects in recording and performance, Melodyne (pitch and rhythm manipulation) and Pro-Tools (digital audio workstation) for beat-detection, mixing and mastering.

An important question in my research is “what production strategies are effective in communicating new musical ideas to a wide audience”. In addition to compositional work, I will address this question through several modes of engagement with current knowledge in studio production. Firstly I will conduct a literature review of trade and scholarly journals dealing with compositional approaches to studio production. Secondly, I will conduct qualitative research in the form of interviews with practitioners including engineers, composer-producers, electro-acoustic performers and producers.

The expected outcomes of this work will be a folio of compositions comprising:
· String Quartet
· Collection of Experimental Etudes
· An instrumental “concept album” that can be scored for ensemble performance
· Feature length film score
· Symphonic work

In addition to the folio, I will complete an investigation into the challenges and unique opportunities for creativity that affect composers in the 21st century.”

I hope they like my ideas... I will keep you all posted on how I go.