The Rise Of Digital Music

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Interesting piece on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (27/02/14) featuring George Ergatoudis (Head of Music at Radio 1), Mark Williamson (Director of Artist Services at Spotify) and Paul Brindley (co-founder of MusicAlly).

Guest Lecture – Phil Harding

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Phil Harding’s track record is incredible. As a recording engineer and producer he has worked with artists as diverse as The Clash, Killing Joke, Dead Or Alive, Kylie Minogue and East 17.

As part of his lecture tour to promote his book PWL: From The Factory Floor he came to the University and gave a very entertaining and informative lecture to a packed audience of Audio Production students.

The main thrust of Phil’s lecture was how different aspects of the music industry service each other and why this is something to bear in mind when fulfilling a particular role. He talked about the importance of group work in gaining these skills and about how having the right attitude is essential for success in an industry that relies so heavily on professional relationships.

He gave us some very useful insight into the deals that the modern record producer must negotiate in order to get paid and an incredible example of the different stages of production a commercial single might go through when a rather well known pop mogul is at the helm. My jaw certainly dropped when we were told how much money was thrown at a particular project only for it to dip in and out of the charts at number 39. A non-hit wonder.

As well as continuing as a producer, mix engineer and artist in his own right, Phil is now the chairman of JAMES – the accreditation body responsible for linking industry and education. As our Audio Production programme is accredited by JAMES, Phil’s final piece of advice was for students to include this information on their CVs as it most definitely helps them stand out when applying for apprenticeships, internships and freelance work.

With such a wealth of experience, Phil and JAMES are valuable assets to our course and students. He’s also a very nice bloke – I could have chatted to him all day. And he signed my copy of the book :).

The Science Of Music

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In this BBC Radio 4 series, Professor Robert Winston looks at music with a scientist’s eye in a series which seeks to fully understand our relationship with the power of sound.

In Episode 1 of the series, Professor Winston explores the origins of music. Are we really the descendants of singing cavemen?

In Episode 2, Professor Winston explores the logic, engineering and physics underlying the musical sounds we hear. Why do some notes sound good together? And are we really simply seeking patterns when we listen to music?

In Episode 3, Robert Winston explores music and the mind. What’s happening in our heads when we listen to music?

In Episode 4, Robert Winston explores the science of music performance. What’s happening when we perform music? And does it change our brains?

Music For Fashion Show

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Blog post from level 2 AP student Alexandra O’Brien – pictured centre with lecturers Maria Manning and Dagmara Childs.

We were asked by the Fashion department to create original music for the third year fashion student’s final showcase, which was held in the architecture building. We were given a brief with ideas of what they wanted. When it came to writing the music I wanted to capture the feel of the architecture building, as it’s an arty and open space. I took inspiration from Brian Eno to begin with and crafted an ambient soundscape that builds up with percussion and glitched vocals. For the rest of the tracks I took inspiration from artists like Bonobo and Tycho as I wanted to create quite laid back tracks that wouldn’t distract from the fashion show itself. Overall I really enjoyed the experience. It was hard work at times and a lot of hours went into to it but the clients were very pleased. It’s given me confidence in my compositional skill but also in composing to a brief and for a client.

Food For Thought From Eno

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Brian Eno is always worth listening to. He is a very engaging speaker and his thoughts about art and music are extremely thought provoking and inspiring for me.
He speaks about many things in his Red Bull 2013 lecture, but two in particular caught my attention.

In the first he discusses the creative problems in music composition that come with an abundance of options in the modern DAW. Listen to the clip here

In the second he discusses his approach to film scoring and how he avoids the cliches of many Hollywood style film scores. Listen to the clip here

Both these clips should be of interest to Audio Production students who specialise in music composition.

PS. Look out for Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) in the Q&A at the end.

Symposium Summary

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On a bright and sunny first of May, the Lincoln School of Media held its 2nd Radio, Music & Sound Symposium based around the key themes of future directions & opportunities in the radio and music industries. The series of guest speakers and a panel of former LSM students were chaired with verve and humour by Visiting Professor of Radio & Sound Trevor Dann.

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The guests included Ruth Barnes (BBC6 Music & Amazing Radio) who kicked off the day with an almost breathless guide into good preparation, dogged determination and remaining focused! In contrast, Adam Bowie (Head of Strategy & Planning, Absolute Radio) provided a more sobering analysis: a ‘state of the nation’ type of address if you will, on the future of radio listening. Our third speaker, John Williams (music producer and former head of A&R at Chrysalis and Polydor records) detailed how the key relationships and dynamics between the music industry and broadcasting remain much the same, whilst the music industry adapts to the realities of a digital culture.

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After a lunch break in which our students had the chance to mingle freely with our guests, an Audio Production first year remarked ‘this has been a really fantastic first year and I didn’t think it could get any better, and then we have a day like this’!

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The afternoon session began with Andrew Wilkie (Director of Radio, National Prison Radio) providing a thought provoking insight into the role of prison based radio on the lives of prisoners. With a hint of black humour he noted that ‘you have to be banged up to hear NPR’! However, he followed this with audio clips that were incredibly poignant in terms of both their vitality and their simple but brutal honesty. Our final guest speaker Ashley Byrne (Creative Director, Made In Manchester) set out the vital and growing contribution of the independent sector to the radio industry. He demonstrated and explored a myriad of creative approaches in which radio could be made, developed and marketed. Ashley issued an open challenge to our students to take up these opportunities. The symposium ended with an LSM alumni panel session consisting of Laura Mather (Brand Manager, Smooth & Real Radio), Liam Juniper (Studio Manager, BBC WS & 5live), Matt North (TV Sound Supervisor & film sound recordist) and Laurence Whitaker (BBC Leeds/York) taking questions from students and guests. Each graduate emphasised the importance of their studies at the university in order to pursue their individual career choices. Similarly, in turn, they each encouraged all LSM students to seek out and take advantage of project and work experience opportunities.

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The day might be described in six key words, with one or more perhaps representing each speaker and the panel in turn: energetic, informative, enlightening, inspiring, enterprising and re-affirming! In summing up, Trevor Dann provided a motivating adaptation on the famous ‘JFK’ quotation when he told the students: ask what you can do for the industry, not what can the industry do for you!

Bryan Rudd
Principal Lecturer in Media Production &
Programme Leader BA (Hons) Audio Production

Guest Speaker – Stephen Mallinder 2.0

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For this month’s guest lecture, I was very happy to introduce Stephen Mallinder to the university for a second time. As most of you will already know, Mal was one of the founder members of Cabaret Voltaire – a group who had a massive impact on me as a young music maker and his lectures now are equally valuable to our students.

For this talk, Mal concentrated on the shift from analogue to digital cultures, particularly in regard to the perceptions of musicians, producers and sound-recordists to music production, music distribution and music consumption. He drew from his own background in writing, producing and playing over the past 35 years and also talked about his current work with my old Fila Brazillia partner Steve Cobby in his own current project Hey, Rube!

He discussed the results of his own research interviewing over 30 artists (musicians, DJs, producers and sound recordists, including his old band mate Chris Watson). The findings of which have formed the basis of a chapter for the up Live-Digital publication (Chandos, Summer 2013).

Mal provided a thought-provoking, enjoyable and highly relevant session, particularly for those students investigating similar issues for their final year dissertations. Hopefully, we’ll get him back again next year for the hat-trick!

Guest Lecture – Ken Blair

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Today’s level 3 project guest lecture was given by recording engineer Ken Blair. Ken is a freelance sound recordist who’s company BMP Recording specialise in classical, jazz and acoustic music.

Ken came to talk about his typical week of recording, editing, mixing and filling in tax returns! He described a typical orchestral recording session and how it can differ from a pop/rock recording session, in that a lot of these sessions are still recorded straight to stereo – especially if its a live event recording. This means a lot of time is spent positioning microphones and balancing levels into the recording device. This also means there’s no room for error, both in terms of the musicians’ performance and in terms of the recording levels and mix balance. Nerve wracking stuff!

Ken also talked about how his background and recording experience led him to the place he’s at now. After leaving school in Scotland, Ken studied the Tonmeister course at the University of Surrey and spent a year on work placement at Air studios in Montserrat. He also gave our students some great advice regarding building their portfolios and creating a skills based CV.

Many of our students will go on to be freelance workers across the very broad range of audio production careers. Ken’s lecture was a great insight into the day to day activities of just one of these fields. Really useful stuff!