About khashz

BSc Music Technology, currently studying MA Music Industries

Ass1: Blog 5 – The Meaning of Grime Music

Globally recognised ‘Skepta’ attended a relatively small venue in Digbeth. For a rapper as big as Skepta is right now, I was surprised to find out that he was booked into such a small venue. Usually, big names in the music industry always hold shows at the Genting arena, O2 Academy or The Institute. Even though Skepta could have easily sold enough tickets to perform at these venues, the reason behind the venue choice may be due to its destination in Digbeth. Digbeth is a very creative area in Birmingham. It holds plenty of independent fashion shops and skate shops, and is also known for its underground music scene. Therefore, the crowd that will attend the show may bring a rawer, gritty edge to the vibe. Which is perhaps the kind of audience Skepta prefers turning up at his shows.

During the show, Skepta surprised the audience by welcoming some local Birmingham rappers that are big in the grime game named Sox and Jaykae. The audience responded in such a positive manner and it instantly made them respect Skepta a lot more for connecting the Birmingham scene to his big movements.

Grime is a very motivational genre. William Paintin states that “Grime is a vocal led genre of UK dance music that emerged out of London around 2002. With bass heavy garage-­like instrumentals with staccato drum machine rhythms at a steady 140BPM (beats per minute)” (William Paintin. 2016). With this high BPM tempo, it is natural to feel quite pumped and full of energy when you listen to grime music. This positive, lively energy was very infectious and you could feel the vibes of the beats bouncing amongst the crowd.

Music can have a very converse, unique meaning to everyone. Naturally, people have their own taste when it comes to genre however ultimately, music is music. The genres you listen to may give you the same feeling as someone else listening to another genre. “Music is an important way that millions of people find enjoyment, define who they are, and affirm group membership.” (Andy Bennett, Richard A. Peterson. 2004).

“I may give a name to a specific piece of music, calling it “Moonlight Sonata” or “Ninth Symphony”; I may even say, “These were variations with a finale in the form of a passacaglia,” or characterise, as certain program notes ate prone to do, the particular mood or emotion this piece of music is supposed to have evoked in me. But the musical content itself, its very meaning, can be grasped merely by re-immersing oneself in the ongoing flux, by reproducing this the articulated music occurrence as it unfolds in polythetic steps in inner time, a process itself belonging to the dimension of inner time.” (Simon Frith. 2004).

The main way a grime track expresses meaning and emotion is through its lyrics. Some artists talk about their rough lifestyles, daily struggles and how they overcome them, and some talk about their toughness and the amount of money they make. So these different artists may mean more to you as you may relate more to their songs emotionally. However, Theodor Adorno’s theory of standardisation (1990) suggests that every song at its core is the same. Therefore, the emotional feeling you get is false. That the song was not made to make you feel that way, it has made you think you feel a certain way based on the way you have perceived the audio.

I personally think that there are certain cases where songs are supposed to make you feel the way you feel when listening to them or witnessing them be performed live. Especially when it comes to the genre of grime. Just based solely on the energy and similar human behaviours during the live set at Skepta’s show proved that the emotional effect it had on its listeners was shared. However, in other examples, their may be songs that listeners will really appreciate the instrumental arrangement of, yet others may feel more emotionally involved with the lyrics and vocals of the artist/song.

References

Adorno, T. (1990). On Popular Music. In: S. Frith and A. Goodwin, ed., On Record, 1st London: Routledge, pp.302-314

Andy Bennett, Richard A. Peterson (2004). Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual. USA: Vanderbilt University Press. pp.1.

Simon Frith (2004). Popular Music: Music and society. New York: Routledge. pp.206.

William Paintin. (2016). Grime, Hip Hop and Technology in Urban Music Scenes. Independent Study Project for BA Music. pp.2.

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Ass1: Blog 4 – R&B’s Identity Crisis (Identity)

R&B has had a broad history of reinventing itself for commercial benefit. Several music industry executives, producers and song writers are now criticising R&B’s overall role and value in the current mainstream music industry.

Within academia, there are few published papers that focus on the identity of R&B therefore it is difficult to define and navigate through the genre. However, through several online articles, certain aspects of the issues regarding the area are covered.

One of the main areas of concern is the way that club pop sounds have penetrated the genre and changed it from being what it used to be. “So-called R&B radio stations play music that, save for tracks from the likes of Trey Songz or Mary J. Blige, aren’t actually R&B—yet get labeled as such because black artists are singing on them”. (M. Arceneaux. 2012). In 2012, well established musician Erykah Badu turned off her radio and shared a message via twitter, complaining about the ‘Electro Pop’ influence on R&B recently. Trey Songz, who is one of few artists that can actually be classed as a successful R&B artist emphasised Badu’s views in an interview on a radio show stating that many of his peers had started their careers with soulful music and have now changed their sounds to fit a bigger mainstream market which he claims is giving R&B a bad name and that it’s just not cool to be an R&B singer anymore. Even though artists such as Usher and Beyoncé started their careers in R&B, they are now releasing hip-hop and electronic dance music records and still being labelled as R&B artists.

Another main concern within the genre revolves around the aspect of race. “One of the most significant discussions related to R&B’s identity crisis focuses on its continuous name changes since the invention of the term “race music” by Jerry Wexler in 1949” (Burnim & Maultsby, 2006). The music industry is far from colour-blind, the race of an artist will affect how artists are labelled and promoted within the industry. In a recent interview, FKA Twigs expressed her frustrations over being placed within the R&B genre stating, “When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: ‘I’ve never heard anything like this before, it’s not in a genre,’” she continued, “And then my picture came out six months later, now she’s an R&B singer.” (Cliff, 2014) However, it seems that many white artists have been able to create R&B records without being stamped to the genre. Singers such as Justin Bieber and Robin Thicke seem to be free to hop between genre to genre contaminating the image of what the genre should sound like. “In 2013, for the first time since 1958, no black artist recorded a Billboard chart-topping single whereas Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, and Macklemore all topped the Rap & R&B charts that year” (J. Henry. N.d.)

 

References 

Burnim, M. V., & Maultsby, P. K. (2006). African American music: An introduction. New York: Routledge.

Cliff, A. (2014, September 12). FKA Twigs is right, “Alternative R&B” must die | The Fader. Retrieved from http://www.thefader.com/2014/09/12/popping-off-fka-twigs-beyonce-altr-and-b

Jasmine Henry. (n.d). Realizing R&B’s Identity Crisis. Available: https://www.academia.edu/21506327/Realizing_R_and_Bs_Identity_Crisis_An_Analytical_Research_Paper. Last accessed 12/12/16.

MICHAEL ARCENEAUX. (2012). Is R&B Having an Identity Crisis? Available: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/is-r-b-having-an-identity-crisis/255310/. Last accessed 12/12/16.

Ass1: Blog 3 – The rise of music streaming and its battle with royalties (Digital Music Consumption and Data)

From cassette tapes to CD’s, the methods of music consumption have advanced greatly throughout the years and resume to do so today. It is clear that music streaming is the future of music consumption. There are a countless number of companies that already offer their music streaming services in a variety of methods. From the consumer’s perspective, music streaming is a great, efficient way to listen to music. Subscribers can pay a small fee each month to have unlimited access to their favourite artists. However, the artists, producers, song writers and all other professionals involved in the song creation process all suffer from music streaming. Majority of artists on the applications get paid a demoralisingly low amount, if anything. For example, “Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, came out and stated that Gaga has never gotten paid for the millions of streams she has accumulated on Spotify.” (Evan Stein. 2016).

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 15.15.01.png(Amy X, Wang. 2016, The (predicted) rise of streaming music in the US).

Seeing as the industry is slowly moving from digital sales to online music streaming, it is crucial for companies such as Spotify and Deezer to make agreeable terms deals with artists where they can make enough money off the streams they accumulate. However, some would argue that the streaming services would love to negotiate better deals with the labels they work with, however unfortunately for them, the technology kingpins like Google, amazon and Apple will make that difficult. This is because they are happy to pay larger amounts to the labels for their services.

Ultimately, as you can see from the diagram below, there is a lot of money to be made within the live music sector of the industry, and that is something that the streaming companies will have to use to their advantage.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 15.29.52.png(Sarah Perez, 2016. Nielsen: Music Streams Doubled In 2015, Digital Sales Continue To Fall).

Current streaming service Pandora is hoping to build a new on demand service that may compete with the giants Apple and Spotify. It hopes to persuade its current customers to pay $9.99 a month instead of the $3.99 they do now. In return, they are claiming to use their understanding of the music customers to sell a lot of concert tickets. Tidal, one of the newest additions to the streaming music industry has a similar idea. It was recently purchased by well established artist Jay Z, and has been organising exclusive concerts, with tickets often available only to its subscribers. Therefore, by linking the services of streaming music with live concerts, these companies hope to an extravagantly higher number of subscribers.

 

REFERENCES

Amy X. Wang. (2016). Music streaming has a nearly undetectable fraud problem. Available: http://qz.com/615359/steady-chunks-of-money-are-being-quietly-illicitly-stolen-from-music-streaming/. Last accessed 30/11/16.

Evan Stein. (2016). The Problems with Music Streaming. Available: http://quantonemusic.com/2016/04/26/the-problems-with-music-streaming/. Last accessed 30/11/16.

Sarah Perez. (2016). Spotify Apple Music YouTube vevo Nielsen Nielsen: Music Streams Doubled In 2015, Digital Sales Continue To Fall. Available: https://techcrunch.com/2016/01/07/nielsen-music-streams-doubled-in-2015-digital-sales-continue-to-fall/. Last accessed 30/11/16.

Ass1: Blog 2 – Overpowering Music in Film and the Takeover of Electronic Composition

Film scores include a variety of styles of music, depending on the style of the films they accompany. Most scores utilise orchestral arrangements, however many scores in the recent years of digital development are influenced by electronic elements. The main role of music within a film is to trigger the audience into feeling certain emotions at certain times through the journey of the film. “The simplest examples of this are found in thriller and horror films, which employ dissonant, screeching sounds we unconsciously associate with animals in distress.” (Helen Stewart, 2013).

There is a current debate where some actors/actresses believe that in some scenarios, the music, regardless of it being created electronically or recorded using a real instrument, may overpower their acting abilities. Famous actress Bette Davis was openly worried that the music in the film Dark Victory would outshine her acting skills. But I would argue that the music in some scenes will almost enhance the abilities of the actor/actress. Say if Bette Davis was acting a sad scene where she is crying, I think the right kind of music will make her acting look even more sincere to the audience. “Our response to certain kinds of noise is something so profound in us that we can’t switch it off, film composers know that and use it to shortcut the logical part of our brain and get straight to the emotional centres.” (Philip Ball. 2011).

There is another current issue where certain composers believe that synthesisers are taking over music scores and killing the natural sound of a real instrument. Well established British film composers Carl Davis and Christopher Gunning believe that TV is suffering because electronic music is increasingly replacing the quality of sound performed by a real live instrument. I can understand how from the perspective of a musician, it may seem a shame to replace bands and solo musicians with a single producer to create the musical pieces to a film. In an interview last year, revered composer Ennio Morricone slams the ever growing trend of replacing live instruments with synthesised sounds in the motion picture. Morricone believes that “You just do not get the effect of a real live musician playing real phrases. It’s quite extraordinary how a live musician can inflect a certain note with emotion.” (Ennio Morricone. 2015.)

I believe that electronic music in film has always been a factor and can be traced back over a century. A good example of that, is the movie ‘Spellbound’, Where a theremin and the Ondes Martinot which are two of the youngest electronic instruments, were used to emulate a high wavering pitch. At the time, the introduction of these instruments may have been quite exciting to both the audience and musical composers, however the fear of the electronic aspect of music production taking over has become more and more of an issue for live musicians hoping to get involved in score writing, as well as classical music composers. This is due to the fast development of various DAW’s (digital audio workstation) that are now capable of creating endless varieties of sounds.

Overall I think it comes down to opinion, the use of electronic music in film will have different effects on people. There are numerous ways of achieving extremely detailed electronic sounds that resemble a live instrument within modern DAW’s and those who are comfortable and have been brought up to listen to electronic music, may have a different opinion than those who were brought up in an era where most musical pieces were performed and recorded by live instruments.

REFERENCES

Ennio Morricone. (2015). FROM PRODUCER TO SCORING FILMS: ELECTRONIC MUSIC & THE BIG SCREEN. Available: https://www.djbroadcast.net/article/125290/from-producer-to-scoring-films-electronic-music-the-big-screen. Last accessed 23/11/16.

Helen Stewart. (2013). How do film-makers manipulate our emotions with music? Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/0/24083243. Last accessed 19/11/16.

Philip Ball (2011). The Music Instinct: Vintage

 

 

Grime Music Culture & its Relation to Crime in the UK

Topics covered in the module: Popular Music & Meaning, DIY Music Cultures

For many years, the genre of grime was seen as underground street music. Grime was formed out of the UK garage scene in the early 2000’s when rappers (MC’s) started adding vocals to the tracks. There are several criminal acts linked to grime, which has had a negative influence on the culture of grime music as a whole. “When grime was first hitting the headlines in 2004, many said it was the biggest thing to happen to British music since punk – and indeed it should have been. Grime has enormous potential, both commercially and artistically. But it’s always failed to live up to expectations, and violence is partly to blame”. (Ned Beauman. 2006)

Critical offenses date back to 2005 where an MC in his prime by the name of “Crazy Titch” murdered a producer “because his half-brother was “disrespected” in a song lyric” (Hugh Muir. 2006).  Other cases soon followed, such as a grime show being ambushed by rival MC’s to beat up the famous ‘Wiley’ after he disrespected them live on the radio. Grimes first huge song that hit the charts was ‘Pow!’ by Lethal Bizzle and was famously banned from numerous night clubs across the country as it started too many fights due to its aggressive lyrics and ‘beefy’ beat arrangement.

The genre was formed in the depths of poverty, where besides the few that write about guns and violence, artists will often write lyrics about how challenging their upbringing was and how they have turned their lives around. “Grime is the reaction of neglected youths peering up at the exclusive, unobtainable futurism of the city from positions of poverty. Doused in anti-establishment slang, typical lyrics relay the gritty aspects of an underclass preoccupied with park bench apathy, gang warfare and drug dealing.” (Ciaran Thapar. 2015).

Overall, even with that history, I think people that are unfamiliar with the genre should see that there are more positives than negatives., Every year hundreds of new, young, up and coming artists break into the scene with incredible talent, whether its producing instrumentals for grime music or writing lyrics. Most of these kids that start taking music seriously would have been criminals or drug dealers that have chosen to change their lives. ‘Skepta’ who is one of grimes biggest names right now, admits during a verse of his song that he “Put down the cling film and picked up the mic”. Based on his current position in the industry, you could argue that many people idolise him, therefore, may attempt to follow in his footsteps.

References

Ciaran Thapar. (2015). The resurgence of grime music exposes a new form of political disillusionment. Available: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/resurgence-grime-music-exposes-new-form-political-disillusionment. Last accessed 08/11/16.

Hugh Muir. (2006). Rapper who killed producer for ‘disrespect’ gets 30 years. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/nov/03/ukguns.musicnews. Last accessed 08/11/16.

Ned Beauman. (2006). Is violence holding grime back?. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2006/nov/06/isviolenceholdinggrimeback. Last accessed 08/11/16.

 

Week 4 – Popular Music & Meaning

This week, one of Grime’s biggest artists held a show in Birmingham that i attended. Globally recognised ‘Skepta’ attended a relatively small venue in Digbeth. For a rapper as big as Skepta is right now, i was surprised to find out that he was booked into such a small venue. Usually, big names in the music industry always hold shows at the Genting arena, O2 Academy or The Institute. Even the Skepta could have easily sold enough tickets to perform at these venues, the reason behind the venue choice may be due to its destination in Digbeth. Digbeth is a very creative area in Birmingham. It holds plenty of independant fashion shops and skate shops, and is also known for its underground music scene. Therefore, the crowd that will attend the show may bring a more raw, gritty edge to the vibe. Which is perhaps the kind of audience Skepta prefers turning up at his shows.

During the show, Skepta surprised the audience by welcoming some local Birmingham rappers that are big in the grime game named Sox and Jaykae. The audience responded in such a positive manner and it instantly made them respect Skepta a lot more for connecting the Birmingham scene to his big movements.

Grime is a very motivational genre. The BPM (beats per minute) of grime tracks are usually quite high tempo, therefore when you listen to it (depending on your taste) it could get you quite pumped up and full of energy. This positive, lively energy was very infectious and you could feel the vibes of the beats bouncing amongst the crowd.

Music can have a very converse, unique meaning to everyone.

“I may give a name to a specific piece of music, calling it “Moonlight Sonata” or “Ninth Symphony”; I may even say, “These were variations with a finale in the form of a passacaglia,” or characterise, as certain program notes ate prone to do, the particular mood or emotion this piece of music is supposed to have evoked in me. But the musical content itself, its very meaning, can be grasped merely by reimmersing oneself in the ongoing flux, by reproducing this the articulated music occurrence as it unfolds in polythetic steps in inner time, a process itself belonging to the dimension of inner time.” (Schutz, A. 1951).

The main way a grime track expresses meaning and emotion is through its lyrics. Some artists talk about their rough lifestyles, daily struggles and how they overcome them, and some talk about their toughness and the amount of money they make. So these different artists may mean more to you as you may relate more to their songs emotionally. However, Theodor Adorno suggests that the emotional feeling you get is false. That the song was not made to make you feel that way, it has made you think you feel a certain way based on the way you have perceived the audio.

I personally think that there are certain cases where songs are supposed to make you feel the way you feel when listening to them or witnessing them be performed live. Especially when it comes to the genre of grime. Just based solely on the energy and similar human behaviours during the live set at Skepta’s show proved that the emotional effect it had on its listeners was shared. However, in other examples, their may be songs that listeners will really appreciate the instrumental arrangement of, yet  others may feel more emotionally involved with the lyrics and vocals of the artist/song.

 

 

Week 3 – Archiving

The main points made in the last blog regarding Iranian music archives will be extended here with a main focus on their backgrounds.

The Music Museum of Iran seems to be the main physical site to visit that preserves rich Iranian music history. As previously mentioned, it holds various artefacts and instruments across 3,650m between three separate floors.

The-Music-Museum-of-Iran-7.jpg

Traditional Iranian instruments have been kept for hundreds of years and you can see very clearly how they have been developed and manipulated to what they are and how they sound like in the modern day. The museum also shows the progress of recording equipment in Iran. From early vinyl and cassette days to modern studio facilities. The-Music-Museum-of-Iran-11.jpgThe-Music-Museum-of-Iran-13.jpgThe-Music-Museum-of-Iran-18.jpg

As good as this place is to visit if you are interested in Iranian music heritage, I think the main aspect that they have avoided is looking at popular musical genres and their progress within the years. They have on display all these fancy instruments and their origins but they lack detail in what style/genre those instruments seemed to have been played.  The historical painting shown below was produced in  1669 in a less privileged city of Iran called Isfahan. This painting implies that these traditional Iranian instruments were played in groups and you did not have to be amongst the richest people in the country to play music. aside from the traditional Iranian Sitar, you can see them playing an Iranian drum known as the Tonbak, which is usually played as a high tempo using your fingers. This ancient piece of art represents people dancing in colourful clothing, which could suggest they played upbeat style genres. Mehmoonifinal2.jpg

As previously stated, there aren’t any significant online blogs/ archives that hold historical information on popular music in Iran. However, there are a couple of websites that carry some relevant information. But in my opinion they lack a lot of detail in several aspects of the histories of each genre.

Iran Chamber Society allows people to post historical information the arts of Iran. It does not seem to be that commonly used amongst people as the last music related post was from 2003. I believe a reason for this could be a restricted access to the internet. Majority of people in Iran still don’t have full access to the internet, and for those that do, are restricted as to what websites they are able to visit. There is a great paper online written by Somayeh Ghazizadeh that talks about the cultural changes of Iranian music after the islamic revolution. The paper looks at how in 1978 shortly after the revolution, the portrait of Persian music was “completely changed and different aspects like absence of women’s voice, emphasis on religious music, increasing of ordered governmental music, imitation of L.A Persian pop artists, omitting dance, and many other ones appeared in it.”

In conclusion, there are various forms of online articles and papers you can learn lots about popular music in Iran and musical culture/heritage, however the information doesn’t seem to be located in one place. You have to search through dozens of various websites and articles to find the information required.