Journal of

Music, Technology
and Education
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Journal of
Music, Technology and Education
Volume 1 Number 1 – 2008
3–5 Editorial
David Collins

Articles
7–21 The discipline that never was: current developments in music
technology in higher education in Britain
Carola Boehm
23–35 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
37–55 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic
change in music education
Pamela Burnard
57–67 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
Andrew King and Paul Vickers
69–81 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
Leigh Landy
83–96 DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of the World Wide Web
Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
9 771752 706007
ISSN 1752-7066
1 1
JMTE1.1_cvr.indd 1 11/13/07 5:36:30 PM
Journal of Music, Technology
and Education
Volume 1 Number 1
Aims and Scope
The Journal of Music, Technology and Education is specifically
dedicated to the educational aspects of music technology and the
technological aspects of music. Peer-reviewed with an international
editorial board, JMTE aims to draw its contributions from a broad
community of educators, researchers and practitioners who are
working closely with new technologies in the fields of music
education and music technology education. We regard such
education in its widest sense, with no bias towards any particular
genre. Readership will therefore be wide and varied, including
those not only working within primary, secondary and higher
education, but also researchers, school teachers, student teachers,
and other practitioners and professionals who wish to stay
updated with the most recent issues and developments
surrounding the inter-relationship between music technologies
and teaching and learning.
Editorial Board
Pamela Burnard – University of Cambridge, UK
Jay Chapman – Teesside University, UK
Robert Davis – Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Giselle Ferreira – Open University, UK
Lucy Green – University of London, UK
Simon Holland – Open University, UK
John Kratus – Michigan State University, USA
Samuel Leong – Hong Kong, Inst of Ed, China
Gary McPherson – University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign, USA
Adrian Moore – University of Sheffield, UK
Fred Rees – Indiana University, USA
Alex Ruthmann – Indiana State University, USA
Jonathan Savage – Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Peter Webster – Northwestern University, USA
Lisa Whistlecroft – University of Lancaster, UK
Journal Editor
David Collins
Faculty of Arts
University Centre
DONCASTER DN5 7SZ
david.collins@don.ac.uk
Associate Editors
Andrew Bates
Leeds College of Music
a.bates@lcm.ac.uk
Carola Boehm
University of Wolverhampton
carola@n-ism.org
Andrew King
University of Hull
a.king@hull.ac.uk
Editorial Assistant
Julie Northmore
Faculty of Arts
University Centre
DONCASTER DN5 7SZ
julie.northmore@don.ac.uk
ISSN 1752-7066
The Journal of Music, Technology and Education is published three times per year by
Intellect, The Mill, Parnall Road, Bristol, BS16 3JG, UK. The current subscription
rates are £33 (personal) and £210 (institutional). Postage is free within the UK,
£9 for the rest of Europe and £12 elsewhere. Advertising enquiries should be
addressed to: marketing@intellectbooks.com
© 2007 Intellect Ltd. Authorisation to photocopy items for internal or personal
use or the internal or personal use of specific clients is granted by Intellect Ltd for
libraries and other users registered with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) in
the UK or the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) Transactional Reporting Service
in the USA provided that the base fee is paid directly to the relevant organisation.
Printed and bound in Great Britain
by 4edge, UK.
JMTE_1.1_00_FM.qxd 11/12/07 1:54 PM Page 1
Submission Details
The editorial team are always open to
receiving submissions – there are no
specific cut-off dates. We aim to have a
turn-around time from submission to
response from the editor following peer-
review within approximately eight weeks.
Articles should not normally exceed
6000 words in length, should include full
references, bibliography and up to six
key-words; they should also include an
abstract of no more than 150 words.
Illustrated articles are welcomed with
separate files for images attached. Short
reports may be submitted on related
issues, as well as conference reports,
book and pedagogically contextualised
software/hardware reviews.
For more info please contact the editor
David Collins
david.collins@don.ac.uk
We would like to invite contributions in
any aspect of the field, such as:
Computer-mediated music composition
in education
Music performance technologies
Audiation & aural awareness training
systems
Music, technology, education &
industrial practice
Computational musicology in Further
and Higher Education
Musical creativity and technology
Pedagogical aspects of electroacoustic
composition
Classroom engagement with new
technologies
Assessing student music technology
practice
Childrens’ musical learning with
technology
All papers should:
• Contain original research or
scholarship
• Not be under consideration by any
other publication
• Not normally exceed 8000 words
• Be written in a clear and concise style
• Conform to the instructions outlined
below
Non-compliance to these requirements
may represent grounds for rejection of
any article.
• Submissions to JMTE should be sent
as an attachment to an email message
to the Editor. The attached article
should be ‘anonymised’, and contain
an abstract and up to 6 keywords. Be
sure to add your full name & address
in the email message to the Editor.
• Articles accepted for publication
cannot be sent to the publishers
(Intellect) until they contain:
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affiliation and full contact address
details
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in English
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only works cited in the article
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Please use Word (or equivalent)
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Place endnote marks outside the
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Bibliographical references should
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Publications not mentioned in the text
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Format for Citing a Book:
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italics, Place of publication: Publisher.
e.g. Attali, J. (1985), Noise: the Political
Economy of Music (trans. B Massumi),
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press.
Citing an Article:
Author surname, Initial (year) ‘Title in
single quotation marks’, Name of journal
in italics, volume number: issue number
(and/or month or quarter), page
numbers (first and last of entire article).
For example,
Dixon, S. (2005) ‘Theatre, technology
and time’, International Journal of
Performance Arts and Digital Media 1: 1
(Spring), pp. 11–29.
Citing a web publication
or website item:
Websites should be referenced as publishers
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should be supplied:
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immersion, http://www.cyberstage.org/
archive/newstuff/monsters.html
If the website is the ‘home site’ of an
organization publishing its own material
without a by-line, the organization
should appear as the author.
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chipped (online), Accessed 1 November
2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/
technology/3697940.stm
As seen above, authors are advised to
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Citing personal communications
and interviews
A formal research interview can be cited
in the text (Collins, 12/09/07 interview),
and at the end of the Works Cited list
under Interviews.
Notes for Contributors
JMTE_1.1_00_FM.qxd 11/8/07 12:46 PM Page 2
Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Editorial. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.3/2
Editorial
David Collins
In 2006, a book dedicated to the system of punctuation – Eats, Shoots and
Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – became a best-seller in the
United Kingdom. The title of this unexpected book was predicated upon
the usage of that seemingly innocuous element of punctuation in the
English language, the comma. The position of the comma in the title
impacts upon how we might define a particular animal – the panda –
which, correctly, ‘eats shoots and leaves’ or incorrectly, ‘eats, shoots and
leaves’.
In a similar vein, in the developmental stages of this new journal, my
thoughts were preoccupied with the dilemma of whether or not to place a
comma between the words ‘music’ and ‘technology’. Certainly, the journal
was intended to draw together the strands of ‘music’ ‘technology’ and
‘education’, but is this new journal to be concerned with: music techno-
logy and education, or with: music, technology and education? A subtle
but significant difference. Such ruminations were perhaps influenced by
ubiquitous postmodern phrases such as the ‘blurring of subject boundaries’,
the ‘fragmentation of knowledge’, together with the plethora of aspects of
interdisciplinarity – trans-, pluri-, inter-, multi-, cross-disciplinarity – which
challenge (or beset) our assumptions of what should or not be taught in
our schools, colleges and universities. My decision, backed up by the asso-
ciate editors, was that placing the comma between music and technology
gave just enough nuance and weight to explicating the separateness and
the interrelationship of these domains of practice.
The journal also arose from a fascinating synchronicity of events
where people involved at the interface of music, technology and education
within differing institutions were separately and simultaneously identifying
the need for a journal that would act as a focus for the latest thinking in
this area. So, while the academic community currently has access to
established and respected journals in both areas of ‘music education’ and
‘music technology’, there are none – up to the inception of this inaugural
issue – which announce themselves as the only journal specifically dedi-
cated to the interrelationship of both.
Resultingly, the editorial team is seeking articles from those working
closely with new technologies in the fields of music education and music
technology education; our readership is expected to be wide and varied
and the hope is that JMTE will act as a forum for debate and exchange of
approaches in the use of new technologies in music teaching and learning.
As a peer-reviewed journal, JMTE will maintain academic rigour through
a respected and distinguished editorial board; the benchmark and ‘tone’
for this important inaugural issue has been set by including contributions
from this board of experts.
3 JMTE 1 (1) 3–5 © Intellect Ltd 2007
JMTE_1.1_01_edt_Collins.qxd 11/7/07 9:40 PM Page 3
Carola Boehm’s article, based upon findings from an HE academy
award, provides a succinct commentary and overview of the current
issues facing music technology in HE in the United Kingdom and, fittingly
for this first issue of the journal, explores what is understood by the term
‘music technology’ in the educational context in which we find it. Boehm’s
analysis of some 350 categorized ‘music technology’ courses in the United
Kingdom provides food for thought for course developers but such analysis
does not only occur at a quantitative level, but Boehm explores the implicit
and non-implicit interdisciplinarity in this profusion of currently available
undergraduate provision and she reminds us of Barthes’s statement that
‘interdisciplinarity is not the calm of an easy security’.
I have intended Giselle Ferreira’s article to follow Boehm’s since it too
identifies the ‘conundrum’ facing course developers in music, technology
and education who face a multiplicity of courses on offer, and also mirrors
the previous article’s discussion on the so-called ‘divide’ between art and
science (or technology). Ferreira suggests that the relationship between
music and technology has ‘not been extensively explored in its implications, in
particular, for educators treading in this complex area’, and in doing so she
further highlights the importance of this new journal for the community.
From the broad overview provided by Boehm, Ferreira focuses down onto
a case study of course development and in doing so, asks us in what sense
‘music technology’ differs from the ‘technology of music’.
We have seen the demise of the heated debate surrounding the alliance
of technology with creative activity. McLuhan’s comment on the age-old
ability of the artist to side-step the bully-blow of new technology was writ-
ten at a period in the twentieth century prior to the explosion – one can-
not find another description – of digital media technologies, and it could
be said that of all the art forms, it is music which has led the field in link-
ing new technologies with creative practice. Pamela Burnard interrogates
this interrelationship between creativity and technology in school music
in her conceptual article, and aims to reframe current pedagogical think-
ing and practice. Burnard presents her notion of classrooms as ‘creative
spaces that hold out the possibilities for, and implementation of, new kinds of rela-
tionship between creativity and technology’, and in doing so draws upon
post-Vygotskyan activity theory as a tool for implementing change in
educational practice, and uncovering the key relationship(s) between
young people’s creative behaviour and learning technologies.
While a significant body of empirical work has been undertaken in the
use of technologies in supporting skills of music analysis, and aural aware-
ness, together with the use of technology to explore musical perception,
only a small number of studies examine creative activity – such as music
composition, improvisation and performance. Of course, the field of cre-
ativity research is vast, and the body of material in the field includes a
wide variety of approaches – enabling conditions, environmental condi-
tions, intellectual and personality characteristics, combinatory/associative
theories and so on. One author has spoken of the creativity literature as an
‘accumulation of an increasing body of unintegrated theoretical and
empirical material’.
1
Despite this, one perspective upon musical creativity
agreed on by many researchers is that it can be construed as a form of
problem-solving activity. It is within this particular frame that Andrew
4 David Collins
1. I. Schoon (1992),
Creative Achievement
in Architecture: A
Psychological Study,
Leiden University:
DSWO Press, p. 2.
JMTE_1.1_01_edt_Collins.qxd 11/7/07 9:40 PM Page 4
King describes a case study set within a recording studio: what he terms a
‘practical activity in a situated environment’ and his article examines how
students’ problem-solving activity of music production are supported, or
not, by the learning technologies available. This is, as King rightly points
out, a neglected area of study. Problem-solving/creative activity in the
context of the recording studio is, as King’s study indicates, not simply a
matter of surmounting technical issues; there is a pedagogical relevancy.
Returning from King’s, Ferreira’s and Boehm’s focus upon music,
technology and education in higher education, Leigh Landy explores the
pedagogy of electroacoustic music at a pre-university educational level. It
is intriguing that, as both Boehm and Ferreira aim to encapsulate what we
understand by ‘music technology’, Landy seeks to encourage practitioners
to use terminology with consistency, highlighting the grey area between
what we understand as ‘electroacoustic music’ or ‘sonic art’, and the diffuse
nature of the term ‘computer music’. Indeed, this need for appropriate ter-
minology galvanized his initiation of the ElectroAcoustic Resource Site
(EARS) and in his article Landy outlines the development of EARS from
2001 to the present and the consequent resonances for educational appli-
cations – ‘pedagogical EARS’. For those who are convinced of the need for
electroacoustic music to be given more profile in our schools, Landy’s arti-
cle makes essential reading.
Finally, there is concern among some educators that children are
increasingly mediating the ‘real world’ through screen culture – what
Auslander describes as a ‘progressive decorporealisation of the live event’
2
– and the article by Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher which rounds off
this inaugural issue of JMTE describes a project which responds to their
concern that ‘more and more pupils are huddled, staring at computer screens
in their music lessons’. Projects which include the use of internet-based
audio with live music pushes forward the implementation of new media
technologies in music praxis . The diversity of audience, user and genre
described here returns us to Burnard’s concept of music classrooms (for
any level of learner) as spaces which galvanize new relationships between
creativity and technology.
In all these articles we observe practitioners, researchers and educators
exploring differing ways of thinking and doing in the field of music, tech-
nology and education. JMTE warmly welcomes contributions from
authors who wish to join us in this exploration.
5 Editorial
2. P. Auslander (2005),
‘At the Listening Post,
or, do machines
perform?’,
International Journal
of Performance Arts
and Digital Media,
1: 1, p. 8.
JMTE_1.1_01_edt_Collins.qxd 11/7/07 9:40 PM Page 5
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Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.7/1
The discipline that never was: current
developments in music technology
in higher education in Britain
Carola Boehm n-ISM, Glasgow
Abstract
This article discusses current issues around the provision of music technology in
British universities. The discussion is based on the most current results from the
project ‘Betweening’, funded by Palatine (Higher Education Academy). The aim
of the project was to explore the educational landscape of music technology in HE
and to provide an oversight of the different models used. The way a particular
discipline – music technology – becomes established and how it evolves has as much
to do with institutional and governmental politics, social constructs and pedagogical
methodologies, as it does with the discipline itself. As well as an overview
of the findings from quantitative studies (published in detail in Boehm 2006), this
article discusses the findings from the qualitative information gathered from the
Betweening project in order to provide an overview of the educational landscape
of music technology in higher education in Britain today.
Introduction
In the last few years there has been unprecedented increase in Music
Technology courses within British universities. The term ‘music technology’
itself represents meaning in the widest sense of the phrase: technology
of/around/in/for music, but order to stress the ambiguous nature of term,
it also possesses, for this article at least, the ubiquitous post-modern
quotation marks.
This term, ‘music technology’ has perceptually different and shifting
meanings, depending on the context in which it is being used. The multi-
plicity of what exactly is understood by ‘music technology’ is an indication
of the fragmentation of communities at large and their emerging cultural
boundaries, be it sound-engineering, electro-acoustic music, music infor-
matics, or music education technology. It also represents a fragmentation
of our formerly holistically humanistic concept of knowledge and the
delivery of knowledge. We are slowly moving from a modernist concept of
university to a postmodern one, or so it may seem. And the postmodern
quotation marks indicate that: I have to know that the reader knows that
I know that it is not as simple as music technology.
And so this journal comes at a good time for us, as practitioners and
educators, to reflect explicitly on our educational practices; to discuss
the boundaries of this discipline or possibly the fact that it may never
have clear boundaries, or that it may never represent a single academic
7 JMTE 1 (1) 7–21 © Intellect Ltd 2007
Keywords
music technolog
education
interdisciplinarity
higher education
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 7
discipline; to investigate how this fits into our current disciplinary struc-
tures or our educational institutions; to create a discourse on how and
what and in which contexts we teach and facilitate learning; where we
have been and where we are going.
The fifth generation
This discipline (which never was one discipline) is maturing and we could
consider our current students to be in the fifth generation of ‘Music
Technologists’; and I deploy this term, despite Mark Thorley having rightly
pointed out that ‘there is no such job as a ‘music technologist’, even
though the degrees surrounding the domain of music technology are seen
as being highly vocational or practice based (Thorley 2005).
Oversimplified, the first generation of Music Technologists could be
called the ‘Experimenters’ of the 1950s and 1960s, populated with indi-
viduals such as Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Eimert, Cage, Moog, Buchla,
Mathews, Hiller and many more. For the first time a critical mass of technol-
ogists and musicians looked at music and technology and tried to develop
their own methods of combining aspects of previously separate disciplines
into one.
In the danger of continuing this over-simplification, the second genera-
tion of the 1970s and 1980s built on the basis of the first generation, and
with a fast-developing commercialization as well as academic activities in
this area, the speed with which music technology was developed, produced
and exploited for works of art accelerated. Technological newcomers were
Midi and Kyma, based on high performance DSP processors. Centres, such
as IRCAM, CCRMA and at MIT, were created and individuals such as
Boulez, Risset, Vercoe, Wishart, Puckett, Koenig, Chowning and Subotnik
provided a wide variety of activities within this discipline.
The first lecturers of music technology in academic institutions came
from the third generation of the 1990s and 2000s. Music technology was
slowly becoming an academically viable discipline of education and research.
More well-known individuals of this generation, such as Dannenberg,
S. T. Pope, Tododorov, Miranda could be named, among many others. For
the first time a critical mass of individuals, who had studied more than
one discipline and who had a background in more than one field, existed
to push this area forward.
The fourth generation can be seen as represented by the first stu-
dent body that was able to study music technology as one degree, such as
BMus/BSc in Music technology, Creative music technology or the BEng
Electrical engineering + music. And here we are, in the fifth generation,
with these young postgraduates and post doctorals moving into our
educational establishments as young lecturers in the field of ‘music
technology’.
The many attempts to provide an overview of possible degree curricula
or subject taxonomies indicates that they are perceived as a genuinely
interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary area. Already in 1991 Ackermann’s
visualisation designated five different top-level disciplines for this subject
area: Music, Psychology, Physics, Informatics and Electronics (Ackermann
1991:2). Many such visualizations of taxonomies exist, among them the
simplified version by Richard Moore of a triangle labelled ‘Arts’, ‘Science’
8 Carola Boehm
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 8
and ‘Technology’, and his more detailed visualization of a music technol-
ogy pentagram with engineering, computing, music, psychology and
physics (Moore 1990). One of the most detailed taxonomies is the one
edited by Stephen Travis Pope (1994), with subsequent additions and
changes from contributors. This has become the classic taxonomy used in
education for music technology, due to its comprehensiveness with no less
than seven categories on the highest level and with a maximum of four
subcategories has plenty of depth in each of them.
But even the most comprehensive of these taxonomies, restricted to
2-dimensional hierarchies, still cannot convey the complex and multidi-
mensional relationships of their inter-, intra-, trans-, cross-, multi-
disciplinary nature (see Augsburg 2005). And although there is no doubt
as to the interdisciplinary nature of degrees around music technology,
nevertheless they are often still provided as if they fit seamlessly into our
traditional, discipline-based academic structure. Sometimes we, the lecturers,
9 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
ART
TECHNOLOGY
SCIENCE
(
M
o
o
r
e
,

1
9
9
0
)
1. “Music Technology”
As in
Sound Recording,
Tonmeister,
Record Production, etc.
2. “Music Technology”
As in
Computational Musicology,
Electronic, Audio and Music
Technology Engineering,
Music Informatics,
Music Technology
Soft/Hardware Development,
Digital Music
3. “Music Technology”
As in
Creative Music Technology,
Sonic Arts,
Electro-acoustic Composition,
Sound Design,
Electronic Music
Figure 1: The triad of music technology?
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 9
course developers and degree managers, forget that these are degrees
that do not have a long-standing tradition on which practices can be
based, and that we are ourselves still in the process of learning how best
to facilitate the provision of these new degrees. The challenge exists
concerning how best to integrate an interdisciplinary field into a disciplinary
framework.
This challenge exists on all levels of academic endeavour: from the
running of the courses and their administrative frameworks, to the teach-
ing and facilitation of learning, the disciplines’ pedagogies and specific
vocabularies, and research with its own particular methodologies. We
know, as interdisciplinary academic practitioners, that a substantial com-
plexity is involved in providing a supporting and educationally valuable
environment for students and staff in an area that reaches not only
across different scientific domains, but also across different working and
investigatory methodologies, different approaches for presentation and
practice, different underlying – but implicit – justificational hypotheses,
different vocabularies and terminologies, as well as different conceptual
frameworks – not even to mention often different budgets and adminis-
trative units.
This area, no matter what perception one has of it, is genuinely inter-
disciplinary. All the flavours of the subject need a multitude of different dis-
ciplines, from acoustics to music performance to composition to engineering
to all sorts of other things.
The classic taxonomy of Pope (Pope 1994) collated a 4-page list of cat-
egories and sub-categories and sub-sub-sub categories. Just as classic, but
more minimalist, Moore (Moore 1990) represented it in a simple triangle
which included science, music and technology. We could allocate to this
triangle (Figure 1) the degree names used in universities in Britain and
come up with a triad of music technology degrees that furthermore repre-
sent the present communities and cultural boundaries at large.
An educational landscape of music technology in Britain
UCAS, the British Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, currently
lists 351 degrees in the category of music technology. Of the 351 degrees
only 131 actually use the phrase ‘Music technology’ in the title. In all,
63 different names are used with among them:
Arts and media informatics/music
Audio and music technology
Audio and video engineering
Computational musicology
Computer science with music
Computer systems and music technology
Computing and music
Computing with music
Creative music technology
Digital music
Electronic and audio engineering
Electronic music
Electronics with music
Music composition and technology
10 Carola Boehm
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 10
Looking at what terminology is used by British universities and drawing out
from the degree names the most-used categories, the following distribution
emerges: music technology (131), media technology (36), electronic music
(31), sonic arts (22), creative music technology (20), audio technology (10)
(Figure 2). These degrees are provided by 62 different institutions which
means that there are some five degrees in the area of ‘music technology’ for
each British university (Figure 3).
Obviously it is arguable whether or not some of these terms belong in
this category (e.g. audio engineering, or media technology). But I believe
that so long as there are communities in existence that do include them
in this category, it is only right that they should be included in these statistics.
Additionally, what tends to push up the average is that a few universities
run more than 25 degrees around the subject of music technology. These
tend to be degrees (all having ‘music technology’ in the degree name) that
work on a joint honours model with a set programme. From BSc in Forensic
science and music technology or BSc in Astrophysics and music technology
to seemingly more sensible combinations such as BSc in Computing
and music technology or BSc in Theatre/TV and music technology. But
who is to say what is useful for a society and what is not? Our society
might just need those one or two ‘astro-physicist-music-technologists’
11 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
Degree Name Occurence
Music Technology 131 41.9%
Media Technology 36 11.5%
Electronic Music 31 9.9%
Sonic Music 22 7.0%
Creative Music Technology 20 6.4%
Audio Technology 10 3.2%
Music Production 5 1.6%
Recording 4 1.3%
Sound Engineering 3 1.0%
Rest 51 16.3%
Figure 2: Degree name occurrences.
Music informatics
Music multimedia and electronics
Music technology and/with audio systems design
Music technology
Music technology software development
Music with computing
Sonic arts
Sound design technology
Sound engineering
Tonmeister etc.
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 11
(consider ‘Contact’ with Jodie Foster) or ‘forensic-science-music-technolo-
gists’ (consider CSI and its criminal investigations unit) – and it is certainly
popular with students.
Participants in the study have confirmed that this notion of providing
what a colleague of mine has once called ‘matrix degrees’, is more popular
in the post-1992 universities than in the old. New universities can attract
more students by providing more degrees, rather than by having fewer
degrees with more choices within them. Whether this tactic of attracting a
larger number of applicants through a larger number of degrees is gener-
ally valid across both new and old universities is hard to say, as the old
universities tend to resist the notion of providing a large number of
degrees. The other extreme can be seen in the fact that the majority of the
ancient (pre-1800) universities provide only degrees in music, in which
music technology is taught as an integral or optional part of the course.
Whereas it must be satisfying for students to have such a choice and it
may also be necessary for employers to have a few, specialized profession-
als with all sorts of combinations, the downside is that it also calls for a
higher amount of administration, with the universities having to cater for
a large number of degrees with small numbers of enrolled students.
Nevertheless, for universities to create joint programmes, to which more
than one department/ school/unit is contributing, is one of the easiest and
most cost-efficient ways to almost instantly provide an interdisciplinary
degree.
Without those few universities that have ‘matrix degrees’, the average
number of degrees per institution comes down. The majority of universities
(59 percent) have one or two degrees, and the average (without including
the so-called ‘matrix degrees’) is 3.8 degrees for each university.
The majority of qualifications are BScs (55 percent), followed by BAs at
39 per cent (Figure 4). This number indicates that the governmental drive
a few years back to boost scientific degrees with a financial incentive has
12 Carola Boehm
1. Since 1997, the
government has
increased its funding
in science,
engineering and
technology, including
research and
teaching. Its total
science budget
increased from
£1.5bn to just under
£3bn in 2006
(Ford 2006).
0
24 Universities have 1 degree
13 Universities have 2 degrees
8 Universities have 3 degrees
3 Universities have 4 degrees
2 Universities have 15 degrees
2 Universities have 6 degrees
1 Universities has 37 degrees
1 Universities has 34 degrees
1 Universities has 29 degrees
1 Universities has 28 degrees
1 Universities has 25 degrees
1 Universities has 11 degrees
1 Universities has 10 degrees
1 Universities has 9 degrees
1 Universities has 8 degrees
1 Universities has 5 degrees
10 20 30 40
University/ies Sum of Degree(s)
Figure 3: Degrees in universities in Britain.
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 12
actually worked.
1
Not only are the majority of degrees BScs, also a quite
substantial number of BScs are coordinated by arts departments.
Some oddities are noteworthy: there are only ten BEng degrees and six
MEng degrees. In general, IEE (Institute for Electrical Engineers) accredited
degrees have difficulty in fitting all the engineering as well as all the music
needed in this interdisciplinary field into their 3-year time span. In 2006/07
only two of the BEng degrees were coordinated across two departments
(music and engineering), dropping to only one in 2007/08, located in
Scotland. As Scotland has traditionally had a 4-year undergraduate
degree, Scottish universities generally find it easier to fit interdisciplinary
degrees into a programme that has additional guidelines from accrediting
bodies, such as the IEE. For English universities, this means an extra
burden if they are planning to acquire accreditation.
BMus and MA degrees are also exceptional cases: in England MA
degrees tend to be postgraduate courses, in Scotland they can denote
undergraduate degrees. Additionally, music departments have generally
kept their own BMus degrees, but as the figure above shows, they are
generally not used to denote music technology degrees, but rather used for
‘pure music’ degrees, whatever that may entail.
Incorporating different disciplines
As mentioned above, it seems that many universities have chosen to pro-
vide interdisciplinarity through a joint degree model. In fact, 60 percent of
the music technology degrees are taught as a joint model. Contributions
come from more than one department, with students choosing two or
three programmes for their ‘interdisciplinarity’. It is a model that is well
known and established, and therefore easily integrated into existing uni-
versity administrative processes. It is specifically common in the arts and
humanities, and logically the highest number of joint degrees in music
technology were initiated with this model in mind. It does not need more
or specific additional staff, and often no additional purpose-based spaces.
13 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
0%
1%
55%
39%
2%
3%
MA (1)
BMus (2)
BSc (195)
BA (137)
MEng (6)
BEng (10)
Total: 351
Figure 4: BSc vs BA.
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 13
In these institutions, music technology or electro-acoustic composition
courses tend to have been optional courses for many years before a specific
music technology degree is started. The problem of setting up the degree,
therefore, tends to be simply a matter of scale. So long as institutions have
a financial resource allocation model in place (as most of them do nowa-
days) where the funding for the student follows the student down to the
level of the smallest academic unit (department or school), this model is
often chosen to provide an easy way to integrate interdisciplinarity.
But many institutions have also acknowledged the limits of this model.
It is the responsibility of the student to accumulate the course’s interdisci-
plinarity. He or she may study pure electrical engineering in one depart-
ment and pure music in another (or computing science and music). It is
left to the students themselves to knowledge from studying two different
subject domains in depth- and this often does not happen until the post-
graduate level.
The questions that have occurred to many degree coordinators is that
of a pragmatic balance between deep specialisms and broad interdiscipli-
narism. The joint degree model stems from the belief that in order to
achieve new insights into an interdisciplinary subject, it is not only
enough to provide to specialisms, but essential to provide as deep as possi-
ble an education in each ‘pure field’. It has been argued, that this notion
stems from a still modernist view of university stemming from the 18
th
century and the age of enlightenment. Already 24 years ago Habermans
has claimed that the project of modernity in University education may
have failed. ‘The project of modernity’ stems from the 18th century (…),
aiming at developing objective science, universal morality and law, and
autonomous art according to their inner logic’ (Habermans 1983:9). The
notion that a department could have experts in all areas of the degree subject
area stems from this notion. Also that we can study a subject in all its
forms, that its boundaries are clear and defined. But our knowledge has
grown beyond the ability of universities to provide educators in all these
fields, or as more recently Sperber postulates, the ‘current disciplinary sys-
tem may be becoming brittle’ (Sperber, 2005: n.p.).
For a new form of interdisciplinarity the question arises whether we
are in need of a new post-modern acceptance of fragmented but self-
organising areas of knowledge, in which “particular foundations would
emerge in the course of the inquiry rather than be predetermined in the
form of discipline-bound theories, methods, and schools of thought.”
(Mourad 1997:132)
Many departments may not explicitly acknowledge, nor welcome what
it would mean to introduce fragmented and self-organising concepts of
knowledge, but many institutions have tried to address the balance
between deep specialisms and broad interdisciplinarism. The most obvious
solution taken by may institutions is by cutting some of the pure modules
and providing additional ones, which include specifically the interdiscipli-
nary aspects in an interdisciplinary fashion. These modules are often
perceived by students to represent the core and most relevant courses of
the degree. I have in the past controversially called these “glue courses”
(Boehm 2005), but as this term implies that there is a need to glue two
pure disciplines via some interdisciplinary modules, it can create confu-
14 Carola Boehm
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 14
sion, and specifically in institutions, where there are more flowing bound-
aries between the disciplines.
This model of ‘glue courses’ provides for both deep specialism and broad
interdisciplinarity to be balanced by playing with the ratio between them.
It also provides a reasonable additional administrative and resource bur-
den, i.e. by adding one or two ‘interdisciplinarians’ to the staff body a height-
ened involvement with specifically interdisciplinary aspects can be achieved.
However, this model is also felt by educators and students to have some draw-
backs – besides the obvious administrative question of which educational unit
will pay for the additional members of interdisciplinary staff. Additionally,
once finances are sorted out, it does tend to be these members of staff who are
in danger of falling between the stools, in all sorts of ways: from research
assessment exercises and their strategic implications, to promotional chances
or even redundancy processes. For the education of students, there is a more
immediate drawback (and one that has been mentioned most often by
the interviewees): students still feel that a part of one or the other pure disci-
pline of the joint degree is irrelevant to their core interest. It is felt to be a con-
stant process of delicately balancing ‘pure subjects’ (whatever we may mean
with this term) with interdisciplinary subjects.
A few institutions have addressed this issue to the extent of having
every single course in the degree relating to the interdisciplinary subject.
That is, whereas in the joint model a student might study a pure C++
course in Computing science and a pure music history course in Music, in
the ‘integrating model’, where every module is designed specifically for the
interdisciplinary degree, he/she may study ‘C++ for music applications’
and ‘history of music technology’. It is these degrees that seem to have the
largest amount of perceived relevance by students as every single course
seems to be specifically tailor made for their degree.
To achieve this , institutions use different resource models: one being that
contributions may come from different departments, but these contributions
being specific to the interdisciplinary degree. Thus the cost burden of addi-
tional staff or resources can be shared (e.g. both the engineering department
and the music department having on music technology lecturer).
But the difficulties of being dependent upon another department,
possibly without one’s own faculty, can also create conflicts. Conflicts of
interest regarding a department’s own priorities may clash with the need
of a shared degree model. An easy example for this can be seen in class
sizes, and quite a few institutions have stopped providing a shared degree
between two faculties exactly because of the conflicts surrounding quotas
on student intake. Using as an example a typical average pre-1992 university,
its hypothetical music department -specifically if concentrating on compo-
sitional activities -may have an ideal number around 5 to 15 students,
with a maximum of 25. Its science and engineering department, however,
may find any courses of under 25 students not acceptable. The conflict
increases in the present climate, where the old (pre-1992) universities
tend to have increasing difficulty in recruiting engineering and computing
students, and the most popular courses tend to be the interdisciplinary
degrees.
Another model to address this is to simply buy in staff from a discipline
that does not seem core to the faculty, e.g. computing science departments
15 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 15
permanently or temporarily hiring music performance or music composi-
tion staff. Departments are increasingly opting for this model, but it is
quite telling of our current educational landscape, driven by RAE and
QAA, that these courageous examples of interdisciplinarity tend to happen
more in the sciences than the humanities and arts, and more in the new
universities than the old. It is logical, as this can be seen to be driven by
student demand (bottom-up) rather than big institutional politics (top-down).
…but courage we need …
But courage we need – to explore new ways of teaching and learning and
researching, and most of all administering our knowledge. Obviously, on
the other hand, one could ask if there is possibly more merit, certainly less
resistance, in absorbing (exclusive) parts of an interdisciplinary domain
within a traditional discipline and otherwise leaving everything as is. I feel
that we are seeing this in Britain (and possibly other countries) today.
In 2001 the communities of music in academia finally managed to con-
vince the traditional educational sector (mainly the Research Assessment
Exercise) that composition is a research activity and assessable as such,
and therefore on a par with other musical activities, such as editions and
scholarly approaches. However, surprisingly and without warning, this
seemed to herald the exclusion of the rest of computational musicology or
‘music technology’. In the traditional engineering and computing science
departments there often is still the problem of acceptance of research
between music and science, priorities most often still lie in the more ‘pure’
and ‘core’ subject areas. And the music departments in Britain generally
rather accept electro-acoustic composition than other ‘music technologies’,
which tend to have a completely different set of working and research
methodologies, such as, for example, being based on collaborative and
cumulative working methods. Thus, electro-acoustic composition and
sonic arts, which is increasingly being seen by its own community as
belonging to music rather than music technology, has been integrated in
many music departments across the country, whereas the rest of music
technology has often been left standing out in the rain, to be picked up by
science or engineering departments, and this more in the new universities
than the old.
Rather than seeing an emergence of a new discipline, such as the history
of computer science has produced, we can see a movement that is tearing
the content of this interdisciplinary field into three more and more distinct
disciplines with their own methodologies and terminologies. (Figure 5).
Because what else is a discipline than a social construction and, according
to Fish ‘a grab-bag of disparate elements held together by the conceptual
equivalent of chicken-wire’ (Fish 1994: 74)? That part of music technology
represented by sound recording, music production, Tonmeister, for example,
is more and more predominantly taught by colleges and conservatoriums.
That part of music technology represented by computational musicology,
music engineering, electronics and music, and audio engineering is
predominantly taught in computing science and electrical engineering
departments. That part of music technology represented by electro-acoustic
composition, sonic arts and electronic music is predominantly taught in
music departments.
16 Carola Boehm
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 16
Is what we are seeing in our educational institutions proof for Fish’s
thesis, that ‘interdisciplinarity is impossible, as either one gets absorbed
into another’? That the ‘blurring of disciplinary boundaries results only
in new hierarchies and divisions’ (compare Moran 2002: 112 and Fish
1994: 237). Or is it that what is emerging, is three new distinct disciplines
with different working and investigatory methodologies, different
approaches for presentation and practice, different underlying – but
implicit – justificational hypotheses, different vocabularies and terminologies,
as well as different conceptual frameworks?
Can interdisciplinarity remain interdisciplinary indefinitely?
‘Interdisciplinarity is not the calm of an easy security; it begins effectively (as
opposed to the mere expression of a pious wish) when the solidarity of the
old disciplines break down […] in the interests of a new object and a new lan-
17 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
ART
TECHNOLOGY
SCIENCE
(
M
o
o
r
e
,

1
9
9
0
)
1. “Music Technology”
As in
Sound Recording,
Tonmeister,
Record Production, etc.
2. “Music Technology”
As in
Computational Musicology,
Electronic, Audio and Music
Technology Engineering,
Music Informatics,
Music Technology
Soft/Hardware Development,
Digital Music
3. “Music Technology”
As in
Creative Music Technology,
Sonic Arts,
Electro-acoustic Composition,
Sound Design,
Electronic Music
M
U
S
I
C

D
E
P
A
R
T
M
E
N
T
S











C
O
M
P
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T
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G

S
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L
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.

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N
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CONS
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Teaching predominatly happens in ...
Figure 5: The disintegration of a discipline.
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 17
guage; neither of which has a place in the field of the sciences that were to be
brought peacefully together, this unease in classification being precisely the
point from which it is possible to diagnose a certain mutation’
(Barthes 1986: 155)
And if we are aware of all this, if we have enough self-awareness and self-
criticism of the aspects mentioned by Barthes above, then should it not be
possible and certainly worthwhile to remain in an interdisciplinary state
indefinitely? (Moran 2002: 113).
Interdisciplinarity has been said to be the modern ‘motherhood and
apple pie’ issue. That is to say, everyone, including decision makers in higher
education, recognizes that it is a Good Thing.
2
It has ‘become a buzzword
across many different academic subjects in recent years, but it is rarely inter-
rogated in any great detail’ (Moran 2002: 1). In 1989 Liu pointed out that
interdisciplinarity is the most ‘seriously underthought critical, pedagogical
and institutional concept in the modern academy’ and in 2006 we still, as
Sperber says, ‘do not, normally, discuss among ourselves interdisciplinarity
per se. What we do is work on issues that happen to fall across several disci-
plines, and, for this, we establish collaboration […]’. (Sperber 2005).
But we have to admit to ourselves that the separation of ‘music
technology’ into its three distinct boundaries has more to do with how we
do something, than with what we do; or, in other words, more to do with
which methodologies are more similar, and which ones are not. For
example, the reason for one sub-discipline, such as electro-acoustic
composition, to be more accepted in music departments, is not because it
is ‘more musical’, nor because it is ‘less technical’. It is because the method-
ologies for working, teaching and researching in this sub-discipline are
more similar to the ones used in departments of music across the country.
The same can be said of music informatics and computer science depart-
ments. Music informatics has as much to do with music, as with informatics.
But its methodologies just simply do not seem to fit into traditional
music departments. It seems we haven’t learned much: the classical divide
between the arts and the sciences is still there.
Even forty-seven years after C.P.Snow’s classic article on the cultural
divide of the arts and sciences (1959), the gap is still there. And although
the communities on both sides of the gap might be talking, they certainly
are not understanding each other. Even after Kant’s The Conflict of the
Faculties (1798), Nietzsche’s We Scholars (1886), Snow’s The Two Cultures
(1959), Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), Habermas’ Zur
Logik der Sozialwissenschaften (1967), Derrida’s Structure, Sign and Play
(1978), Becher’s Academic Tribes and Territories (1989), Apostel’s
Interdisciplinarity (1972), Moran’s Interdisciplinarity (2002) and Sperber’s
Why Rethink Interdisciplinarity? (2005), we still live in a world where those
in the sciences criticize the lack of empirical methods of humanities scholars
and their seeming reliance on subjective interpretations. In turn, those in
the humanities attack scientists for a misguided faith in the possibility of
absolute objectivity, a narrow conception of useful knowledge and an
unwillingness to interrogate the broader social, political and cultural
implications of their work. ‘Many of these disagreements can be traced not
18 Carola Boehm
2. Discussion between
author, Nick Bailey
and Graham Hair,
June 2006.
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 18
only to the different scope and subject matter of the sciences and humani-
ties, but to their contrasting assumptions about how knowledge should
actually be accumulated’ (Moran 2002: 150).
In addition to this 200-year-old struggle between the sciences and
arts, a newcomer into the world of methodologies has entered. It is now
valid, so current high education management policy would like us to
believe, to create knowledge and learning through practice, through more
vocationally related experiences, as demanded by the students. But it is also
common knowledge that some practices of creating knowledge are more
valid than others, specifically for the purposes of the RAE and, conse-
quently, strategic decision-making processes.
In conclusion, it seems that in the degrees of the interdisciplinary sub-
ject area of music technology, we see an example of interdisciplinary
things to come. We see a collection of academic and professional commu-
nities evolving and sometimes clashing in the evolutionary and culturally
ingrained tendency in academia to standardize methodology and termi-
nology. We see the movements of sub-disciplines moving apart and
regrouping and sometimes creating new single disciplines within new
boundaries. And this movement is governed by different outside factors
such as government policies, the Research Assessment Exercise, or the
Further and Higher Education Act of 1992.
We see a movement of disintegration, the splitting of music technology,
in the largest sense of the word, into (for the sake of a better terminology)
compositional-sound-and-music-technologies, sound-and-music-processing-
technologies and sound-and-music-production-technologies. These three
areas are becoming distinct, as their communities are distinct, as well as
their different places of learning and with them certain methodologies.
But there are also movements to see music technology as one subject
area and to allow subject combinations to appear from student demand,
industry demand or the subject matter itself. As inquiry and problem
based learning theories have matured, they are slowly establishing
themselves as a major drive for change in learning as well as an argu-
ment for a more self-directed process towards knowledge and skills
acquisition. What certainly could help is for universities to leave the exper-
iment in modernism – Habermas’s ‘project of modernity’ – behind and
accept what post-modernity can give to the ways we approach teaching,
learning, researching and, most of all, administering our knowledge. A
postmodern approach would be to accept and accommodate these new
concepts of fragmentational knowledge and self-organizing areas of
interdisciplinary domains of knowledge; it would present an environ-
ment in which learning is driven by a process of inquiry, for foundations
of a subject area to be created where needed in the inquiry and out of the
inquiry, rather than pre-ordained and culturally engrained in specific
disciplines.
In order for interdisciplinary subjects such as ‘music technology’ to
flourish, without prejudice and discipline-specific cultural constraints,
teaching and research have to be allowed to happen at the brink of and in
the spaces between disciplines, spaces where new theories emerge out of
inquiry and where they are informed but not bound by pre-existing
schools of thought.
19 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 19
Acknowledgement
The author wishes to acknowledge the support of Palatine (Higher
Education Academy) in carrying out the research.
Works cited
Ackermann, Philipp (1991), Computer und Music, New York, Vienna: Springer
Verlag.
Apostel, Leo et al. (1972), Interdisciplinarity: Problems of Teaching and Research in
Universities, Paris: OECD.
Augsburg, T. (2005), Becoming Interdisciplinary: An Introduction to Interdisciplinary
Studies, Kendall Hunt.
Barthes, R. (1986), ‘Research: The young’, in The rustle of language (trans.
R. Howard), New York: Hill and Wang, pp. 69–75.
Becher, T. (1989), Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Cultures
of Disciplines, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Boehm, C. (2005), ‘Music Technology in Higher Education’, The Idea of Education,
ed. by Tom Claes. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Vol. 12. 2005.
Boehm, C. (2006), ‘The thing about the quotes: “Music Technology” degrees in
Britain’, in ICMC Conference Proceedings, New Orleans: ICMA.
Derrida, J. (1978 [1966]), Writing and Difference (trans. Alan Bass), London and
New York: Routledge.
Fish, S. (1994), ‘Being Interdisciplinary is so very hard to do’, in There is no such
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pp. 231–42.
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Unlimited, 26 January. Available at: http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/
research/story/0,,1695475,00.html
Accessed 13 August 2007.
Habermas, J. (1967), Zur Logik der Sozialwissenschaften. Tübingen: Mohr.
Habermas, J. (1983), ‘Modernity – An incomplete project’, in The anti-aesthetic: Essays
on postmodern culture (ed. H. Foster), Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, pp. 3–15.
Kant, I. (1992 [1798]), The Conflict of the Faculties (trans. Mary J. Gregor), Lincoln,
NB: University of Nebraska Press.
Liu, Alan (1989), ‘The power of formalism: the new historicism’, English Literature
History, 56: 4 (Winter), pp. 721–71, quoted in Moran 2002: 1.
Moore, R. (1990), Elements of Computer Music, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Moran, J. (2002), Interdisciplinarity, London: Routledge.
Mourad, R.P., Jr (1997), ‘Postmodern Interdisciplinarity’, The Review of Higher
Education, 20: 2, pp. 113–40.
Nietzsche, F. (1990 [1886]), ‘We Scholars’, in Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a
Philosophy of the Future (trans. R.J. Hollingdale), Harmondsworth: Penguin,
pp. 129–46.
Pope, S.T. (1994), ‘A Taxonomy of Computer Music’, Computer Music Journal 18:1.
Foreword.
Popper, Karl (1972 [1959]), The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London: Hutchinson.
Popper, Karl (1973), Objective Knowledge: An evolutionary Approach, Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
Snow, C.P. (1993 [1959]), The Two Cultures, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
20 Carola Boehm
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 20
Sperber, D. (2005), ‘Why Rethink Interdisciplinarity?’, Rethinking Interdisciplinarity,
interdisciplines 2005. http://www.interdisciplines.org/
Accessed 9 December 2005).
Thorley, M. (2005), Music Technology education – who is the customer, the student or
the industry? Leeds: LIMTEC 2005.
UCAS Directory (2005, 2006), www.ucas.com/search/index.html
Suggested citation
Boehm, C. (2007), ‘The discipline that never was: current developments in Music
technology in higher education in Britain’ Journal of Music, Technology and
Education 1: 2, pp. 7–21, doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.7/1
Contributor details
Carola Boehm holds degrees in musicology, computer science and electrical engi-
neering. She is currently Head of Music and Principal Lecturer at the University of
Wolverhampton. Lecturing and researching in the area of music and music tech-
nology for more than 15 years, she has held previous positions at the University of
Glasgow, the University of Mainz, the Conservatory of Music in Hannover, and the
Royal Conservatory of Music in Den Haag. Since 1999 the Co-Director of the
Centre for Music Technology at Glasgow University, she is also one of the founding
members of n-ISM (Network for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science, Technology
and Music). Her research areas include music technology education, methodologies
for designing music systems, performance research and the interplay of inter-
disciplinarity, creativity and technology. Contact: Carola Boehm, Head of Department,
Department of Music, School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure University
of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus Gorway Road, WALSALL West Midlands,
WS1 3BD.
E-mail: carola@n-ism.org
21 The discipline that never was: current developments in music technology
JMTE_1.1_02_art_Boehm.qxd 11/7/07 9:41 PM Page 21
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Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.23/1
Crossing borders: issues in music
technology education
Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira The Open University
Abstract
Music technology can be construed in a variety of ways, ranging from the design to
the use of technologies for musical purposes, thus involving skills across the tradi-
tional disciplinary divide that polarizes art and technology. This creates a conun-
drum for curriculum developers who are aiming to create learning opportunities
that are relevant and exciting for students with widely varying backgrounds. This
paper examines some of the issues that arise in music technology curriculum
development, illustrated with examples taken from the experience of the team
responsible for the production of the UK Open University course TA225 The
Technology of Music and its expanded version TA212. The paper discusses
the rationale negotiated by the team to guide course-related decision making, while
bearing in mind the fundamental question of how to create an interesting learning
context for students with very different educational experiences and reasons
for studying.
Introduction
‘Music technology’ in Britain appears currently as a sub-area within the
Music Benchmark Statement (QAA 2002), but training and education pro-
visions include a multitude of courses in further and higher education in
which the subject is often offered as the sole or main specialism. A quick
search in the UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admission Service)
1
sys-
tem will return hundreds of courses; indeed, based on data extracted from
the system, Boehm (2005a, 2005b) highlights the breadth of ‘music tech-
nology’ as construed in the United Kingdom. Course titles often do not
include the expression ‘music technology’, but they do suggest tacit pur-
poses in purporting to cater for wider contextual needs: academic or discipli-
nary housing and, consequently, legitimacy; artistic goals; commercial and
industrial job roles. Despite the lack of a Benchmark statement relating
exclusively to the area, ‘music technologists graduating from [those] courses
emerge both as artists and scientists’, as McGettrick (n.d.) suggests, implying
that ‘music technology’ may be viewed as an emerging discipline in its
own right. What does seem clear, however, is that in the last two decades
music technology has been progressively gaining strength as a sort of
umbrella term for a number of academic and professional practices that, nev-
ertheless, have been conventionally considered as an integral part of other,
well-established disciplines such as (audio) engineering or (musical) acoustics.
Importantly, ‘the finest musical instruments throughout history have both
reflected and focused the technical capabilities of their time and culture’, as
23 JMTE 1 (1) 23–35 © Intellect Ltd 2007
1. Available online at
www.ucas.ac.uk
Keywords
music technology
open education
curriculum
interdisciplinarity
team teaching
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 23
Orton (1992) puts it. Indeed, music making has traditionally profited from
state-of-the-art technologies and contemporary scientific insight, from the
Neanderthal flute to the latest software synthesizer controlled by haptic
interfaces; from the first music-printing technologies to computer-based
musical composition systems. Nevertheless, the crucial relationship between
music and technology – albeit contextually located and often tense – is not
always clearly acknowledged. This is an issue for the most part strategi-
cally overlooked in discourses that polarize the categories ‘art’ and ‘tech-
nology’. Indeed, this dichotomy, which supports predominant definitions
of the remit and scope of different disciplines and areas of knowledge, has
only recently begun to be contested in critical discourses on music
(Théberge 1997; Wishart 1992; Taylor 2001), with occasional recourse
to the ancient Greek notion of technê (Di Scipio 1998). This fragmentation
of knowledge and practice creates a paradoxical situation: despite the mul-
tiplicity of ways in which ‘music technology’ can be conceptualized and
categorized in disciplinary terms, both the development and the use of
technologies for musical applications require, albeit with different levels of
expertise, knowledge of core topics traditionally located across disciplinary
boundaries.
Crucially, the interdependency between music making and technology
has not been extensively explored in its implications, in particular, for edu-
cators treading in this complex area.
2
This article explores some of the
implications by examining a particular educational setting, the production
of the UK Open University (UK OU) course TA225 The Technology of
Music and its expanded version, TA212. The article argues that the multi-
disciplinary character – with ‘multidisciplinarity’ understood here as
a coming together of different disciplines in juxtaposition (Klein 1990: 56) –
of this context both compounds and parallels a problem that already
confronts educators located in the setting: the issue of creating interesting
and, simultaneously, relevant learning opportunities in agreement with
an ‘open access’ policy. Also, it is suggested that the general approach of
‘teaching the conflicts’ (a paraphrase of Baynham 2003), the rationale
negotiated by the course developers (albeit not articulated, during produc-
tion, in these terms), capably maps the multiplicity of the subject onto ways
in which it could be taught.
Context
Teaching at the UK OU is a team effort that consists of two major, interre-
lated stages referred to as course development and course presentation.
Course development is carried out centrally by Course Teams (CTs), groups
of (predominantly) campus-based staff that include professionals from var-
ious areas clustered around a core of academic authors. CTs exploit the
existing institutional structure in that this is arranged to provide expert
input into various tasks required for course development (in addition to
academic and pedagogical expertise, graphic design, software development
and legal advice and support in respect to copyrights issues, for example),
which is guided by broader curriculum considerations and, more recently,
market intelligence. Course presentation, on the other hand, is monitored
and supported by central academic staff, but direct student support is pro-
vided primarily by Associate Lecturers (ALs), who offer tailor-made advice
24 Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
2. A current enterprise
in the area is Boehm’s
Betweening project;
see project description
at www.mccarthy-
boehm.org.uk/
projects/Betweening/
Palatine_Betweening_
V3.pdf
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 24
to small groups of learners (typically 15–25 in number).
3
The roles of CTs
and ALs differ significantly, but the split of functions between different
groups of teachers in a broader student-support network has been pivotal
to the logistics required for the production and presentation of courses to
often substantial numbers of students.
As part of a process that supported the eventual institutionalization of
the CT, new administrative layers have been progressively introduced to
manage the growing concerns with costs and, more recently, the University’s
general orientation towards providing complete programmes of study lead-
ing to named qualifications (that is, certificates and degrees qualified in
respect to an area of knowledge or professional remit). This move, in itself,
has implied the need for a significant change of culture within the organi-
zation, a process currently under way, as courses now integrate broader
programmes which set out specific curricular requirements that courses,
grouped together, must meet – as opposed to what had been a course-centred
mode of operation. TA225 and TA212 have been, arguably, the last
courses to be developed tangentially to a set of programme-specific learning
outcomes, and the current status of TA212 is that of an elective course in
a number of named qualifications awarded by the University. The institution
now appears to be rethinking and redefining itself within a wider, business-
oriented context in which it is located on an assumedly equal, competitive
footing with more ‘conventional’ universities. The wider adoption of business-
oriented thinking and accompanying rhetoric within the institution, how-
ever, contributes to bring to the fore previously veiled tensions among rep-
resentatives of different disciplines, professions and particular viewpoints.
Team teaching is not, of course, an idiosyncrasy of distance education,
but it has grown into the predominant style for developing curriculum
and creating learning resources in distance-education institutions. Indeed,
according to Chung (2001), the structure of these organizations – and the
UK OU is here only one example among others – tends to reflect a commonly
perceived need to endow course development with a more widely accepted
notion of ‘professionalism’. At the UK OU, the current model of the
course production process is described, in its various stages, processes and
personnel required, in an online document available internally to staff
(OU, Curriculum Management Guide), which outlines the relationships
among the various areas of the university responsible for the creation and
delivery of a course. Interestingly, non-academic services are no longer
construed as subsidiary to the development process, even though this is
assumedly based on pedagogical and academic considerations. A focus on
budgetary and market-related concerns, traditionally not major academic
affairs, compels a radically different reality that opens up an avenue for
much controversy and disagreement. CTs can, therefore, be viewed as arenas
that highlight administrative, disciplinary and professional divides; from
this perspective they are sites of debate, contestation and conflict, as exam-
ined in Ferreira (2006).
It was within the convoluted scenario of change sketched above that the
course TA225 The Technology of Music was proposed and developed. The
fact that an initial proposal was informally circulated in the mid-1990s, but a
course team assembled only by 2001, points to the difficulties in carrying out
what had been construed, from its early stages, as an ‘ambitious project’.
25 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
3. ALs are part-time
members of staff
recruited according to
their subject expertise;
they are often full-time
members of staff in
further education or
other higher
education institutions.
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 25
The course was proposed as a collaboration between the faculties of
technology (which bears the presentation responsibilities) and arts, but
the academic core of the CT included members from across three different
faculties (including science), associated with the disciplines of elec-
tronics engineering, ICTs, manufacturing technology, music and physics.
Despite some controversy around the academic ‘credibility’ of a course in
this area vis-à-vis institutional perceptions of the student ‘market’, TA225
was launched in 2004 and attracted cohorts of between 400 to 600 learn-
ers per year in its three years of presentation. TA212 (also entitled The
Technology of Music) replaced TA225 in 2007 and was developed in
response to the perceived need to reflect the actual workload involved (see
next section) as well as expand some of the fundamental and practical
aspects of the course.
Course materials and structure
TA225 was a level-2, 30 CAT-points course, corresponding to approxi-
mately 300 hours of part-time study spread over 9 months, about a quarter
of the yearly study load in a full-time system. The course was based on a
tripartite Block structure: the first Block covering the ‘basics’ (in acoustics,
psychoacoustics and music theory), the second examining musical instru-
ments (including voice and electronic instruments), and the third dealing
with sound recording and processing, with particular focus on desktop
sound processing and MIDI (and some coverage of topical issues such as
intellectual property). These topics were presented using a relatively ‘tradi-
tional’ combination of media that had a set of printed texts as their back-
bone. Each Block of text was accompanied by an audio CD containing
sound examples and a CD-ROM containing software (a number of software
packages, including commercial programs – Adobe Audition and Cubasis
VST 4.0 [this has been replaced with Cubase LE in TA212]). There was
also a printed Reference Manual that conflated information on fundamen-
tal formulae and musical terminology (‘Music Primer’), as well as having
sections dedicated to the basic functions provided by the various software
packages used in the course. In addition, students received a Home
Experiment Kit (HEK), consisting of a selection of materials used to support
the development of practical skills (a microphone and a pair of head-
phones) and the study of acoustic instruments (various small items including
a recorder, tubes of various sizes and a drinking straw). Finally, the course
incorporated two DVDs containing a set of tailor-made video sequences to
support the study of Blocks 2 and 3, including a selection of broadcast
materials chosen from the BBC archives assembled as a ‘library’ to support,
in particular, the study of electronic instruments.
TA212, on the other hand, is a full-blown 60-point course (600 hours
of part-time study over 9 months) and incorporates the core materials
developed for TA225 into a 5-Block structure. In this structure, the original
Blocks 1, 2 and 3 of TA225 are ‘sandwiched’ between a new introductory
Block, which expands considerably on the original ‘Music Primer’, and a
final Block that aims to prepare students for the final piece of assessed
work. Block 1 introduces basic music notation and theory within a text
that aims to develop the learners’ listening skills and, to a limited extent,
their ability to understand and follow scores of different degrees of complexity.
26 Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 26
Student feedback from TA225 indicated that the ‘Primer’ was of limited
usefulness to students entirely new to music notation, as it was developed
as a subsidiary reference and not a teaching text as such, while Block 1 of
TA212 provides a much more substantial introduction. Block 5, on the
other hand, covers two different areas, namely, communication skills and
practical work. The practical work in this last Block expands on work carried
out throughout the course, providing opportunities for further use of the
course software in preparation for the final project, which requires students
to carry out a number of tasks and write a structured report.
Figure 1 illustrates the interface of the ‘TA212 Activities’ utility
program created to provide access to the learning materials on CD. The
figure shows, specifically, the activities associated with chapter 5 in Block 2;
the chapter includes various simulations created to support the study of
topics in psychoacoustics as well as numerous musical examples, which
are included on the audio CD that accompanies the Block. The software
provides coherent access to all the computer-based and listening activities
contained in the course, organized by Block and chapter, respectively.
Computer-based activities consist of simulations and animations developed
in-house, some of which are interactive. Other chapters include practical
tasks using the third-party software listed above, and the ‘TA212 Activities’
utility program provides access to the subsidiary program(s).
Although the focus of both courses is on the technologies, these are
generally contextualized in historical and musical terms across most of the
course text. The CT, however, agreed not to impose on all text any single
rationale for providing contextual information, leaving individual authors
to decide how (and if at all) to incorporate details on people, places and
times associated with the topics taught. Contextualization was indeed
assumed as an important ingredient to provide interest and motivation to
arts-based students, in particular, although, as in other areas of debate,
the notions of ‘context’ and ‘history’ appeared to be construed in very
different ways by different members of the team. Another essential ele-
ment informing authors’ decisions was the assumed relevance of this sort
of detail/structure vis-à-vis the constraints imposed on each part of the
course in terms of the study time implications for students. Consequently,
some chapters (particularly the introductory chapters in Block 2, which
deal with basic notions in acoustics and tonal music theory, as well as
27 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
Figure 1: Screen-shot of the course utility program.
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 27
most of the chapters in Block 3, which present contextual details in separate
boxes) have little or no contextual information, while others are framed
‘historically’ (e.g. recording and storage).
In addition to the materials described above, direct student support is
provided by ALs within the Supported Open Learning (SOL) framework,
4
including, as usual at the UK OU, a number of face-to-face tutorials orga-
nized regionally. Asynchronous online support (along the lines of other OU
offerings, e.g. Weller 2000; 2002) is offered optionally. A group of (course-
wide) conferences using the University’s system (FirstClass)
5
is provided,
one specifically for peer support among tutors (supported by the CT), and
three bundled conferences for students (a ‘Café’ for informal chat; a
‘Course discussion’ and ‘Course Assessment’ for self-help among students),
the latter overviewed by the CT. Also, a password-protected website con-
tains electronic versions (pdf) of the printed text as well as a number of
resources; this is a compulsory element of the course in that it includes a
‘news’ area that acts as a vehicle for the delivery of noticeboard informa-
tion (e.g. errata) quickly and directly by the presentation team (a sub-group
of the CT).
Course assessment in TA225 was assignment-based, comprising a total
of four short, question-based assignments (averaged to provide the stu-
dent’s continuous assessment score) and a final unseen invigilated exam
(the examined component), and a ‘pass’ was guaranteed when scores
above 40 per cent are obtained in both components. The style of the ques-
tions used parallelled that of the many in-text activities interspersed
throughout the teaching text and associated with specific learning outcomes.
On the other hand, in TA212 the exam has been replaced with a final pro-
ject, and the number of tutor-marked assignments is increased to six.
An important observation in respect to the courses’ emphasis on tech-
nologies is that a ‘creative’ element – understood in terms of developing
skills in the area of musicianship and applying the skills and techniques
taught for compositional purposes – is absent. The courses teach the prin-
ciples upon which the operation of musical instruments and technologies
is based, providing a fairly limited picture of the many contexts associated
with those technologies. In other words, the courses are relevant to per-
formers (professional and ‘amateur’ alike) in that they may, in principle,
inform their practices; the courses are also potentially of interest to music
teachers who may wish to develop their ICT skills with a view to introduc-
ing changes in their practice. However, TA225 and TA212 cannot fulfil
the role of many other ‘creative music technology’ courses/programmes in
the UK that teach, specifically, compositional thinking associated with the
technologies they explore.
Creating the courses: issues and attempted solutions
For the ensuing discussion, I would like to group the production issues in
three general areas, as follows: (1) background knowledge; (2) musical
repertoire (range of musical examples included); (3) repertoire of technolo-
gies (range of technologies included). In using these categories to frame
my discussion, I am implying that the course development was primarily
guided by decisions on content. The CT indeed used, both in planning and
writing the courses, a learning-outcomes framework based on QAAHE
28 Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
4. See Johnson (2003:
36–45) for an
overview of the UK
OU’s SOL model.
5. See ww.firstclass.com
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 28
recommendations,
6
which splits learning outcomes into various categories
(‘knowledge and understanding’, ‘cognitive skills’, ‘practical and profes-
sional skills’ and ‘key skills’). However, in practice, despite the variety of
categories entailed in the model, the focus was on knowledge (hence, content)
and, to a lesser extent, practical and professional skills, as appropriate to a
level-2 course.
Internal, institutional perceptions of the project as ‘ambitious’, as noted
above, may have contributed to this situation; given that ‘music technol-
ogy’ was an area in which the institution had not previously ventured, the
disquiet regarding the ‘credibility’ or ‘legitimacy’ of the courses in acade-
mic terms compounded those concerns with the appeal of the courses to
students. The institutional location of the development process has clearly
had an enormous impact on the courses eventually produced, which sup-
ports the notion that curriculum ‘reflects cultural beliefs – folk traditions – as
well as social and political values and organization’ (Joseph et al. 2000: 19).
Nevertheless, the focus on content can be understood as symptomatic of
a broader questioning, namely, that of defining what ‘music technology’ is.
The conflation of views on what ‘music technology’ as a subject entails –
or should entail – has certainly been a significant factor impacting on
procedures involved in the development of TA225 and TA212. In this
sense, the courses emerged as a response to the challenge articulated in
Boehm (2004): ‘if [music technology] is to exist successfully within current
HE institutions, there is a need for institutions to explicitly formulate
teaching-content responsibilities according to faculties, department or
schools, and it requires those involved to lay down and quantify the
amount of knowledge, i.e. to create a corpus and thus define a discipline’.
The need to outline boundaries and, crucially, locate these within the
existing institutional framework, provided the CT with profound questions
and implied tacit disputes that much contributed to the final shape of the
courses.
Background knowledge: ‘what do students need to know
at the start of the course?’
Controversy in this area revolved around two general issues brought to the
fore by CT members upon reflection on their previous experiences. On the
one hand, there was the question, raised by technology-based members, of
how to deliver (and if at all) any potential ‘mathematical’ content.
7
This
question was particularly relevant to the portions of the courses dealing
with topics in acoustics. On the other hand, arts-based staff described their
experiences in running ‘purely musical’ courses at the level of TA225/TA212;
for example, an understanding of staff notation in respect to time signa-
tures is a major learning outcome of the core level-2 UK OU music course.
These questions illustrate the problem of outlining what type of back-
ground knowledge should (or could) be assumed, as opposed to what the
courses should (or could) potentially teach.
The concept of ‘decibels’ provides a helpful illustration of what appears
to be the underlying problem, given that it is a key term in the audio-
technology vernacular. Understanding this notion implies a fairly sophisti-
cated type of conceptual ‘move’: the ability to construe meanings based on
mathematical formalization, which is a fundamental skill in engineering
29 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
6. Quality Assurance
Agency in Higher
Education, online at
www.qaa.ac.uk
7. I am using quotes
here to highlight that
the meaning of the
term in this context is
not necessarily
precise; indeed,
students’ discourses
often construe simple
algebraic operations
as ‘mathematics’, and
this seems to be an
issue that emerges
time and time again
in student discussions
online.
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 29
and science. Epistemologically, the issue at stake here is that of representa-
tion, of acknowledging that ‘the map is not the territory’ (as Gregory
Bateson puts it in Bateson 1980: 32) while exploring the implications of
the relationship established between them. Accordingly, questions con-
cerning representation are also crucial in musical thinking when notation
is approached from a broader, epistemological perspective. The question of
identity of the author/teacher emerges here significantly, suggesting that
the CT itself mirrored, generally, the potential variety of students’ back-
grounds in that members’ experiences and perspectives of the relationship
between music and technology varied dramatically, as did their fluency in
each other’s specialist vernacular. Indeed, the chapter on ‘music represen-
tation’ included in the third Block aims, essentially, at providing a preamble
to MIDI coding and digital storage formats by locating them in some sort
of historical continuity. However, materials exploring contemporary issues
of relevance to musicians (e.g. the advent of alternative, at times composer-
specific, notation systems from the 1960s onwards, and the emergence of
compositional methods that are not mediated by widely agreed notational
systems) were not included. The encounter of experiences and perspectives
re-enacted in the CT meetings thus intensified intra-disciplinary debates
by suggesting a further avenue for questioning: would arts-based students
be able to cope with ‘the maths’? Would technology-based students be able
to cope with ‘the music bits’? What types of resources would be required to
support students in their development of skills across the borders?
Clearly, these issues are not idiosyncratic to educational enterprises in
music technology; they are, indeed, the types of questions that would need
to be asked in the development of any course above introductory level with
an open entry policy. In TA225/TA212, however, the problems were com-
pounded by likely differences between perceptions of technology-based stu-
dents, on the one hand, and those of arts-based students, on the other
hand (although the courses might clearly appeal to a variety of learners
located in different disciplines or studying, simply, for leisure, without spe-
cific disciplinary allegiances).
8
One solution adopted by the CT was to
include teaching material on some topics while marking them clearly as
non-assessable. A number of points were considered essential (e.g. the
relationship between frequency and period of a waveform, the ability to
perform calculations with powers of 10, naming notes and relating these
to staff notation, to name just a few) and, therefore, covered in the main
text materials but included in the Reference Manual that students were
allowed to take with them to the final exam in TA225.
There was also considerable debate regarding the use of musical nota-
tion, which is the usual visual basis upon which comparisons and, gener-
ally, commentary on sound/music, are based. Naturally, in a course as
broad as TA225/TA212, listening activities appear associated with a wide
variety of purposes, including demonstrating basic psychoacoustical phe-
nomena (e.g. beating, masking and examples of auditory illusions), sup-
porting the development of listening skills (e.g. identifying musical
instruments, identifying features of sound, assessing the balance of a mix
or the quality of a recording) generally, developing skills that are fundamen-
tal to sound recording and processing. Creating such activities required
careful consideration of envisaged benefits and possible complications
30 Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
8. These assumptions,
albeit grounded in the
members’ experiences
(extensive for a num-
ber of CT members,
but also relevant to
more junior staff, as
such assumptions
appear, to a certain
extent, to be
‘ingrained’ in
internal, institutional
discourses on
students’ profiles),
seem to me crucial
but, significantly,
potentially harmful to
the development
process. Given the
current rate at which
the institution and its
‘market’ appear to be
changing, it would be
potentially damaging
to use such
assumptions as the
only source informing
CTs on the potential
audience of the
courses we produce.
The fact that some of
the CT members also
operate ‘at the point
of delivery’ as ALs or
in some other capacity
somewhat alleviates
the problem.
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 30
created with the use of musical notation. A further resource was created
to address this question, the ‘Music Primer’, which groups together funda-
mental concepts in tonal music theory; this provides a reference (that is, a
summarized presentation of notes) and not a piece of teaching material as
understood at the UK OU. Indeed, students’ response to the ‘Primer’ was
mixed, and this partially guided the development of a new introductory
Block for TA212.
Musical repertoire: ‘what music should be included
in the course?’
Viewed as a unit, the CT possessed considerable breadth (and depth)
of knowledge in terms of a variety of musical genres and styles, but tonal-
ity was the prevalent musical model and the source of most of the musical
examples selected for the courses. Indeed, many of the concepts proposed
as ‘fundamentals’ (for example, consonance/dissonance) were much nego-
tiated from perspectives that, predominantly, either simply described or
attempted to explicate the concepts in terms of harmonic/numerical rela-
tionships. There was, significantly, considerable tension surrounding
issues that have fostered alternative theorization and/or common-sense
understandings, for example, in biological terms (as if anatomically/physi-
ologically ‘hard-wired’), in cognitive psychological terms (schemata that
can be acquired or ‘programmed’), or in constructionist terms (discourses
and social interaction construing epistemologies, identities and realities).
The topic consonance/dissonance, in particular, appears twice at dif-
ferent stages of the courses, reflecting a polarization of positions within the
CT. On the other hand, and most importantly, this recurrence also points
to the CT’s general approach of allowing for multiplicity of views. It
appears, indeed, that a ‘teach the conflicts’ rationale (Baynham 2002)
eventually permeates the materials. A more appropriate analogy for the
negotiation process on this matter, however, is with that of an emergent
property of a complex system, since this rationale was neither articulated
nor discussed beyond the unspoken tactic of ‘agreeing to disagree’ that
eventually characterized production. If ‘consensus forms the basis of a
team development model’, as Moore and Kearsley (1996: 105) suggest,
that was the form ultimately negotiated by the TA225/TA212 CT.
The fundamental observation concerning the consonance/dissonance
debate is that it suggests different views of music and, in pragmatic terms,
choices of repertoire to be included in listening exercises. Overall, post-
1950s western ‘art’ styles are frequently perceived as exclusionary (often
by musicians themselves), and this view was represented in fairly strong
reactions from some CT members. Despite that (and the eventual focus on
tonality), the variety of CT members’ backgrounds and experiences with
music has contributed to an arguably richer collection of musics represented
in the courses than might be possible in other settings. Examples provided
on CD consist of excerpts and complete pieces alike, including, in addi-
tion to exemplars selected from the western ‘art canon’, jazz, ‘pop’, various
styles of electronic/electroacoustic music (musique concréte, elektronische
Musik, acousmatic music, electronica), world musics, to name a few. In a
setting in which developers/educators were more closely grouped (e.g. in a
music department with a tradition in a given musical style, for example,
31 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 31
electroacoustic composition or, perhaps, in a computer science department
with a group working on computational musicology), such variety might
not be possible. On the other hand, as discussed below, choices of musical
repertoire are closely linked with choices of the musical technologies them-
selves. As I suggested earlier, musical styles and musical instrumentation are
closely connected, implying that choosing musical examples defines a given
universe of relevant musical technologies, in the same way that choosing
musical technologies outlines, to a large extent, a given musical universe
and, consequently, implies a particular view of music itself.
Repertoire of technologies: ‘what technologies do students
need to learn about?’
There was some debate on the possible perception of TA225/TA212 as a
course focusing on digital and computer-based technologies. This was nei-
ther intended nor wanted, partially because TA225 was predetermined,
from early in its planning, to contain a considerable contribution focusing
on acoustic instruments, their underlying principles and manufacturing
techniques. Interestingly, despite the vastness of the area, which includes a
wealth of instruments located in cultures outside the Western European
tradition, there was relatively little debate on the selection of particular
instruments to be covered in detail, mentioned in passing or simply omit-
ted from the course. On the other hand, the area of electronic instruments
created much dispute, partly in connection with selecting what would be
effectively included (e.g. from the so-called ‘precursors’, the Telharmonium
was included among a wide variety of equally interesting candidates), but,
most importantly, in connection with latest developments in electronic
instrument technology that have fostered a re-evaluation of what a musi-
cal instrument may eventually be (or become). The suggestion that the
tape recorder, for example, is a musical instrument in its own right (in
association, at least, with a particular musical style, musique concrète,
which has a strong connection with contemporary turntablism), was
overwhelmingly rejected to favour a categorization of the device as a
‘recording technology’.
Another topic that generated particular debate was sound synthesis.
The literature on sound synthesis does not offer a widely accepted tax-
onomy of methods (see, for example, Roads 1996 and Miranda 2002)
and indeed, in some texts it is the distinction analogue/digital that pro-
vides a framework for organizing these methods. This, in itself, implied
the need for ‘executive decisions’ on the CT’s part, but these were not
made any easier, given the relatively widespread association between
synthesis and keyboard-based synthesizers and samplers. Indeed, the
prominence of the chapter on electronic instruments was severely
altered during the discussion of its first draft,
9
when the final distribu-
tion of topics began to be clarified (e.g. samplers might have been
included in the third Block, but are covered together with electronic
instruments). The chapter, eventually, was recognized as a potentially
crucial element of the course in respect to students’ expectations, but
MIDI and desktop processing (two areas of particular relevance in the
CT’s assumptions on students’ requirements) are covered in the subse-
quent Block.
32 Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
9. Course development
at the UK OU includes
three stages of
drafting (interspersed
with CT-wide discus-
sions) and a final
stage of preparing a
‘handover’ version of
the chapter, which is
then passed on to the
editor, who also coor-
dinates the various
areas involved in
preparing the
complete set of mate-
rials associated with
the chapter text (e.g.
illustrations – either
bought in via the
Rights department or
prepared in the design
studio – and sound
examples – sometimes
prepared by authors
but produced, in their
final form, by profes-
sional personnel).
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 32
This apparently arbitrary assigning of category membership to differ-
ent technologies suggests a fairly fundamental question: in what ways are
TA225/TA212 courses on ‘the technology of music’ rather than ‘music
technology’? In other words, does the expression ‘music technology’ differ
significantly from ‘the technology of music’? As I suggested above, the
terms ‘music’ and technology’ appear, in different combinations, in vari-
ous policy documents as well as in the vernacular of musicians and tech-
nologists in ways that suggest, if not totally opposed, at least contrasting
notions of the relationship between music and technology. Considering, in
addition, the possibility that ‘music technology’ may be viewed as an area
linked, exclusively, with digital and computer-based technologies, as I also
noted, it is fair to suspect that choosing between the expressions above is
not merely a semantic move. Selecting musical examples and exemplars of
technology entailed in an underlying conceptualization of ‘music technol-
ogy’ implies a more essential epistemic move: assessing the terms ‘musical’
and ‘technological’ in their appropriateness to a given situation (e.g.
instruments, sounds, discourses). As noted above, choices of musical
examples are inherently linked with choices of technologies, that is, essen-
tially, they reveal some form of agreement on what ‘music’ is to be repre-
sented. All of these choices are profoundly significant to curriculum
development, suggesting an understanding that is consistent with the
view put forward earlier that locates curriculum in culture and, perhaps
more importantly, politics.
Conclusion
In summary, this article has provided an account that highlights ways in
which the multiplicity of the subject area is reflected in both the course
development process and the course materials themselves. This ‘mapping’
of multiplicity brought to the fore a fairly broad range of questions con-
cerning music technology education. One crucial issue implied, nonethe-
less, is that the coming together of specialists in different areas does not
guarantee the existence of a common language for the negotiations
involved: the ability to identify (or, perhaps, construe) links across discipli-
nary borders does not pertain to a multidisciplinary encounter, a mere
conflation of methods, approaches and languages. This is all the more
obvious vis-à-vis contextual factors such as disciplinary, professional and
institutional allegiances. I do wonder whether, perhaps, the main question
that should be considered by teaching teams is not how students with dif-
ferent backgrounds will be able to cope with skills across the border, but
how team members themselves can do so in the first place.
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Miranda, E. R. (2002), Computer Sound Design. Synthesis Techniques and Programming
(2nd edn), Oxford: Focal Press.
Moore, M. G. and Kearsley, G. (1996), Distance Education. A Systems View. Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Orton, R. (1992), ‘Musical, Cultural and Educational Implications of Digital
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to Contemporary Musical Thought. Volume 1, pp. 319–28, London: Routledge.
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Weller. M. (2002), Delivering learning on the net: the why, what and, how of online edu-
cation, London: Kogan Paul.
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Suggested citation
Ferreira, M. d. S. G. (2007), ‘Crossing borders: issues in music technology
education’ Journal of Music,’ Technology and Education 1: 1, pp. 23–35,
doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.23/1
Contributor details
Giselle Ferreira is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology at
the UK Open University, where she is part of the team responsible for the introduc-
tion, integration and development of music technology in the university’s curricu-
lum. Giselle has a multidisciplinary background in electronic engineering, music
and education, and her research interests include issues surrounding disciplinar-
ity, with particular interest on questions that arise in the relationship between edu-
cation, technology and politics. She is a Fellow of the UK Higher Education
Academy and has been recently awarded a Teaching Fellowship at the Open
University’s Centre for Open Learning of Mathematics, Science, Computing and
Technology, COLMSCT. Giselle is currently a member of the Academic Team of
OpenLearn, the university’s Open Educational Resources initiative. Contact:
Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, United Kingdom.
E-mail: g.m.d.s.ferreira@open.ac.uk
35 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
JMTE_1.1_03_art_Ferreira.qxd 11/8/07 3:16 PM Page 35
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Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.37/1
Reframing creativity and technology:
promoting pedagogic change in music
education
Pamela Burnard University of Cambridge
Abstract
No matter what else may divide us, most music educators are agreed on one gen-
eral point. A central aim of defining how effective music educational practice
should happen in the new e-learning environments which expand and connect
communities of learners in music classrooms, is an imperative; a view which is
emphasized in policy and widely acknowledged in teacher training. Yet, the critical
roles played by creativity and technology in supporting the promotion of peda-
gogic change are less clear. This paper integrates theoretical framing and practical
insights into a set of basic principles that may be useful for researching the inter-
relationship between creativity (as an essential human attribute lying at the
heart of all learning and as processes of making something new) and technology
(as tools that mediate how creative activity occurs). Several ways of driving ped-
agogical evolution, in ways that resemble the relationship between creativity and
technology as we see in the world beyond school, are introduced. These include
consideration of the potential contribution of sociocultural, post-Vygotskian
Activity Theory (AT) to overcome some of the problems that have plagued both
music educational theorizing and practice. While outlining potentials for future
research, the article highlights how these processes may be brought into a productive
relation as agents of pedagogic change in music education.
Introduction
Imagine a music pedagogy that builds upon assumptions about creativity
and the instrumental use of technology as unrelated concepts, treated sep-
arately or at best where one was made to ‘fit in’ to the other’s way of work-
ing. Imagine having no expectations about the usefulness of integrating
creativity and technology in aiding and extending musical learning or
meeting a pedagogical need in classroom practice – in fact, that the essence
of each was to be not-the-other. Imagine creativity as an internal process
and technology as an external strategy for (rather than process of) acquiring
musical knowledge, skills and understanding that teachers would use at
different instructional levels.
Conversely, imagine multiple forms of music pedagogy, where creativity
(like inspiration) comes from outside in and inside out as a process insepa-
rable from technology, playing into and recruiting different forms of peda-
gogy. Where a gradual but perceptible process of pedagogical evolution
takes place, with music educators developing new strategies that go beyond
37 JMTE 1 (1) 37–55 © Intellect Ltd 2007
Keywords
creativity
technology
music education
pedagogy
pedagogic change
activity theory
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 37
making new tools ‘fit in’ to current ways of working. Instead, the ‘deeper’
object of musical learning arises inseparably from creativity and technology
as interrelated tools. Both teachers and learners use these tools to manage
their own learning, creating opportunities for the making, creating,
receiving and producing of music. In this scenario, learning goals concern
how the pupils would like to work musically and what resources they
would like to use: e-learning tasks and e-communication are expected
ways of promoting creativity in the music classroom. Various models of
artistic and creative engagement are negotiated with collaborative oppor-
tunities for media-rich choices in adaptive learning environments. These
are richly resourced to both provoke and support reflection between partic-
ipants, where interaction with and through diversified networks supports
worldwide access to school and home.
Clearly, there are many approaches to and models of music pedagogy that
reside on a spectrum between simple dichotomies. Where these dichotomies
emphasize assumptions about the mutuality of creativity and technology
they suggest that creativity and technology are not autonomous, nor are
they competing or irrelevant to each other. Discourse on teacher effectiveness
in music education (Savage 2007; Mills 1997; QCA 2005) brings the notion
of pedagogic change with new technology use into unprecedented focus.
The following article offers some framing points for reframing how cre-
ativity and technology may be brought into productive relation as cata-
lysts for change in pedagogic practice, policy and teacher professionalism
in music education.
Framing point 1: The interrelationship between creativity
and technology
Several factors may have an impact on teacher practice. Many studies
have pointed to the school-level and teacher-level barriers and practical
constraints within the workplace (Webster 2006). Developing effective
music pedagogy around technology-based and creativity-integrated activ-
ity is now emphasized in the ‘ICT in Schools’ initiative (DfES 2003). Along
with the demands of curriculum coverage and assessment, if music teach-
ers are to become flexible learning leaders they need to be researching
how effective teaching (and learning) happens in their own digital-rich
music classrooms (Mills 1997, 2005; Pitts 2001; Price 2005). In practice,
as noted by Hennessy, Ruthven and Brindley (2005), ‘the research litera-
ture offers little support for the popular (though perhaps unrealistic)
rhetoric about technology revolutionizing teaching and learning or teachers
fundamentally reworking their lesson plans and pedagogy’ (p. 156). These
are issues about which, in music education, we presently have little under-
standing or consensus.
Research has also shown that technology is deeply embedded in the
contemporary lexicon of young people’s musical lives (Folkestad 2006).
The Internet, for example, is their new playground and creates different
social rooms for them. In addition, many young people are already high-end
or passive, consumption-bound users and consumers of music technology,
mass media and the production technologies when they come to school.
They are often motivated by out-of-school experiences of music technologies.
What they bring to school from home and community, key sites in the
38 Pamela Burnard
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 38
context of leisure for cultural consumption, offers new challenges to
teachers (Leong 2007). On the one hand, technologically mediated music
making can shake the most cherished practices of classroom music teachers –
but, on the other, it can generate the desire to (and ways in which to)
diversify existing pedagogical practice. Furthermore, the online technolo-
gies available, along with the shift towards a second generation internet
(Web 2.0
1
) can be adapted to constructive learning environments in which
the making, experiencing, receiving and creating of music changes dramati-
cally (Fautley and Savage 2007; Ruthmann, 2007). There is growing
research interest in how teachers define and discuss the enhancement of
their pedagogical repertoires through the use of online collaborative tech-
nologies in music teaching. Yet, conceptual frameworks for investigating
the multifaceted nature of creativity and technology are desperately lack-
ing (see for example Prensky, 2001; Webster 2002, 2006; Finney and
Burnard 2007).
The application of new technologies to support and develop music
learning and teaching in school and how students use technology at home
preoccupies teacher thinking about what should be included in the cur-
riculum, how it should be delivered, and the confluent questions of why,
when and where in the curriculum it should be positioned (Espeland 2006).
The particular ways in which new technologies (including ICT) and
creativity are promoted, perceived and practised continue to underscore
key reports and promotions in resource materials (Fautley and Savage,
2007; Ofsted 2004, 2006).
There have been a small number of studies that have explicitly examined
the processes of creative music making in a computer-mediated environ-
ment (Hickey 1997; Seddon and O’Neill 2003; Collins 2005; Kirkman
2007) or the impact of technology on learners’ creativity (Dillon 2003,
2004, 2006). Studies of collaborative creativity using music technologies
(Dillon 2003, 2004) and of students’ perspectives on composing with
MIDI (Airy and Parr 2001), and web-enhanced learning (Bauer 2001)
establish that technology provides an enabling environment in which
learners and teachers enter a co-participative process around activities
and explorations where learners can take back control of their learning
(Challis 2007).
Various potential lines of enquiry originate from the intersecting
contexts in which teaching and learning are situated. These may include
the kinds of creative courses of action that young people choose and the
extent to which these courses are imbued with dilemmas relating to tech-
nology. For example, as passive consumers, who are the subjects of musical
learning, how do they learn, what do they learn, why do they learn, what
makes them make the effort and where?
Whether seeing creativity being in relationship with technology or
creativity as emerging through technology, both vantage points are essen-
tial to genuinely fostering music learning. This assumes that we know
where technology belongs and how it is embodied in accounts of creativity,
and whether one is different from and more than, the other, or not irre-
ducible, and thus essentially different from the reality of the other. While
some work is taking place in this area (Reese, McCord and Walls 2001;
Baer 2001; Reese 2001; Seddon and O’Neill, 2003; Nilsson and Folkestad,
39 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
1. Designed to enhance
social collaboration as
illustrated by wikis
and blogs.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 39
2005; Dillon, T. 2006; Savage 2005, Tafuri 2006), our understanding of
how this interrelationship translates into musical learning, is still imperfect.
Figure 1 provides a view of creativity and technology as intersecting
lines of enquiry for documenting the inextricable connections between
‘what’ assumptions underpin the demands of music curricular coverage
and the usefulness of technology in aiding and extending musical (e-)learn-
ing; ‘why’ they are played out in certain ways; and ‘how’ they are played
out by and to different individuals and groups in different cultures,
communities, institutions and societies. ‘When’ do opportunities and
aspects of school-based activities carry over beyond school? ‘How’ do
different contexts in which music-specific technology arise and shape the
pupils’ experience of musical production and consumption differently?
‘Why’ do some classroom practices clash with whilst others enhance the
culture of student exploration, collaboration and interactivity and involve
both pupils and teachers developing new strategies and ways of thinking
in response to new experiences? ‘What’ role does the curriculum play in
the complementary recasting of home and school use of music technology?
The documentation of these issues, and the ways they are situated in
different contexts, certainly warrants greater attention in the coming
40 Pamela Burnard
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Figure 1: Situating the interrelationship between creativity and technology in
musical learning.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 40
years. Yet, if it is possible for teachers to radically change how they teach,
then coming to new understandings of how creativity and technology can
mediate the learning environment as creative spaces in which pupils (and
teachers) learn collaboratively, is crucial. We need to take account of ‘how’
these environments conform to the learner and ‘what’ role is played in the
complementary recasting of home and school use of music technology.
Framing point 2: Building flexible educational environments
that conform to the learner – a shifting amalgam
The second framing point involves the tool of ‘reframing’ self/others
(i.e. teachers and learners) together in an adaptive learning environment.
Moreover, in taking account of new thinking about pedagogy and the
making of links between local communities and the global community,
then we need to reframe the expanding classroom environment. What
evidence do we have for ‘how’ pupils (and teachers) learn collaboratively?
‘When’ and in ‘what’ contexts is the establishment of creative spaces made
implicit as technologically and pedagogically coupled?
Educational environments differ from those characterized in earlier
decades, as exemplified in music classrooms. The rich connections built as
consequences of using integrated, pervasive networks to support innova-
tions in teaching have been well documented and theorized in educational
research (see Loi and Dillon 2006; Deaney and Hennessy 2007); less so in
music education research. Studies have been published, however, on the
possibility of media-rich sources of musical information (Dillon, S. 2006),
the opportunity to interact and collaborate with people who otherwise are
inaccessible (Seddon 2007), and the use of digital networked technologies
in adaptive educational environments where these facilitate creative music
activities (Ruthmann 2007).
We have seen that technology frees time for creative development
through automation. Several studies have pointed to time saved when
teachers use online technologies and collaborative tools, which include
blogs, podcasts and wikis used instrumentally in their practice to amplify
and extend pre-existing instructional practices (Loveless et al 2001;
Nordkvelle and Olson 2005) and develop reflective practices which increase
collaboration within and beyond formal school settings (Ruthmann, 2007b).
Somekh (2000), Savage (2005, 2007), Ruthmann (2007a; 2007b), Brown
and Dillon (2007), along with Jennings (2007), maintain that digital tech-
nologies offer the opportunity to extend the spaces for creativity by bringing
communities together – for example, in collaborative partnerships between
schools and other learning sites at the level of individual artist, arts organiza-
tion, school and university. Composers, performers, audiences and artists
of fer teachers new, collaborative kinds of interactivity (see for example
Musical Futures
2
and Interconnected Musical Networks or IMNs
3
) which
extend the spaces available for interaction and exhibition. For example, in a
study of synchronous communication (based on real0time interaction) and
asynchronous communication (based on delayed interaction), Seddon
(2007) highlights key considerations to be made in an on-line classroom
and the benefits of interactive e-learning, not only within and between
schools but also in terms of group composing in global classrooms. These
musical networks occur through the technology. There are many examples
41 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
2. Musical Futures
provides online access
to specialist music
technology experts
and resources.
3. Interconnected
Musical Networks (or
IMNs), a phrase
coined by Weinberg
(2005), are computer
systems that allow
players to
independently share
and shape each
others’ music in real-
time, facilitating both
synchronous and
asynchronous
communication.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 41
in the literature of evidenced-based classroom practice where technology
makes it possible to plug into, create and share and shape music through
these networks in real-time (see examples T. Dillon 2007; Brown and
Dillon, 2007). It also becomes possible to experiment, be innovative, take
risks and close the traditional gap (and relationship!) between the ‘inside’
and ‘outside’ school communities of learning. This line of research has been
highlighted in the work on collaborative composition and performance
with new technologies in the work, amongst others, of Challis and Savage
(2001) and Espeland (2006). In a recent study of learner’s musical identity,
Challis (2007) investigated how teenagers in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)
were motivated to use music technology to extend Key Stage 4 students
who had little or no experience of composition (see also exemplars from
National Music Management Group
4
. See also the work of Sefton-Green
(1999) on digital arts and Ledgard (2006) for a discussion of the work of
the Teacher Artist Partnerships (TAP) consortium).
The potential of the Internet as a new learning environment has resulted
in several organizations developing online music-learning communities
5
.
The Associated Board, for example, recently launched an innovative free
website, www.soundjunction.org. SoundJunction comprises a set of dynamic
tools for exploring, discovering and creating music. The site offers oppor-
tunities to link creativity with technology.
Another online learning environment for stimulating creativity with
innovative technological practice is Sonic Postcards. This is a national
education programme devised and delivered by Sonic Arts Network,
which promotes and explores the art of sound via the Internet (www.
sonicartsnetwork.org). The way it works is through enabling pupils from
across the United Kingdom to explore and compare their local sound envi-
ronment through the composition and exchange with other schools of
sound postcards via the Internet. It illustrates how the impact of digital
technologies, intersecting with civic life, can affect a small community or
an entire nation. This is a promising use of technology that involves both
pupils and teachers developing new strategies and ways of thinking in
response to new experiences. In this way, it extends rather than reinforces
traditional models of music teaching and learning.
Recent research has shown how online, mobile and wireless networks are
creating new learning environments at the intersection of formal and informal
educational settings (Webster and Hickey 2006; T. Dillon 2007). The Internet
has shown itself to be a dynamic teaching tool for exploring, discovering,
creating, communicating about and playing in virtual music-making con-
texts. It provides a mechanism for connecting a network of places,
spaces (both physical and symbolic), musical worlds, music makers, gener-
ators, performances and productions. In doing so, it enables participation
across places and fields through multiple forms of expression. (Examples of
what this kind of learning environment offers are illustrated by Futurelab
6
.)
The establishment of a community of engagement was possibly implicit in
perspectives on nurturing creativity in a computer-mediated learning
environment by the team involved in Ignite, a programme for exceptional
young people in England, funded by the National Endowment for Science,
Technology and the Arts (NESTA
7
). This initiative offered a combination
of residential Creativity Labs (for 10- to 15-year-olds) and Creativity
42 Pamela Burnard
4. National Music
Management Group
provides advice on
embedding ICT into
the music curriculum.
This initiative is
funded by the British
Education
Communication
Techology Agency
(Becta) and the
Department for
Education and Skills
(DfES).
5. Many of the online
music-learning
communities use
collaborative tools
such as blogs as
course websites,
peer-feedback,
peer-teaching, online
media and music
sample galleries and
Wikis as spaces for
group collaboration
(see Ruthmann,
2007b for valuable
ways for music educa-
tors to engage and
extend students’
learning unsing
online technologies).
6. Futurelab develops
innovative resources
and practices that
support new
approaches to learn-
ing. http://www.
futurelab.org.uk/.
7. NESTA is a forward-
looking funding
partially government-
related body for
creativity in England
established through
an endowment in
1998 from the
National Lottery.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 42
Fellowships, with mentors and creative advisers (for 16- to 21-year-olds).
The accounts of the 10- to 15-year-olds highlight the need to overcome
fear of failure and feelings of self-consciousness (Burnard 2006b). Similiarly,
the kinds of barriers that teachers face, such as pedagogical beliefs,
teacher confidence and technical skill are equally influential and may
affect how those who aspire to excel creatively view themselves in relation
to technology use at school (Craft et al. 2004).
Each of these organizations described a shifting amalgam of creativity and
technology as vital dimensions in transforming learning and teaching prac-
tice. The challenges posed by aiming to facilitate – both technologically
and pedagogically – adaptive educational environments that conform to
the musical needs and interests of the learner (rather than the learner to
the system) are great indeed. The paradox lies in establishing an appropriate
organizational climate (i.e. of course structures) and adaptive environ-
ments (a model proposed by Loi and Dillon 2006 for creative spaces) in the
midst of a policy agenda which sometimes treats teachers as technicians
rather than artists and centrally controls both curriculum content and
teacher practice (Craft 2005).
What, then, are the principles that might apply to and support class-
rooms as creative spaces that hold out the possibilities for and implementation
of new kinds of relationship between creativity and technology? How
might we proceed with knowing how (not whether) to position and define
new kinds of relationships between creativity and technology in the curricu-
lum? How do we create, perform, learn and talk about music in ways
which, are at least compatible with existing pedagogy and at best, stimulate
innovation and changes in teaching practices and result in a positive
impact on pupils’ musical learning? At present, these are all factors which
may have an impact on the working contexts and educational environ-
ments in which music teachers currently find themselves.
One such model for conceptualizing educational environments, such as
music classrooms, is suggested by Loi and Dillon (2006). Loi, an architect,
and Dillon, an educational researcher, theorise educational environments
as creative spaces in which interaction with the situational and social
dynamics at play are designed to be adaptive. The model shows the relation-
ship between adaptive educational environments and creative spaces by
showing how the positioning of individuals (and one’s sense of self) interact
with the environment through which the potential for transference and syn-
thesis as well as analysis, qualities which need to be implemented both
technologically and pedagogically, occur. In adapting this model, I have
positioned creativity and technology (rather than self and environment)
through which the potential for transfer and synthesis is facilitated through
musical networks which elicit new forms of musical participation and stimulate
the emergence of innovative practices (i.e. a process of pedagogical evolu-
tion). The music classroom – both inside and outside of the physical space –
is experienced as an adaptive learning environment which extends and
enhances creative possibilities for musical learning which is supported by a
range of technologies (not just including mobile, locative, virtual and other
highly interactive collaborative platforms). The music classroom is where
innovation and adaption occurs; a creative space where communication
and interaction can take both real-world and virtual forms, in some cases
43 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 43
with face-to-face interaction and side-by-side interaction whilst in other
cases the interactions can be synchronous or asynchronous where learning
is facilitated, influenced, shared, shaped and responded to by key stakehold-
ers both inside and outside of the classroom and of class time.
If, as mentioned at the outset of this article, a universal aspiration of all
music educators is to improve the quality of musical learning and its rele-
vance to the young learner, then we need to rethink how a teacher’s capac-
ity to effectively use technology matches the pupils’ learning needs.
A common finding across educational research in general, and music edu-
cation research in particular, is that learners need to build on their experi-
ences and existing relationships with places and people. They need to
collaborate over tasks, contribute to curriculum planning, interact with new
forms of musical participation, networks and practices in adaptive learning
environments (Figure 2) (Jeffrey 2004; Craft 2005; Burnard 2006a).
The case for establishing (and researching) adaptive learning environ-
ments in music education needs highlighting here. Documenting, analysing
and theorizing on what teachers might usefully do to create an adaptive
learning environment for their pupils, particularly for descriptions of prac-
tice, participation and collaborative networking, requires careful attention
to the detail of (the systems of) activity that support and nourish them.
If we are to understand how music education might be reshaped for a
changing and interdependent world we need a perspective that also
focuses on unravelling the interplay of the social and material resources
44 Pamela Burnard
TECHNOLOGY CREATIVITY
I
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T
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G
R
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E
D

M
USIC
A
L

N
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T
W
O
R
K
S
N
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W

F
O
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S

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M
USIC
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L

P
A
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T
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P
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T
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S
Figure 2: Framing classrooms as adaptive learning environments.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 44
that are salient to learning (and the detail of the systems of activity that
support it) at a macro (i.e. the social/collective level) and micro level (i.e. at
the individual learner level) of analysis. Teaching and learning are self-
organizing events framed by activity. These activity systems include peda-
gogical practices and involve the elements of community, rules, divisions of
labour, object-oriented actions, norms of practice and sense making
(Daniels, 2006).
Activity Theory (AT) provides a theoretical tool and means for studying
musical learning as the expansion through change and development of
pedagogy. It has the potential to overcome some of the most profound
problems that have plagued attempts to look well below the surface of
interactions – at the exchange sequences and mechanisms of creativity
and technology mediating pedagogic processes (and musical learning).
Furthermore, it relates to what music educators (and researchers) might
usefully do to create, consult and research adaptive learning environments
in music education settings.
Framing point 3: The potential of Activity Theory (AT)
for studying adaptive learning environments
As with most sociocultural theory and practices, the starting point is the
principle that individual learning is a social activity mediated by psycho-
logical tools (e.g. language and other symbols) and shaped by cultural
artefacts (e.g. music, literature, computers), expectations, ‘rules’/conven-
tions and norms as defined by membership of groups within a wider com-
munity (cf. Bannon 1997; Cole 1999). The agency of the individual
learner is facilitated by the Vygotskyan concept of internalization whereby
the mind creates mental models of artifacts as tools (in this instance, for
creative thinking) by intervening in and interacting with them – enabling
the possibility of consequent change within the culture. An ongoing medi-
ation process in how the individual interacts with the world around them
is a key concept in Activity Theory (AT).
As shown in Figure 3, Engeström’s model (1999a; 1999b) of AT acknow-
ledges the ‘object’ of an action by (or on) a ‘subject’ as being culturally
‘mediated’ by ‘mediating artefacts’ (such as computers, speaking, gestures,
music, instruments). In the lower part of the figure, the model is extended
to encompass the individual and at the level of the collective operating
with tools in which ‘rules’, a sense of ‘community’ and ‘division of labour’
(division of effort) are also evidenced.
Research using AT, often referred to as cultural-historical activity theory
(CHAT), which evolved from Vygotsky, continues to the present with the
analysis of interaction in medical workplace practices or the ICT industry
(Edwards 2001); university-school initial teacher education and training
partnerships (Wilson 2004); cross-case comparison of journal sharing
(Gutierrez and Stone 2000); primary literacy classrooms and human com-
puter action (Nardi 1996; Zinchenko 1996) and methodologically in
action research (Edwards 2001). Use of AT in music education research,
however, remains relatively under-represented (Barrett 2005; Welch 2007;
Burnard and Younker 2007).
Theoretically, AT provides a means of tracking, over time, the intercon-
nections between creativity and technology embedded, enabled, and/or
45 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 45
46 Pamela Burnard
L
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ls and S
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Community
SUBJECT
refers to teacher-learner
and learner-learner
interactions, tasks and
activity within the
classroom environment
ARTEFACTS
are tools both physical
and of the mind (e.g.
language) in use within
the classroom
envirnment
RULES
shape the activities
within the classroom
environment
COMMUNITY
or social/musical
practices which shape
the classroom
environment
DIVISION OF
LABOUR
as power distribution,
roles and relations set
up within the classroom
environment
OBJECT
refers to the products
and outcomes of
learning
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Figure 3: The structure of [the classroom environment as] a human activity
system (Engeström 1998: 33).
central to teaching and learning, though not perhaps manifest in the initial
contact between teacher and students. Through the myriad of systems
exhibiting patterns of contradictions and tension, AT can make visible the
relationships and structures within music participation and the roles and
rules within practices. In this way, it has the potential to illustrate the key
components of the relationship between creativity and technology as they
develop in different learning communities.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 46
47 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
So, what might the interrelationships between creativity and technology
be and what can we say about pedagogy in exploring these? This is a chal-
lenging question, which the National Advisory Committee on Creative and
Culture Education report (NACCE 1999) perhaps anticipated in recognizing
the close relationship between teaching for creativity, creative teaching
and creative learning. The report notes that ‘Young people’s creative abilities
are most likely to be developed in an atmosphere in which the teacher’s
creative abilities are properly engaged’ (NACCCE 1999: 90).
Most significant is that music education has long been criticized for its
use of restrictive pedagogic ideologies (Hogg 1994; Burnard 1995; Cox
2002). While there have been substantial studies on creative music making
using technology, there are relatively few identifying the resources of
research in practice and pupil consultation on teaching – learning strategies
that use technology creatively. AT offers a theoretically nuanced empiricism
that focuses on and relies as much on students’ reflections and participation
as teachers’ actions. Pedagogic discourses and the values underpinning nor-
mative practices that prevail in music classrooms, reinforced through the
rules and regulations governing, among other things, roles and relation-
ships, provide the focus. How these are mediated verbally and through non-
verbal, meaning-making systems provides a way forward in identifying the
dual threads of creativity and technology as they simultaneously construct
and shape the products and learning outcomes that characterize how peda-
gogic action and learning activity changes. Both are grounded in the specific
historical and cultural circumstances of the community of learners and cre-
ate the contexts for future actions. As in any societal activity, individuals’
understandings of the ‘rules of the game’ in which they are involved
(whether it be composing, improvising, listening, performing, reflecting or
appraising music), provide clues to the nature of the action and inform how
they behave. This makes tacit ways of doing things in music explicit.
Framing point 4: A framework for researching pedagogic
change in music education
Research, like teaching, involves the fundamental act of reflection. The
arguments for its value and the purposes it serves are reiterated throughout
this article. We know that real change in values and attitudes which takes
place through professional reflection leads to more effective practice in
teaching. If music teaching is to become not just a research-informed
profession but a research-based profession, as thought to be the most
enduring and successful way of ensuring progress in high-quality musical
learning, then we need a genuine attempt to engage the whole profes-
sional community of music teachers in reflecting on their pedagogical
practice. Reflective practice could act as both catalyst and response in cre-
ating a practical agenda for pedagogic change and improvement. In this
way, pedagogy becomes a means by which the teacher is able to sustain
the self and retain professionalism. It involves connection with other
teachers and time to discuss professional issues.
When considering how creativity and technology can be repositioned
in the music curriculum, we need to have clear understandings. While
these understandings may be rooted in all kinds of research, the most
important is practitioner (or teacher) and pupil research, since this is the
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 47
process whereby teachers (along with their pupils) look critically not only
at their own practice (and learning) but at broader educational questions
(Burton and Bartlett 2005; Hargreaves 1996; Burnard and Hennessy
2006; Fishman et al. 2006). This should involve both teachers and pupils
developing new strategies and ways of thinking in response to new experi-
ences of musical networks, new forms of musical participation and new
technological practices. As Figure 4 illustrates, when technology and
creativity are construed as closely interrelated, Activity Theory (AT) can
provide a means of investigating musical learning understood as the
expansion of the learning environment through pedagogic change.
Teachers are currently under increasing pressure – they have less time
and opportunity for professional risk taking, innovation and deep engage-
ment with the principles and tensions between practice and policy (DfES
2003, 2004). Yet, as researcher practitioners, it is possible for teachers to
author change from inside the classroom. Teachers can combine observa-
tional data with interviews of learners as they interact with and react upon
the issues they seek to understand. This is not a pretentious claim because the
human capacity for sheer adaptation is as defining of teachers’ work as it is of
their life histories (Anderson 1997; Baker 2005; Day et al., 2006). Although
music education ‘enjoys’ the educational potentials of creativity and technol-
ogy, in order to do so vigorously, teachers need to recognize the problems
besetting music education as opportunities for change (Iemma 2006).
Teachers need to view the educational experience through the eyes
and perspectives of their pupils. They also need to understand, and trace
the roots of, success and failure in classroom practice, and motivation and
demotivation in both themselves and their pupils.
Some ideas for practitioner-researchers’ pedagogic enquiries have been
articulated in this article. Others might include:
• Exploring how the real creative use of technological platforms for new
media and creative production helps and potentially may inhibit pupil
creativity.
• Identifying how this (wired) generation of creative users (along with
the technophobic users) differs from other generations.
• Developing deep understanding of what the relationship with the tech-
nology reveals and conceals about how adaptive learning environments
and creativity interact and support music teaching and learning.
• Evaluating the affordances (or enabling conditions and limitations) of web-
based and e-technology environments for advancing the development of
musical creativity, i.e. what technology reveals and conceals as opportuni-
ties in creative production or in teaching when blocked by technological
rather than musical problems (see Dillon, S. 2006; Heidegger 1977);
• Consulting pupils (i.e. giving learners a critical and democratic or genuine
say) about the acquisition of technologies, how to use new learning
technologies and opportunities to create their own learning technolo-
gies. These may be different kinds of technological spaces that enhance
collaborative and personal creativity.
If understanding is to be the goal, then future practitioner research needs
to involve both teachers and learners. We need much more classroom
48 Pamela Burnard
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 48
enquiry into aspects of what is distinctive about views at the level of (1)
learner and classroom and (2) learner and out-of-school settings. We need
to take into account the institutional and home factors that contribute to
learning and thereby to new models of creative teaching with technologies
(as illustrated by the reframings offered earlier). We need to understand
what learners say and do as a consequence of how they interpret the
world. Importantly, we need to understand more about experiences, inter-
actions and events from the viewpoints of students.
Teachers need to aspire to work as practitioner-researchers and to con-
sult their pupils in contexts where researching their own classrooms and
learning together is the norm (Price 2005). University lecturer-researchers
can help with mentoring conversations in producing new classroom-based
enquiry and the effective use to which academic research may be put by
teachers anxious to learn from research findings (see Wubbels and
Poppleton 1999; CapeUK 2006; Creative Partnerships 2004a, 2004b).
In the 1970s, Stenhouse (1975) advocated classrooms as sites for
teacher research. He also advocated learning itself as a research process
and research as the basis for teaching (Stenhouse, 1983). Schools and
teachers need to acknowledge classrooms as collaborative, adaptive learning
49 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
TEACHERS AS RESEARCHERS
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PUPILS AS RESEARCHERS
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Figure 4: Researching pedagogic change using an activity theory research
perspective.
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 49
environments as well as potential research sites that extend across and
beyond the walls of classrooms and schools; to develop new ways of think-
ing about classroom practice, to be better able to provoke and release
learners rather than to impose and control them. It is this that is the fun-
damental point. Understanding how effective learning should happen in
music education requires a realignment of both learner creativity and the
creativity of the teacher with the ICT reform agenda. Moreover, the con-
nections between school learning culture and that of musical learning in
general, and e-learning in particular, need to reflect the real world of
music making in policy and practice.
One hope for the reframing of technology and creativity for pedagogic
change in music education is that it may offer teachers informal and for-
mal opportunities for collegial interaction and encourage both teacher
and pupils as researcher. Students have a right to and should be involved
(in collaboration with teachers and software developers) in making recom-
mendations about their learning environment and be involved in the
implementation of change.
As Rudduck and Flutter argue (2004), we should ‘take seriously what
pupils can tell us about their experience of being a learner in school – about
what gets in the way of their learning and what helps them to learn’ (p. 2).
The design of such studies may help surface some of the social, cultural and
contextual opportunities and challenges that warrant greater research atten-
tion in the coming years. Perhaps, most significantly, teacher and pupil
research (as shown in Figure 4) will bring agreement, at least, about the
‘who’ and ‘how’ of creative teaching and learning practices. This is the big
challenge for developing e-confident music teachers and schools. We need to
foster innovative and effective teacher research and resist the current trend
towards the domination of curriculum and pedagogy by ‘technical standards’
based on ‘expert research’ and imposed in a ‘top-down’ manner by educa-
tional administrators and policy makers. In the grips of the early twenty-first
century, we need to make progress in empirical work which allows us to iden-
tify and investigate issues of serious concern which undermine music teach-
ers’ professionalism and self-worth. We need to share practice via networked
learning communities that can play a critical role in providing opportunities
for exploration and familiarization with new technologies in order to boost
teacher confidence and solicit commitment to pedagogic change.
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Suggested citation
Burnard, P. (2007), ‘Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic
change in music education,’ Journal of Music, Technology and Education 1: 1,
pp. 37–55, doi: 10.1386/ jmte.1.1.37/1
Contributor details
Pamela Burnard, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the
University of Cambridge, UK where she coordinates and lectures on the MPhil in
Educational Research and the MPhil in Arts, Culture and Education courses,
supervisors PhD students and teaches courses on creativity, creative learning and
teaching, musical creativity, artist partnerships and visual-based research methods.
She is Co-editor of the British Journal of Music Education, Treasurer of SEMPRE, an
Executive member of the Board of Directors for ISME, and co-convener of BERA:
SIG Creativity in Education. She has co-edited 3 books including Reflective Practices
in Arts Education, Kluwer; Music Education with Digital Technologies, Continuum; and
Documenting Creative Learning, Trentham; edited the Creativity Section in L. Bresler
(Ed) International Handbook of Research in Arts Education and has been guest editor
for special issues of the Cambridge Journal of Education (CJE) and Music Education
Research (MER). Contact: Pamela Burnard Faculty of Education 184 Hills Rd
Cambridge CB2 2PQ.
E-mail: pab61@cam.ac.uk
55 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education
JMTE_1.1_04_art_Burnard.qxd 11/7/07 9:44 PM Page 55
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Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.57/1
Problem solving with learning
technology in the music studio
Andrew King University of Hull,
Paul Vickers Northumbria University
Abstract
This article presents some of the findings from a mixed-methods case study that
investigated studio recording for undergraduate students collaborating in pairs. The
students were actively engaged in experiential learning (Dewey 1966) and the
idea that students will develop within an environment with their peers (Pear and
Crowne-Todd 2001). Using a stratified purposive sampling technique students
were matched with a learner of similar ability via a pre-test, often referred to as a
social-conflict approach (Schneider 2002). The groups of students were then allo-
cated a support mechanism (either a learning technology interface or paper-based
manual) to provide contingent on-demand assistance (Wood and Wood 1999)
during the recording of a drum kit. Analysis of observational data revealed the
types of studio-based problems the learners were encountering, and that the
learning technology solution suggested a quicker and more reliable form of
support.
Introduction
While to date there have been no empirical investigations into the use of
learning technology to support activity in the recording studio, there have
been a number of studies both within the music domain and outside; we
will deal with the latter first.
Chang (2001) describes and evaluates a case study in the earth sciences
using learning technology to support the completion of a test. In addition
to the computing technology, the student also has access to a number of
other resources such as maps, weather images and precipitation data.
Spicer and Stratford (2001) investigated the use of computing technology
to implement a virtual field trip for students with embedded questions
within the hypertext. Not surprisingly, students reported that they preferred
the actual visits to the virtual.
In addition to these studies that centre on computers supporting
practical activity, there are also a number of other studies in the area
of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). Weinberger and
Fischer (2005) propose a framework for analysing knowledge construction
in a CSCL environment. This is analysed and segmented into four different
dimensions of learning: participation, epistemics, argument and social
construction; while Baker et al (2003) specifically highlights argument
within an online collaborative learning environment.
57 JMTE 1 (1) 57–67 © Intellect Ltd 2007
Keywords
recording
learning technology
studio practice
music
problem solving
contingent learning
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 57
Within the music domain there has been considerable research into
using computers to support or develop skills such as music analysis, aural
awareness and music synthesis by groups of researchers at Huddersfield
(the CALMA project) and Edinburgh universities. Other empirical studies
include the development of a unique symbolic language for the study of
composition in the form of networked drum steps (McCarthy et al 2005) and
Harmony Space (Holland 1989), which is an interactive interface to aid both
novices and more experienced composers with aspects of tonal harmony.
More recent researches into the use of computers in music education
involve designing online communities for creative musical activities
(Salavuo 2007) and how young people listen to, compose and share
music with technology (Gall 2007). Dillon and Brown (2007) discuss
the philosophical implications of introducing technology into music making,
and put forward methods and ideas for exploration. The need for an inves-
tigation area of practical activity in a situated environment (Lave and
Wenger 1991) such as the recording studio has thus far been neglected.
Technology in the studio
The use of technology in the music curriculum poses a problem for the
educator: how can students gain access to support when using complex
tools in creative work, and what is the nature of the problems they are
encountering? Software packages such as Cubase and Pro Tools offer
support in the form of online help and minimal manuals embedded within
the software; however, little help is provided beyond the procedural
knowledge (Anderson 1996) concerned with these tools. In addition, support
for the use of hardware recording devices such as mixing desks, signal
processors (noise gates, compressors) and signal generators (reverb, delay,
chorus etc) usually relies upon either the student’s ability to take effective
notes in a workshop, or the use of manuals.
These hardware recording devices are often used by audio professionals
and the manuals are written for this particular audience, and this can
present a problem for the student of music and technology. A survey of
150 students over three years conducted at the University of Hull revealed
that students were more likely to seek studio support guidance from a
member of staff (43%) or a peer (41%) than a manual (16%) or a textbook
(0%). Indeed, while overburdening the student with technical specifications
and data concerning maintenance of a particular item, rarely (if ever) do
textbooks or manuals include within their pages pedagogical strategies for
problem solving. It is possible to see the number of potential pitfalls for a
student when considering a basic input (Figure 1).
Figure 1 illustrates the various stages followed by a source sound (such
as a voice or guitar) through a mixing-desk channel: sound is converted
from acoustical to electrical energy by the microphone, transmitted out of
phase via a balanced cable and then put back into phase at the mixing
desk. The student of sound recording is then faced with a series of options:
selection of the type of input (microphone or line), whether the phase of
the signal needs to be inverted, the possibility to decrease the input
amplitude (pad switch), a gain (potentiometer) dial, parametric equalization,
auxiliary sends, panning, signal routing (to a group fader or main studio
monitors) and finally the slider that controls the overall amplitude of the
signal. If any stage is set incorrectly, this can lead to an unintentional
58 Andrew King and Paul Vickers
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 58
alteration, misdirection or colouration of the sound; alternatively (and
more typically) it will result in no sound being produced at all.
Thus it is possible to see the complexity of using such tools in the
creation of a recording in the studio, especially when what we have outlined
so far is one of the most basic of operations: that of routing a microphone
signal through a mixing-desk channel. Often student users require
on-demand support to solve problems in the studio. However, the studio
session is generally conducted outside of normal office hours (65% of studio
sessions take place after 6 p.m. or at the weekend), when the level of tech-
nical support is either reduced or non-existent. In the following sections an
investigation of the use of learning technology in the studio is presented.
Problem solving with learning technology in the studio
The participants in this study completed a drum kit recording in the studio
in pairs. The students had access to support material to carry out the
59 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
Source
Microphone
Cable
Mixing desk
EQ
Input
Aux
Stereo
Placement
Signal
Routing
Amplitude
Level
Figure 1: Mapping out the process from sound source into the mixing desk channel.
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 59
task: a learning technology interface (LTI) and a paper-based manual
(control). The information contained in the support materials was identical.
The students were given a specific amount and type of studio apparatus
(discussed below) and then expected to complete the task using the available
resources. The information given to the students in the support material
was to provide technical support; issues such as aesthetics were not covered.
For example, the learner could access the support material for information
on how to use parametric equalization and what, in essence, is its function.
However, information such as ‘for more low-end weight on the kick drum
apply some boost at 70–90 kHz’ was not included. There is a multitude of
different ways to achieve different drum kit recordings depending upon
the kit, the style of music, the acoustic of the room and the player. It was
the intention of the support materials merely to aid the novice user to
overcome problems such as signal routing, while also providing an under-
standing of areas such as equalization, although suggestions were made
regarding the position of microphones and which of the available apparatus
might be more appropriate on a certain part of the instrument (such as
using the D112 for the kick drum). Thus, what can be examined is the
ways students are able to solve problems using the equipment and support
materials available.
Design and methodology
The empirical research carried out for this study was motivated from a
social-constructivist standpoint. Students of similar abilities were paired
together after analysis of pre-test results (the pre-test was a written paper
that assessed the students’ knowledge and experience of recording-studio
practice), and in line with the social-conflict (Schneider 2002) theory of
learning. Learners were set the task of recording a drum kit during a two-
hour studio session (the drum kit was already set up). The idea was to
reflect professional studio practice in which recording time is at a premium
and studio users need to be able to deliver within strict time constraints.
The goal of the session was to produce a 2-minute audio recording of a
drum kit on compact disc.
The study had a between-subjects design, and used an opportunity
sample of 64 undergraduate students reading for a BA (Hons) in Creative
Music Technology at the University of Hull (mean age = 18.4 years).
Based on pre-test scores, students were matched according to performance
and assigned to pairs. The groups were divided equally into group 1
(experimental) and group 2 (control). There were two dependent variables
(DV): (1) the pre- and post-test percentage scores for each student; and
(2) the completion of the set task. The independent variable (IV) was the use
of an LTI for one group (experimental condition) and the use of handouts
for the other (control condition). The handouts contained exactly the
same information as the LTI, but were in the form of a manual.
Materials and apparatus
The apparatus used in the study is shown below. The following list details
the main hardware associated with the drum-kit recording that is located
in the recording studio as well as the equipment used for observing the
students during the study:
60 Andrew King and Paul Vickers
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 60
• Multimedia computer (AMD 2.2 GHz, 1024 megabytes of RAM,
200 gigabyte hard disk and a compact disc writer)
• Soundcraft Ghost mixing desk and microphones
• Signal generators and processors
• Multi track (Alesis HD24) and two track recorders (Tascam CD writer)
• Microphones (2 x AKG 414, 1 x Shure SM57, 3 x Sennheiser e604,
1 x AKG D112) and
• Three Panasonic VHS video cameras, each mounted on a Velbon tripod.
The support material included either the LTI or a manual, one of which was
placed in the control room of the recording studio. The drum kit was set up
in the studio floor for the duration of the study, while all the necessary
cables, microphones and stands were stored in the studio ready for use.
The following material was used in the assessment and evaluation of
the study:
• A blank compact disc (CD)
• A pre-test and post-test
• A feedback questionnaire.
A blank CD was given to each pair of students for their audio recording.
The pre-test and post-test were designed to evaluate students’ knowledge
of the theory and practice of drum-kit recording. Both tests followed the
same format, so the nature and standard of questions was equivalent.
The feedback questionnaire contained open and closed questions (see
Oppenheim 1992; Gillham 2000) to allow students to comment on the
task and the support material.
Procedure
The directions given to the participating students are shown below. Note
that each pair was allocated a 2-hour session in the studio to complete
the set task and the drummer was available in the studio to perform
when required. The musician did not interfere with the music technology
students, except to play a drum sequence.
Preliminary task:
• Complete pre-test.
Main study (1 week later):
• Complete set task with student peer using the support material for
guidance as required
• Produce audio-CD recording of drum kit (2 minutes in length)
• Complete feedback questionnaire.
Data analysis
A considerable amount of data was produced as part of the study. For the
purposes of this article the following data was analysed:
• 64 completed pre-tests
• 16 data logs of students’ interactions with the LTI (group 1 only)
61 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 61
• Video data (32 recording sessions of maximum 2 hours each)
• 32 audio recordings of a drum kit.
The video cameras collected around 200 hours of data. Three cameras
were used to collect the data (two in the control room of the studio and
one on the studio floor). In order to analyse this data, the tapes from the
three video cameras were played simultaneously on separate monitors.
This was then dual-coded (verbatim) and utterances were categorized
using Interactive Process Analysis (IPA) (Bales 1999). IPA is a method of
categorizing utterances based upon direct observation. There are twelve
categories of utterance (e.g. shows tension release and asks for opinion)
which are further sub-divided into four main areas: positive and negative
social emotional responses, and questions and answers concerning a task.
These are sub-classified further into the following six areas: orientation,
evaluation, control, decision, tension management and integration. It is
then possible to assign a particular utterance to one of the twelve observa-
tional categories. Afterwards, a comparison of the quantity and type of
utterances with the mean profiles developed by Bales is possible. Bales and
his team analysed thousands of groups of different sizes and in different
contexts to discover the types and amount of utterances the individuals
used. All this data was compiled into a single set of tables that investiga-
tors can use to compare their own work.
Analysis
Broadly speaking, it is possible to consider the process of studio recording
in three main areas: pre-production, production and post production.
Pre-production involves preparing for a session by setting up technical
equipment (microphones, mixing desks and recording apparatus) and
musical (drum kit) instruments. Production is the actual recording, and
post-production the modification and balancing of the recorded tracks.
However, it is worth pointing out at this stage that some industry experts
(and educators) prefer to think of the process more holistically and the
term production is used to describe the whole process. For the purposes of
this study it is easier to consider the recording in these three stages in
order to understand the problems encountered by learners, and at what
stage of the process they arise.
The most common problem to emerge in the recording sessions for all
of the students was the use of the talkback system. Using the timings
recorded in the transcriptions, it was also possible to work out how long it
took for each pair to arrive at the solution. It is evident from this data that
all of the students who encountered problems using the studio talkback
were able resolve the problem by using the LTI. The average time spent
using the LTI to resolve the problem was 2 minutes 57 seconds. The data
relating specifically to those students who used the manual shows that
only three of the seven pairs in the group were able to resolve the problem
of using the studio talkback. The average time spent using the manual to
resolve the issue was 6 minutes 30 seconds for all of the pairs; for the
three pairs who managed to resolve the problem, the average time taken
was 7 minutes 10 seconds. In all cases, the students tackled the problem
by consulting the support material.
62 Andrew King and Paul Vickers
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 62
A range of other problems was encountered across each stage of the
recording session. For example, technical problems at the pre-production
stage included positioning the microphones and deciding upon their prox-
imity to the instrument. The following four problems at the production
stage were especially common:
• Phantom powering (when to use it and where to locate it)
• Alesis HD24 recorder (how to set up and record the drum tracks using
this device)
• Signal routing (getting sound into the mixing desk, and out again
through the monitors)
• Using the auxiliary sends (for adding effects such as reverb).
These problem areas reflect a similar story to the issue of using the studio
talkback: while all of the students who had access to the LTI were able to
resolve a given problem having consulted the support tool, the problems
that hampered the students who were using the manual were not always
resolved. Moreover, in these cases the students did not always manage the
problem by exclusive use of the manual; use of trial and error was evident.
The average time spent resolving these technical issues was 1 minute
36 seconds for pairs in the LTI group, and 4 minutes 18 seconds for pairs
using the manual.
The problems encountered during the post-production stage of the
recording sessions were as follows:
• Signal processing
• Recording practice
• Signal routing.
Interestingly, more problems arose at the post-production stage for stu-
dents in the LTI group than those in the manual group (this relates to the
fact that the latter adopted an alternative process (without signal genera-
tion) at this point).
In addition to the technical problems discussed above, a number of
task-related issues arose in the recording sessions. Overall, there were four
main areas of task-related discourse:
• Problem-solving (mainly technical)
• Planning/management of task
• Division of labour
• Feedback.
Figure 2 provides an example of one of these four mains areas.
An example of planning is given above. The students planned the task
by deciding what to do first, then worked collaboratively with the support
materials, deciding which microphones to use in which part of the drum
kit, and how they should be positioned. There is evidence here of both long-
term planning (overall session) and short-term planning (pre-production:
how to allocate and manage the resources to set up the recording).
63 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 63
It should also be noted, however, that other pairs in the manual group
did not consult the support material at the pre-production stage at all, so
the management of the task arose in a more ad hoc fashion. Figure 3 is an
extract of transcript taken from the pre-production stage of a session in
which the students launch immediately into the practical activity without
consultation about the process. Here, management of the task is implicit
and not made verbally explicit, so there appears to be a lack of planning in
how to go about the task.
In Figure 3, student B requires information regarding the deployment
of the microphones; student A gives mixed information based on personal
knowledge. If the manual had been consulted, these students would have
found out that while the SM57 can be used with a floor tom, it could be a
64 Andrew King and Paul Vickers
Figure 2: Example of planning/management of task (Pair 18, manual group).
Row Student Discourse/Action IPA Apparatus Time
1 A+B
[pick up and start to
read support material]
Manual 0’00
2 B
“What shall we do
first? Shall we set up
the mics or look at
mic positions?”
8 Manual 0’30
3 A “Yeah.” 3 0’33
4 A
“I reckon we should
turn this [points at
mixer] on first.”
5 0’38
5 A+B
[Look at microphones
and position in the
manual.]
Manual 0’45
6 A
“I’ll make a start.”
[goes to studio floor]
4 1’45
7 B
[Continues to look at
manual]
Manual 1’46
8 A
[Sets up microphone
on bass drum]
D112 1’55
9 B
[Leaves studio f loor
and heads for control
room.]
2’43
10 A
[Takes microphone
to position on snare
drum.]
SM57 2’50
11 B
“What shall I do?”
[up to this point he
has been watching A]
8 4’20
12 A “Just jump in.” 4 4’23
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 64
more suitable choice for the snare drum in this particular set-up because
of the microphones available. From the outset, therefore, the students have
perhaps deployed a less suitable microphone on the snare drum, consider-
ing the other microphone resources available.
Discussion and future directions
Learning technology facilitated problem solving by reducing
trial and error
In the learning process, one of the main areas of task-related discourse
concerned problem solving. Examples of problems encountered in the
recording process were drawn from across the data, using the transcrip-
tions, and were discussed with reference to how they were resolved (what
mechanism was used) and how long this took. The students in the LTI
group solved problems more rapidly than those using the manual. In the
latter case, the resolution of problems was often prolonged by the use of
trial and error techniques either before or after aborting consultation of the
manual. Learning technology thus facilitated problem solving by reducing
the need for trial and error (studio equipment is expensive and sensitive;
learning by trial and error can sometimes damage this equipment).
Learning technology facilitated problem solving by enabling
(guaranteeing) resolution
On some occasions, students in the manual group could not solve the
problems they encountered. In particular, one of the main problems noted
across the data concerned the use of the studio talkback facility. All of the
students in the LTI group who had difficulty operating this equipment
managed to solve the problem after consultation of the support tool. The
students in the manual group, however, did not always manage to over-
come this problem and, as a result, had to perform the task without the
studio talkback. In these cases, the consequent lack of communication
through the sound-proofed glass between the control room and the studio
floor slowed down activity (students had to continually walk from area to
65 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
Figure 3: Example of management (Pair 21, manual group).
1 A+B
[Students leave
control room and go
straight to studio
floor]
0’00
2 A
[Starts to position
microphone on bass
drum]
D112 0’32
3 B
“What do you use
this microphone
on?”
7 SM57 0’45
4 A
“It’s a SM57 so snare
or floor tom.”
6 0’50
5 B
[Positions SM57 on
floor tom]
SM57 0’55
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 65
area to communicate with the musician). This problem (among other
unresolved ones) did not impinge directly upon task performance because
all of the students in the manual group completed and passed the set task.
Learning technology facilitated problem solving by reducing
the time taken to overcome problems
As mentioned above, the students in the LTI group completed the set task
more quickly than those in the manual group. Given that problem solving
was the most prevalent area of task-related discourse, it is important to
reiterate the impact of time on the completion of activity: the data showed
that problems were solved (on average) more quickly by students using the
LTI. This contingent tool, therefore, facilitated problem solving by reduc-
ing the time taken to find a solution, and this in turn influenced the over-
all time required to complete the set task. This point also implies that, if
less time were taken resolving problems, more time could be devoted to
fine-tuning performance on the set task.
Themes within the data
It is evident from this study that problem solving relating to technical issues
(such as signal routing) was not the only issue to arise. In addition, it was
apparent that there were three other areas of task-orientated discourse:
planning/management of a task, division of labour, and feedback. The
educator needs to consider these areas when planning effective collaborative
assessments. Also, the types of problem encountered by the learners may not
always be consistent, because different environments may raise different
issues. It is important to note that the students carrying out this project were
only 4 weeks into the first year of an undergraduate programme; the fact that
they were able to complete the project in a studio they had little experience of
using is commendable. Futures studies will involve not only drum-kit
recording but also vocal, guitar and keyboards. In addition, a study is planned
to examine the use of different types of support material over a longer period
of time, with different group sizes, instead of a single studio recording session.
Works cited
Anderson, J. R. (1996), The architecture of cognition, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Baker, M. J., Quignard, M., Lund, K. and Séjourné, A. (2003), ‘Computer supported
collaborative learning in the space of debate’, in B. Wasson, S. Ludvigsen and
U. Hoppe (eds), Designing for Change in Networked Learning Environments:
Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative
Learning 2003 Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 11–20.
Bales, R. F. (1999), Social Interaction systems: Theory and Measurement, New Jersey:
Transaction.
Chang, C. Y. (2001), ‘A problem-solving based computer-assisted tutorial for the
earth sciences’, Journal of computer assisted learning, 17, pp. 263–74.
Dewey, J. (1966), Democracy and Education. An introduction to the Philosophy of
Education, New York: Free Press.
Dillon, S. C. and Brown, A. (2007), ‘Realising the possibilities of technology in music
education research and philosophy’, in Proceedings of The Fifth International
Research in Music Education, Exeter University.
Gall, M. (2007), ‘Youth and the new digital age: how are young people using
music technology in their lives?’ in Proceedings of The Fifth International Research
in Music Education, Exeter University.
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Gillham, W. (2000), Developing a questionnaire, London: Continuum.
Holland, S. (1989), Artificial intelligence, education and music, Milton Keynes: Open
University.
King, A. (2006a), ‘Contingent learning for creative music technologists’, unpublished
Ph.D. thesis.
King, A., 2006b: ‘Problem solving with learning technology’, Leeds International
Music Technology Education Conference, Leeds College of Music.
King, A., 2007: ‘Student collaboration with learning technology in the music studio’,
in Proceedings of The Fifth International Research in Music Education, Exeter
University.
Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (eds), (1991), Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral partici-
pation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, C., Bligh, J., Jennings, K. and Tangney, B. (2005), ‘Virtual collaborative
learning environments for music: networked drumsteps’, Computers in
Education, 44, pp. 173–95.
Oppenheim, A.N. (1992), Questionnaire design, interviewing and attitude measure-
ment, London: Pinter.
Pear, J. J. and Crowne-Todd, D. E. (2002), ‘A social constructivist approach to
computer-mediated instruction’, Computers and Education, 38, pp. 221–31.
Salvuo, M. (2007), ‘Both sides now …designing an online community for creative
musical activities and learning’, in Proceedings of The Fifth International Research
in Music Education, Exeter University.
Schneider, D. (2002), ‘Community, Content and Collaboration Management
Systems in Education: A new chance for socio-constructivist scenarios?’
Proceedings of the 3rd congress on Information and Communication Technologies in
Education, Rhodes, pp. 2–11.
Spicer, J. J. and Stratford, J. (2001), ‘Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to
replace a real field trip’, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, pp. 345–54.
Weinberger, A. and Fischer, F. (2005), ‘A framework to analyze argumentative
knowledge construction in computer-supported collaborative learning’, Computer
in Education, pp. 25–32.
Wood, H. and Wood, D. (1999), ‘Help seeking, learning and contingent tutoring’,
Computers in education 33, pp. 153–69
Suggested citation
King, A. and Vickers, P. (2007), ‘Problem solving with learning technology
in the music studio,’ Journal of Music, Technology and Education 1: 1, pp. 57–67,
doi: 10.1386/ jmte.1.1.57/1
Contributor details
Contact: Dr Andrew King, School of Arts and New Media, University of Hull,
Scarborough Campus, Filey Road, Scarborough. North Yorkshire, YO11 3AZ, UK.
E-mail: a.king@hull.ac.uk. Contact: Dr Paul Vickers, School of informatics,
Northumbria University, Pandon Building, Camden Street, Newcastle upon Tyne,
NE2 1XE. UK.
E-mail: paul.vickers@unn.ac.uk
67 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
JMTE_1.1_05_art_King.qxd 11/7/07 9:45 PM Page 67
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JMTE_1.1_Ads.qxd 11/7/07 10:01 PM Page 68
Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Editorial. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.69/1
The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
Leigh Landy De Montfort University
Abstract
This article introduces the reader to the ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS,
www.ears.dmu.ac.uk). It examines the site’s raison d’être, its history thus far, chal-
lenges encountered, and then moves on to introduce the project’s future plans, in
particular within electroacoustic music education for children. A key focus is how
those working on EARS are attempting to make the site relevant to anyone involved
in the field of electroacoustic music studies, regardless of previous experience.
Context
As we welcome this new education journal for music technology, a ques-
tion comes to mind. To what extent are we aware of the subjects that
should ideally constitute music technology courses? One of the areas
within music technology is that of electroacoustic music. Its associated
field of studies will be the focus of this article.
1
Electroacoustic music tends to be taught in music and, more recently,
music technology departments, an entirely logical state of affairs. An
increasing percentage of staff members of many of these music departments
is now represented by technological development researchers, particularly
in American universities. Again, this seems rather logical, given the two
words of the phrase ‘music technology’. The humanities side, that is, the
study of the music, its history, theoretical bases and its place in culture, is
often seen to be a bolt-on. This state of affairs may be considered something
of a shame, because the success of any type of art is the sum of its appreci-
ation, knowledge related to it and, in our case, knowledge of the technology
supporting it as well.
Perhaps the humanities side has been kept to a minimum partially due to
the fact that the field of studies related to electroacoustic music is currently
somewhat ill defined. How might one delineate this field? Which disciplines
are involved? Does it even have a commonly accepted name? Furthermore,
how easy is it for people interested in studying electroacoustic music to
locate the research of others working within the same area of specialization?
At the beginning of this decade, it appeared that whenever one wanted
to discover something about the technological aspects of electroacoustic
music, the information was normally not difficult to trace. Similarly, there
was a reasonable selection of histories related to this music.
2
However,
most specialists in the field would also have been aware of the challenges
facing them as well as many of their students when searching for sources
related to musical issues.
Part of that challenge is relevant to education and deserves mention
within this contextual introduction. The scholarship available today in
69 JMTE 1 (1) 69–81 © Intellect Ltd 2007
1. In recent years, there
seems to be a tension
between the usage of
the term
electroacoustic music
on the one hand and
sonic art on the other.
For those whose work
is with sounds more
than notes, sonic art
may be seen as the
better designator, but
there is an awkward
issue with this term.
If you consider sonic
artworks to be music
– and the word
‘music’ is absent from
the term – sonic art
gives people the
opportunity to
separate its works
from music.
Electroacoustic music,
on the other hand, is
not involved with, for
example, acoustic
sound works, and
also includes a fairly
significant number of
note-based
compositions. To
avoid this
conundrum, I have
recently coined the
term, sound-based
music (Landy 2007).
It would be a radical
step to rename EARS
to take this into
account at this point
Keywords
electroacoustic music
studies
Internet resources
online learning
access
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 69
our field is reasonably abundant as is evident given the size of EARS’s bib-
liography; however, other than those historical overviews, to what extent
do we have foundational level publications for people interested in learn-
ing more about electroacoustic music from the musical point of view?
Taking this one step further, to involve pre-university students: to what
extent are we developing electroacoustic music courseware of all sorts for
entry-level students at secondary (or even primary) schools? The fact that
a good deal of useful foundational material is missing has done the field of
electroacoustic music studies little good.
EARS: Why it was needed
EARS has come into being due to the issues just raised: the difficulty one
encounters in finding sources related to a musical area within electroa-
coustic music studies and the fact that the discipline has not yet been prop-
erly delineated nor been provided with a widely accepted framework. Such a
framework could be easily integrated with studies in electroacoustic music
making, relevant aspects of computing and other forms of technology, etc. In
short, it has direct bearing on our music technology curricula.
There is one further subject that deserves some discussion before pre-
senting the EARS site, another issue of foundational importance. To what
extent do we, music technology specialists, use our terminology in a consis-
tent manner? Let’s start with a curious example, ‘computer music’.
Granted, this term is not used very often in the United Kingdom; but it is
quite common in many countries around the globe, not least in the United
States. But what does it mean? Ages ago one was taught that computers
could be used musically as assistant composers, such as in algorithmic
composition and/or to produce audio, as in computer synthesis. The
‘and/or’ is quite important, as the first-known computer composition was
the ‘Iliac Suite’ for string quartet by Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson
(1957). In other words, traditional instruments can perform computer
music. However, many use the term ‘computer music’ to mean music pro-
duced and performed by a computer. To complicate matters further, there is
the annual International Computer Music Conference in which everything
ranging from any technological development related to computers and
music, music cognition and computational analysis and much more are all
welcome, and thus form part of computer music. Yet old analogue elec-
tronic or electroacoustic works that are not digital do not fit under com-
puter music – but how many are aware of this? Is this separation of any
particular relevance today? ‘Computer music’ is but one of many terms that
are highly problematic.
3
Of course, even the term ‘electroacoustic music’
knows several variances in its definition. For the purposes of this article and
to avoid any further ambiguity it will now be defined in its broadest sense:
‘Electroacoustic music refers to any music in which electricity has had
some involvement in sound registration and/or production other than that
of simple microphone recording or amplification’ (Landy 1999: 61). Suffice
it to say that not everyone uses the term this way. Such terms are indeed at
the foundation of our field, and without some consensus, the rest of that
foundation may remain difficult to construct.
This lack of consensus regarding terminology usage was a further
stimulus for creating the original EARS site. The idea was to find a way to
70 Leigh Landy
and, therefore, the
term, electroacoustic
music has been
maintained.
2. Regarding these
histories, note that
many of them miss
two opportunities:
(1) they tend to focus
on art or pop music –
few look across
electroacoustic
music’s broad
horizon; and (2) they
tend to be technology-
driven or person- or
studio-driven, but
rarely combine
historical, musical,
technological and
socio-cultural
developments, all of
which contribute to
electroacoustic music
history.
3. Regular readers of the
CEC Conference
forum (www.concor-
dia.ca/cec-conference
/index.html) will be
aware of how many
terms are causing
problems similar to
what is presented
here.
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 70
provide the general public an unbiased view of the state of play in terms of
our terminology, create the architecture for the field of electroacoustic
music studies and use this architecture to help interested parties find
research results in their particular area(s) of focus. These goals are
reflected in the site’s glossary, its structured index and its bibliography
respectively; they will now be introduced.
EARS: Its development up to the present
Initially, before embarking on this rather ambitious journey, colleagues
were contacted around the globe and asked what might be needed on the
site. Clearly, future advisers were being sought. Other than the UQAM
(Montreal) Dictionnaire des arts médiatiques (www.comm.uqam.ca/GRAM/),
which consists of a modest glossary of terms relevant to new media,
including electroacoustic music,
4
there was nothing available that was
comparable to what was being planned. The general view was that there
was a need for EARS and that, as suggested, it should focus on terminol-
ogy and resources.
Funding was received from the then Arts and Humanities Research
Board (now Council, AHRC), the first of three grants that EARS has received
from it thus far. The goal was to set up an international consortium, define
the goals of the EARS project and suggest a planning scheme for its initial
phases. This was achieved by 2001, the original consortium consisting of
Kevin Austin (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada), Marc Battier
(Sorbonne, Paris, France), Joel Chadabe (Electronic Music Foundation, EMF,
Albany, New York), Bernd Enders (University of Osnabrück, Germany) and
Simon Waters (University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom). It was
decided to attempt first to create the glossary and structure a subject index
that would help delineate the field, before embarking on the much more
ambitious bibliography project. The discussions also involved creating the
parameters of operation of this steering board.
The second grant supported a six-month part-time postdoctoral
research fellow, Simon Atkinson (who has since become co-director of the
project). Some 360 defined terms, 165 referred terms (see ‘x’) and 375
keywords were collected in the initial index, a number of which appear
more than once.
5
The point of departure was to include terms that could
be called upon as keywords regarding electroacoustic research related to
the music, thus not solely technological. Granted, within acoustics, for
example, there are literally dozens of terms to choose from, obviously a
selection was made. This notion of music-related research remained the
key criterion for choice because otherwise the project would simply have
become unfeasible. Wherever possible, multiple definitions have been
included to illustrate eventual inconsistent word usage. Preferences are
not suggested; the focus is simply on current word usage.
Making sense of the entries in terms of creating the index structure
was a marvellous exercise in finding an optimal solution. It took months
before the site’s six main headings were chosen. They were (and still are):
Disciplines of Study (DoS)
Genres & Categories (G&C)
Musicology of Electroacoustic Music (MEM)
71 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
4. The UQAM team, led
by Louise Poissant,
now has plans to
expand its project into
an ‘Encyclopédie des
arts médiatiques’
(see www.teleinfo.
uqam.ca/projets/
gram/).
5. A reasonable propor-
tion of the 360 terms
were for the glossary
only, as we did not
expect articles to refer
to them specifically. In
2006 it was decided
that this was an inef-
ficient approach. A
few terms were
turned into referred
items, as they were
relatively obscure;
most of them were
added to the index.
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 71
Performance Practice and Presentation (PPP)
Sound Production and Manipulation (SPM)
Structure, Musical (Str)
The first heading underscores the interdisciplinary nature of electroa-
coustic music studies. The listening experience is important to the second
and third, although there are exceptions such as poietic analysis,
6
that is,
analysis based on construction based; furthermore there is an another
exception as many categories name the technology used in making a
work, thus having little to do with the reception. The final three categories
could easily be identified as typical categories related to computer music.
They all belong to what might be called the creative practice, not to men-
tion the technological side of electroacoustic music.
We will now briefly look at the six headings individually. The first,
Disciplines of Study (DoS), currently lists 21 sub-headings, clearly illustrat-
ing how electroacoustic music and its field of studies is informed by many
disciplines. Many of these represent clusters, such as Interdisciplinary
Studies. The subject areas range from science to philosophy. More pre-
dictable entries include Acoustic Communication, Acoustics, Audio
Engineering, Cognitive Science, Computing, Music Education and
Psychoacoustics. Musicology is treated separately (see below). Less pre-
dictable, but extremely pertinent entries nevertheless, include Archiving,
Critical and Cultural Theory, Linguistics and Media Theory. Areas such as
Gender Studies and Semiotics appear at the third (sub-sub-heading) level. A
close look through this list demonstrates the amazing breadth of the field. It
raises another question concerning how much our students need to know
of each of these areas in electroacoustic music studies as well as in more
general music technology courses.
Genres and Categories (G&C) is an essential part of the site, as it is here
that many a battle has been fought and will continue to be fought in terms
of much of our basic terminology. When the site was originally set up the
same approach to nesting terms hierarchically was used as is the case
throughout the rest of the EARS site. Some terms ended up appearing sev-
eral times under broader categories. However, given the fact that many
terms had no unique definition, these decisions were often based on one of
the definitions of a higher-level term. In 2006 a decision was reached
whereby terms were no longer hierarchically placed; the 80 terms are cur-
rently listed alphabetically. The search for cohesion among the genres and
categories will need to be achieved in a different manner than for the other
five areas.
What is most peculiar about the G&C list is how few genres one is able
to identify. The vast majority of terms are categories, many of which are
reliant on descriptions of the technique or technology involved (for exam-
ple, Granular Music or Tape Music). This lack of genres may be influenced
by the fact that electroacoustic music developed in the middle of the post-
modernist era, when schools of thought were generally avoided at all cost.
Still, it is to be hoped that, as interested parties work on terminological
issues, we may be able to construct some relevant genre terms that will be
useful in terms of bringing much of the repertoire into a cohesive structure.
This would aid both the education and appreciation of electroacoustic
72 Leigh Landy
6. For a discussion con-
cerning the poietic in
music, see, for exam-
ple, Nattiez 1990.
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 72
music. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that genre and cat-
egory terms that have had an extremely ephemeral existence have not been
included. The index would simply become too cumbersome and there
would be a risk of bibliographic items’ keywords not working efficiently.
Through referral, these terms do appear on the site; a less ephemeral genre
or category is called upon to represent the area in question.
The Musicology of Electroacoustic Music is, in many ways, the heart of
the EARS site. A list of the second-level sub-headings is useful in terms of
gaining a view of the types of areas represented.
Aesthetics
Analysis
History of Electroacoustic Music
Music Criticism
Music Theory
Philosophy of Music
Socio-cultural Aspects of Electroacoustic Music
7
The third level (sub-sub-heading) under Music Theory includes:
Classification of Sound
Discourse within Electroacoustic Music
Listening Experience
Schaefferian Theory
8
Much of this represents to the study of electroacoustic music what general
musical studies represent to students in music departments. The key dif-
ference here is the integration of these areas of focus with the other disci-
plines that appear under the DoS heading.
The Performance Practice and Presentation heading is fairly wide
ranging. It considers issues from collaboration to new forms of virtuosity,
9
real and virtual environments, spatialization and venues as well as elec-
troacoustic performance techniques ranging from live electronics to
turntablism.
Sound Production and Manipulation (SPM) is the key technology-
based EARS main heading. It covers a vast area, ranging from electroa-
coustic devices and instruments to synthesis and resynthesis techniques,
sound shaping and associated aspects such as recording and mixing.
Jumping to where the EARS site is today, the number of items listed in the
EARS bibliography that appear under SPM is smaller than the list of terms
may suggest. This is due to the selection process. EARS has developed a
policy of including published works that in some manner address essen-
tially technological subjects from a musical point of view. Let’s take a look
at an example. Physical modelling is one of many areas of development in
the area of sound synthesis. Annually dozens of papers are published on
the subject. Of those, at most a handful discuss musical issues or potential
musical application of, for example, physical modelling, but not one single
example demonstrating both technical and musical content analysis
comes to mind. It is only this minority group that is of interest to us.
73 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
7. Socio-cultural aspects
include access and
impact issues as well
as culture-theoretical
issues, among others.
8. Pierre Schaeffer is
singled out as the
most prolific author,
not to mention one of
the earliest, to have
contributed to
electroacoustic music
theory (see, for
example, his most-
cited work, Traité
des objets musicaux,
Schaeffer 1977).
9. The Russian construc-
tivist term faktura has
been found to be of
importance as one
means of discussing
this subject (see, for
example, Battier
2003: 249–55).
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 73
Similar examples can also be cited within the Performance Practice and
Presentation and Structure, Musical headings.
Analogous with concepts of sound production and manipulation are
those related to musical structure (Str). Musicians involved in the applica-
tion of formalism in electroacoustic music, such as algorithmic composition,
will find a number of relevant terms in this list. Structure can be approached
at different levels. The sub-headings Macro-level and Micro-level Structure
assist in this differentiation. Of course, an increasing number of people are
creating formalisms that work at several levels, so some of their writing may
fall under more than one Str header.
These six main headings and all entries under them delineate and
define the structure of electroacoustic music studies. The terms delineate
the field; the disciplines and subjects of inquiry form the site’s contents.
Clearly, there are things that have been missed. As EARS is an Internet
resource, what’s wrong can always be put right with little or no delay. It is
for that reason that user feedback is essential to its success.
The original LaTeX-based EARS site went public in 2002. The follow-
ing year UNESCO adopted it as part of its DigiArts initiative (portal.
unesco.org/digiarts). As will become clear below, EARS is now working
even more closely with UNESCO, reflecting the desire that EARS’s content
in the future become even more relevant to people in developing nations.
In 2004 a third EARS-related grant was received from the AHRC. This
time substantial funding resulted in two postdoctoral researchers joining
us over the period 2004–2007. Pierre Couprie joined the project in 2004
and Rob Weale a year later. During this period the creation of the bibliog-
raphy has been the key focus.
Pierre Couprie redesigned the site immediately, using SPIP (www.
spip.net) for the organization of the site’s data. This has led to significant
improvements, although it is hoped that a future version will allow for the
implementation of an even more sophisticated form of search protocol
than that currently available.
Throughout this period, the glossary and index have undergone
dynamic changes under the editorial direction of Simon Atkinson, includ-
ing a major updating process in 2006/2007 when the number of glossary
terms exceeded 500. Still, the main task during the period was to create
the site’s bibliography.
During the first two years, all bibliographic items were entered solely
in English, regardless of the original language. Where relevant, transla-
tions of titles and, for books, chapter titles are included. As more and
more entries for non-English-language publications were entered, it
became clear that it would be useful to be able to look up these works in
their original language as well. Therefore, today, for example, Italian-lan-
guage publications’ abstracts and keywords appear in Italian and in
English; French, Spanish and German texts are similarly treated. To facil-
itate this, translations of the index and, wherever possible, of the glossary
were needed. Thus far the glossary has appeared in French (Pierre
Couprie) and Spanish (Ricardo Dal Farra). At present a possible
Mandarin translation, requested by UNESCO, is under investigation and a
German translation is planned. The index is also available in German
(Martin Supper) and Italian (Laura Zattra). Consortium member Marc
74 Leigh Landy
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Battier proposed the publication of an international thesaurus of terms.
The thesaurus can currently be found on EARS in five languages.
At the time of writing, EARS is approaching its three thousandth bibli-
ographic entry. In English and French, at least, the phase has been
reached where those involved in the project are dealing with items that are
more difficult to obtain, as well as with the normal abstraction of newly
appearing publications. Items in other media that are of relevance to the
project continue to be sought.
The project has been significantly internationalized during this three-
year period and the intention is that this will continue in the future (see
below). This internationalization is reflected in today’s consortium in which
Battier and Chadabe continue alongside Ricardo Dal Farra (National
University of Tres de Frbuaro, Buenos Aires, Argentina), Kenneth Fields
(Central Conservatory of Music and University of Peking, Beijing, China),
Rosemary Mountain (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada) and Martin
Supper (University of the Arts, Berlin, Germany).
One of the frequently asked questions about EARS is how its editorial
policy was created. A question often accompanying this is why the project
does not use a Wiki approach to data acquisition. Part of the answer has
to do with user feedback: in terms of catching minor errors on the site,
making suggestions for new terms, adding new definitions and, of course,
new items for the bibliography. These suggestions, alongside the work of
the core EARS team and the network of researchers affiliated with the pro-
ject, have led to the current total of 3,000 bibliographic entries and the
large-scale glossary. Still, a majority of the suggestions made for references
to be entered onto the site concern technology-only publications, some-
thing that was decided early on not to include, as they would have made
the project too large and too unfocused. In this way, project members act
as a filter for incoming suggestions, more than as editors. Team members
do consider themselves to be working on an open platform, albeit one
without direct Wiki-like user input.
Recently the opportunity to publish relevant texts on the EARS site has
been established. The first publication was Antonio de Sousa Dias’s
Portuguese translation of Schaeffer’s Solfège de l’objet sonore from 1967
(Schaeffer, Reibel and Ferreyra 1998). John Dack and Christine North’s
long-awaited translation of Michel Chion’s Guide des objets sonores (Chion
1983) in English is expected in the near future. Chion’s text treats all
major Schaefferian terms introduced in his Traité des objets musicaux
(Schaeffer 1977). The site obviously will not focus solely on Schaefferian
texts; there are plans to publish EARS-related materials, in the widest
sense, more frequently as time goes on. EARS-related articles for which
rights have been obtained have also been recently republished on the site.
What has been gratifying for the EARS team is to watch its usage sta-
tistics rise year on year. After one of my talks on EARS in 2006 a lecturer
came to me and said: ‘We are all grateful to you for creating this resource,
but it is also upsetting as it has made our students’ lives so easy. They are
constantly quoting it.’ The usage statistics can, of course, be a bit difficult
to comprehend. Nevertheless, the trend has grown enormously through-
out the years and the ease whereby EARS comes up under major search
engines supports the view that EARS is a much-used portal in today’s field
75 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
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of electroacoustic music studies. Another reason for increasing usage is
the fact that in 2007 UNESCO funded a project whereby all relevant infor-
mation on its DigiArts portal became hyperlinked to EARS and vice versa.
In the autumn of 2007 the three-year AHRC funding came to an end;
plans have been developed for an even more dynamic future for EARS. As
this article is being written, EARS finds itself at a crossroads. This has
partly to do with future funding opportunities, but more significantly to do
with its having grown in importance so rapidly. Those involved with the
project have decided to: (1) continue the work of the project as it is, per-
haps altering it, taking into account new approaches to semantic web
design; and (2) start a large-scale project provisionally called ‘Pedagogical
EARS’. These plans form the subject of the next two parts of this article
and bring us directly back to the subject of music education.
Moving forward 1: a greater global focus
So far as the continuation of the current work is concerned, it is clear that
EARS can no longer rely on British support, because the site’s weaknesses
can be found to a large extent in other language areas rather than in those
that are already represented. The project is now reliant on the goodwill of
the current team as well as network members working with the team to
achieve language-area funding. For example, a bid of Martin Supper’s was
supported by the Universität der Künste Berlin as this article was being
prepared. This means that the German translation of the glossary and fur-
ther bibliographic work can be expected in the not-too-distant future.
Similar initiatives are under way regarding Mandarin, Greek and Portuguese
translations. The Italian glossary translation will go online in late 2007.
EARS will and must continue to internationalize its presence in all three
key areas of the site. It will also pursue its recent efforts in terms of increas-
ing the list of online publications that can be downloaded from the site.
Finally, in collaboration with Kenneth Fields, opportunities will be investi-
gated within the realm of new approaches to ontologies. In a recent article
(Fields 2007) he asks several relevant questions concerning the somewhat
traditional presentation of EARS, and illustrates current alternatives
including ‘folksonomies’ that are now on offer. The EARS principle will not
change, but its design will, it is hoped, appear more intelligent. This part of
the project will take place in collaboration with the University of Peking.
All of this will allow EARS to become accessible to a greater number of
interested people around the globe; its usage and user input should develop
similarly. As access has always been part of EARS’s raison d’être, it has, fur-
thermore, been decided to work towards the creation of Pedagogical EARS.
Moving forward 2: ‘Pedagogical EARS’
The story of Pedagogical EARS started at UNESCO’s offices in Paris. Jaco
Du Toit, former member of the DigiArts team, asked: ‘Would it be possible
to create a version of EARS with a reduced number of terms for people
starting out in the field?’ This single question started the ball rolling, lead-
ing towards the design of a three-part project that will be developed in par-
allel with the current EARS site. This project is being prepared specifically
for the young – and other interested parties of all ages – and will go several
steps beyond serving as a structured Internet portal for information.
76 Leigh Landy
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Du Toit’s question made complete sense and the EARS team’s immedi-
ate reaction was positive, especially given today’s lack of opportunities
available regarding electroacoustic music instruction at pre-university lev-
els and the fairly ‘how to’ approach applied to music technology education
in many schools internationally. Pedagogical EARS could potentially offer
a clear, educationally innovative alternative. Although making the key
decisions concerning which terms to retain and which to drop for this pro-
ject will be extremely challenging, it is clear that definitions adopted for
those with no prior knowledge can be created and supported, where rele-
vant, with sound examples and with relevant opportunities to try out con-
cepts, such as the various types of filters and of visual representations of a
given recording. In other words all online
10
new media and hypermedia
aids can be incorporated, something EARS does not yet provide – a truly
exciting opportunity.
However, it is logical to suggest that creating a pedagogical form of
EARS solely based on its current format may not be sufficient. The reason
for this can be found on the Groupe de Recherches Musicales’s CD-ROM
entitled La musique électroacoustique (Ina/GRM-Hyptique 2000). This
superb new media publication offers the user three choices upon opening:
connaître (understand), entendre (hear) and faire (do). This tripartite
approach is extremely sensible, focusing on the comprehension of con-
cepts and gaining historical knowledge; supporting music appreciation
through documented examples, with evocative scores providing users
something to hold on to when first hearing music that is possibly totally
new; and allowing learning to take place through creativity, by providing
users the opportunity to manipulate sounds.
This approach is holistic; its holism would be essential to support the
request made during that meeting in Paris. EARS is therefore planning its
own tripartite project, all based on current initiatives of the Music,
Technology and Innovation Centre (MTI) at De Montfort University (DMU).
It, too, involves an understanding aspect on what has been named “EARS
II”, an adaptable listening methodology supporting access and appreciation,
part of the MTI’s ongoing Intention/Reception (I/R) project and a ‘learning
by doing’ aspect by way of the Sound Organiser audio software program
currently under development for any novice user group. All three are intro-
duced below.
Supporting Understanding: EARS II
This first part of Pedagogical EARS has already been described. Of the
approximately 500 EARS terms, a much more modest set will be chosen,
definitions adapted to the audience of young people and adults with no
previous experience, and examples will be provided in the form of listening
clips, interactive opportunities to try out concepts, and hyperlinks to sites
related to the subject at hand. An influential example of this multimedia
approach to learning concepts is Barry Truax’s Handbook of Acoustic
Ecology (Truax 1999). An associated learning plan will also be developed.
Nevertheless, some flexibility in this must be allowed for, so that different
didactic approaches and culturally based sound examples can be included
wherever possible. Clearly, it is hoped to have EARS II translated into as
many languages as possible. In this way, the intention is to make learning
77 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
10. An offline, stand-
alone version could
eventually also be
created.
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 77
basic concepts accessible to as many people as possible and to provide an
enjoyable means of learning at the same time. In 2007 funding was
obtained from De Montfort University’s Institute of Creative Technologies
to support a research studentship directly related to the EARS II project.
However, this part of Pedagogical EARS is not to exist in isolation.
Supporting access and appreciation: the intention/reception
approach
The second and third parts of Pedagogical EARS are worthy of their own
articles in this journal. For the present, summaries will have to suffice. The
I/R project commenced in 2001. Since then it has led to a Ph.D. dissertation
and several articles, the most important of which are Weale (2006) and
Landy (2006). Although the project has existed happily in isolation thus far,
its future version is best integrated into this broader holistic context.
The project has two goals, one of which is more pertinent to the cur-
rent discussion. Firstly, it has investigated whether listeners with varied
levels of experience with this musical corpus are receiving composers’
intentions during the listening experience of electroacoustic compositions.
More important in this context is the project’s aim to gauge how accessible
electroacoustic works are, in particular to inexperienced listeners. The
hypothesis at the foundation of the project is that much electroacoustic
music has become marginalized in today’s society for a number of reasons,
and that this position is unmerited.
The publications cited discuss the project goals and methods at length.
For our current purposes a short summary will be provided that largely
excludes the aspect of the intention/reception loop. Until now composi-
tions have been chosen in which real-world sounds are heard or perceived.
The reason for this restriction has to do with a long-held view of mine:
people are more likely in general to find connections through personal
experience with works that include (perceived) real-world sounds than
with works that include only abstract sounds. Electroacoustic composi-
tions have been chosen within the range of soundscape composition, that
is, works involving overt references to source and context, to works in
which most sources are not directly identifiable, such as acousmatic ones
in which the aspect of not being able to see sound sources or causes is
vital. Of course works have also been chosen in between these two
extremes. From the so-called inexperienced listeners groups, including
both non-musicians and musicians who have had little to no exposure to
electroacoustic music, the I/R project researchers have yet to encounter a
composition where, after one single listening, fewer than a majority of lis-
teners wanted to hear the work or similar type of work again. In some
cases, the percentage was over three-quarters of listeners. These results
are far higher than the original expectations and provide ammunition for
those who believe that electroacoustic music should be given more atten-
tion in schools and on our communications media. In terms of intention,
listeners are provided the opportunity to listen to works three times, the
first time (after which the question concerning the desire to hear such
works again was posed) with absolutely no information at all; the second
listening is preceded by giving listeners the title of the work or, if that was
not relevant, one aspect of importance; before the third listening, all
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participants are provided the composer’s intention, information based on
a previously received questionnaire and any other available information.
Inexperienced listeners largely found being provided with this type of
information very useful in terms of their finding new works accessible to
them.
Recently a different type of intention/reception project, involving con-
temporary dance, was discovered that took place in Australia (see Grove,
Stevens and McKechnie 2005). Catherine Stevens of the MARCS Auditory
Laboratories at the University of Western Sydney has been advising the
project, providing input from a psychology point of view. Her empirical
methodologies go well beyond the more traditional sociology-based ques-
tionnaire approach applied in the I/R project thus far. Through the addi-
tion of such methods to our project, the idea is to gain greater insight into
the listening experience of people new to electroacoustic music. As with the
understanding aspect, EARS II, the I/R approach will be developed to
take cultural circumstances into account whenever possible so as to facili-
tate interest in local electroacoustic works. Chronologically, the I/R aspect
of this tripartite project comes first, and continues as people gain more
confidence with electroacoustic works.
Supporting creativity: Sound Organiser
The third and final ‘doing’ part of Pedagogical EARS takes the form of an
audio software package that is currently being developed, provisionally
named Sound Organiser. The object here is that the package functions in a
manner similar to computer games, something many people using it will
already have experienced. The higher the level one reaches, the more
skills, opportunities and artistic challenges will be introduced. To cite an
example of how this works in context: some schools may not be able to
offer children the opportunity to record sounds. Properly recording sounds
is not something one encounters early on when learning how to organize
sound. Therefore, recording is offered after many levels have already been
achieved and, in fact, an alternative will be on offer in situations where
recording is not possible.
The approach is as user friendly as is possible. Unlike current software,
there is no assumption that one can handle several windows at once, com-
prehend a Fourier graphic image, understand acoustic concepts or be liter-
ate in music notation when one uses Sound Organiser for the first time.
DMU’s Centre of Excellence for Performance Arts (one of the United
Kingdom’s Centres of Excellence in Teaching and Learning) originally
funded the Sound Organiser project. A prototype of the initial level of Sound
Organiser was developed by John Anderson and the author to demonstrate
the direction of the project, and tested in schools around Leicester. Interest
for the next, main phase of development has come from the Groupe de
Recherches Musicales in Paris and the above-mentioned Institute of Creative
Technologies. The Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing has offered to
produce a Chinese version of Sound Organiser and take the package into
Chinese schools for testing, while investigating whether the package is
culturally adequately flexible. The Sound Organiser will be usable as a stand-
alone program or within the context of networked (Internet) performance
for more advanced users.
79 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
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Obviously, the three parts of this project will be harmonized in the form
of a curriculum so that asp1ects learned on Pedagogical EARS can be
heard in context in the I/R environment and applied creatively on the
Sound Organiser platform. As more and more countries move towards
including various forms of music technology onto their schools’ curricula,
Pedagogical EARS will be ready for use by younger students. Sound orga-
nization is already part of their aural experience and they are extremely
open to discovery at late primary/early secondary school age. By using an
integrated, holistic system such as the one proposed here, scientific, IT and
graphic concepts can be developed alongside electroacoustic musical ones.
Brief conclusion
‘Somebody had to do it’ is the answer to the query, ‘Why did you all
embark on the EARS project in the first place?’ As stated at the beginning
of this article, the field of electroacoustic music studies was discovered to
be somewhat ill defined. Its related curricula are extremely diverse: some
are more related to media, some to traditional music and some to directly
vocational aspects. EARS, a project that might have taken place within a
library science department, has become increasingly gratifying to those
involved as the years have gone by. Its need has been proven through its
usage. The field of electroacoustic music studies no longer seems like an
odd concept. Now the time has come for people in the field to find holes in
areas of scholarship through searching the EARS site. The MTI, for exam-
ple, plans to develop a large-scale electroacoustic music analysis project in
an attempt to discover which analytical tools are most appropriate in
which circumstances. Alongside such high-level research, specialists must
also ensure that the foundation of the field is solid, something that is
hardly the case at present. Both EARS and Pedagogical EARS will repre-
sent a contribution to the creation of that foundation for interested people
of all ages.
Works Cited
Battier, Marc (2003), ‘A Constructivist Approach to the Analysis of Electronic
Music and Audio Art – Between Instruments and Faktura’. Organised Sound, 8: 3,
pp. 249–255.
Chion, Michel (1983), Guide des objets sonores: Pierre Schaeffer et la recherche musi-
cale, Paris: Ina-GRM/Buchet-Chastel.
Fields, Kenneth (2007), ‘Ontologies, Categories, Folksonomies: An organised lan-
guage of sound’, Organised Sound, 12: 2, pp. 101–111.
Grove, Robin, Stevens, Catherine and McKechnie, Shirley (eds) (2005), Thinking in
Four Dimensions: Creativity and Cognition in Contemporary Dance, Melbourne:
Melbourne University Press (e-book).
Ina/GRM-Hyptique (2000), La musique électroacoustique, Paris: Éditions hyptique.net,
CD-ROM.
Landy, Leigh (1999), ‘Reviewing the Musicology of Electroacoustic Music’,
Organised Sound, 4: 1, pp. 61–70.
—— , (2006), ‘The Intention/Reception Project’, in Mary Simoni (ed.), Analytical
Methods of Electroacoustic Music, New York: Routledge, pp. 29–53 + appendix
on the volume’s DVD.
—— (2007), Understanding the Art of Sound Organization, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
80 Leigh Landy
JMTE_1.1_06_art_Landy.qxd 11/7/07 9:46 PM Page 80
Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990), Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music,
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Schaeffer, Pierre (1977), Traité des objets musicaux: Essai interdisciplines, Paris: Seuil.
Schaeffer, Pierre, Reibel, Guy and Ferreyra, Beatriz (1998 [1967]), Solfège de l’objet
sonore, Paris: Ina-GRM (book with 3 CDs).
Truax, Barry (1999), Handbook for Acoustic Ecology, CD-ROM edition, Burnaby, BC:
Cambridge Street Publishing, CSR-CDR 9901.
Weale, Rob (2006), ‘Discovering How Accessible Electroacoustic Music Can Be:
The Intention/Reception Project’, Organised Sound, 11: 2, pp. 189–200.
Suggested citation
Landy, L. (2007), ‘The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS),’ Journal of Music,
Technology and Education 1: 1, pp. 69–81, doi: 10.1386/ jmte.1.1.69/1
Contributor details
Leigh Landy is a composer and researcher in an area that he calls sound-based
music. He has written five books, including the recent La musique des sons / The
Music of Sounds (OMF/MINT Sorbonne, 2007) and Understanding the Art of Sound
Organization (MIT Press, 2007) and is editor of the journal Organised Sound. He is
director of the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre at De Montfort
University and co-founder/director of the Electroacoustic Music Studies Network.
He is also Artistic Director of the company Idée Fixe – Sound and Movement
Theatre. Contact: Leigh Landy, Music, Technology and Innovation Research
Centre, De Montfort University, Clephan Building, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK.
E-mail: llandy@dmu.ac.uk
81 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
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JMTE_1.1_Ads.qxd 11/7/07 10:01 PM Page 82
Journal of Music, Technology and Education Volume 1 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd
Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.83/1
DubDubDub: Improvisation using the
sounds of the World Wide Web
Jonathan Savage Manchester Metropolitan University and
Jason Butcher Egerton High School
Abstract
DubDubDub was an educational project conducted by staff at Egerton High
School, Manchester Metropolitan University and UCan.tv. It introduced a new
type of musical instrument to the classroom, the DubDubDub player, which
developed pupils’ musical performance and improvisation skills by using the sonic
environment of the Internet. Users of DubDubDub remixed the sonic content of
the Internet, arranged sounds and prioritised them in real time to form new
musical works. The name DubDubDub references the three ‘w’s of internet URLs:
http://www. The musical improvisations generated by DubDubDub can be
combined with other instruments, as illustrated during DubDubDub’s first
performance at the Discourse, Power and Resistance conference (hosted by
the University of Plymouth and Manchester Metropolitan University on
21 April 2006). This paper reflects on the development of DubDubDub and this
first performance, providing an insight into how technologies can facilitate new
models of musical performance and improvisation that may be beneficial for
educational application.
Introduction
Musical performance and improvisation with new technologies is an
emerging focus area for music education. Researchers have investigated
the range of applications of technology in the teaching of musical compo-
sition (Savage 2002 and 2003), but the use of new technologies to help
pupils develop performance skill or technique in classroom settings is rare
and less widely reported in the literature. There are some notable excep-
tions to this, however, particularly in the field of music education for
pupils with special educational needs. Here, innovative products such as
the Soundbeam
1
have been used for many years.
In contrast to the rather limited application within education contexts,
contemporary musicians are developing, building and performing with
new instruments on a regular basis. There is a yearly conference devoted
to ‘new interfaces for musical expression’ (NIME). A review of the research
evidence from conferences like this provides a useful backdrop the
DubDubDub project.
Blaine (2005) starts from the position that many young people today
have a familiarity, and significant dexterity, with a range of potential perfor-
mance interfaces. Her investigation includes the application of a number of
83 JMTE 1 (1) 83–96 © Intellect Ltd 2007
1. See www.
soundbeam.co.uk
Keywords
musical performance
improvisation
world wide web
Internet
music technology
new instrument design
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 83
games controllers as musical instruments. discussing how a user might
learn a new instrument, she suggests that:
Musical instruments must strike the right balance between challenge, frus-
tration and boredom: devices that are too simple tend not to provide rich
experiences, and devices that are too complex alienate the user before their
richness can be extracted from them. In game design, these same principles
or learnability are the fundamental principles of level design used to build an
interest curve to engage players.
(Blaine 2005: 28)
Oore (2005) picks up on a number of these points. Like Blaine, his first con-
cern is with technique and how this is developed with a new instrument. His
key question is ‘What does one do with a complex new digital instrument?’
(Oore 2005: 60). Like Blaine, he makes the obvious point that if an instru-
ment was designed to be ‘easy to master’ it would quite possibly not be that
interesting to play or to listen to once the initial novelty of the instrument
had worn off. Secondly, he goes on to analyse a range of general concepts
that, he suggests, might apply to the learning of a new instrument. These
are couched under a statement that ‘the individuality of a musician is
manifest in their learning process as much as in their performance’
(Oore 2005: 61). This may be true, it is not a lot of help for the educator,
who has to presume that there will be a common sequence of learning for
the majority of learners and prioritise knowledge accordingly. But the impor-
tant point here for the DubDubDub project is that the process of learning to
control a new instrument and explore its musical potential is a vital element
in an overall learning process that cannot be short-circuited. Additionally,
how a user learns a digital instrument is an important consideration in that
instrument’s design. As he states in his concluding paragraphs: ‘The new-
instrument performer must often be the initiator and driver of the explo-
ration of the new instrument […] The true creative journey begins when
the user’s own goals and style drive the learning, and when basic elements
begin to be internalized and built upon’ (Oore 2005: 64).
Buxton asks questions that should be central to educators’ thoughts when
using new technologies to promote musical performance in the classroom.
Why should musical performance be live? What difference does it make? For
Buxton, musical performance is a compromise between the presentation of
the scored and the improvisational where physical, emotional, gestural, active
and reactive components all have a part to play. He draws up a continuum
within which the visibility or invisibility of musical cause and effect outwork:
I must confess, that I have the same emotional and intellectual response to
watching someone huddle over a laptop as I did 20–30 years ago when they
were huddled over a Revox tape recorder. The more invisible the gesture and
the more tenuous my perception of the correlation between cause and effect,
the less relevant it is to me that a performance is ‘live’.
(Buxton 2005: 4)
As we shall see, a key informant of the DubDubDub project was to keep
music live within the classroom. In an age when more and more pupils are
84 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
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huddled, staring at computer screens in their music lessons, DubDubDub
sought to place an emphasis on live performance in small ensembles at the
heart of music education for Key Stages 3 and 4. An introduction to the
DubDubDub concept is well overdue.
The DubDubDub concept
DubDubDub was a project conducted by staff at Egerton High School,
Manchester Metropolitan University and UCan.tv. It introduced a new type
of digital musical instrument to the classroom, the DubDubDub player,
which developed pupils’ musical performance skills by drawing on the
sonic environment of the Internet. Within this context, users of
DubDubDub remixed the sonic content of the Internet, arranged sounds
and prioritised them in real time to form new musical works. The name
DubDubDub references the three ‘w’s of internet URLs http://www. The
initial aim of the project was to develop an intuitive software instrument
that would facilitate effective control of live Internet audio and then to use
this tool in a performance setting. The first DubDubDub performance took
place with a string quartet from the Royal Northern College of Music and
a group of MCs and DJs drawn from an extended schools project held at
Egerton High School at the Discourse, Power and Resistance conference
(hosted by the University of Plymouth and Manchester Metropolitan
University) on 21 April 2006.
Lyrics delivered by Impulse
Adults fink they no bout lyf.
(Lyric from UK TRAP delivered during the DubDubDub project by ‘Impulse’, a
Year 10 student ‘reppin’ [representing] the L.T.C. (Lyrically Talented Crew).
Egerton High School is a special school for children statemented with
social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in Trafford, Manchester. All
pupils have been excluded from mainstream schools in the local authority
and have significant gaps in their learning. The project leader and co-author
of this paper was the Expressive Arts subject leader and ICT co-ordinator
at the school. DubDubDub was born out of his own artistic practice and
the opportunities that have arisen from working alongside pupils at the
school. This work has embraced interdisciplinary projects that include
music technology, film-making and critical studies.
Many of the inspirational features of this work came from the pupils at
the school themselves. For them, music, rapping, beats, DJ-ing and MC-ing
are common features of a rich artistic sense of self-expression and a nor-
mal part of their day-to-day lives. Through working alongside these pupils
as an artist, teacher and co-learner, the project leader developed an inter-
est in how chance informed both his own and their work. In particular,
the synergy between music, visual media and technology has been a
source of inspiration. The freedom of expression that this synergy brings
allowed pupils to make sense of the ubiquitous violence and problems that
permeate their lives, sharing and communicating solutions through form-
ing and performing in music-focused ‘crews’. These groups include DJs,
MCs, beat programmers and producers. Lyric writing (the construction of
‘bars’) is prolific, their use of music hardware highly skilful, and pupils are
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adept at using a range of freeware, shareware and professional software
tools for musical composition.
The effective engagement of these disaffected pupils at Egerton High
School through allowing them to direct their own learning, develop a high
level of multimedia ICT skills and develop their passion for music and ver-
bal expression, led to early Expressive Arts GCSE examination entry and
successful results for pupils aged 14 and above. It was this richly talented
and artistic, yet challenging, group of young people that provided the
opportunity to develop the DubDubDub project from concept to reality.
The DubDubDub genesis
DubDubDub was preceded by a number of other projects that have taken
place at Egerton High School and Manchester Metropolitan University.
These projects provide a useful insight into some of the main features of
the DubDubDub work and will be briefly traced below.
Found Sound was a CD-ROM song-writing resource produced by the
Virtual Learning Environments Foundation for Yamaha UK in 2003. It
contained video clips and guidance notes for teachers. Part of the resource
highlighted the processes that StatikSoundSystem, a Drum and Bass outfit
based in Bristol, used to build their individual tracks into songs. They
created starting points with sounds sourced from their travels locally and
internationally, recorded them onto Minidisc and took them into the
studio to edit, loop, develop and blend with beats. This process inspired pupils
at Egerton High School. They sourced videos from the Internet of the
natural environment. The incidental sounds that these videos contained
were recorded through the computer’s sound card as the video played.
Pupils worked on the resulting files, collating, editing and processing them
to form libraries of sound files. These sounds were sequenced with
recordings of instruments or other samples to form compositions. The
results ranged from videos of urban activities to videos of natural ambiences
in isolated wilderness spaces. This type of study resulted in pupils becoming
more aware of their own sonic environments. Subsequently, these have
been recorded on their mobile phones and brought into school to convert
and work with in a similar manner.
Parallel to this activity was an investigation of the sound design process
through a trial of the UCan.tv resource – Sound2Picture (Savage 2005a).
This resource enabled pupils to develop their skills in the production of
ambient loops, spot effects and other elements by experimenting with
sounds and video clips. The resource contained a library of sounds and
video clips and an interactive mixing environment for trying out combina-
tions of sounds and visuals quickly and intuitively. Pupils used sounds they
had created themselves rather than exclusively using the samples pro-
vided; examples of their work can be experienced at www.sound2pic-
ture.net. The process of completing a sound design to a video facilitated an
improvement in the pupils’ software skills, sound manipulation and
sequencing. It promoted sound design as an accessible way of composing
that was not dependent on playing traditional musical instruments. The
classroom within which these projects took place contained no MIDI key-
boards or traditional musical instruments. However, the headsets pupils
used comprised headphones and microphone, and this led to some pupils
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generating sounds with their voices and manipulating the waveforms to
create new samples.
The third project at Egerton High School that helped fine-tune the
DubDubDub concept was part of a ‘Super Learning Week’ on recycling in
2005. The timetable at the school was collapsed for a week and pupils
worked in vertical groupings (i.e. with a mixture of pupils from each of
Years 7 to 11) looking at aspects of recycling across the curriculum. There
was an interdisciplinary emphasis to activities. The Expressive Arts pro-
gramme of study related the work that these artistically literate pupils had
been doing to the concept of recycling by re-using audio from the Internet
in a random and non-linear way to form compositions. Entitled ‘Recycled
Audio Portraits’, the pupils were free to use the Internet as they wanted for
an hour providing that they recorded all the incidental sounds that they
discovered through the computer’s sound card. Pupils were informed that
the resulting sounds would be used to create an individual aural portrait
of their Internet usage. For this reason, it was suggested that they place an
emphasis on visiting bookmarked sites so as to present as broad a reflec-
tion of themselves as possible. A complementary task involved recycling
prose by cutting words out of poems and picking them out of a bag at ran-
dom to form new syllabic expressions. Pasting words into new orders rein-
forced the recycling concept, and pupils were encouraged to record their
new verbal pieces on the computer and mix them into their Internet
inspired audio portraits. Many initial recordings drawn from the Internet
were edited to fit the length of the recorded vocal track. This provided a
simple way of delineate the length of the piece. All the finished tracks were
mixed together by a pupil as an extension task and the result was played
as part of a series of performances on the Friday afternoon that celebrated
the work done during ‘Super Learning Week’. Critical studies during the
week included an investigation of the Dada and Surrealist art movements,
including art, games and films, and the cut-up technique used and devel-
oped by William S. Burroughs and others, as popular d by David Bowie.
Finally, a couple of months prior to the commencement of the
DubDubDub project, Urban Classic happened. ‘Urban Classic was a meet-
ing of musical cultures that brought together some of the biggest names in
UK black music with the BBC Concert Orchestra in a ground-breaking live
event’ (BBC 2007).
Urban Classic provided a relevant and contemporary context for the
work that the pupils were about to engage in and led to a notable increase
in their confidence. The collaborative elements of these pupils’ work with
postgraduate students from the Royal Northern College of Music (in the
final stage of the DubDubDub project) and the experiences of working
together within a diverse musical ensemble were authenticated by the
Grime scene approval and a BBC rubber stamp. Urban Classic was a timely
and very happy coincidence for the DubDubDub project.
The DubDubDub project
The aim of DubDubDub was to develop an intuitive performance instru-
ment for pupils that would facilitate the control of Internet live audio and
its recording and capture in real time. The initial presumption was that
the interface would allow for everything to be in one place. To this end, an
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interactive artist was employed to help design and make the software. The
prototype was produced using Macromedia Flash. It allowed for Internet
pages, along with embedded sounds, to be assigned to keys on the computer
keyboard with each page opened or closed by pressing the appropriate key.
The prototype that resulted from these early experiments was similar to
Soundplant (http://soundplant.org), an excellent piece of freeware within
which one can attach sound samples from a computer hard disk to a
computer keyboard; however Soundplant does not allow the access of
sounds contained within Internet pages.
Pupils are Egerton High School tried out the initial DubDubDub
interface. During this trial they commented that they had no problems
using a standard Internet browser to open several web pages at a time
on their desktop or keep them tabbed on the taskbar. But this method
highlighted some problems. Although it was easy to navigate the open
web pages, it was not always easy to find out which page was playing
which audio element. The way in which the DubDubDub interface should
empower a user’s engagement with Internet audio was of paramount
importance. In this method, there were just too many mouse clicks getting
in the way of creating mixes and performing with Internet audio.
During subsequent searches of the Internet for new browsers, a web
browser was discovered that allowed for the tiling of pages within one
page. The Avant Browser (www.avantbrowser.com) was free to download
and proved to be fast, stable, customizable and easy to use. Its use removed
the need for the creation of a specific piece of DubDubDub software. For
example eight web pages can be opened in any one Avant browser page
each with different web searches.
A very useful performance application of the Avant browser facilitated
the collection and storage of sets of favourite pages, enabling the user to
return to them quickly in a live performance setting. The browser also
facilitated the mixing of sounds as each ‘tile’ of a web page has controls for
volume and looping its sonic content.
A second piece of software was combined with the Avant browser for
the DubDubDub project. Google Video (http://video.google.co.uk/) is a
dedicated video search engine that is content-safe to use with pupils.
Controls at the bottom of each page include a pause/play button, a time-
line cursor to locate or repeat sounds and a volume-control slider. By
downloading the Google video player rather than just playing back videos
within the Google video homepage, pupils were able to use these controls
to facilitate a greater degree of versatility in terms of managing audio (as
well as providing an enhanced quality of video playback). Some six videos
could be open at once within the Avant browser, each with controls
accessible and a thumbnail of the selected video playing.
The combination of Google Video in the Avant browser effectively
provided pupils with a sound-mixing environment. The sonic environ-
ment of the Internet, or specifically, in this case, the sounds attached to
videos uploaded to Google Video, are manipulated and controlled by the
DubDubDub player which is, itself, a conflation of existing technologies.
Audio exists on the Internet for a variety of reasons and serves a num-
ber of functions. It may arise incidentally by way of an embellishment to a
corporate website or it may have a specific function such as a radio station.
88 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
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Sounds of the natural environment exist on the Internet and it is certainly
easier to discover the sounds of a tropical rain forest on the Internet than to
organise the recording of these on location! There is a vast array of other
sounds attached to web pages, many of which can be triggered through the
control of a mouse. This interaction with a website can become part of the
audio mix, e.g. the controlled output through clicking and triggering
sounds with a mouse can feature alongside various embedded sounds that
exist within the web page.
The DubDubDub player worked on the principle that these sounds will
resonate together and that it is the user’s skill, practice and sensibilities
towards these sounds and processes that produce effective improvisations.
This type of musical skill or understanding is not dissimilar to the sensibil-
ities needed in a range of other musical activities with which pupils were
familiar. Firstly, by learning to play vinyl decks, CD turntables or PCs as
instruments pupils were able to develop a range of skills that transferred
well to the DubDubDub project.
As well as the DJing techniques that pupils were familiar with, spitting
(free styling bars, rhymes and phrasing) over a spacious grime beat, typi-
cally around 135 beats per minute, also harnessed the sensitivity, listening
and responding skills needed for effective DubDubDub use. For pupils, it
was a natural progression to use these DJing and spitting techniques when
using DubDubDub.
At this stage, the DubDubDub player was a facility comprising a con-
flation of web technologies and a taught sensibility, a real-time interactive
tool and concept. The final element was a straightforward way to capture
the player’s decisions and record the outcomes for further use, analysis or
editing. This tool became the UCan.tv sound recorder. It provided a way to
record any audio that was passing through the computer’s sound card
without having to change any computer audio settings (as you would
have to do with a piece of freeware such as Audacity). Sound captured by
the recorder can be edited and uploaded to a sequencer for future use. The
UCan.tv sound recorder was the final part of the DubDubDub player.
The first DubDubDub performance
Prior to the first performance with DubDubDub, a number of extended teach-
ing sessions was held at Egerton High School. These included a number of
students from the Manchester Metropolitan University’s PGCE in Music with
Specialist Strings Teaching course (taught in collaboration with the Royal
Northern College of Music). These students worked with the school pupils to
develop their skills with the DubDubDub player. During these sessions, the
MCs and DJs had shared their enthusiasm for music, demonstrated their skills
and discussed ideas for the performance with the university students.
As a new type of instrument, the musical material generated via
DubDubDub can be combined with other instruments in a performance
setting. It can sit with any existing style or genre of music, and this is what
the authors aimed to illustrate during a performance at the Discourse,
Power and Resistance conference hosted by the University of Plymouth
and Manchester Metropolitan University on 21 April 2006.
For the performance, the DubDubDub player was combined with a
string quartet (formed by the PGCE students) and some MCs and DJs from
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an extended schools project being held at Egerton High School. Figure 1
shows the performance group. More pictures from the performance, a link
to a video of the performance and other resources can be found at
www.dub3.tv.
The performance moved through three sections. The string quartet
opened with a traditional performance of Pachelbel’s Canon. During the sec-
ond stage of the performance, this was deconstructed as students moved
away from their string instruments, one at a time, to add sounds and music
using the DubDubDub interface on four Internet-enabled laptop computers.
The resulting mix of sounds from the Internet formed the middle section of
the performance. During the performance, one student searched for Google
videos of violinists performing the same opening piece and this provided a
simple conceptual link to the first section of the performance. The nature of
the DubDubDub player means that each performance is uniquely different
because the content relies on live Internet, in this case complete with its
quirky connection status. The final movement of the performance involved
the MCs and DJs from Egerton High School and the extended schools
project. They introduced and blended in some contemporary grime beats
using an MP3 player, a CD deck and a cross-fade mixer. Quite naturally
they started spitting lyrics over the resulting sounds. Through these lyrics
they introduced themselves, who they were reppin (representing) and
established their style. Much of this was freestyling (a kind of vocal
improvisation) combined with the inclusion of existing bars (sections of
lyrics) that they had written to suit the occasion. During this final stage of
the performance the string quartet/DubDubDub players gradually moved
back to their string instruments from the laptops and improvised with the
MCs and DJs. At the end of the performance all performers were contributing
to the piece. The string players were improvising with the MCs and DJs using
the wider sonics and harmonics of their instruments to complement the
90 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
Figure 1: The initial DubDubDub interface.
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 90
grime beats through emulating scratch sounds, sub-bass riffs, bass drum
grooves and claps. The original Baroque piece had been transformed
through a DubDubDub-inspired breakdown into a unique presentation of
improvised music and expression.
Analysis of the DubDubDub project
The performance was well received. Afterwards the audience (mainly
consisting of academics and researchers) had the opportunity to direct
questions to any of the team. These included questions about the processes
and outcomes and significant interest in the delivery from the MCs and
DJs. Several questions focused on the links between improvisation and
freestyling. Here, the authors have drawn a range of conclusions from these
questions and answers that have helped inform their own judgements
about the DubDubDub project.
Artistic processes were central to DubDubDub
Fundamentally, indeterminate art is concerned with artistic process. The
DubDubDub project engaged students and pupils in an indeterminate
process of musical performance, albeit with a range of pre-established
reference points that informed their decision-making process (e.g. bookmarks
of Internet sites, pre-written lyrical content and musical beats, etc). We
were pleased to note that both groups of young people were not afraid to
explore the improvisation al process as an integral element of the musical
performance. More widely, many of them were able to incorporate
ideas about improvisatory practices drawn from a range of other work
that they had recently completed. For the students from Manchester
Metropolitan University, this included elements of improvisation pedagogy
drawn from their Dalcroze studies, particularly principles from eurhyth-
mics classes. For the Egerton High School pupils, the projects discussed
above placed the DubDubDub project in a wider context of multimedia
work centred on preparations for a GCSE in Expressive Arts (which pupils
undertake in Year 9).
Music and the visual image
During the DubDubDub performance the visual output from each of the
four laptop screens was mixed and displayed for the audience on a large
screen. Figure 2 shows how the screen gave the audience the opportunity
to see how the DubDubDub player was being used in real time.
Although music was the main focus of the DubDubDub performance,
having a screen that presented the decisions about which websites the
DubDubDub players decided to visit created some transparency for the
audience and demystified the sources of sounds. In Buxton’s terms
(Buxton 2005: 5) it provided the audience with a visible side to musical
cause and effect. Through discussion after the performance, it was apparent
that it enriched the audience’s appreciation of the skills and control of the
sounds that the players were manipulating. This is equivalent to watching
string players’ physical manipulation of their instruments. Using the
DubDubDub player is, by nature, an audio and visual experience. It allows
the user to cut up culture, rearrange and subvert images, video and
sounds live from the Internet to create new and unique audio or visual
91 DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of the World Wide Web
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‘instances’. Whether the user is dealing with sonic or visual elements, or
both, the DubDubDub player facilitates artistic expression through the
sonic and visual environment of the Internet, honing an appreciation of
the role of chance in musical performance.
Democratising performance skills
The DubDubDub player can be used by anyone so long as they have access
to a computer, an Internet connection and some speakers or headphones.
All actions are triggered through a traditional mouse and QWERTY key-
board. The skills needed to perform with DubDubDub are similar to those
generic musical skills that all improvising musicians should have, i.e. the
ability to listen, to respond, to select and modify, to take the lead on occa-
sions or sit back, to work collaboratively or with a degree of independence,
etc. The interface of the DubDubDub instrument is familiar and deliber-
ately simple. As such, it is easily accessible and allows the user to get
involved easily in the process of musical performance. Within the educa-
tional context, a networked computer suite is an ideal platform for a
DubDubDub performance. From any Internet enabled computer, a pupil is
able to apply their natural creative ability to creating music, by finding
sounds attached to web pages, managing, mixing and recording them to
form compositions and document their processes using screen-capture
tools. As the DubDubDub performance demonstrated, music created in
this way sits alongside traditional musical instruments very comfortably.
Musical collages and the immediacy of artistic expression
DubDubDub allows users to combine the sounds attached to various
Internet sites in a way that creates very powerful musical collages. Clear
comparisons can be made to a number contemporary works, e.g. John
Cage’s Roaratorio. This work, constructed by Cage in 1979, would be an
92 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
Figure 2: The Avant browser.
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 92
excellent resource to illustrate the range of musical outcomes one could
construct through the interface between traditional instruments and new
technologies. Consisting of three main elements, Roaratorio combines a
narrated poem with traditional Irish musicians and over 4000 different
recorded sounds on tape. It is important to remember that Cage produced
Roaratorio without the benefits of modern sampling techniques. His state-
ment that ‘I never imagine anything until I experience it’ is extremely rel-
evant in this context (Cage 2007). It is this sensibility to the spontaneous
and immediate working with sound that was central to the DubDubDub
performance. It was pleasing to note that this concept, complete with its
technological, visual and musical dimensions, promoted the musical
understanding and appreciation of two very diverse groups of young peo-
ple. Not only that, but it brought them together to share a common musi-
cal discourse which, we believe, it would have been hard to imagine
through any other means.
Conclusion
We [the NIME community] are in a unique position to raise the bar as to the
quality and range of experiences, devices, and the expressive capabilities they
inspire, particularly as it relates to music creation and education.
(Blaine 2005: 32)
Many contemporary musicians and artists are exploring the potential of
new technologies as musical performance tools. In what is a very gradual,
but well documented, process, these new technologies are beginning to be
applied and explored within educational contexts in the United Kingdom
(Savage 2005b, Savage 2007). This is not without its difficulties. Many
teachers are inherently conservative in their views and reluctant to
embrace change:
Many music teachers are reluctant to use ICT extensively in their teaching.
It may be for a number of reasons: lack of confidence in their own ICT capa-
bilities; fear that their students know more than they do; lack of awareness of
the potential benefits of using ICT; concerns that technology-based music
may take over from more traditional approaches.
(Ashworth 2007: 3)
Blaine’s encouragement (2005: 32) to us is to reconceptualise the notion
of a musical instrument for the 21st century. Associated with this change
in mindset is the opportunity to reanalyse the process of musical perfor-
mance and improvisation. There is an opportunity to get beyond the
stereotypical notions of technique, interpretation and re-creation as being
central to instrumental performance and use new, technological innova-
tions in such as way as to support the development of generic, accessible
and intuitive musical performance skills. To do this, Blaine emphasises
that designers of these new instruments will need to consider a range of
issues, including:
• How gestures can be mapped to musical outputs
• Creating more expressive controllers
93 DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of the World Wide Web
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 93
• Integrating multiple combinations of sensors
• Developing musical learning systems alongside new instruments
• Adding levels of engagement with new musical instruments that lead
to expert performance (Blaine 2005: 32).
DubDubDub is an example of some of these processes (although the con-
cept of a linear progression of instrumental use from beginner to expert
performer seems overly simplistic). It falls within what Bowers and
Archer (2005: 6) have called an ‘infra-instrument’. In their useful sum-
mary of meta-, hyper- and cyber-instruments a number of themes are
identified that richly contrast with their notion of an infra-instrument’
(Table 1).
Despite these apparent reversals of instrument design, they argue that
infra-instruments are nonetheless ‘aesthetically engaging and technically
intriguing’ (Bowers and Archer 2005: 6) and worthy of further study,
which they go on to do in some detail. Their findings have some relevance
to our discussion here, particularly that infra-instruments are evaluated
best within the context of a ‘performance setting’: ‘Handling an assembly
of stuff is often facilitated by an infra-instrument designing philosophy,
where each device plays its part in a manageable hybrid environment [...]
The whole performance setting becomes the unit of analysis, design and
evaluation, not just a single “new interface for musical expression”’
(Bowers and Archer 2005: 6).
This reflects a recent theme in Bowers’s work, that of ‘performance
ecology’. This has a rich resonance for those involved in formal, class-
room-based music education. By ‘performance ecology’, Bowers (2003)
means a closer analysis of the places for practical action and its display to
others (performers or audience). Examples include desktop performance
ecologies (or even classroom performance ecologies) that may:
• Be differentiated (a place for the computational, for the acoustical and for
other tools)
• Be integrated in a variety of ways
94 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
Meta, Hyper & Cyber-instruments Infra-Instruments
Rich interactive capability Constrained interactive repertoire
Detailed performance
measurement
Few sensors or few gestural
measurements
Engendering complex music Engender relatively simple music
Expressivity and virtuosity
Restricted in terms of virtuosity
and expressivity
Table 1: Categorisations of new instruments.
(after Bowers & Archer 2005, p.6)
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 94
• Allow opportunities for juxtapositions and for legible, embodied conduct
(how performers look for, reach for, touch, communicate in non-verbal
ways, etc.).
This notion of ‘performance ecology’ reminds us that all musical inter-
actions are contextualised. Regardless of whether they are technological
in the digital sense, traditional in the musical sense, or a juxtaposition of
the two, musical interactions between young people need to be under-
stood in the context of a wider performance ecology. DubDubDub pre-
sented a new mode of artistic expression to a group of postgraduate
students and school pupils. In many senses it is character d by infra-
instrument design: it was based on few gestural movements; it was con-
strained in terms of operability; it was deliberately simple to use and
based on pre-existent web-based technologies. Did it produce or engen-
der simple music? That is a judgement to be made by the listener.
Readers of this article can make their own judgement by viewing and lis-
tening to the performance hosted on Google Video
2
(UCan.tv 2007).
Either way, DubDubDub may be one tool that the contemporary music
educator can use to help develop young people’s musical performance
and improvisation skills.
Works cited
Ashworth, D. (2007), Electrifying Music: A guide to using ICT in music education,
London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
BBC (2007), www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra/events/urbanclassic/features/event.shtml
Accessed July 2007.
Blaine, T. (2005), ‘The Convergence of Alternate Controllers and Musical Interfaces
in Interactive Entertainment’, Proceedings of the 2005 International Conference on
New Interfaces for Music Expression, Vancouver, BC.
Bowers, J. (2003), ‘Improvisationing Machines’, Advanced Research in Aesthetics in the
Digital Arts, 4, http://www.ariada.uea.ac.uk/ariadatexts/ariada4/
Accessed 10 July 2007.
Bowers, J. and Archer, P. (2005), ‘Not Hyper, Not Meta, Not Cyber but Infra-
Instruments’, Proceedings of the 2005 International Conference on New Interfaces
for Music Expression, Vancouver, BC.
Buxton, B. (2005), ‘Causality and Striking the Right Note’, Proceedings of the 2005
International Conference on New Interfaces for Music Expression, Vancouver, BC.
Cage, J. (2007), ‘Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake, for voice, tape
and Irish musicians’, www.answers.com/topic/roaratorio-an-irish-circus-on-
finnegan-s-wake-for-voice-tape-irish-musicians?cat=entertainment
Accessed 4 July 2007.
Oore, S. (2005), ‘Learning Advanced Skills on New Instruments’, Proceedings of the
2005 International Conference on New Interfaces for Music Expression, Vancouver, BC.
Savage, J. (2002), ‘Electroacoustic Composition: Practical models of composition
with new technologies’, Journal of the Sonic Arts Network, 14, pp. 8–13.
—— (2003), ‘Informal Approaches to the Development of Young People’s
Composition Skills’, Music Education Research 5: 1, pp. 81–85.
—— (2005a), ‘Developing Compositional Pedagogies from the Sound Designer’s
World’, Music Education Research, 7: 3, pp. 331–48.
95 DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of the World Wide Web
2. The DubDubDub
Performance can be
accessed at
http://video.google.co.
uk/videoplay?docid=2
3568487482597859
82&q=dubdubdub&to
tal=4&start=0&num
=10&so=0&type=sea
rch&plindex=0.
JMTE_1.1_07_art_Savage.qxd 11/7/07 9:47 PM Page 95
—— (2005b), ‘Working Towards a Theory for Music Technologies in the
Classroom: How pupils engage with and organise sounds with new technolo-
gies’, British Journal of Music Education, 22: 2, pp. 167–80.
—— (2007), ‘Reconstructing Music Education through ICT’. Research in Education.
Acknowledgement
This project was funded by the Bernarr Rainbow Awards for Music Teachers and
supported by UCan.tv (www.ucan.tv).
Suggested citation
Savage, J. and Butcher J. (2007), ‘DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of
the World Wide Web,’ Journal of Music, Technology and Education 1: 1,
pp. 83–96, doi: 10.1386/ jmte.1.1.83/1
Contributor details
Jonathan Savage is a Senior Lecturer in Music Education at the Institute of
Education, Manchester Metropolitan University. His main research interests lie in the
field of developing innovative uses of new technologies within the music curriculum.
He is Managing Director of UCan.tv, a not-for-profit company that produces engaging
educational software and hardware including Sound2Game (www.sound2game.net)
and Hand2Hand (www.hand2hand.co.uk). Free moodle courses are available at
www.ucan.me.uk. Contact: Dr Jonathan Savage, Institute of Education, Manchester
Metropolitan University, 799 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2RR, UK.
E-mail: j.savage@mmu.ac.uk
Jason Butcher is a deputy head teacher and Head of Expressive Arts at Egerton
High School in Trafford, Manchester. As well as over twenty years’ experience of
managing creative and educational projects with funding from a broad range of
organ s, he has a range of pedagogical, technological, creative and design skills and
has a strong interest communication, teaching and learning in ways that build on
pupils’ latent interests in new media.
96 Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
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Journal of
Music, Technology
and Education
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Journal of
Music, Technology and Education
Volume 1 Number 1 – 2008
3–5 Editorial
David Collins

Articles
7–21 The discipline that never was: current developments in music
technology in higher education in Britain
Carola Boehm
23–35 Crossing borders: issues in music technology education
Giselle M. d. S. Ferreira
37–55 Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic
change in music education
Pamela Burnard
57–67 Problem solving with learning technology in the music studio
Andrew King and Paul Vickers
69–81 The ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS)
Leigh Landy
83–96 DubDubDub: Improvisation using the sounds of the World Wide Web
Jonathan Savage and Jason Butcher
9 771752 706007
ISSN 1752-7066
1 1
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