Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Studio brief

Music, Technology, and Ideas invites you to consider music and associated arts – especially but not exclusively sound arts – in relation to the world of ideas and practices of making: the making of place, things, art, performance.

It encourages you to explore how and why we make music; how we conceive of it; how it might have originated; and how it relates to technologies, including notations, instrument technologies, and means of dissemination. We will consider how we perceive and receive music, and what its uses and effects are.

This studio aims to encompass a wide range of music- and sound-related disciplines and modes of work.  Although initially conceived with students of the BSc Music Technology and BSc Musical Instruments courses in mind, Music, Technology and Ideas (Studio 15) welcomes from all courses students who share any of these interests, and seeks ways of working in which the benefits of embracing a wide range of interests and backgrounds are explored and realised.

This studio will encourage the use and interpretation of primary source materials: both existing documents and newly gathered data.

Several initial themes are proposed:

  • made in London: place, things, performance
  • the creation and dissemination of music in the digital era
  • musical instrument design: form, acoustics and ergonomics
  • soundscapes of the air and mind
  • quantitative methods: capturing and analysing data
  • psychological aspects of sound and music
  • musical instrument histories: technical, social, cultural and political

After weeks 1-3, in which general and individual topics will be considered and discussed, we may cluster into groups according to themes and mode of work.  Shared or parallel activities, which may extend beyond week 7, might include: field trips, site visits, laboratory experimentation, archive visits, and training in particular research methods and techniques. 

Summer preparation:

Do three of the following:

  1. Voices and instruments: consider how voices (and vocal practices) and instruments (and instrumental practices) relate to one another.  Listen to some examples – the choice is yours, but be adventurous – and make some initial comparative notes for us to discuss.
  2. In the field: plan a short walk through varied sound environments, making brief notes of what you hear at several points.  On the return journey, make short (e.g. one-minute) recordings (it would be nice to have fancy equipment but it’s likely that your phone will do) at the same points (and others if you hear something interesting).  How do your initial observations and your recordings compare?
  3. Visualising and measuring sound: download a basic sonogram app, such as Spectral Pro Analyzer or Androspectro, to your phone; go for a walk though varied sound environments (keep an eye on the traffic as well as the spectrogram), or make a journey by bus, and observe keenly the varying intensities and densities of the sound spectrum displayed.  Try changing settings (e.g. frequency range, display colours) and see how the displays compare. Try the same exercise using a noise-level meter app, such as SPL Meter or Noise Level.
  4. Sound and the visual: look at Cornelius Cardew’s graphic score Treatise (Buffalo, NY: Gallery Upstairs, 1967), which is available as a pdf; select two or three pages and perform them, preferably with friends.  Then compare Treatise, performed by the Cardew Trio with Treatise, An Animated Analysis and Cornelius Cardew's Treatise - Realization (2001) by Shawn Feeney.  What does the comparison tell you?
  5. Read Nicholas Cook, Music: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1998; revised edition 2000); or two of the recommended articles in the Reading List below.

Lectures and seminars will be tailored to the interests of the group.
In week 14 there will be a dissertation conference in conjunction with Studio 3, and in Week 15 a writing workshop.

Reading list

  • Nicholas Cook, 'Music: A Very Short Introduction' (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998; revised edition 2000)
  • Richard Leppert, 'Seeing Music' in 'The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture', ed. by Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 7-12
  • Steven Feld, 'Acoustemology' in 'Keywords in sound', ed. by David Novak and Matt Sakakeeny (Durham [NC] and London: Duke University Press, 2015), pp. 12-21; and other chapters in the same book
  • Jean-Claude Risset and David L. Wessel, ‘Exploration of Timbre by Analysis and Synthesis’, in 'The Psychology of Music', ed. by Diana Deutsch, 2nd Edn. (Academic Press, 1999), pp. 113-169
  • Eric F. Clarke, 'Music, Space and Subjectivity' in 'Music, Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience', ed. by Georgina Born (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 90-110
  • Alan Davison, 'Representing Music-Making' in 'The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture', ed. by Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 87-94
  • Tim Shephard, 'Leonardo and the Paragone' in 'The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture', ed. by Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 229-237
  • 'Printed Music: Music Printing as Art' in 'The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture' (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 171-179
  • Sander van Maas (ed.), 'Thresholds of Listening: Sound, Technics, Space' (Harrogate: Combined Academic Publishers, 2015)
Studio 3: Music, Technology and Ideas


Tutor Lewis Jones

Dissertation Studios