Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon

Studio brief

This interdisciplinary studio reflects the widening of music and film studies in the last thirty years to include popular music, and how industry-based and cultural  perspectives have shaped music and its use in film and media. Issues of race, gender, class and politics are fundamental: groups like Public Enemy, and singers like Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, for example, are emblematic of black struggle against white oppression. Female performers, and especially composers, have often been obscured in musical history; female opera singers in the nineteenth century, through their performing careers gained great financial and social independence, unparalleled among women of the time.
Today, women suffer still from narrow stereotyping in a male-dominated music industry, although female performers such as Madonna, Bjork, and Lady Gaga challenge these norms. Taylor Swift prompted wide debate concerning the downloading of music via the internet.
In looking at city soundscapes one could consider the identity of sounds connected with particular natural settings and architectural spaces; or the relationship of therapeutic music to visual and architectural aspects of a hospital setting. Other topics could include the dissemination of music in the digital era, The Beatles’ legacy and heritage; musical instruments as symbols and icons; instruments and sustainability; emotion in music, media and film; music and instruments in different cultures and religious contexts across the world; gypsy jazz, hip hop, folk music; and opera, musical theatre, noise music, dance; music therapy; and states of consciousness in film music.

Although initially conceived with students of the Music Technology BSc and Musical Instruments BSc courses in mind, this studio welcomes students from all disciplines in The Cass.

Summer Preparation

Do three of the following: 

  1. Think about the kind of topic you might like to research and, after a bit of initial reading, come up with some research questions that you would like to investigate.  For example, read Nicholas Cook, Analysing Musical Multimedia (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1998) and/or David Neumeyer, 'Studying Music and Screen Media' in The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture, edited by Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 67-74 and consider what kind of investigation you could undertake in that field and building on the methods they use.
  2. Plan a short walk through varied sound environments, making brief notes of what you hear at several points.  On the return journey, make short (eg 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. Take a well-known performer and/or genre of music and look at recordings, posters, films, books, reviews, images and consider how that performer’s musical, social or political identity is constructed. 
  4. Attend a musical performance and consider how the music is played or sung. Characterise the style of the music and consider the musical choices available to and made by the performer(s).  Assess how the performers’ identity (consider musical, political, social and other aspects) is constructed through the choices they make.
  5. Watch this video: Stuart Hall, Representation and The Media, in four parts on YouTube.
  6.  Read Stuart Hall, The Question of Cultural ldentity.

First seven weeks of study

Week 1-7: will include both group sessions, in which we will consider aspects of our research field and appropriate methods of research, and a programme of exercises (in italics below) which will conduct you through planning and developing your own dissertation. Studio 3 will collaborate with Studio 15 in some sessions. This programme is indicative; it will be varied to suit the group.

Week 1: Introduction to the studio: examples of possible topic areas; ways of discovering and planning projects.  Small-group discussion of ideas and presentations of them if appropriate. Past student(s) will talk about their experience of writing a dissertation.
Preparation for proposing a dissertation topic.
Week 2: We will consider dissertation plans and the writing of proposals, individually and in small groups. Library research and sources, including Zotero training with Library Staff.
Propose an initial dissertation topic.
Week 3: Music, culture, power and meanings: We will watch parts of Music is the Weapon, a film about Fela Kuti and discuss the social and political power of music. Issues of racism, gender politics and National identity across different periods will be considered. Developing a dissertation plan: studio 3 requirements.
Week 4: How to construct and present an argument within your dissertation: an exercise based on different ways of arguing the importance of Public enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’, structuring your writing and referencing to best illustrate your arguments.  The MHRA short-title system will be demonstrated. Amplifying your dissertation plan.
Week 5: Visits to British Film Institute, National Gallery (to see the musical paintings), concert or soundwalk, followed by discussion of it in the following session. Submission of your dissertation plan (topic, rationale, methods, sources, initial time-plan).
Week 6: Lecture and seminar with visiting speaker, to be arranged when topic areas are clearer. Discussion of issues and thoughts raised in the week 6 visit. Presentation of your dissertation plan to the group.
Week 7: Planning individual topics: you will have time to discuss your dissertation individually and in groups. 
Refining your week-5 dissertation plan.
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 15.

Reading list

  • Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • Georgina Born, Music, Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • Richard Middleton, Voicing the Popular: On the Subjects of Popular Music (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 40-51   
  • John Baily, Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place (Oxford: Berg, 1994)


Tutor Christina Paine

Tutor biography

Christina Paine

Tutor on the BSc (Hons) Musical Instruments, BSc (Hons) Music Technology (Sound for Media) and BSc (Hons) Music Technology (Music Production) courses

Christina teaches on the Musical Instruments, Sound for Media, and Music Production courses in the Cass, chiefly Critical and Contextual Studies, and supervises BSc dissertations.

Dissertation Studios

Studio 1: Another India

Harriet McKay

Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.

Studio 4: What Not to Wear?

Emma Davenport

Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.

Studio 6: Curating Contemporary Art: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: Curating Contemporary Art examines the impact of curatorial practice on art.

Studio 7: Fashioning culture: clothing and the shaping of identity

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: Fashioning culture will examine critically the links between fashion, clothing and identity.

Studio 8: Pleasure, Excess and Dirt

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 explores ideas of category, definition, identification and belonging through the examination of a series of objects and behaviours that appear to be in the wrong place instead of the right place.

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects uses debates about change and preservation explore ideas within architecture.

Studio 10: Critical Theory and Critical Design. Artefacts, Images, Sites, Processes in Graphics and Illustration

Dipti Bhagat with Christopher Emmett

Studio 10 requires deep commitment and completion of critical theory and design for graphic design and illustration.

Studio 12: London Walking

Clare Qualmann

Studio 12: London Walking looks at walking as a mode of creatively appropriating the city, with particular attention to our own city, London.

Studio 14: All in the best possible Taste

Dr John Cross

Studio 14: 'All in the best possible Taste' examines the historical influencers of taste, style and fashion.

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Lewis Jones

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling

Jon Baldwin

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences

Jeremy Collins

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.

Studio 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: Material in Motion will explore why an audience will put time, money and thought into acquiring an object.

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context

Dr Nick Haeffner

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context explores the aesthetics of the image and its role within fantasy, desire and social memory.

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm III

Joseph Kohlmaier

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm is a cross-disciplinary studio. This year it will engage with the idea of metaphor in art, architecture, design and music.

Studio 22: Meaningful work

Paul Harper

Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.

Studio 23: A Common Thread

Gina Pierce

Studio 23: A Common Thread examines the relationship between textiles and everyday life, including its design, trade, sustainability and more.

Studio 24: Words in Space

David Price

Studio 24: Words in Space reflects on the role that words play in our visual world, performative spaces and the urban environment.

Cass Studios archive by year