Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Sunday, May 19 • 10:00 - 10:30
What if we didn’t need metrics and empirical data

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This paper will present a methodology to observe and theorise the embodied knowledge and skills that contribute to the ideology and decision making processes of commercial songwriting. The methodology is based on a phenomenological ontology, derived from the work of Merleau-Ponty (1945), from which to observe the lived experience in a flexible and contingent manner respectful of the ontology of the songwriting practice being observed and is grounded in the established epistemologies of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002; Boden, 2003; McIntyre, 2008; Bennett, 2010;
2012; 2013; 2013; 2014; McIntyre et al., 2016), and popular musicology (Tagg, 1982; Middleton,
1990; Frith, 1996; Middleton, 1999; Toynbee, 2000; Green, 2002; Moore, 2012). This methodology is developed from that deployed by Bennett (2014) to observe and theorise the externalised processes and actions of songwriting teams (limited to duos) but differs as it shifts its focus from what songwriting is to how we, as artists, create songs.

Previous research into songwriting and composition has sought to producer empirical data using Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) (Collins, 2007; Bennett, 2014; 2016) or more traditional ethnographic approaches of observation, researcher/participant diaries and interviews (Green, 2002; Finnegan, 2007; West, 2016; Zembylas and Niederauer, 2018). The present research unburdens itself of empirical positivism by seeking to observe the unpalable thought process we often refer to as the ‘gut-reaction’ which cannot be empirically captured. Instead, this research producers “user/reader generalizable data” (DiPardo in Smagorinsky, 1994) and theories that are validated by the verisimilitude of the analysis and avoiding unnecessary abstractionism (Ellis et al., 2010). Through a practice of reflection, critical thinking and reflexivity this research method moves beyond criticisms of self-indulgent naval-gazing (Finlay, 2008; Ellis et al., 2010) to allow practitioners the opportunity to investigate the uniqueness of their own praxis and the lens through which to analyse their findings.

avatar for Chris Whiting

Chris Whiting

Newcastle University