German heavy metal
Wacken, Rammstein, Teutonic metal. It is probably safe to say that Germany is a country where metal music enjoys huge popularity. After the genre emerged in the UK and the USA, Germany was amongst the first countries to adopt this new form of music. With German hard rock acts such as the Scorpions and Accept having been successful since the 1970s, metal exploded in Germany in the 1980s and shaped a unique style that is valued and has often been copied by international artists. This work in progress book-sized project investigates the history and the sound of German metal. It identifies key places, musicians, producers and labels, covering many aspects from original approaches to songwriting, performance through to production, ultimately discussing if there is, or has ever been, such as thing as the ‘Teutonic metal sound’ as commonly labelled by the media and public discourse.
Gear Acquisition Syndrome (‘GAS’) (in collaboration with Dr Jonas Menze, Paderborn University, Germany)
Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or just GAS, has anecdotally been described as the musicians’ compulsive and unrelenting urge to buy and own gear as an anticipated catalyst of creative energy and bringer of happiness. This research projects explores the GAS phenomenon, analysing how person-related factors like age, gender and occupation as well as musical factors like the instrument or the music played interrelate with the behaviour of dealing with musical equipment. Next to musical motivations such as expressiveness and sound design, it explores the cultural discourse surrounding the obsession with musical gear as can be observed in countless discussions on musicians’ message boards and in music stores.
The electric guitar in popular music
This project explores the musical and cultural relevance of the electric guitar in popular music. As one of the fundamental differences to the acoustic guitar, distortion determines the playability and expressiveness of the electric guitar. Central themes explored in the project are effects of distortion on solo guitar playing (e.g. playing techniques, ‘shredding’) and on rhythm guitar riffs (e.g. interrelation of distortion level and consonance perception, rock harmony), as well as recording techniques and practices, guitar amplification technologies, genre-specific guitar equipment and rock aesthetics.
Professional roles in the recording industry
In the last years, the role of the music producer has received increasing academic attention. This project extends the current research by focusing on less explored roles in the music industry such as the recording studio operator as a variation of the role of the traditional record producer, the one commonly being at a more grass roots level in the industry. Another profession not having received much attention is the role of professional session and studio musicians. This project reveals how changes in the industry and advances in music technology have affected their work, now needing other skills for becoming successful ‘hired guns’, and how national copyright regulations and musicians’ unions have an impact on their economic situation. Other professions explored include for example composers for advertisement media, who are challenged to balance their creative aspirations with the wishes of their clients.
Network sound. An educational challenge of popular music
The project deals with music production in popular music genres from historical, technical, aesthetic and educational viewpoints. Starting from the premise that produced sound is a key element of recorded popular music, the project explores topics such as the history of recording practices and equipment, sound and identity, authenticity in music production, sound and emotion as well as functions of space in recorded audio. It presents a methodology of popular music analysis based on the means of technological (re-)production as the centre of the music’s aesthetics, cultural inscription and decoding. One main intention of this research is to raise awareness of technologically mediated sound in educational contexts. The final outcome is a theoretical educational model of teaching music production and listening skills accompanied by sample lessons.