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CAKE Mix 16: Music & Sound

In our 16th Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) Event, we dived into the science of music and mood; glimpsed the future of a Newcastle-based recording studio; treated early-modern artworks to a live-coding performance; and swallowed some sobering statistics about the under-representation of female composers, artists and songwriters in the North East.

Here’s what we were saying on #FuseCAKE – the tweeted thoughts of the Creative Fuse community.

As with CAKE 15: Digital Archives, our surroundings for this event linked the past with the present, juxtaposing our region’s heritage with the innovative activity currently underway. In Durham Castle’s Senate Suite, the walls really do have ears (embroidered ears, that is).

Dr Mariann Hardey introduces Creative Fuse and our values of collaboration, business support, and the generation of new ideas and research. Photo: Justin Souter, via @souterconsults

Our opening speaker was Tuomas Eerola, Professor of Music Cognition at Durham University, who briefly introduced Durham’s music department and his current research interests. The department is small but mighty – ranking highly in both research and teaching. They pride themselves on their work on music history, ethnomusicology, and contemporary performance and composition.

Tuomas’s presentation covered research including the algorithmic composition of musical theatre; the role of data from music streaming services in defining the emotional connotations of songs, and the precise nature of an Earworm (those snippets of songs you just can’t get out of your head).

At its heart, this research strives to get to the very essence of what music is, and to unravel how and why we respond to pieces in the way we do – emotionally and physiologically.

Tuomas’s speech ended with a call for collaborators, especially for people or organisations with expertise in app development or interactive games – an exciting fused approach to research!

Our second speaker was Andy Haggerstone. Andy runs artist management company and record label Kaleidoscope and is a partner in Blank Studios, both based in Newcastle. He is also finishing a PhD in creativity at York University. His presentation focused on the grand plans for Blank Studios’ new home as part of the new Star and Shadow cinema site.

Blank Studios emerged from a pooling of resources and equipment and grew from there into a successful recording space. It’s possibly fitting then, to continue this legacy of collaboration and set up a second space at the community-built, crowdfunded Star and Shadow Cinema.

The freedom of building a new recording space, essentially from the ground up, is very exciting – allowing Blank studios to create a custom studio with some unique links to the public spaces within the cinema. By connecting the studio to the live music venue or cinema space, the team will maximise the potential for recording live music, and opens the door for other, more unusual audio-visual projects.

Next up was Sean Cotterill, PhD student at Newcastle University, giving us an introduction to live-coding as musical performance.

Why live coding? Sean came to it through his interest in electronic music, but wanted to bring more physicality to the performance process (a hangover from his classical violin days) and to try new techniques outside of established systems. Sean views live coding as something of a challenge to the trend of “laptop performance.”

After this overview, came a short performance. Despite some technical hitches (the screen sharing was not working with the projector) the audience could clearly see how the laptop was treated as a live instrument.

This performance was created using a programming language called SuperCollider.

Our final speaker was Ged Robinson, from Generator. As part of his Talent Development role there, Ged has designed and delivered a series of innovative education pilots, focused on connecting disadvantaged young artists to the music industry. Ged was speaking about the current programmes Generator run.

Generator have a commitment to tackling gender inequality in the music industry. Some shocking statistics were presented: In the UK, only 16% PRS registered songwriters and composers are women. In the North, it’s only 3% (via PRS).

This inequality is very unsettling. While one organisation certainly cannot solve the problem alone, or overnight, it was heartening to hear about the WeCreate programme launching in March 2018, taking a structured approach to tackling these issues.

Q&A and Networking

After each speaker had finished, the floor was opened up to a couple of questions.

With plenty food for thought, the audience continued to discuss Sound, Music and Feminism over some amazing cakes, courtesy of Durham University.

Next CAKE Events

CAKE 17: The Science of Performance, Tuesday 20th February, Newcastle.

CAKE 18: Innovative Women. Thursday, 8th March, Middlesbrough.