Friday, March 23, 2012

listening to music

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Question one is about the different ways of listening to music. This is a reading debate essay of the three. Whilst you should make arguments, it is necessary that you quote from readings and back them up because you can’t get enough simply from looking at particular uses of music in the contemporary scene. They should be there to reinforce and illustrate your marshalling of other peoples’ arguments. It doesn’t mean that you’ve got no voice. Your voice in this type of essay first of all is from the way that you use the arguments, certainly which bits you tend to cite or lean on from the texts and also what points you are trying to make by using them. We are looking for a reasonable depth of reading on it and looking for an academic quality of balanced argument. I don’t think when you have done the reading that it is actually viable or valid to come up with a very strong argument down one side of this. There are strong cases, as one would expect really for a mix of these three factors.


I would tend to adopt a set approach to each of the three propositions. In what way can you demonstrate that the music itself affects how listeners listen to it without any knowledge of the artists or anything? I think it is certainly possible to argue that that is only a hypothetical premise anyway because if for example anyone puts on Method Man, people laugh and are clearly going to respond in the contextual way - it is not just music with different musical values, it carries cultural codings and values. Now whether you call that the music itself or whether you call that part of its cultural trappings is down to your line of argument. The music itself is probably the least likely to be a strong plank in this. You certainly should be able to demonstrate some context in which music itself affects listening and part of Adorno’s arguments do tend that way. For example, I think that you could use his fundamental division between art music and popular music and perhaps say that it isn’t possible to listen to art music in the way and for the purposes that you listen to popular music - that his assumed gratifications from those two forms don’t cross over. In a way, that the music itself will determine certain things about listening and that you can’t bop around to Mozart and you can’t furrow your brow over Gareth Gates. There is something there about what the music allows you to get from it. Adorno primarily illustrates the importance of personality or orientation of music. As you go through that, you should look at most or all of the points of his typology of listening of which there are seven. The Adorno stuff is very much of its time - it shows the crudity of mass culture when radio was the primary means of record distribution and not records. It is definitely valid to criticise Adorno and one of the outcomes we expect at this level is a critical approach. You can challenge Adorno on various bases and certainly you can qualify him and say that much of what he says has relevance at the time and continues to have relevance now, some of it does not do so in a mature popular music market and that perhaps the line between the types of music and therefore the types of listener that he elaborates is not as clear as it was then/does not exist/not useful - all of which are a fair comment.


From Chris Kennett, we have the varying effects of listening contexts. Some of them were technical, environmental and social. There are lots of possibilities arguing in favour of the context of listening. It is worth constantly looking back at the title while you write and make sure that you are covering it and looking at the word for word aspects. How do you start? Adorno possibly - different ways of listening to music in terms of what you are listening to it for but then you could also put in there the context sensitivity - a way of listening to music is extremely loud in the car or on a walkman or drifting off to sleep. In fact, the preconceptions around those say something about the choice of music and the kind of perception that you’re applying to it. For example, if you are putting it on a sleep timer, you won’t really be getting into it and try to work out any technical aspects of it - it is there for a highly specified function. That in a way becomes a factor of listening to music and the use of the sleep timer is a technological context as in Kennett. It is something that has heavily set up and predisposed the mode of listening and there are plenty of other examples that show that. I think it is fair to go into some of the professional contexts that will affect you, what is the way of listening to music if you think there is a risk of you spending some money on it - if an artist brings music to an entrepreneur, there are contextual factors at least and there may well be personal factors and possibly musical factors that affect how the entrepreneur listens and what they are listening for and to - the level of depth. This may go either way; it may be in that example they would listen very closely to all sorts of unusual considerations. On the other hand, if you follow one strand of Adorno’s reasoning, they won’t do that at all. One of the distillation of comments that he made is that once with art music, music had to be good first and then it got marketed and that now, under the culture industry, music has to be marketable first then examined as to whether it is any good or not. So you could possibly argue that in the example with the entrepreneur listening to some music, they are being right down the culture industry end and only listening for marketability or not allowing other factors to distract them until they have made some appraisal of the marketability. That is definitely a context sensitive listening point.


If you are doing the first essay, be clear but it is a question in two halves and the second half has three components in it - each of which needs to be discussed. The ways of listening to music may not take you very long out of your total budget but certainly there should be thorough argument about the three proposals in the second half. You can come to a conclusion provided that it is safe and it is safe when you have worked through the minor of the things that you have evaluated. You need to show evidence in assessments and assess what it is about. It is making sure that not only do you know things but it is very clear that you know you’ve thought through things on paper so if you are going to favour one outcome then it is important to demonstrate that you have fairly considered the other outcomes and shown why they have less of an influence than the one you’ve picked. Context is definitely very important but you would then need to set up an experiment on paper saying okay, here we are with some effective contexts, here we are switching the variables so that now we are keeping the contexts and the personality and changing the music and as you can see, that doesn’t produce such a strong effect, sort of. Make some kind of argument along those lines so that you are showing the different weightings that these sorts of things have.


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Analyse the character and function of one music publication or national newspaper section


This is for the most part a kind of methodical use of data approach to an essay. It draws on the content analysis that we did but it uses it as a stepping-stone so that it is necessary to do both types of content analysis of the publication you are choosing - the quantitative and qualitative analysis but that is not the work you show in great depth. One of the main things that has let down the marks for essays under this title in the past has been that they have taken the title to be show a character and function or show a content analysis and if you don’t distil that and use it to support argument then it is a relatively weak piece of work at this level. It needs to be done as preparation and is the alternative to the reading that has to be done for essay one but as with that, you can’t just plonk chunks of the reading in and call that an argument so you can’t just plonk your content analysis in and call that an analysis of character and function, it isn’t.


Components that make up a character - a lot of it is qualitative here so the layout - some of that you can do by saying there are x pages of colour and x quarter pages and it is quantitative but don’t get bogged down in detail with this. It really is best to kind of do the content analysis, set it aside and work from it drawing bits from it when you need it otherwise you will probably put too much of it in and not enough creative thinking. The graphic approach and the textual approach as well - the type of words, the length of the pieces, the type size - all these things differ and form part of the magazine’s impression of character. Type of language that they use, the type of music that they include and exclude. The position from which they have used society - informal/social judgements - when the magazine’s persona or the journalist’s persona expresses itself, it does so with an assumed character of someone of a certain age with a certain style and it tries to make itself like the readership so who is that national reader? Who is being mimicked by the magazine? That is very much part of the character aspect of it.


For function, there are three areas that we discuss. One is the publishing house itself and sometimes you can certainly draw on what Eamonn Ford talked about in terms of an overall strategy of someone like IPC or EMAP to position themselves in a given market so it is a more complex thing than just putting the magazine out and making money. It forms part of a whole editorial policy to participate in a sector of publishing and you may find when you look up some of the magazines that have closed, you could make the argument that it was because they lost their function from the publisher. There is a function to people who want to use the magazine to communicate with the audience - the advertising industry, the music industry, who will often be the same thing. Quantitative analysis supports that very well because you can actually look at the amount and the type of advertising and you can say something narrower about the function than to reach consumers. You could say given that the magazine carries lots of advertising for relatively cheap products and things like ringtones, etc. - it is aimed at this market, scratch and sniff adverts are aimed at this market and cars for this market. It is the implications of this analysis that are important.


The functions for the music industry as we’ve discussed are wider than the functions to just advertisers because the editorial that is in the magazine serves the music industry well in the broad sense of building artist identity and seeds and loyalty to those things. This is possibly going to depend a lot on what it is you analyse and I would heavily recommend unless you have a good reason otherwise, to analyse something where there is lots of it and it is easy to see like NME, Smash Hits or Q. Unless you feel you have a really strong insight into a particular stake in anything then pick something with plenty of obvious characteristics. Perhaps the most complex and hardest to prove function is the function to the readership but that makes it a very fertile part of the assessment in potential. It means that you can perhaps comment on the changes in function that we’ve talked about and debate with our journalist guests and it means that maybe you can contrast what the magazine thinks it is with the likelihood of what the readership wants from it. So for example, our core topic of criticism and reviewing - you can make a limited argument that the power of the magazine to recommend buying may still be there but is less there for a smaller part of the readership than there would have been in the past however the magazine may not have actually responded to that in terms of changing the balance of its topic.


I think you should keep it in proportion but comparison is quite good to illustrate certain points in a way. If you say there are x pages or parts of a page dedicated to this aspect in the magazine you are talking about, that is not entirely helpful unless you contrast it with a different sort of publication where there is another approach, which is a much more persuasive argument. Where you are working on one of your stronger points, I think that it is a very good added value idea to observe something else similar to show that there is a trend or different to show that this trend only takes place with a certain readership in mind, with a certain magazine style, certain character and function profile. If you are going to do that or use several differing examples then do that kind of thing once applying it to one of your larger arguments or you could loosely run it parallel so that it goes through the whole thing if you can see one that suits. If you are making a very firm split about character and function on the grounds of music genre or age, for example, and you can find publications that are very explicitly targeted and have clearly different approaches - you are asked to do one so you need to put one in the foreground to show how it differs consistently.


As with all things, there must be some kind of example or citation to support any assertion that you make. You can’t just say it is aimed at 18-4 year olds - you need to look at the music that is covered, the type of language used, the advertising, etc. If it comes from you, it needs some kind of evidential support. That can be drawn from the magazine; you don’t have to look outside this for a bibliography.


One tact that you might take with this is to do the methodical content analysis, format as an appendix and then refer to it and that will stop you from overusing it and would give you a nice separation and ensure you were arguing from it and not using chunks of it.


What I’m expecting to see for referencing is a deep referencing of a few issues of one magazine and possibly another one of it. It is only the first essay that really needs any books in it.


What contribution does music journalism make to today’s music industry?


I would hope to see some of the observations from the journalists and PRs during those sessions and you need to contrast that with the contribution or lack of it that other people have made and in some cases, you can see what the PRs were saying last week that one aspect of the contribution of music press has definitely diminished - that it is now according to them only seen as a kind of entry level usage, it doesn’t introduce music to a mass audience, it introduces music to the adopters and tasters.


Again there are some considerations, which I would say as the function of the press to the music industry for this will come up in terms of solidifying acts, identifies with the public, which nothing else really does. If you look at delivery methods of radio or television, radio doesn’t do any of that whatsoever - it is essentially music and television does a bit, it shows you what they look like and a bit of what they act like but the only medium which gives you an apparent insight into how they think is print or text. It is informative for people to look at online journalism and see if there is a difference. I suppose it is quite possible to argue as part of this that just considering music journalism as a single phenomenon gives you some general factors that we’ve gone through but that as specialism has become more favoured in recent years, you can’t really talk about a function of music journalism to the industry - it is different. For example, the function of all or part of DJ Magazine is much more explicit and close to a trade magazine, more likely still, to do with whether or not to buy the records than even something in the same community like Mixmag. Of the mainstream dance magazines, if you contrasted Musik and DJ then their function to the music industry would not actually be identical. Musik is more glamorising, more broadly documentary and personality driven and mainstream and DJ is closer to trade, closer to the factual approach to record buying for their use as a tool to make money with. Certainly, I think it is interesting to talk about aspiration with this. There may be aspects of the urban sector or possibly rock magazines that show the same kind of things - that the readers of dance magazines weren’t going out raving a lot, they just wished they were. Don’t take it at face value, which can also apply to the second topic.





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