In The Middle Of A Dream: The Craft and Phenomenology of Songwriting
AuthorWakeling, James Leighton
AffiliationFine Arts and Music Collected Works
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 James Leighton Wakeling
In the Middle of a Dream Abstract, the count in One two three FOUR! The notion of 'song' is ubiquitous in Western culture but not much is known about songwriting which is odd considering how many songs have been written. At a formal level, songs and the way in which they are made are discussed infrequently. “While scholars and institutions have for some time studied and taught popular music from a socio-cultural perspective, a review of songwriting- process literature (C. Harrison, 2012d) reveals that popular, contemporary songwriting practice has not been widely researched academically...” How are the ideas generated? Do they arrive fully formed as if channelled from a higher place or are they conceived, written and assembled like other forms of creative endeavour? In fact, on a fundamental level are popular songs even actually written like the Lieder of Schumann or made from bits and pieces jammed in a recording studio? This project is a study of my practice as a songwriter. It has been pursued through the writing of a suite of songs and documented in a folio of notes, lead sheets and recordings, a live performance and accompanying dissertation. However, the recordings and performance are only to establish the fact that the writing took place for it is the writing of songs I have examined and not the making of records. In this regard I have diverged from the emerging scholarly discipline of the art of record production to focus primarily on the creation of the performable or recordable artefact. The recordings provided an end point to the writing process as well as documenting the finished works. References to the recording sessions note where changes to the compositions resulted and how the research was impacted. The songs were written with the sole intention of determining how they were written and not to create a stylistically or thematically unified whole. On the contrary my aim was to write as varied a selection of material as I could. It did not matter if the songs were any good or not. It didn’t matter if the recordings or the performances captured there on were proficient. Even studying the writing of a dreadful song would reveal a process worth avoiding. And the making of many a bad record has resulted in the occasional hit. In his book Song Writers on Song Writing4 Paul Zollo refers to three stages in the creation of a popular song, the writing, arranging and recording. I have focused solely on the first stage and from a songwriter’s ‘insider’ perspective. That being said there did develop a phenomenological and self-referential narrative as the writing proceeded and the study of the creative process tended to feedback into itself. At times this self-referencing considered the author’s autobiographical significance, the influence of the research on the research and interactions with participants. A reflective journal documenting the predetermined and accidental methods involved relates back to relevant popular and academic expositions. The following people have supported and helped me along the way and for that I thank them, Dr Robert Vincs for direction, advice and tastefully appropriate playing and Dr Tim Nikolsky for encouragement, organisation and great time. Gratitude also to the musicians who played on the recordings, Serge de Lucio, Margot Leighton, Anthony Barnhill and Daniel Berry and to Rohan Wallis for a finely tuned aesthetic. Particular appreciation for Niko Schauble’s input, he played on a couple, engineered some, mixed most and mastered all of the tracks with skill, generosity and good humour.
KeywordsSongwriting, Process, Creativity, Hypnogenic Reverie, Phenomenology, Auto-ethnographic, Melbourne, VCA, Melbourne Conservatorium, Clive Maxwell Harrison, Phillip McIntyre, Joe Bennett, Clarke E Moustakas, Paul Zollo.
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