A case for variation

Today, for the very first time, I gave a lecture to a large group (60+) of undergraduate students in music at the University of Salford.

The talk was based on “bits and bobs” of my research interests and the things I do these days (e.g., teaching on and leading the BSc in computer & video games course). I talked about freedoms of remixing, reusing, repurposing, recontextualising music, social media and music, the concept of “spreadable media”, peer-to-peer / crowd funding, open source tools and hacking, challenges emerging from this new age of web 2.0-enabled, sharable and spreadable, user-generated content production and consumption, and some emergent technologies I observed lately. Personally I thought the lecture was well-received, despite the interruption of the slow Uni PC and poor internet connection in the lecture room.

I have always thought that music bears much resemblance to software (or the other way round, since music appeared earlier than software) in that music scores or tunes, like software source code, can be codified, written, studied, modified, recorded, shared, distributed, played, performed. When I was finishing my PhD at the University of York, I co-authored an article with David Beer about the concepts of “hacking” and “music sharing”, titled “Is Hacking Illegal“, for the book Sarai Reader 05: Bare Acts. I wish I could have included the anecdotes from the era of Baroque music (e.g., Bach, Mozart) by drawing particular connections with the compositional practices at that time (composing variations, recycling and reusing tunes). This lecturing opportunity allowed me to put it right somehow, by making a case for variation.

Here are today’s slides, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


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