Folio of compositions and productions with critical commentary

Williams, Steven Andrew (2017) Folio of compositions and productions with critical commentary. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This practical portfolio PhD presents a collection of my pop music compositions and productions, with an accompanying exegesis that examines my process whilst creating these tracks. The exegesis analyses the methods and techniques I use, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of my productions. This will in turn reveal my idiolect, which is the distinctive way an individual creates that produces their particular style (Middleton, 1990: 136, 174; Moore, 2012: 120, 166-7). This research also includes analyses of interesting, innovative and important moments or processes that draw on perspectives taken from theories of creativity, technology as well as the social aspects of creation and innovation. These theories are the systems approach to creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, 1999), and the Social Construction of Technology [SCOT] (Bijker, Hughes & Pinch, 1987, 2012). The focus of this thesis will be on understanding the detail of my creative practice. This exegesis consists of critical commentaries of four of the fifteen portfolio tracks, each in its own chapter. It is the intention that concentrating on just four tracks will enable a better understanding of the processes in question. Other portfolio tracks serve as further examples of the points made, or demonstrate alternatives where relevant. An autoethnographical approach is used as a methodology for the commentary chapters. This is in order to achieve a comprehension of my personal experience (Bochner and Ellis in Denzin, 2000: 736-9; Muncey, 2010: 26-33). The reader could then potentially ‘resonate with’ this experience and ‘reflect on it’ (Bochner and Ellis in Denzin, 2000: 753). Chapter 1 outlines the various roles I play when creating a pop music track, which include composer, producer, engineer, performer and collaborator. This chapter additionally explores my position as listener as well as the significance of the opinions of the audience. Chapter 2 focuses on composition and melody, including a discussion of intuition and invention. The vocal production techniques used in the creation of the featured track are explored as well as my approach to mixing. Chapter 3 centers on how my drum performances and the lead vocal parts were created, and edited for the portfolio track in question. It also outlines several models of collaboration that refer to the creation of this track. Chapter 4 discusses the frame of mind one draws upon whilst 6 creating pop music. It examines how I chose equipment for the production, the production techniques used, and the creation of timbre and texture. Chapter 5 examines the application of reverbs and effects, and also explores my approaches and attitudes, some philosophical, towards the perspective of the listener. The composition collaboration situation differs in each commentary chapter, including: sole composition for Chapter 2; equally shared composition between two collaborators in Chapter 3; three collaborators in Chapter 4, of which I have least compositional input; and two way collaboration in Chapter 5, where I have no compositional input. As a result of this study, a better understanding of my creative practice has been achieved, which includes further comprehension of my idiolect. This research has not only informed my recent composing and producing, but it is also likely that it will influence my future productions. Furthermore, it is hoped that the insights presented in this thesis could potentially serve as useful knowledge for others, with the prospect that they can approach their own productions with this knowledge in mind.

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