RMA Research Colloquia in Music

Royal Musical AssociationMusic hosts a series of colloquia on behalf of the Royal Musical Association featuring national and international guest speakers, along with staff and postgraduate students.

Change of venue for 2023 – All sessions take place in the ARC — Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre, 11 Chapel Lane, G11 6EW (see map).  All sessions are free and open to the public, a warm welcome is extended to all.


2022/23, semester 2 — Wednesdays at 5.15pm

Design element - an image of computer-generated spheres projected upon cloth.

Wed 25th January, ARC Studio 2
Professor Bethany Klein (University of Leeds)
On Popular Music, Promotional Culture and Public Policy.

Under the influence of promotional culture, public policies associated with popular music culture have re-positioned musicians as entrepreneurs and promoters rather than simply artists. In the United Kingdom, state-supported resources that musicians relied on to develop their art and careers – funding schemes for artists, art schools, and unemployment benefits (‘the dole’) – have undergone significant transformation or reduction. Public policies that previously granted musicians time and space to flourish have been replaced with promotion-oriented public policies, rendering the value of popular music in commercial terms and limiting entry to market-savvy contenders.

Wed 8th February, ARC Studio 2
Dr Gameli Tordzro — Artist in Residence of UNESCO Chair: Refugee Integration Through Languages and The Arts (RILA)
Tuning as Communication: Listening Interaction and adjusting tones and and other codes

During the setting up Ha Orchestra in 2014 in time for the Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival (Glasgow 2014) aside the challenge of time, the main concern in 2014 was how to make various musical instruments with different traditional tuning interact musically to achieve a desirable new sound that is attractive enough for the musician and the audiences to be engaged by the music. Part of this challenge was in how to resolve questions of tuning as all the musical instruments are fabricated traditionally in different keys. Resolving all the issue of tuning meant some interactive negotiation with and between the musicians to synchronise the tunings of their instruments. It also meant musicians interaction with other musician’s instruments to get used to how they sound alongside their own instruments.

Tuning fosters a different kind of interaction very important to music making and sheds light on human communication interaction negotiation and arriving at a compromise in agreement. The interaction between musicians, their instruments, and the music they make offers deep insights that can serve as a model for resolving difficult social issues. I reflect on tuning to discuss musicianship as citizenship with examples from how interaction and tuning occurs in Ha Orchestra. When musicians tune their instruments, many elements of interaction come into play that affect the musical experience and the development of each musician involved.

Wed 22nd February, ARC Studio 1
Dr Jenn Kirby (Goldsmiths, University of London)
The Body in Electronic Music Performance: a movement-led approach to instrument design

Movement and interaction in electronic music performance do not have the same restrictions or conventions to that of the performance of instrumental music. The designer of the electronic musical instrument considers what kind of interaction is possible and appropriate. However, the starting point need not be sound. In much of my work in designing instruments and performance systems, movement is my starting point. I begin by playing an imaginary instrument. Through the use of sensors and controllers I can capture and interpret the data of that movement. With this data, I consider what sonic gestures might corresponds to the data and visual gesture. This approach has led me to be more respectful of the performing body. Rather than restricting the body to produce certain data, the system can be adapted by reconfiguring gestures to correspond to more comfortable and intuitive movement for individual bodies. This results in a more embodied performance experience which aims to increase performer agency and strengthen audience reception.

This discussion will be supported with demonstrations.

Wed 8th March, ARC Studio 2
Dr Owen Coggins
I am the Supreme Elite Black Metal Definizator! – Antagonistic Individualism, Perpetual Conflict, and Extreme Ideology in Black Metal

This talk explores perpetual (and self-perpetuating) controversies in black metal about how it should be defined and its boundaries circumscribed, explores how such questions involve tensions between aggressive presentations of self-reliance and commitment to subcultural group identity, history and tradition. The chapter title quotes a black metal musician in an underground magazine interview, demonstrating explicitly how individualism, elitism and superiority combine in assertions about ‘what black metal is,’ while also showing implicitly how such interactions in ‘zines’ (and in other areas of the subculture) are collaboratively staged rhetorical spectacles of antagonistic individualism. Black metal recordings balance anxieties of influence with adherence to stark aesthetic genre conventions; social, gestural and bodily practices at live music events mediate between temporary instances of a collective black metal audience and each participant’s symbolic autonomy; and online discussion self-consciously and ambivalently frames such discussions as about membership of a black metal ‘cult.’ The talk discusses how assertions about the borders and foundational characteristics of black metal are constantly subject to aggressive contestation, with this inflammatory debate itself becoming a defining feature of the musical subculture, one which necessitates analysis in terms of the subcultural politics of (claims to) power and exclusion. Finally, the talk explores how this discursive antagonism might relate to the incendiary yet ambiguously noisy sounds of black metal, and in turn, to wider controversies in black metal about the music subculture’s purported links to esoteric fascist ideology. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at around fifty live black metal events 2019-2022, investigation of online discussions of black metal, extensive analysis of zine interviews, and the author’s own production of a black metal zine, the research is part of a post-doctoral project about ideological radicalisation and oppositional religion in black metal music. The topic of the talk is in development for a chapter in the resulting monograph Black Metal, Crisis and Controversy: Radical Ideology, Marginal Religion and Ambiguous Noise in Extreme Underground Music (Palgrave Macmillan ~2024).

Wed 22nd March, ARC Studio 2
Dr Brianna E Robertson-Kirkland (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland / University of Glasgow)
The Power of Singing for Health and Wellbeing: Scotland’s Singing for Health Network

Scotland’s Singing for Health Network (SSfHN), launched in March 2021, after being awarded a 2-year networking grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh to support a range of activities that would bring Singing for Health practitioners together with medical practitioners and researchers. The decision to form a network, which is run by Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and University of Glasgow) and Dr Sophie Boyd (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) emerged after the 2020 Spheres of Singing conference, where singing for health practitioners from across Scotland came to discuss and promote the power of singing for health. Many highlighted the frustration of working in isolation, with little access to up-to-date research, or even the opportunity to share their experiences with other practitioners working in the same field. Much of SSfHN’s activities is in response to these concerns, as well as forming connections and promoting existing singing for health projects in Scotland. Specifically, we have mapped Singing for Health groups in Scotland and have provided links to research evidencing the potential impacts singing can have on individuals, patients, service users, and singers. We hope that the map will be useful to those searching for a Singing for Health group in their area and to health professionals such as nurses, GPs, and link workers who might want to recommend a Singing for Health group. This work has led to much larger discussions regarding social prescription models and community referral programmes, and where singing for health fits into these initiatives. Evidence shows that singing, specifically singing in a group can benefit a person’s health, but can it be offered, in a formal way, as a form of social prescription? What training is offered to singing for health practitioners so that both they and the people they are working with are appropriately safeguarded? In this presentation, I will reflect on what SSfHN has achieved in the last two years and the key questions we are still investigating in relation to Singing for Health in Scotland.