MA in Music, Culture, and Communication: Dissertation!

Right now, this is what I do in my life (not the only thing, but one of the most important things). I’m trying to write my graduate dissertation. Not that I haven’t done this before (note: I’ve completed another master’s course, at UCL, Material and Visual Culture. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong; i graduated but I expected more by myself at a time that I was not ready.) and know how it is. I really know exactly how it is. But this time, there’s a strict time limit.

I have to finish my dissertation in 10 weeks starting today. I have done some planning and reading, I’m happy with my supervisor DC, I’m ready to start! But how?

I’m almost 26 and from what I’ve learnt so far, I’m a program person. This means that I believe this online personal diary will help me improve my work in 10 weeks. I’m just going to keep my thoughts and try to do what I promise to do without losing my focus. I will do this. Yay.

So, first things first. My subject this far is “Toy music: circuit bending”. I don’t know many people that will understand what this is about, so I’m going to make a brief explanation. Toy music is a genre and it is characterised by its musical instruments: sound toys which have been modified and re-born as musical instruments. There is a specific technique called circuit bending, which is used in order to do so. What you have to do is take any sound toy, .e.g. Speak and Spell, open it and face its electronic circuit. Then, by pressing its components, or by removing and adding others, sound frequencies change. By changing the frequencies, the tone is changing and thus, there are different tones which are produced. All these toys have specific interfaces: buttons, keys, modulations, switches. With these one can manipulate the musical instrument whilst producing and organising the sounds into music.

Now, a quite significant notion of this musical experiment, is noise. But this will be analysed furthermore later.

I plan to write a 18000 word dissertation on this subject. This is not quite easy as there aren’t many books about it. But there’s a way: the consumption of music is a neglected area. When I say ‘consumption’ I refer to any sort of consummation of the popular music technology: from a composer that needs a computer, software, music instruments, audio interfaces, to the listener who has to obtain a musical medium in order to listen to music, technology has become a necessity. In this post-capitalist environment circuit bending seems like a way to understand music consumption differently. By deconstructing a used toy someone constructs a musical instrument which embodies so many personal meanings: from the personification of sound, to the memories that such a machine may cause.

Circuit bending is so important because it entails notions of experimental music in relation to popular music, exploration of sound, consumption of recycled materials, changing materialities, memory and experience, practice and performance, production and consumption. I believe that customised musical instruments are a key term for the relation of material culture and musicology, but circuit bending is something more: it provides an active and organised community of musicians, which can be researched as a field.

As you understand, it’s quite hard to write a dissertation about circuit bending in 10 weeks. I believe it’s doable though.

Plan: by tomorrow I must have finished my time schedule, arranged a meeting with the supervisor, known as DC, and started making notes on the first chapter (literature review).

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One thought on “MA in Music, Culture, and Communication: Dissertation!

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