Event Title

Responsible Songwriting: Ethical Challenges in Collaborative Autoethnographic Composition

Location

King Building 321

Document Type

Event

Start Date

4-28-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 2:50 PM

Abstract

This thesis responds to and builds on the concept of documentary songwriting, a method first developed by composer Malcolm P. Brooks in his 2013 dissertation, Autoethnography of a Composer with a New Composing Method. In documentary songwriting, a composer works with a participant to craft a song out of spoken words. The participant (or “story source”) tells to the composer (or “musical guide”) a personal story, which the musical guide transcribes verbatim. The two songwriters then break up the text visually, pick out salient lines, and speak and sing through chosen lines and phrases to develop the elements of a song. The process must be sufficiently well defined so as to provide consistent direction, yet flexible enough to accommodate a vast array of story sources and situations, as well as the variety of songs it could potentially produce. This process raises a number of persistent questions. For instance, how can a musical guide ethically and accurately help a story source to represent their own story in a song? Or, more broadly, how can a guide optimize documentary songwriting sessions in terms of depth of material, excellence of craft, and fulfillment for the participant? Through a review of Brooks’ initial methodology, documentation of subsequent advances in the technique, and an examination of relevant literature, this study explores solutions to these problems.

Keywords:

songwriting, creativity, music, collaboration, ethics

Notes

Session I, Panel 3 - Artistic | Transformations
Moderator: Jan Cooper, John Charles Reid Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Composition

Major

Musical Studies

Advisor(s)

Jan Miyake, Music Theory

Project Mentor(s)

Ben Geyer, Music Theory

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Apr 28th, 1:30 PM Apr 28th, 2:50 PM

Responsible Songwriting: Ethical Challenges in Collaborative Autoethnographic Composition

King Building 321

This thesis responds to and builds on the concept of documentary songwriting, a method first developed by composer Malcolm P. Brooks in his 2013 dissertation, Autoethnography of a Composer with a New Composing Method. In documentary songwriting, a composer works with a participant to craft a song out of spoken words. The participant (or “story source”) tells to the composer (or “musical guide”) a personal story, which the musical guide transcribes verbatim. The two songwriters then break up the text visually, pick out salient lines, and speak and sing through chosen lines and phrases to develop the elements of a song. The process must be sufficiently well defined so as to provide consistent direction, yet flexible enough to accommodate a vast array of story sources and situations, as well as the variety of songs it could potentially produce. This process raises a number of persistent questions. For instance, how can a musical guide ethically and accurately help a story source to represent their own story in a song? Or, more broadly, how can a guide optimize documentary songwriting sessions in terms of depth of material, excellence of craft, and fulfillment for the participant? Through a review of Brooks’ initial methodology, documentation of subsequent advances in the technique, and an examination of relevant literature, this study explores solutions to these problems.