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Researching the world of songwriting

Songwriting Studies - Research network

A new research network aims to create a field of study for all of those interested in songwriting.

The Songwriting Studies Research Network is a two-year Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded project which unites scholars, industry workers and practitioners in a forum for the exchange of ideas about songwriting.

It is led by Dr Simon Barber of Birmingham City University and Dr Mike Jones of University of Liverpool, UK.

“Our mission is to adopt a holistic approach to the community in order to obtain a better understanding of the scope of contexts and ways in which songwriting is useful, and to use these insights to create opportunities for new conversations, projects and publications,” says Dr Barber.

He invites everyone to join in, including songwriters, producers, publishers, historians, musicologists, copyright experts, music therapists and protest singers.

“If you care about your relationship to songs and songwriting, we want you to get involved,” says Dr Barber.

The Songwriting Studies Research Network will be 'launched' at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire & Eastside Jazz Club on 20 March 2019 with an event featuring a mix of papers, panels, conversation and performance focusing on contemporary songwriting practice and production.

KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall

Some of the highlights of the day include:

  • Ivor Novello-winning singer-songwriter KT Tunstall will join members of the Sodajerker songwriting podcast to record a live episode of the show.
  • Keynote speaker, Phillip McIntyre (University of Newcastle, Australia), will discuss songwriting as a form of cultural production based on themes from his book, The Creative System in Action: Understanding Cultural Production and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
  • Scholars, industry workers and practitioners will join a panel exploring the philosophies, approaches, techniques and tools that define contemporary songwriting practice and its relationship to technologies of production.

The idea for the network emerged from Dr Barber's lifelong interest in songwriting. He has been writing music since he was 14, and was in bands in and around Liverpool.

Through his academic research and work on the Sodajerker podcast interviewing world-renowned songwriters, including Paul McCartney and Diane Warren, Dr Barber became more aware of the broad community interested in songwriting and decided to do something to bring this disparate group closer together.

“There are a lot of people out there doing work on songwriting in their own way, in very diverse disciplines,” he says.

“Some are music therapists, some are in education, or are more interested in understanding creativity; others are focused on the industry, copyright and streaming. But there was nothing in place to bring them together under this common theme.

“I wanted to make the point that we are all working on a similar topic, and if we could create a field of study around songwriting, then we would have a rich, interdisciplinary field.

“And this has informed our programme of events, which will cover a broad range of topics, from industry practicalities, to the history and mediation of songwriting.

“We should then be able to better understand this emerging field and the diversity of its stakeholders.”

At the end of the two years the team will put together an edited volume that will act as a reader for the field.

“We hope to create a home for everyone interested in songwriting research, however tangentially, as professionals, academics or simply music fans,” says Dr Barber.

“It's hugely exciting and we already have a great group of influential, important voices committed to taking part.

“I'm hoping together we will develop something really special, including some things we haven't even thought of yet.”

More information about the launch event can be found via Eventbrite.

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