Crossroads: new media vs artistic expression

Another blog post is necessary at the minute, as I have found myself at a serious trajectorial crossroads (you’ve got to love invented words). Last week in my media objects lab class, I prepared a ‘four sentence abstract’ for my thesis in an attempt to narrow down and more accurately guide my further research. While at the time, I thought I was truly on to a winner, a meeting with my supervisor today has led me to believe that maybe I was not. The abstract read like this:

In this study, I investigate the relationships between concept albums and new media technologies. The extra-musical communicative traits of concept albums are closely linked with the progression of media technologies, and have played a significant role in the medium’s development. I believe concept albums that utilise transmedia narratives could redefine the idea of ‘the album’ as a mode of artistic musical expression by adapting the traditional aesthetics of the physical concept album to exist in the digital age.

Upon reflection of my notes from our ‘Ceres presentation day’ last semester, and also a large portion of the work that I submitted in the first half of the year, I realised that the research path I was setting myself up for with my new ‘four sentence abstract’ was in fact rather contradictory to what I had been researching previously – arguably in a different discipline – and would cause me some headaches in the thesis-writing stage that I may be ill-equipped to relieve.

As a working musician with a keen ear (and eye) for concept albums, i feel like my thesis should spark ideas that I can utilize in my practice, share with both my musical and academic peers, and most of all, enjoy researching and writing about in great depth.

As I started to have reservations about the content I was dealing with and the path my work was headed (more about new media than concept albums), I realised that while I still had some time to revise and redevelop the context in which I approached my thesis, i should make the most of it.

I do like the newer four sentence abstract, as I have gradually evolved it over time in line with my broader research on new media, to read the way it does at the moment. However, my previous four sentence abstract and working hypothesis from Ceres are also appealing to me, as they are highly relevant to my discipline, and reflect my original ideas in their organic form.

The emergence of a convergence culture and its associated transmedia narrativity is indeed relevant to the place of concept albums in contemporary music, and ties in nicely with discussions of technological advancements in music and how they have influenced concept albums over time: however, as I discussed with my supervisor today, the concept album format’s strengths lie not just in its continued development alongside technology: but rather in the attributes it offers its artists: a large-scale, cohesive, musical mode of expression, which allows creativity and reflects the social and cultural contexts of its time.

As my assessors will be scholars from the arts/music discipline, it is important that I write appropriately for them. I feel that both of the abovementioned factors (technology and artistic expression) are important discussion areas, and can be linked together nicely with some drafting and experimentation. Deciding which element should pertain greater emphasis, however, remains a mystery.

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About simonwoodhonours

Simon Wood (Honours in Media and Communication) is an RMIT student whose specialist discipline is in the 'contemporary music industry'. For his honours study in 2013, Simon will be researching the ‘concept album’, and its significance within the contemporary music industry.
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