Reflections by Liz Dobson: 20 days of Electronic Music Production

The Huddersfield Go Compose electronic music production summer schools have run for two years over the summer in 2018 and 2019. The workshops were delivered by arts leaders from across the UK: Supriya Nagarajan, Jess Aslan, Vicky Clarke, Caro C, Angel Lee, Aiwan Obinyan, Mark Mynett, Ryoko Akama and Eleanor Cully, and they were designed to offer hands-on opportunities to explore a wide range of music practices. Group sizes were small (8-11 participants), supported by undergraduates and recently graduated music technology specialists Jo Kennedy, Ching Wu, Emma Varley and Caitlin White from The University of Huddersfield.

In 2018 participants explored:
-field recording,
-computer based music composition,
-electronics for controlling sound with light,
-Indian vocal music,
-composition,
-music analysis,
-and music composition practices inspired by Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop.

The 2019 summer school included:
-DJing,
-studio-based music production,
-individual composition,
-sound design,
-sonic art (soldering contact microphones, computer coding and working with sound in space)
-and electronics.

The 87 places were taken by 55 girls aged 11-16 years across the project. The project also included a collaboration with SELFA Girls Rock School; a Skipton-based charity set up to support young people living in challenging circumstances.

Yorkshire Sound Women Network is also delivering outreach workshops across 20 schools and community groups around Yorkshire, and creating two new music technology clubs for girls as part of its WIRED project, funded by Youth Music, ISME and Music for All:

Go Compose was generously supported by The University of Huddersfield which has provided access to equipment, space and technical support throughout the project. This type of project is highly dependent on supportive institutions that are willing to open up such facilities during the quieter summer months. Feedback demonstrated that these workshops made a real difference:

It’s made me think about getting into DJing more seriously, even finding a mentor for the music industry in general – DJing with Angel Lee

I now would like to take A level Music Technology! – DJing with Angel Lee

Now I know what I want to do when I grow up! – Electronic Music India”


Why girls?

Research has demonstrated that most people working in specifically music and audio production are men [1]:
– Georgina Born and Kyle Divine’s analysis of UCAS applications over 10 years showed that while there was an increase of 1400% in applications to music tech courses, 90% of them were from boys;
– A recent Annenberg report shows that only around 2% of producers are women
– female:pressure stats show that 75.4% of platformed artists are male and just 5% of Audio Engineering Society members are female;
– The same situation is captured in the Classical scene through Ashley Fure’s report GRID: Gender Research in Darmstadt;
– The Yorkshire Sound Women Network describe the regional situation in this film and flyer from the Yorkshire Sound Women Network.

Some of this data reflects the international situation, though it is a predominantly western perspective, and there is much still to learn about the global situation. Also various publications discuss the layered discriminations of race, sexuality and gender. This work includes Eckhardt and De Graeve’s publication Second Sound: Conversations on Gender and Music

The UK Creative Industries are comprised of many professions with an overall economic value of £101.5 billion in 2018 [2]. Music and audio professionals work in computer games, cinema, television, popular music, advertising, theatre, and software development (think about your smart phone), as well as less visible sectors that include audio systems development for medical treatment, science, education and engineering. We believe that social assumptions about masculinity and technology generally encourage more boys into these areas, that girls benefit from additional support, and fundamentally that they should have as much opportunity to imagine, invent, explore and develop our future.

All of those careers begin with skills and ideas that formed the basis of our Go Compose Electronic Music Production summer schools. Under the banner of music composition and performance we have been fostering new curiosity in: sound physics, audio electronics, computer coding, sound recording, studio based practices, soldering, as well as the various stages of music production, from DJing and arranging existing music on iPads, to building original material, then using industry standard digital audio software.

Usually when you promote a music technology activity there is a lot of interest from boys, and the level of female participation is not only low, but when they attend girls and women suddenly become a minority, and this places additional pressure on them as individuals. By establishing this series of workshops, we have provided 55 girls with an experience of music technology in 2019 alone. As this was a stand-alone project, that is 55 more than before, a 100% increase in music technology engagement.

Few things are more gratifying than the delighted, confident announcement ‘I know what I want to do now when I grow up!’ We have no specific expectations, but ultimately, we know how empowering and potentially life-changing these workshops can be. If you still need to be convinced just take a moment to watch this short film from a workshop we delivered in 2016.

Sources
[1] Born & Divine (2015)
[2] The UK Creative Industries are comprised of many professions with an overall economic value of £101.5 billion in 2018

Looking ahead and seeking further support
The bigger challenge is around how to support the girls’ interest in music after the project is over. All too often young people return to a vacuum, particularly due to cuts in primary and secondary music education. Yorkshire Sound Women Network would be delighted to hear from anyone motivated to fund a tutor/space/equipment, or to offer in kind support: email info@yorkshiresoundwomen.com

Who are these Yorkshire Sound Women?

Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN) was set up in 2015, to address this gender imbalance in audio and music technology professions. After sharing experiences of discrimination in professional, and informal spaces, as well as online, a core working group set about fundraising to secure a future for YSWN. Following an initial ACE grant application YSWN has developed a business plan with three core strands focusing on education, networking and professional support, and advocacy to industry. In 2018 YSWN became a Community Interest Company with three directors, appointing a Development Manager, and following subsequent funding, a Co-ordinator. YSWN is now delivering a large portfolio of projects, including:
-WIRED music tech clubs for girls in Leeds with Leeds Beckett University and Doncaster with Doncaster College
-A tour of outreach workshops delivered across 20 schools and community settings in Yorkshire to promote music technology and visibility of female pioneers delivered by Pam Hulme, also part of the WIRED project
-Three day-long Level Up! events supporting women across Yorkshire: including Level Up! in Music Production, Level Up! in Sound for Media, and Level Up! in Sound Engineering
-Establishing paid traineeships for women to get hands-on work experience with local music industry organisations
-Deliver YSWN Amplify, funded by an Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant, supporting three unique artistic projects to spread the reach of YSWN-affiliated groups across Yorkshire. These projects are enabling members of groups in Calderdale, Huddersfield and Sheffield to increase their music technology skills and develop artistically, while engaging new local participants and audiences.

For more information about YSWN projects you can read the 2018-19 report here.

To receive news about YSWN projects and activities you can join our mailing list here.

If you would like to support YSWN’s activities, offer a workshop, find out about joining our pool of paid associates, or simply send a cheery ‘high five’ to let us know you support our work, please email info@yorkshiresoundwomen.com

The University of Huddersfield was a key supporter in the start-up of YSWN, and has continued to provide access to rooms and facilities, and some human resources. Projects like this one need strong relationships with supportive organisations that do considerably more to foster inclusion and diversity.

The University has a large suite of professional standard audio facilities, excellent industry contacts and professional work placements, and it is home to a large community of postgraduate composers, coders, producers, engineers, musicologists and performers (see the Centre for Research in New Music, the Centre for Music, Culture and Identity, and the Fluid Corpus Manipulation Project. Music at Huddersfield has a well established international reputation for contemporary music which earned the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015.

Degree courses offered at Huddersfield include Popular Music, Music and Sound for Image, Creative Music Production, Music Technology and Audio Systems, Sound Engineering and Music Production, as well as Popular Music and the original degree in Music. Click here to find out more about Music Technology at Huddersfield and click here to find out more about the Music department and available courses.

The Go Compose Huddersfield Team
Dr Liz Dobson

This Electronic Music Production summer school was curated and managed overall by Dr Liz Dobson. Liz delivers undergraduate modules in computer music production, sonic arts, and sound design for media. She is also one of the founders and a director of the Yorkshire Sound Women Network, and her research is guided by her (education) PhD on the social psychology of collaborative creativity within music technology. You can contact Liz directly here: e.d.dobson@hud.ac.uk

Alexandra Richardson

Arts education specialist, artist and project manager Alexandra Richardson has provided a significant contribution to the delivery and success of this project. She previously worked as a Learning & Participation Officer building the music education programme for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. She is also a musician, DJ and radio producer under the moniker Alexa Kruger and performs regularly as one half of the duo Whirldfuzzz.

By Liz Dobson

A partnership project between Yorkshire Sound Women Network, Univesity of Huddersfield & Sound and Music

Sound and Music Sound and Music, University of Huddersfield, Yorkshire Sound Women Network