Schulich professors receive SSHRC Insight Grants


Published: 21Aug2018

Congratulations to several of our professors who recently received Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grants to fund a wide variety of fascinating research projects!

According to the SSHRC, the Insight program was established with the goal to “support and foster excellence in social sciences and humanities research intended to deepen, widen and increase our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as to inform the search for solutions to societal challenges.”

We’ve compiled a list below of summaries of our faculty member’s SSHRC-funded projects.

Composing timbre in contemporary music
Applicant: Robert Hasegawa
Co-applicant: Stephen McAdams

Since the emergence of the modern orchestra in the 18th century, musicians have literally "com-posed" (placed together) different timbres to create new blends and textures.Our research project focuses on the further development of "composing timbre" in contemporary music since 1990, focusing on two main approaches to combining timbres: spectralist and sonorist.Through collaboration of a music theorist (Hasegawa) and music psychologist (McAdams), we will develop new analytical concepts based on cognitive principles of aural perception. Our objectives are to explore (1) composers' concepts of timbral organization, (2) how timbral combinations create musical form in specific works, and (3) the cognitive principles underlying the perception of timbre aggregates in music.

Collaborative creativity: Sound recording and music making
Applicant: Lisa Barg
Co-applicants: David Brackett, Richard King

A fascination for what transpires in recording studios has manifested itself recently in a range of popular and academic media. From the hit television series Empire to a plethora of film documentaries on individual studios, producers, and behind-the-scenes figures, images of the recording studio dramatize scenes of creative collaboration, technical wizardry, and personal intrigue. This mix of collaborative, technological, and social elements has also generated intense interest in the academic community, as witnessed in a spate of recent monographs, edited volumes, newly-founded journals, and conferences.

Taking collaborative creativity in the recording studio as a focal point, the proposed program of research addresses some of the most compelling and daunting questions facing music scholars: How does collaboration affect our notions of authorship and of creativity? How does technology influence the decisions musicians, producers, and engineers make in the act of production? What is the relationship between the countless decisions and interactions in the studio and the sound that results? In seeking to answer these questions, our project will generate new models for understanding studio recording activity and, more broadly, the complex collaborative aesthetic, technical, and social dimensions of musical production. We will study studio practices in an integrated fashion, bringing together what are often viewed as separate components of studio work: the technological, the practical, the social, and the creative/artistic. Indeed, the recording studio presents itself as the ideal site for exploring how artistic practices, social practices, and material objects are intimately implicated with one another.

Our project will not only focus on creative collaboration in studio work but will involve the collaboration of scholars and practitioners with different competencies. Specifically, this project features seven scholar-practitioners with complementary areas of expertise that will enable a unique interdisciplinary approach to the challenges of studying the recording studio as a site of collaboration, one that will produce new knowledge about how technology, social identity, and individual musical texts are connected. Although our project prioritizes collaboration and music making in traditional studio environments, our analyses proceed from a model that positions traditional studio practices within a continuum of practices that includes the network studio, the project studio, and home studios.

As well, our approach to analyzing issues of collaboration attends to the ways in which studio work addresses an imagined audience; how, for example, even small adjustments in musical style and recording ambience are often responses to how and to whom a recording will be marketed. We also will attend to how power relations in the studio and the roles performed by individuals refract how actors understand their participation in broader social formations or identities.

Our methodology will combine ethnography, historical study, discourse analysis, and music analysis with a broad range of theoretical perspectives. The interdisciplinary orientation of the research should interest scholars working in a cross-section of music studies, including popular music, jazz, contemporary art music, twentieth-century popular or mass culture, sound studies, and science and technology studies. The project will result in a wide range of co-authored conference presentations and articles, as well as a culminating co-authored book, and a co-edited volume. This project will also inform our individual research projects, the collaborative work we undertake with others, and our work with students.

Towards an immersive interactive music listening experience: Auditory design, techniques and methods for recreating the three-dimensional immersive presence of recorded musical performances
Applicant: Richard King
Co-applicant: Wieslaw Woszczyk

The recorded sound forms mental images that carry the auditory scenes and musical narration. Auditory design in sound recording provides the knowledge of how musical sound is structured and perceived via specific auditory scenes and objects. The proposed research program will systematically uncover the rules for creating a compelling impression of “being there” for the listener using loudspeakers or headphones.

A team of two researchers from McGill University will embark on a comprehensive program to develop a methodology for overcoming aesthetic, technical, and perceptual limitations in experiencing a recorded performance. Over the last decade, their laboratory has produced a number of experimental recordings of three-dimensional acoustic music, and the team has spearheaded the development of tools for immersive audio production including music performance in virtual acoustics. This research team will deliver solutions for achieving a previously unmatched listening experience with life-like presence in immersive music recordings projected in a 3D space.

The research will also focus on personalized interactive control of a listener’s immersion in recorded orchestral and architectural perspectives, creating an engaging relationship between listener and performer, and will become a model of musical exploration for the future. Technology will help transform the traditional experience of music listening into a fresh encounter. Specific research focused on immersive listening over headphones will combine an enhanced musical enjoyment with portability.The online exchange established by the researchers will enhance cross-cultural links and 3D music collaborations.

New infrastructure is being developed for 3D immersive audio research and production within the McGill Sound Recording Studios and the CIRMMT Research Centre. In 2018, two new laboratories will come on line in the Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, providing unprecedented infrastructure for 3D research in music, unmatched by any other facility worldwide. The applicants will put this new infrastructure into the service of music.

Resurrecting the Messiah: Development, evaluation and performance of a virtual acoustic replica of Stradivari’s Messiah violin
Applicant: Gary Scavone
Co-applicant: Mark Fewer

The 1716 Messiah Stradivarius violin is considered by many to be the most valuable musical instrument in the world because of its "like-new" state. However, the instrument resides in a museum in Oxford, England and has rarely been played or heard because of its fragile physical condition. In 2016, for a three-day exposition celebrating the 300th anniversary of its construction, the instrument was transported (with security escort) to the Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy. Based on their internationally recognized expertise in violin acoustics research, Drs. Scavone and Maestre from McGill University were invited to conduct, for the first time in history, a set of non-invasive measurements of the violin's vibrational and acoustic properties for one hour during that event. The aim of this research-creation program is to apply new technologies to "resurrect" the sound of the Messiah violin using this measurement data, such that it can be virtually played in concert with a commercial silent electric violin. During the last year of the project, the virtual acoustic instrument will be performed by violinist Prof. Mark Fewer to produce the first-ever studio album and public concert featuring the virtual Messiah.

To view the complete list of SSHRC Insight Grant recipients, visit the SSHRC website.