Doctoral Colloquium (Music): David Brackett (Schulich School of Music)


Strathcona Music Building C-201, 555 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA

The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.

Doctoral students (Music) for whom attendance is required must sign the attendance sheet at the colloquium.


Listening to Electric Miles: Collaboration and Creativity in the Jazz Recording Studio


This presentation considers a case study from the archive of modern recorded jazz—Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson (1971)—as a means to address the collaborative aesthetic, technical, and social dimensions of record production. The release of The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (2003) contains a number of alternate takes and “inserts” that were cut up and spliced together to create extended tracks on several albums by Davis released from 1971 to 1974. Drawing on recent work in popular music studies, ethnomusicology, and studies in the art of record production, I ask how this studio collaboration affects our notions of authorship and creativity in jazz. In other words, what is the relationship between the countless decisions in the studio and the sound that results? I will study studio practices and interactions in an integrated fashion, bringing together technological, practical, social, and creative/artistic components through a detailed consideration of the construction of a specific track from the album, “Yesternow.” The study of this little-discussed album by a canonical artist allows us to show how a specific approach to recording, as well as changes in recording technology, can be correlated with sonic and formal differences.

David Brackett is Professor of Music History and Musicology at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. His research focuses on popular music, jazz, and contemporary art music, and his publications include Interpreting Popular Music (Cambridge, 1995; repr. University of California, 2000), The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 2014), and Categorizing Sound: Genre in Twentieth-Century Popular Music (University of California, 2016); the latter won the Society for American Music’s annual Lowens Award for book of the year. His research has been funded by both the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) of the United States. Today’s talk is based on research undertaken as part of SSHRC grant titled “Collaborative Creativity: Sound Recording and Music Making,” a project undertaken with colleagues in the musicology and sound recording programs at the Schulich School of Music.