Daily Archives: August 14, 2020

Interview with Jade Bailey

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between Dr Erik Nyström, Admissions Tutor for the BSc in Music, Sound and Technology, and current BSc student Jade Bailey.

Erik Nyström: I’d like to welcome Jade Bailey for an interview. Jade is a second-year student on our BSc programme and – amongst many other things – a very talented sound designer and studio composer. Her recent piece ‘Conversations’ is linked here: https://soundcloud.com/user-659425751/conversations-by-jade-bailey

Jade, could you tell us a bit about what brought you to our BSc programme?

Jade Bailey: Hi Erik, thank you for inviting me to chat today! When I was applying for university I initially struggled with choosing a programme, I knew I wanted to study within music but was unsure whether to take a 100% sound design route or to study music more broadly. Upon attending multiple Open Days at City, I found that the BSc Music, Sound and Technology programme had everything I was looking for – featuring a wide range of practical and written modules whilst also offering sound design and composition as core modules, which was very important to me.

EN: Great, what kind of background experience in music or sound and technology did you have?

JB: Prior to studying at City I had only studied Music at GCSE Level, but I have always had a keen interest and passion for music having played piano from a young age. I had developed a strong interest in music technology, such as music production and sound design whilst studying for my A-Levels and began producing and composing my own music – which lead me to pursue a degree in Music Technology!

EN: That’s great, many of our incoming students have similar background experience,and have also no doubt been through the decision anxiety of what route to take in university. You mention the combination of practical and written modules, have you found it rewarding to be able to link theory and practice?

JB: Yes definitely! I’m a firm believer that you need an equal balance of theory and practice, especially on a course like Music Technology. It’s essential to learn the theory behind specific skills, such as within Studio Recording and Composition, in order to be able to put these ideas into practice effectively.

EN: I agree, and we try to link theory and practice as much as we can. Critical thinking and listening is also important for creativity. Which modules have you enjoyed the most so far?

JB: I’ve really enjoyed all of the modules I have taken so far, but my favourites have definitely been Sound Design and Studio Composition, as these modules do a great job of merging theory with creative practice and allow a lot freedom in terms of creative expression. Another of my favourite modules has been Electronic Dance Music, which taught the origins of EDM in Techno and House music and culminated in a field trip to Fabric which was fantastic!

EN: Yes, the field trip to Fabric is a favourite for many I think. I’ve never been there daytime! 🙂 You’ve certainly done well in sound design and studio composition, are these interests that you are hoping to pursue in your future as well?

JB: Absolutely! The Sound Design and Studio Composition modules have definitely helped me find ‘my sound’, so to speak. Before joining City I had never encountered electroacoustic composition as studied within Studio Composition – and now it is my favourite part of university study! This is a prime example of the wide range of knowledge and sound practices I have been introduced to on the BSc programme, and has definitely been one of the most rewarding parts of my degree so far!

EN: That’s great, and electroacoustic music is something that City has been doing since 1975, so we should be a good place for that! You mention your ‘sound’ could you tell us a bit about what techniques and software you like to use in your work?

JB: Of course! I primarily use Logic Pro X when composing, as it is the DAW I am most familiar with. Whenever I am composing I like to go on sound walks as well as use field recording techniques to gather sound material, as I don’t use samples in any of my works. To do this, I use my Tascam DR-05X which I have found perfect for field recording as it is so light and portable! In terms of techniques, I often take elements of what I have learnt whilst studying sound design on board when I am composing as this definitely helps widen the range of sound material I can gather. For example, one my recent pieces ‘Enniscrone’ uses the sound of my hands on my bedroom carpet to mimic the sound of ocean waves!

EN: Wow, that’s great, I had no idea, it’s really quite mind-blowing how deceptive sound can be! For readers, Enniscrone can be heard in the linked here: https://soundcloud.com/user-659425751/enniscrone-by-jade-bailey. I remember you made a very impressive sound design piece with granular synthesis as well in year 1. What are you planning to do for your Major Project in the final year?

JB: My Major Project in Composition will be based on the concept of “The Musicality of the Mundane”, in which I am planning to undertake extensive critical listening and field/studio recording sessions in order to unveil the musical qualities (such as pitched/rhythmic/sonic qualities) that everyday, non-musical objects possess. I am also planning to present these findings in a series of hyper-real electroacoustic compositions.

EN: That’s very interesting. Were you always drawn to the hidden musicality in everyday sounds or is that something that you’ve discovered more during your studies?

JB: I would say this is something I have discovered since joining City, more specifically since joining City University Experimental Ensemble. Without sounding overly-dramatic, this ensemble has definitely changed the way I hear and appreciate sound. Since joining CUEE I have frequently found myself paying closer attention to the sounds around me than I had prior to joining the ensemble. Also, within the composition modules I have studied we are often asked to consider the bridge between sound and music, and how the two concepts are different. This method of teaching, coupled with my newfound appreciation of sound has certainly inspired the concept for my Major Project.

EN: I see, that makes sense. Do you have any advice for incoming students?

JB: My main piece of advice would be to get as involved in the music department as you can, whether this be in the form music-making with other students, attending the various extra-curricular activities and events taking place in the department, or volunteering to help out at a department event. One of the first things I noticed when I joined City was the strong sense of community within the music department. Everybody knows everyone, regardless of your year of study and whether you study the BSc or the BMus – so make sure to get as involved as possible!!

EN: That’s really good advice, Jade. We do place a lot of value in community and there is a really wide range of interests among students in the department. Thanks so much for your time Jade, and sharing so many insightful views!

JB: No problem! Thank you so much for having me!!

EN: Thanks Jade, and I wish you a great experience in year three!


Interview with Toby Edwards

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Toby Edwards.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Toby Edwards. Toby graduated from City in 2018, since which time he has been working on a series of music projects, one a band with Felipe Airey-Franco and Tom Overton, who graduated the same year as him, the other an experimental free improvisation collective he co-founded with Jamie Turner who graduated from City the year before, all while working out what was to come next which will be a masters’ at Goldsmiths starting this term coming.

Toby, welcome back. Your time at City was somewhat more recent than with some others who have been interviewed, and so I imagine many things still remain quite fresh and vivid – what are your abiding memories from your study with us?

Toby Edwards: What’s stayed with me the most from my time at City is certainly the modules and lectures, which is all thanks to lecturers, including yourself! I think it would be difficult not to vouch for the quality of teaching and teachers at City, they are all so passionate, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about their subjects and clearly very happy to be teaching them! The breadth of learning you can give yourself with your module choices at City is something to be envied, take advantage of this!

I remember speaking to friends on other courses at other universities and they’d often say that their lectures are boring and they often not bother to go, but for me that was never once a thought – I consistently found myself gaining so much from the teaching at City that lectures were something to look forward too, even when waking up early!

Special mentions to the Christmas Cabaret and also to the City University Experimental Ensemble, it introduced a completely new manner of playing music to me, as well as being an all around fun, meditative, relaxing, invigorating ensemble to be in! I’ll forever be thankful to Tullis for it. (You can even spot me in the banner photo above during a CUEE rehearsal).

IP:  What were amongst your early musical interests before beginning undergraduate study?

TE: Before joining the course at City I had actually done my first year of study at the University of Kent, I was unsatisfied with the course there and looked into the possibility of transferring and City were happy to take me.

Before I went to university at all, I was interested in, but not exceptionally knowledgeable of, soul, jazz and classical, as a listener of all three and performer of soul and jazz. A fan of learning James Jamerson basslines, learning more about playing jazz, listening to Shostakovitch, but of course going to a university to study music busted this right open. I was rapidly introduced to a far greater variety of music than I had ever been before and my interests developed, deepened, and I wanted to learn more about more. Part of my reason for leaving Kent in favour of City was the lack of variety in Kent’s module choices at the time, which City provided to me more than amply.

IP: Which modules did you take at City?

TE: In my second year I did the core module Analysing Music, then my choices were: Instrumental and Vocal Composition, Music Traditions of the Far East (which I was lucky enough to be on during Prof. Steve Stanton’s final year of teaching), Historical Performance Practice, Music, Fascism and Communism; and Popular Music Now.

In my final year I chose to do two major projects, a Dissertation on Debussy’s relationship with Japanese art and his music, and a Composition portfolio which explored indeterminacy in composition and performance. My chosen modules were: Debussy, Orchestral and Instrumental Studies, and Electronic Dance Music.

IP: I remember your dissertation on Debussy and Japanese art well! What attracted you to that sort of area in particular?

TE: The Music Traditions of the Far East module had introduced me to the Japanese art traditions and philosophies the year before, which continue to be a love of mine today (I have an Utamaro print from the early 20th century on my wall above me as I type!)

I can’t remember when exactly I saw them, but I came across a series of photos of Debussy and Stravinsky in one of Debussy’s studies, in one of these photos (which I’ve attached), you can clearly see two ukiyo-e prints: a copy of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa, and a portrait of a woman I couldn’t identify. Seeing this led me to read about Japonisme, the Parisian centred fascination of Japanese art and culture in the mid to late 19th century. Japanese art was well loved, well collected, and influencing visual art significantly. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, and many other impressionists and turn of the century artists collected, praised and in some cases, directly included their ukiyo-e prints in their work.

Debussy was the same – the cover of the orchestral score for his orchestral work La Mer was an abridged copy of The Great Wave and a set of three piano works entitled Estampes, referring to ukiyo-e prints are the direct evidence of his inclusion of Japanese art in his work, I wanted to see if the connection went further than titles and front covers, so I went ahead and started reading, and some time later, I’d finished a dissertation about it!

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IP: Tell me some more about your experimental free improvisational work, and how that developed with your City colleagues?

TE:  I joined the City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE) in my second year, I had never freely improvised before, but Tullis Rennie is excellent at getting everyone into the right mindset for it and introducing the mode of playing to the ensemble. it didn’t take very long for me to fall in love with free improvisation, which is surely thanks to all the work Tullis does for CUEE, and all my peers in the ensemble too – ensembles are great for learning and socialising!

Tullis gave us excellent opportunities to perform, with the annual CUEE performance at Iklectik near Waterloo and performances during the rest of the year as part of City’s concert series. We worked with a variety of composers for performances, such as Cath Roberts, Sam Andreae and Michael Finnissy.

It’s in the ensemble that I became friends with Jamie, who after graduating would go on to study a Sound Art masters at LCC. For his masters’ exhibition he wanted to have a live performance of his work: a book of haikus which he composed for music making, for which I was recruited. It was there I met the rest of what would become the collective Subphonics. In my experience the process of working on improvisational is very different from working in any other genre: a much more iterative process, with lots and lots of thought and discussion between playing sessions as you’re not working from scores, or typically from anything that is particularly musically prescriptive. We’ve improvised using sections of books by Zamyatin and Woolf, from how we felt on a very hot day, from using an old English folk song, often one of us may just start playing then we go from there. I find it such a joy to work in such a creative and group-focused manner and wholeheartedly recommend free improvisation and CUEE.

IP: Toby, thanks very much for your time and fascinating thoughts! Do you have any links relating to your work or anything else which interests you, which you would like to share?

TE: Subphonics has just released its first sort-of release: a collage of out recordings from our first year and a bit together as a collective, which I think well demonstrates what I’ve said about the joys of free improvisation and can be found here:


Thanks Ian!

Interview with Siân Dicker

This interview took place online on 134 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Siân Dicker.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Siân Dicker. Siân graduated from City in 2014 and went on to complete a Masters in vocal studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, before heading into their world-renowned 2 year opera course. Siân has won various prizes since leaving City, including the Llangollen Eisteddfod International Voice of the Future, the Royal Overseas League singers prize and is currently an ambassador of song for Oxford Lieder 2020. She’s currently looking forward to singing in Garsington Opera’s semi-staged production of Beethoven’s Fidelio taking place in September.

Sian, great to see you again! You’ve gone on to do a lot of very impressive things since finishing at City. How much did you envisage in this respect during your time with us?

Siân Dicker: Morning Ian, and morning everyone! Great to be here thanks for inviting me to chat. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities since leaving City but they mostly stemmed from the connections I made whilst I was at City; most notably my singing teacher Marie Vassiliou who I studied with whilst at City and who is still my teacher now. I knew I wanted to be a singer when I was at City but I most certainly didn’t envisage that I would go on to study at Guildhall or embark on the career that I have. I often feel like it’s been a case of being in the right place at the right time, but the performance opportunities I had at City certainly set me on the right path and kick started those contacts and connections. Notably, Guildhall connections through Marie and others but also ensembles which shaped my singing experience whilst at City including the chamber choir, the opera ensemble which we ran as a student-led project for a while and also performance opportunities with yourself, Ian – wonderful memories of Charroux! I always hoped I would have the opportunity to make a career as a singer but realised nothing was ever certain, but these experiences gave me a huge boost in terms of confidence and putting myself and my name out there.

IP: How did you find what you were doing as a singer while at City related to the rest of the course?

SD: For me, my singing experiences and the modules I was taking became entirely integrated. Some of this was expected – I took 19th century opera, performance, Historical performance practice, Investigating Western Music and many other modules that were directly related to the music I was singing and they informed my approach and my relationship with that music, its text and its history. Other modules/ensembles I took also had a huge impact on my singing but in a way that I had never anticipated it expected, notably African Drumming and the musicianship aspect that came along with that – even though I was a viola player and had played in orchestras, rhythm and readying rhythm were aspects of my own musicianship that I had always struggled with. At some point in the first couple of terms doing African drumming, it all just clicked into place and I could suddenly read rhythms that would have thrown me completely beforehand. It has really opened up a whole new aspect of performance for me because I now have a thriving relationship with singing new music; something I would have completely avoided beforehand. It’s given me access to a whole genre I wouldn’t previously have felt able to approach with confidence.

IP: What were some of your primary musical interests before you started at City?

SD: Singing and opera of course, and I have always been a big Wagner fan – this continued to develop during my time at City and I had a great time writing my third year major project on the Act 3 love duet in Siegfried with supervision from Alexander Lingas!

But I also had some interest in music education and this was something that was really nurtured whilst I was at City. I took the Professional Studies module and did a work placement with a music education charity, Sound Connections. This relationship grew beyond my time at City and I worked for them before embarking upon my studies at Guildhall – I still have strong connections with the music education world (particularly with Live Music Now for whom I deliver interactive performances in care homes and SEND schools) and this absolutely started with the connection made through that module at City.

IP: Do you think musicians in general should have some involvement with educational work?

SD: I think it’s a great way to see a direct impact of the work you’re doing – you get to see in a much more immediate way how your work is benefitting others. For me it’s about feeling and reminding myself that my work and my singing isn’t for me – it’s easy to get stuck in a practice room and ask yourself who it is you’re actually benefitting by practicing scales and runs for hours on end! I feel like if you’re just an artist for your own personal enjoyment then that’s great, but if you want to create a career for yourself then it can often lead to a lot of self-criticism and doubt. Art and music are for sharing and educational output is one of the most rewarding ways to do that. Educational work also doesn’t have to mean 1-1 teaching – I’m terrible at that and am much more confident and comfortable leading a workshop and/or creating an interactive performance for people to share in!

On a practical level I think it’s rare these days that professional musicians have a career solely set in performance, it’s not sustainable and so being involved in education work is a great way to share your artistry, pay the bills and most importantly soak up those experiences and learn from those you’re working with.

IP: I remember your taking a big interest in various philosophical writings from the nineteenth century, including Schopenhauer, some of Wagner’s writings, and so on. Do these remain an interest, or other musicological matters?

SD: Absolutely! Philosophical writings from Schopenhauer and Wagner’s relationship to those had a huge impact on my approach to his music, both as a listener and a performer. Last year I actually performed Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and explored a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ approach through song (of course Wagner’s thoughts on this were centred around opera). I engaged an actor, a visual artist and a gallery space and we created a piece where we all (myself a pianist included) created a piece in response to Wagner’s music and also letters he wrote to Mathilde Wesendock. The primary focus and drive behind this was to create a more accessible performance of the music and make it easier to share with a more diverse audience. Wagner’s music can often appear difficult to engage with and so we used his own concepts and ideas with cross-arts collaboration to try and create a more inclusive space to share his work. I’d love to do this again soon!

IP: Obviously, as a prodigious performer, you could have chosen to go to university or to conservatoire. What made you opt for the former?

SD: As a young singer with a bigger voice, I needed more time to develop vocally and technically, university provided me with the opportunity to develop not only as a singer but as a full rounded musician and musicologist . The opportunity to dip your toe into the world of musicology is an experience that is unique to studying music at university. The opportunity to study a diverse range of modules alongside of performance studies appealed to me greatly and wouldn’t have been as readily available if I had studied my undergraduate at a conservatoire. Exploring a culturally diverse range of music and modules has had a lasting impact on me as a performer and leaving with a degree from university has opened doors for me, not only in the performance world but other sectors also. This was important to me when I was applying to study.

IP: Could you give me any further examples of anything you have sung for which your musicological training impacted upon you sang it?

SD: I mentioned how I very much took a musicological approach in my performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder last year. So I suppose that’s the most specific example, but I always do musicological research around any music (especially opera) that I’m approaching and particularly enjoy educating myself on the relationships between composers, librettists and their lives at that time. This can only ever enhance your understanding of the character you’re playing.

IP: What would you advise to young people thinking of pursuing music in higher education?

SD: I think my main price of advice would be to push yourself to explore genres and areas of music that are out of your comfort zone and that you might not have previously considered. They could have a huge impact on how you approach your own work and for me personally that’s one of the things I gained most at City. It was unexpected but pushing myself to explore the diverse range of options available at City had a huge impact on myself as an artist and my professional development when leaving university.

IP:  Sian, thanks so much for doing this interview. Would you share some links for those who want to hear you perform?

SD: Thanks for having me! Can’t recommend City highly enough and am very proud to be an alumna. You can find all info and links to some performances on my website:


Thanks Ian, it’s been great to reconnect!

Interview with Alex de Lacey

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This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Alex de Lacey.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Alex de Lacey for the second interview today. Alex graduated from the City BMus in 2014, and from the MA in 2015. He is now a Lecturer in Popular Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Alex’s research examines Afrodiasporic music practice in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on grime. He completed his PhD, entitled Level Up: Live Performance and Collective Creativity in Grime Music, under the supervision of Professor Tom Perchard and Professor Keith Negus earlier this year, has published with Global Hip-Hop Studies and has chapters forthcoming in Popular Music History, and Critical Digital Pedagogy. Alex is a journalist, and writes for Complex, Red Bull, and Songlines. He is the DJ for grime crew Over The Edge, with a monthly show on Mode FM.

Alex, welcome! You are very active in musicological fields relating to popular musics today. Does this have any roots in your study at City?

Alex de Lacey: Hi Ian – yes, it definitely does. I spent a lot of time at City studying jazz and popular forms, and my undergraduate dissertation examined grime music, which has since led onto my Masters and PhD research. The grounding in popular practice with Miguel Mera worked well alongside practical application in a variety of ensembles. The UG degree also offered broad horizons, with modules on music from the Middle East, Japan, Korea and China, and this helped me hone in on the ethnographic aspects of my later research.

IP: I’d be really interested to know more about the latter, and the relationship between your current work and study of Asian musics?

AdL: While my research now doesn’t directly overlap in terms of the music itself, a dedicated and considered approach to (what was at the time for me) unfamiliar practice has helped strengthen the way I conduct ethnography.

Nonetheless, there is, though, an interesting relationship between grime music and music from East Asia. Grime artists often employ exoticized compositional tropes that supposedly infer a “Far Eastern” sensibility. This often boils down to pentatonic scales, shakhuachi flutes, and the use of vocal samples from Manga and Karate films (which is quite reductive and problematic in many ways). The subcategory of “Sinogrime”, for example, is often contested regarding this and I wrote briefly about this in my PhD. There is definitely scope for further research here.

IP: What drew you to City in particular when you were looking at places to study?

AdL:  I was really in two minds before joining City. I couldn’t decide between it and another institution. But on the open day I had a really warm, frank and enlivening discussion with Professor Steve Stanton. His passion for the course, and for students, was so encouraging, and I feel that was also reflected in the department as a whole when I joined that September.

Outside of that conversation, it was definitely the opportunity to have Guildhall tuition alongside my academic study, and the range of ensembles on offer. I worked with Maria Camahort for a year on classical guitar, and studied musicianship with Laurie Blundell and Barak Schmool. These experiences provided me with a strong ear and skills in musicianship that have proven invaluable in my creative practice.

IP: What might you say to an 18-year old today thinking about studying music in higher education?

AdL: While it’s an uncertain time, I’d still highly recommend studying music. The varying skillsets developed within a music degree, through performing, composing, and musicological work, are vast. This means that you’ll be learning new things every day in a rich and exciting environment, and it’s also very attractive for employers. Music teaches you to work as a team, helps enliven the creative mind, and also encourages critical thinking on a range of issues (be they sociocultural, with respect to music theory, or otherwise).

I was initially studying an UG Degree in Mathematics at Durham, but moved to City to study music after the first year, because I was studying something I felt I should be studying, rather than what I actually wanted to do. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

IP: Alex, many thanks for your time. Do you have any links to your work, or other things in which you are interested, which you would like to share?

AdL: I have recently published a paper with Global Hip Hop Studies on Australian grime practice. It’s open access, and available here: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/…/0000…/00000001/art00007

My twitter handle is @delaceymusic.

Thanks Ian!