Final remarks

This dissertation has provided a perspective on my workings as a composer and producer when recording four albums. I have positioned myself within the specific field of popular musicology from an insider perspective, as part of an ever-evolving discourse within artistic research concerned with popular music. The compositional processes I have undertaken are manifested in the case-studies and timelines, as documented in the webpage with audio and video extracts.

The challenges and results of involving numerous musicians, artists, musical styles and cultural diversity has developed my sound signature. My input and experience as a pianist impact my arrangements, compositions and not least my role as a producer, as the sound signature is closely intertwined in the process of musicking these roles. Applying complex harmonies, in line with the philosophy from Kapstad and Evans, has been crucial for me when combining different genres and microtonalities. For example, reharmonization applied in connection with Arabic maqams.

 Several of the compositions from the latest album Dawara (Haaland, 2018) were performed in both versions, combining Western, Arabic and Southeast Asian instruments, although their scales and tuning were very different, e.g., “Silk Road” (Haaland, 2018), as demonstrated in the timelines. The years spent working with these cultures are internalized in my compositorial process insofar as adapting elements of traditional music. Arranging then becomes an extension of this process instead of trying to adapt or rearrange the music to fit in. In my view, this is an example of a global sound.

The vocalists performing on my albums write the lyrics and sing in their native language, connecting my compositions more deeply into each culture, beyond the confines of superficial exoticism (Taylor, 2007). Learning the languages has provided me with additional tools when collaborating and obtaining new cultural and musical knowledge.

Recording the two first albums in the studio provided me the time to reflect upon each adjustment, and then go back and change the arrangements, as well as redoing takes. During the early stages of the process, this was the preferred method as I needed time to find a musical direction. It was equally necessary to collaborate with musicians and artists in a more controlled setting where we could be free to experiment and explore. As I obtained a clearer vision of a musical path with more experience combining various musical traditions and genres, recording a live performance became the next step. With only one take, the challenge was to capture the energy and avoid mistakes. It is a collective responsibility on stage, in which every person is equally important. As sound engineer Mordal would insist, the energy and focus changes when musicians interact with the audience.

In concluding, this project is an example of entrepreneurship, including developing international networks and project management in addition to a considerable amount of logistics and travelling. A central ethical issue has been the balancing of information about the process and collaborators without breaking their trust. Admittedly, my subjectivity effects my perception, the validity of which is always questionable. As I have mentioned, the musicians and artists were remunerated and credited accordingly to international standards in the music industry, independent of cultural background. Because they were (and still are) highly sought-after musicians, prioritizing this project demonstrated an inner motivation and moreover a recognition of the music.

Could this dissertation have been done differently? Of course, I could have focused on one single culture, one album and explored the realms of either a studio or live production. Another perspective would have been to implement a more traditional dissertation by separating the reflective and artistic processes as artist-researcher (Crispin 2015). All in all, the present work is motivated by my own artistic field of interest, and to perceive this within the field of popular musicology and the expanding field within artistic research has been my central objective.

Presenting this dissertation in the form of a webpage enhances the accessibility of my research for the public, providing an opportunity to tailor the design. Moreover, through such a hybrid dissertation – which contains artistic research contextualized within popular musicology – it is my hope that this will contribute toward bridging the gap between these two different worlds of knowledge, and not least contribute to new knowledge within this expanding field. Having participated in this research field through my work, my final reflection is that there is a greater need to explore artistic research in interaction with popular musicology in the future.

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