New CBMR Travel Grant Awarded
Rowan Oliver, Lecturer in Popular Music at the University of Hull in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Great Britain, has been named the spring 2014 recipient of the CBMR’s Travel to the Collections Grant. His project, titled “In Dub Conference: Empathy, Groove and Technology in Jamaican Reggae,” will make particular use of the Kenneth M. Bilby Oral History Collection on Foundations of Jamaican Popular Music, which consists of 142 audio cassettes containing 194 hours of in-depth interviews with 100 important Jamaican studio musicians, arrangers, and vocalists.
Oliver will explore the ways that groove is constructed in Jamaican reggae, focusing initially on the stylistically specific relationship between the drums and the bass (as well as other instruments in the ensemble) before broadening the scope to include the contribution of the producer, both when mixing a band recording session and, crucially, when creating a dub version of a pre-existing track (or “riddim”). Of particular interest to Oliver is whether performance practice amongst instrumentalists in the recording studio changed as the production techniques associated with dub developed. Essentially, the project will address two questions in relation to reggae. Firstly, did Jamaican drummers and bassists begin to play grooves differently in the early 1970s as they became more aware of what would constitute good raw material for a subsequent dub mix? And secondly, how did reggae producers participate in the construction of groove? Oliver considers timbre to be a significant factor in the way that groove is constructed in Afro-diasporic popular music, and that the way that timbre is prioritized in Jamaican conceptions of music is fundamental to the influence which reggae continues to exert on popular music worldwide. By exploring the relationship between the bassist, the drummer, and, crucially, the producer in dub reggae, the project will advance groove theory, incorporating rhythmic, sonic, and technological approaches simultaneously.
The goal of Oliver’s project is to produce two related publications: a proposed journal article and a book chapter titled “In Dub Conference: Empathy, Groove and Technology in Jamaican Reggae,” which has been accepted for inclusion in Music and Empathy, to be published by Ashgate in 2016.
Oliver, who is programme leader for the popular music degree at the University of Hull, also records and performs internationally as a multi-instrumentalist session musician and produces original music and remixes and composes for film.
CBMR travel grants of up to $1,000 are awarded on a competitive basis to applicants who demonstrate the ability to launch and complete a scholarly or performance-based research project that significantly utilizes holdings in the CBMR’s collections. The grants are supported with funds that have been given to the Center in honor of CBMR founder Samuel A. Floyd Jr. and in memory of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Scholars, composers, conductors, musicians, educators, graduate students, and independent researchers residing or attending school beyond commuting distance of the Center for Black Music Research (more than 100 miles) are eligible to apply for this grant. Researchers in all genres of black music are encouraged to apply.
Applications are accepted twice yearly and must be postmarked or received by September 1 and February 1. Additional information and application forms are available on the CBMR website.