A local collaboration teaming researchers from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University with the Urban Music Foundation finished on a high note with an immersive sound and art installation at Oxford’s Old Fire Station.
The well-received Epoch: Human Innovation and Response exhibition took audiences on a journey through history and Hip Hop, exploring the cultural and technological influences on the signature sounds of five eras.
Five original Hip Hop tracks were produced for the recent exhibition, each influenced by equipment and production techniques of the period – from the RCA ribbon mic synonymous with 1950s rock n roll to the synth sounds and sampling techniques of the 1980s, through to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the composition of lyrics.
Oxford-based Hip Hop artist Rawz, Founder of the Urban Music Foundation said: "It's been such an amazing experience developing this project, bringing it all together and now sharing it with everyone at the Old Fire Station... the feedback has been wonderful."
Last year, the Urban Music Foundation began working with Oxford researchers to explore the relationship between music, science and technology and inform the development of a soundscape for the installation, as part of the first Science Together programme.
At first impression, the worlds of literature, engineering and immunology seem to have little in common, but the interdisciplinary research team that worked with Rawz, including Professor David De Roure, (Oxford e-Research Centre, Department of Engineering Science) Professor Alex Goody (Oxford Brookes University) and Dr Stéphanie Longet (Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics), soon found areas where their interests and experiences overlapped.
"Alex is really interested in technology and how technology is described in modern literature and modern language, so looking at sci-fi and video games and how those styles of storytelling relate to literature. Dave's specialism is in AI in music... exploring the future of how music might be made and Stephanie, being an immunologist, was able to really give insight into how our bodies physically respond when we're listening to music in different environments. So that's how we tied everything together," explained Rawz, speaking to BBC Music.
The first of the tracks was recorded in one of just a handful of studios around the world with a full 1950s signal chain, from mic to tape, to capture the authentic tone of the era. "As far as we know, this is the first time one of them has been used to record Hip Hop", said Rawz. The subsequent tracks, charting eras from the 1960s onwards were recorded, mixed and mastered locally in Oxford, at In-Spire Sounds. Natalie Ford, one of the University of Oxford public engagement facilitators supporting the group said: "It’s been an amazing project and one that I wouldn’t have taken part in if it hadn’t been for Science Together. I’ve seen that Science Together has been the catalyst for forging new relationships between the people involved and providing inspiration for new projects in the future."
Daisy Hopkins, Science Engagement Facilitator at the University of Oxford said: ‘I enjoyed the Epoch exhibition very much. It was great to see over a year’s worth of work come together through the collaboration, I could feel the passion Rawz and the group have for the project as I was taken on a journey through music time! We have some more fantastic collaborative research projects taking place this year – watch this space!"
The album, entitled Epoch, features three members of the Inner Peace Records collective; Rawz, King Boyden and Easy Chalmers, jointly known as Episode One. You can watch Professor De Roure, Professor Goody and Dr Longet talking about the research behind their Science Together collaboration on the Science Together YouTube channel.
The interaction of Hip-Hop, technology and how it makes us feel - Urban Music Foundation
The relationship between hip-hop and technology from the Epoch team - Oxfordshire based rapper and founder of Urban Music Foundation, Rawz; Professor Alex Goody (20th Century Literature and Culture, Oxford Brookes University); Dr Stephanie Longet (Immunologist, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford) and Professor David de Roure (e-Research, Department of Engineering, University of Oxford).
Oxford e-Research Centre
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