Brendan's Task 1

Finding the beat in academia: Confessions of a record producer’s journey into linguistics.
Brendan Anthony— Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University.

I begin tapping away on my new MacBook laptop in an attempt to introduce myself as an academic to my doctoral colleagues, and as I start writing my my mind starts wandering— Why is this hard? I never had trouble telling people about me before. A measured amount of anxiety hits before some contemplative thoughts regarding my career start racing through my mind. That’s it! Tell them about that, your career! Hang on, good academics write these thoughts down in a notebook so they don’t’ forget anything, don’t they? Yes! Where is that notebook? Hmm… wasn’t it over here? Ahh! found it… now… umm… What was I thinking again?

As my mind keeps drifting, I trust by bringing you back to reality you have worked out that research is new to me. So, perhaps it is best to start with a quote that I connect with as an academic. “Good academic work, whatever the discipline, must always have a large creative element. It is also frequently a solitary activity and one not amenable to the usual labour process controls. Like many forms of creativity, the hard work involved is often invisible” (Boden, Epstein, & Kenway, 2005, p. 28). As you are about to find out, I have worked in a very creative industry for 28 years and it is here that I draw my strength from for my beginnings in the academic world. As Cayley (2016) writes “After a number of years in a job, we benefit from professional development because it can offer us innovative ways of approaching what we do”. So that’s where we start, I come into academia with a lot of industry knowledge in my chosen field and a sound achievement in English at high school whilst suffering from some form of dyslexia. Ok, I did spend four years gaining a degree in music technology from the Queensland Conservatorium in 1988, but after that, I never wrote a word of informed English again. Well, until now hopefully. What have I been up to for the last 28 years? Thanks for asking, I have been producing popular music in the recording studio, I have travelled the world, hung out with rock stars, and made music all my life. It was actually all going swimmingly until I fell in love at the age of 36, was a father at 40, and with the associated moral responsibilities I found myself in a new full time role as an educator at Griffith University age 45. So, life moves on ever forward, and I face the challenge of becoming a writer, head on.

As Cayley (2016) suggests, it helps the aspiring writer —me— to know what they have experienced in life as they can use this in the courses in which they are enrolled. Well, I know I am a great record producer— I combine, music, creativity and technology to generate emotion, and the creation of an emotive response from the listener is a primary goal when producing music (Mixerman, 2012). I have been immersed in the music industry as a working professional for nearly three decades and have the AA medallions and stories to prove it. I also know I am a great lecturer within the higher education field of popular music; I have been doing it for 18 years and just achieved a learning and teaching citation. I have researched teaching theories such as informal, student as master and peer learning by academics such as Green (2002, 2006); Lebler (2006) and Lebler and Carey (2008) and I bet that all sounds impressive? But how do I really know I am a good educator? Well, I like to talk to my students. I like to find out who they are and help them individually, so they can become the musician they aspire to be. I push them out of their comfort zone, to become multi disciplinary, and therefore more employable. I mean this is music right? How many working musicians do you meet everyday? As one of those, I am a perfect sounding board of absolute truth for my students when listening to their music, yes, I am the ultimate reality check. In truth, the positive feedback I receive from graduates regarding my teaching is worth ten learning and teaching citations, because it is from the student. I do believe the primary point to being an educator is to help the student. I would also suggest my teaching style is authentic to the music industry and at times non-conventional, and even though he may be marking this blog, I do like what Bigum (2016) says here “I am singularly unimpressed with the way in which formal education systems (and many government bureaucracies) maintain a view that they are in control, know what is going on and know what is best for the young”. This ideology is where I come from, and it isn’t easy because I don’t know how to help a student best, until I get to know the student. Sometimes I feel I should be paying the students, as I learn so much about music by talking to young people, yes, I am forever learning and loving that music is my life. No wonder after one masters degree, I now find myself enrolled in an Ed.D with a primary research question of:

How can higher education pedagogical frameworks include an effective learning environment for the creative practice of popular music production?

This research question alludes to further sub-questions that address more specific topics including:

• What skills and practices are necessary for popular music production?
• How can creative practice in this field be taught?
• How do popular musicians effectively learn in a higher education context?
• How does pedagogy in this area connect to a constantly changing music industry?

My doctoral mission is to use an ethnographic study to show how a higher education popular music student can learn to produce great music in the recording studio. This is harder than it seems as popular music production has many social and cultural influences that need to be considered (Zak, 2001), but luckily I have lived within many of these in Australia, Europe and the USA. Don’t be fooled I do not find my research question daunting, I think I pretty much have enough life skills to facilitate an appropriate study, but the writing? Remember that mind of mine, the creative one— The one that’s talking to you now, the one still looking for that notebook, the dyslexic one who still can’t spell rhythm, appropriate let alone anthropomorphic! Well it knows the writing side of things needs constant attention, and it will get it. I am very lucky to have had my career as a record producer to rely on as a life experience, and this is where my research agenda is situated— firmly within popular music record production, its creative practice and associated pedagogy. To this end, in the three years I have been researching I have had reasonable success publishing and presenting my work internationally. This is fortuitous as much of the research on popular music record production is not carried out by working industry professionals, and this is to my advantage and my curse. It means that the people postulating ideas on topics such as critical listening (Draper, 2013), autonomous mixing (De Man & Reiss, 2013) and mixing spatiality (Moylan, 2009) are primarily academics who are researching popular music. Luckily enough I am a popular musician researching academia and I do think that helps my authentic approach, however, it also exposes me to the lashings of criticism regarding method from more traditional approaches.

So now I have a new career and I look forward to promoting my views and gaining followers via a Weblog, as (Kirkup, 2010) suggests “The possibility exists of creating a significant intellectual identity through a blog”, and I really like some of the specific approaches to blogging outlined in (Demopoulos, 2007). I must say I have much to learn and must develop my research approach to ensure a solid foundation to support my qualitative and subjectivist, practice-based approaches (Burns, 1994).

I find myself now spending many a late night, not in the studio rocking out and cranking the volume, but reading, enjoying the wonders of educational research, masterfully penned by scholars like Creswell (2005) and Gay, Mills, and Airasian (2009). I find myself in search of inspiration, reading weblogs similar to Inger Mewburns “The Thesis Whisperer” (2016), and I giggle with content as I relate to comments regarding researches having “a constant feeling of either drowning in work or running ahead of a fire or both” (Boden et al., 2005, p. 14). Yet, I feel funnily at peace and free with my new job as there is no “notion here that an academic was an employee of an institution. Rather, the college facilitated the individual’s work” (Boden et al., 2005, p. 17). Subsequently, I don’t feel tied down to write what I have been taught, more-so, I aim to write and teach what I have experienced and learned— to live music. Like a cyclone gathering strength I feel the intensity growing as my career informs my teaching, my teaching informs my research and my research? Well let’s hope one day my research will let my mind know all is ok, and that things are good so chill out, and what would my mind say? OK.. but where is that damn notebook!


Bigum, C. (2016). Chris Bigum. Retrieved from
Boden, R., Epstein, D., & Kenway, J. (2005). Building your academic career. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Burns, R. (1994). Introduction to research methods (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
Cayley, R. (2016). Unpacking professional development for graduate students. Weblog retrieved from
Creswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. New Jersey, United States: Pearson Prentice Hall.
De Man, B., & Reiss, J. (2013). A semantic approach to autonomous mixing. Journal on the Art of Record Production, (8). Retrieved from
Demopoulos, T. (2007). What no one ever tells you about— blogging and podcasting: Real-life advice from 101 people who successfully leverage the power of the blogosphere. Chicago, IL: Kaplan Pub.
Draper, P. (2013). On critical listening, musicianship and the art of record production. Journal on the Art of Record Production, (8). Retrieved from
Gay, L. R., Mills, G. E., & Airasian, P. W. (2009). Educational research: Competencies for analysis and applications (9th ed.). London: Pearson Education.
Green, L. (2002). How popular musicians learn: A way ahead for music education. Surrey, England: Ashgate.
Green, L. (2006). Popular music education in and for itself, and for ‘other’music: Current research in the classroom. International Journal of Music Education, 24(2), 101–118.
Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: Academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1), 75-84. doi:10.1080/14748460903557803
Lebler, D. (2006). The master-less studio: An autonomous education community. Journal of Learning Design, 1(3). doi:10.5204/jld.v1i3.31
Lebler, D., & Carey, G. (2008). Prior learning of conservatoire students: A western classical perspective. Paper presented at the 17th International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician.
Mewburn, I. (2016). The thesis whisperer. Weblog. Retrieved from
Mixerman. (2012). Zen and the art of producing. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Books.
Moylan, W. (2009). Considering space in music. Journal on the Art of Record Production, (4). Retrieved from
Zak, A. (2001). The poetics of rock: Cutting tracks, making records. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

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