A comparative study of the creative processes in selected works of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


The contribution to knowledge presented by this thesis is twofold: first, I deconstructed the creative processes of the musicians, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, from the British band, Roxy Music, to gain new insights into their approaches during the recording of the albums, For Your Pleasure (1973), The Sound of Blue (2017), and 3Psalms (2018). To achieve this, I designed and implemented an original analytical framework to find the key elements that constituted their work on each album. Finally, I compared the results from each case study to reveal new understandings of studio-based popular music creativity and to provide a set of creative strategies aimed at younger generations of music producers and music technology students.

My analytical framework evaluates the transformation of ideas as they evolve throughout the different stages of a popular song’s production. I have identified five stages that I understand took place during the production of the mentioned albums. The methods used to analyse each of those stages were as follows: 1/ archive analysis, 2/ TFFT sonic analysis of the original multitracks, 3/ autoethnography, 4/ case study interviews. In essence, the framework addresses three significant gaps: the shortfall in studies regarding studio-based popular music creativity; the lack of a definite method or framework for assessing similar case studies; the absence of information regarding the specific case studies in this thesis.

This analytical framework adopts and adapts the ‘creative systems model’ postulated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This model offers a structure to understand creativity in any artistic work. Csikszentmihalyi’s claims that creativity emerges not only from an individual, but from the combination of the individual, a set of skills or knowledge, and a social context (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). Csikszentmihalyi defines the set of skills and knowledge as the individual’s ‘domain’, and the social context as the ‘field’. I renamed the elements of the ‘creative systems model’ whereby ‘domain’ was recontextualised to ‘musical background’, and ‘field’ to ‘environment’. Furthermore, I exchanged Csikszentmihalyi’s term ‘collaborative practice’ for ‘collective mind’, in order to facilitate understanding of the generation and transformation of ideas in my particular case study.

The insights from this PhD thesis argue that creativity and the creative strategies in the modern studio are to be understood as progressive and evolving systems in which the adaptation of new technologies, studio collaboration, musical expertise and influences are all contributing factors. This has been articulated through the case studies of Manzanera and Mackay, in which my adaptation of the ‘creative systems model’ was observed during the different production stages of their projects. In conclusion, my analytical framework operated as an effective platform from which to compare how Manzanera’s and Mackay’s creative processes have transformed over time and to analyse the mechanics of studio-based popular music from an auto-ethnographic perspective.





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