An Irishman, music runs through the veins of Dr James Millea, lecturer in music production. That’s where the cliches end, though.
His doctoral thesis explored the relationship between hip hop music and the narrative film soundscape in independent black American cinema of the 1990s. His current research exists at the intersections of popular music and audiovisual media, looking at the relationship between popular music and video game soundtracks. He’s published on both sides of the Atlantic, but he also walks the walk, as a performer and band leader.
“As a teenager, interested in studying music at university and possibly going on to have a career somewhere in the field, I found myself with a bit of a problem. I was interested in popular music but was primarily a trumpet player. It felt as if the two did not totally match. There was a smattering of trumpets in pop but very little contemporary artists or performers really seemed to have any space for brass generally. Mark Ronson’s sophomore album, Version (2007), changed this for me. While the record’s biggest hit was a catchy re-working of “Valerie”, a song originally by Liverpool natives The Zutons, the album featured Ronson’s funky, brass-filled takes on songs by artists including The Smiths, Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, Britney Spears, and Radiohead. His arrangements, built on the frameworks of soul and Motown and featuring some of the finest session players in North America, outlined where I could fit in modern popular music. Although Mark Ronson had been coming off the back of his success with Amy Winehouse and Back to Black (2006), and he has since gone on to work with some of the biggest names in the industry, his second album was and continues to be a bit of a musical bible for me. In fact, Version is a regular centrepiece in my module, Arranging Popular Music.”
Lianne La Havas
“In my module Social Media Context and Practice, we talk about the strangeness of the industry that surrounds music today. Part of that conversation focuses on streaming music and how, although technology and apps make it so much easier to share your songs, we’re not seeing a general democratisation of the industry. As performers, the gate has not been quite left unlocked; as listeners, we can end up in our own little musical echo chambers, falling back on old favourites. For me, Lianne La Havas is a reminder of why such habits must be broken. In 2020, she released her self-titled third album. With backing from Prince, who once played a gig in her living room, La Havas’ music is rich in textures, colours, and stories. She proves that even after more than half a century of popular music, just a guitar and a voice can still be powerful if you have something to say. Lianne La Havas also helps to make a case for the brilliance of popular music today, something that, as a lecturer in music, it’s imperative to pay attention to. Alongside the likes of IDLES, Kendrick Lamar, Fontaines D.C., and Billie Eilish, the current crop of artists is as vibrant as any of the decades that have gone before. Lianne La Havas is a new musical hero of mine and it’s important to keep picking up new heroes. I think that to do so, in part, is to remind ourselves about why we fell in love with music in the first place.”