Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Shanna Polley

Mentor: Kenneth Sacks

Domain(s): Music (Performing Arts)/Technology






Title: Evolution of Personal Genre (Into the Depths of Recorded Music)




This Senior Project was initially a project solely devoted to recording compositions that I had already written. However, through recording entirely in a homemade studio located in the unused sauna in my house, I was able to gain an exceptional grasp on the process of recording techniques, producing, and recording technology. Because I had acquired the technological background to produce the songs on my own, and because the recording process was so private, I was able to feel comfortable experimenting with certain sounds and genres for as long as I wished. Consequently, this series of songs is not one genre; rather it encompasses a variety of styles that I have worked with while growing up. Though the songs are diverse, there is an essence of each composition that allows for this CD to be conceptual and coherent. Through this project, I have realized how much more inspiring and progressive it is for a musician to record his or her own music, and how vital the digital recording process may be in aiding musical creativity.





Tracks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)






My senior project was to create a CD with eleven of my songs. Though it seems as if there is not much to the musical and technological components, this project impacted my life in ways that no other project would be able to. In the technological sense, I was able to create a studio in my own home that I could use whenever I wanted, for how long I wanted, while wearing whatever I wanted, and smelling however I wanted. It was a completely personal space that eventually became my favorite space to be. There is nothing that could be compared to the outcome of the art that is produced in an area in which the artist feels most comfortable. The songs I produced were those of many genres, and I realized that I felt comfortable in each of these genres. I felt most comfortable experimenting because I was in control of ever part of the production of my songs. Kenneth Sacks was the main person to hear my songs as they were in the process. I was very self-conscious about these pieces because they were so experimental. I also wanted to focus on creating music for myself without keeping my audience in mind. These songs ended up being pretty extreme due to the isolation I experienced when writing and recording these songs. The studio was set up in the unused sauna in our house, so it was fairly small. I would spend hours in the studio. Most of the songs that I made took about 15-30 hours to complete. The recording process is extremely intricate and there is much more that goes into recording a song than what is heard. The listener does not consciously hear most of the sound that is recorded in a song. Unless one was to play each track of the song, one would not be able to unearth each part of the song, which is vital to the end result and musical atmosphere. The music that I wrote was almost in reaction to the recording process. I wrote all my songs within the senior project time and I wrote them, keeping in mind everything I would be able to do with them in the recording process. These songs ended up highlighting a musical atmosphere and feeling rather than focus on only the song. I was mainly inspired by the fluidity and concentration on the recording process in Pink Floyd’s album “Dark Side of the Moon”. Like Pink Floyd, I focused on the background sounds that can’t be heard in order to build up a series of sounds that have a great emotional affect on the listener. Most of my songs start out with a drone to lay down the general mood. The drone can be a variety instruments but most of the drones I used were bass organ. On top of that, I would add the main guitar or piano line. This would be the line the listener would be able to relate to and understand the purpose of. There are then other layers added to continue to add to creating the atmosphere of the song. There were specific recording techniques that I used that would not be able to be understood by the listener such the tremolo effect, in which sound is exchanged from one ear to the other.

            The concept of emergent properties was very reflective of my process, product and theories that came out of this project. I felt that the title of my CD should reflect both the process and product because both have equal worth. The definition of an emergent property is a property in which the value of the whole is more than the sum of the parts of which it is comprised. I felt that music is very much like this because there is no emotional connection with certain frequencies. It is only when these frequencies are processed by the brain, does it become music with that specific emotional connection. The emotional connection to the music acts as an emergent property that somehow “emerged” from the combination of certain frequencies.

            This project was, by far, the most life changing experience and will stay with me for the rest of my life.


Works Consulted


Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon. 1973. Capitol Records, 1986. Audiocassette.


Levi, Mica. Jewellery. Micachu and the Shapes. Rough Trade Records/Accidental Records, 2009. MP3.


Vygotski, L. S., and Alex Kozulin. Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1986. Print.


Satie, Erik, and Anne Queffélec. Erik Satie. Virgin Classics, 1988. CD.


Bowie, David. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. David Bowie. Virgin, 1999. CD.


Björk. Björk Surrounded the Complete 7 Album Collection Remastered. One Little Indian, 2006. CD.


Arcade, Fire. Neon Bible. The Arcade Fire. Merge, 2004. MP3.


The Doors. The Very Best of the Doors. Elektra/Rhino, 2007. CD.


Outside Consultant


Kevin Teare