Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

British Academy Grant AwardedMay 1st, 2018

The Sounds of Charanga
Dr Sue Miller and Dr Paul Thompson, Readers in Music in the School of Film, Music & Performing Arts, are investigating the original recording studio techniques and performance aesthetics of this traditional style of dance music.Building on Sue’s previous historical, ethnographic and performance work on Cuban and Latin music, and Paul’s ethnographic work in recording studios, the team are devising experiments using an ‘experimental archaeology’ technique to re-create the sounds of commercial studio recordings of Cuban music made in Havana and New York.

The team has received a British Academy Leverhulme Small Research Grant of just under £10,000 to fund the project.

“Performance of this style of music involves the complex interaction between the band members, a dancing public and an African-derived organising timeline known as clave. A studio recording therefore has to exhibit a live sounding aesthetic. Many mid-20th century recordings reflect this live aesthetic most clearly, with more modern recording techniques failing to do so.”

“We’re combining traditional academic research (ethnography, music history, performance studies and analysis) with methods that are used in the areas of experimental and experiential archaeology. This involves conducting historically informed recording experiments which will give us a better understanding of the culture and tradition of recorded Cuban music and the ways this culture informed some of the logistic, creative and aesthetic decisions to produce its distinctive sound.”