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Ben Grayson on Monash University’s Creative Music Technology course

“I’m a bit of an optimist, I really detest the naysayers that say the music industry is in strife and it’s a disaster,” says industry veteran Ben Grayson.

“In my experience – which is extensive – young, independent musicians have never had it so good. It’s a really positive time, young musicians have never had this much control over their own careers. There’s so many young musicians who shun labels, because they think what do they really need them for?”
 
Grayson’s resume is bursting full of credits such as founding member of The Bamboos and a ghost member of many bands, including the Aria nominated Twelve Foot Ninja, and now he can add academic to the list.
 
2017 marks the fourth year that Monash University will be running its Creative Music Technology course, which Grayson teaches and has helped build. The fresh and exciting course is the first of its kind in Melbourne, aiming to push students to think outside the box to create their own unique concepts and ideas, using the skills and tools at the fingertips of musicians living in the 21st century.
 
“We’re looking for musicians who are passionate about producing their own music, and forming their own music in an electronic music setting. That can mean metal music, or EDM, whatever that is, we want singer/songwriters. We’re not genre specific at all, we’re open to any kinds of music.
 
“The tech side of music has given musicians access to sounds and social networks and distribution of their networks like never before. That you can now download plug-ins and play every kind of vintage and analog keyboard ever invented is astounding. Bands, for instance like Twelve Foot Ninja, the tech side is such a big side of their sound, even though you wouldn’t recognise it just from listening to it.”
 
The course encompasses sound design, recording, mixing, music creation and performance, settling into a completely different space from the other courses available in Melbourne. 
 
“We really cater to a broad church, but the common thread is that all of our students perform to some degree, and all are writing and producing their own music. We focus on the production side of things.
 
“The one criteria we have here is that all of our CMT students have to be trained musicians of some degree. [The course is] really setup for musicians who have had some sort of formal education in music. Maybe not on an instrument, but they really need to know how music theory works, to be able to hear and analyse music.”
 
This combination of the newest in music technologies and classical music theory and ear, is one of the many distinguishing factors of the course.
 
“It’s really difficult to be any kind of artist if you’re just stumbling around in the dark looking for a sound.
 
“All of the classical music I played as a kid, that really sets you up for life. In terms of myself, classical music gave me the facility to express myself anyway I want, it’s a really great tool. If you’ve got some classical chops it really opens up a lot of pathways.”
 
Another of the aspects of the course Grayson is passionate about, and is set to ignite excitement in practically any music fan, is the access to other musicians studying at Monash University. Approximately three hundred world class performers, doing everything from jazz, to symphonic work, to classical voice, are on tap for the Music Technology students to work with.
 
“That is truly incredible. We have a symphony orchestra, we have a large string symphonia, we have a large band with the top musicians in the country.
 
“The students here in the technology wing can access those musicians and get them into the studio and record them in the live auditorium. It’s a really nice way to learn. If you tried to do that in the real world, you’re looking at five or ten grand of musician fees before you even book a studio. That, to me, is something I’m really trying to foster. That symbiotic relationship.
 
“And Melbourne. What an amazing town. We’ve got more opportunities and live gigs than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.”
 
By Claire Morley

Ben Grayson is a Coordinator and Lecturer for Monash University’s Creative Music Technology course. For more information on it, and their Bachelor of Music, head to Monash University’s website.