January 22nd, 2021

Menon’s research projects backed by academic awards

By Jensen, Randy on May 11, 2020.

Tyler Hay

For The Herald

A Digital Audio Arts (DAA) student at the University of Lethbridge will take on two major research projects and support his community through the development of an educational program for young music producers and artists, thanks to a pair of academic awards.

Leonard Menon’s research, which will be funded by the 2020 Joyce and Ron Sakamoto Prize for Research and Development in Digital Audio and Arts, was inspired by a research assistantship he is involved in, which will now be funded by his second award – the 2020 Chinook Summer Research Award.

Menon will participate in a four-month intensive research experience under the supervision of DAA faculty member Amandine Pras. He will be supporting her project, Practices and Social Aspects of the 21st Century Recording Studio.

Her research examines how coming generations use the recording studio from anthropological, music education and audio engineering perspectives. Studying how artists and producers with little to no formal training develop new techniques has inspired Menon to take on his own research project.

“It has been fascinating to learn how these producers work with little to no formal training in the harsh political conditions of their country,” said Menon in a release. “I realized that they have used a variety of informal learning methods to learn how to arrange and mix in a digital audio workstation at a professional standard that is recognized by the rest of the world – a true milestone considering the scarce educational resources available to them.”

His research will shed light on how individuals manage to produce and create music using intuition and logic, without formal training. Menon is hoping to develop a curriculum to be taught to youth at Drop’n Beats, a local youth music program designed to build community through music creation.

“The goal of (the Sakamoto Prize) project is to spread the knowledge that I have obtained through conventions, research partnerships, the community and my personal life, and to amalgamate it into one cohesive program that is geared towards artist-producers,” said Menon.

Throughout the summer he will take part in hands-on research and receive one-on-one mentorship in writing academic papers to submit for presentation at the annual Audio Engineering Society (AES) conference in October.

Menon has been assisting Pras since last fall – he was hired to index and edit video data collected in Bamako, Mali recording studios. He then took on more demanding tasks, including conducting multidisciplinary collective analyses, designing a comparative approach and reading and writing for a peer-reviewed journal paper submission.

“The research program requires strong interpersonal and communication skills to interact with other researchers at the University of Calgary, at the Banff Centre and at the School for Advanced Research in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris, as well as rigour and persistence to complete intellectually challenging tasks,” said Pras. “I have consistently observed all these qualities in Leonard’s personality and work ethics.”

Thanks to the $5,000 Joyce and Ron Sakamoto award, Menon has the next year to research and develop his educational program.

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