Author Identifiers

ORCID: 0000-0002-6539-5934

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Dr Lindsay Vickery

Second Advisor

Dr Stuart James


This thesis explores the material conditions and practices of the digital audio workstation (DAW), treating them as a subject of musical composition. The DAW is a software application currently ubiquitous in facilitating the creation of recorded and electronic music. Despite its prominence, few have articulated its unique possibilities for compositional practice, or historically contextualised the emergence of such practices. To clarify the locus of inquiry, a theoretical framework termed the grain of the DAW is developed. Derived primarily from Roland Barthes’ notion of the grain (1977), it is understood as the sonic effects in a recorded musical work that infer the unique material conditions and practices associated with a sonic medium. It is argued that compositional techniques can foreground or conceal this grain, the latter of which is more common in many musical traditions. Employing practice-led research strategies and methods derived from experimental electronic music, compositional techniques that foreground the grain of the DAW are investigated, culminating in an album entitled Thru, the creative component of this thesis. Composition in this mode involves negotiating between sound design, arrangement, mixing, critical listening, data organisation, and managing conceptual burden (Duignan, 2008). It also involves situating the DAW as a socially constructed technology (Sterne, 2012; Pinch & Bijker, 2012), promoting individualised musical practice and mobilising several metaphors that articulate this condition.

Included in

Music Commons