IASPM day 5 final keynotes: Music as intimacy. Variations on music as urban place. Francisco Cruces (UNED, Spain) #iaspm2013

MadridMusic as intimacy. Variations on music as urban place. Francisco Cruces (UNED, Spain)

[abstract only]

Music has proved to be “good to think” the metropolitan space. Its chronotopical qualities can be followed largely in the uses of the musical metaphor by prominent authors (like Becker, Holbwachs, Finnegan, the very George Simmel) who looked to grasp in musical terms the urban experience -or, as the Chicago School would rather put it, “urbanism as a way of life”. The theoretical question which “Music as place” arises is then that of the many variants through which musical life on the one hand, and the built space of the city on the other, could be mutually related –an issue both of musical and urban imagination, as well of one of empirical import. In my speech I will elaborate on this theme. Assuming in advance that Sara Cohen’s monography (and subsequent work) has provided a powerful master narrative on the topic, I would like to explore to which degree Liverpool and Madrid might be, or not, considered as variants of a different kind on this “common theme”. More specifically, I will focus on the intimate, domestic and private spheres as crucial loci of metropolitan musical life. These are not always underlined, but deserve close attention: not matching the conventional, dominant images of “the city” as built public space, in these invisible realms the uses and meanings of music are also strongly produced and negotiated. They reveal simultaneously the ongoing centrality of the “tuning-in” (face to face) relationship, as well as deep changes in the urban common sense emerging in late modern Cosmopolis.

[JB note – with apologies to Francisco for not blogging the full presentation – my typing hands are experiencing fatigue/discomfort by now. However, the presentation was extremely engaging, especially in the context of the Liverpool presentation immediately before and the parallels he drew. If he publishes his work I will provide a link in this post at a later date.]

IASPM day 5: “Fish Don’t Know Water Exists till Beached”. Henrik Smith-Sivertsen #iaspm2013

Henrik-page1“Fish Don’t Know Water Exists till Beached”– Documentation of Music Production, Distribution and Consumption in the Age of Streaming. Henrik Smith-Sivertsen (The Royal National Library of Denmark, Denmark)

[JB note – Henrik is a professional historian and archivist who does not wish for any human endeavour ever to be lost – he is therefore delighted to offer his presentation in full here as a download. Download Henrik’s PowerPoint]


In recent years streaming technologies have changes the distribution and use of recorded music radically. The long predicted shift from cd’s and other physical media to Internet based platforms for music is now a reality, and music is uploaded, streamed, heard and shared across platforms and borders on various devices, and a general destabilization of the “old” system has already taken place. In this paper I will address the challenges of the streaming revolution from music archivist perspective. In times when music was primarily distributed via physical media, documentation of music production was relatively easy. Typically music published in and to specific regions have been collected and stored in national music archives, but how do such institutions cope with the digital reality and which implications does it have to future studies of popular music? Using a Danish case study on how a young female musician, Sys Bjerre, has made a career via the Internet and not least social media, I will demonstrate the challenges of digital archiving of music and the consequences for popular music research if music archives do not change the main perspectives from physical media to digital files on the Internet.

Due to some unexpected extra time becoming available due to conference logistics, Henrik’s presentation began with some contextual audio – be played us the video of the song ‘Malene’ by Sys Bjerre (a Danish hit with lyrics about a heartbroken character who burns down her boyfriend’s house). The song led to many YouTube responses, from fictionalised other characters in the story, starting with the boyfriend, and followed by other members of the family, including the parents, the grandmother (and, apparently, the cat). This participatory Internet meme took Denmark by storm. We will return to Sys Bjerre later.

IASPM day 5: Musical negotiation of segregated place in Cape Town: District Six: The Musical. Paula Fourie #iaspm2013

District Six albumMusical negotiation of segregated place in Cape Town: District Six: The Musical. Paula Fourie (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa)


Starting in 1986, the partnership between a white English-speaking South African, David Kramer, and a “Coloured” Afrikaans-speaker, Taliep Petersen, produced some of South Africa’s most commercially successful musicals to date. During Apartheid, artistic collaboration between members of different race groups was politically significant. Their first project, District Six: The Musical, dealt with the forced removal of certain population groups from this neighbourhood following its designation as a white area. This production, which was understandably problematic to the Apartheid-government, played to over 350 000 people in its initial three-year run, at times drawing together mixed-race audiences. Its controversial reception is reflected in the banning of four of its tracks by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Set in a local context, the music of this production perhaps surprisingly reflects an overriding engagement with American popular music. This paper explores notions of musical “authenticity” in a country marked by contested race identities and investigates the role of District Six: The Musical as protest theatre aimed at bridging racial divides through the facilitation of “collective” experiences revolving around remembrance of and identification with marginalized narratives.

The paper explores the Kamer-Petersen collaboration District Six The Musical through a Heideggerian lens. Paula’s presentation opens with a historical overview of the genuine and perceived history of District Six itself (partly perceived as a ‘place without apartheid’). The first two musical examples are Ghoemaliedjie “Daar kom die Alibama” and Nederlandsliedjie “Rosa”.

IASPM day 5: “Check the innovators!” Grass-roots historiography, musical appreciation, and community in the crate digging scene. Gabor Valyi #iaspm2013

“Check the innovators!” Grass-roots historiography, musical appreciation, and community in the crate digging scene. Gabor Valyi (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary)

[abstract only]

The discussions regarding the aesthetic merits of particular ‘texts’ and the significance of creative figures in relation to a collectively shaped canon has always been at the heart of fan culture as much as the ‘high aesthetic’. Within popular music studies, this omnipresent, thoroughly historicized “music talk” is most often discussed as means through which distinctive connoisseurs display their knowledge of group specific musical histories in order to claim membership and status. However, my paper takes a different route and explores the participative aspects of the aesthetic practices through which music enthusiasts engage with a shared musical history.

Drawing on ethnographic research in a trans-local, hip hop related record collecting scene, my paper describes the aesthetic practices – record collecting, the production of sample based hip hop beats, music journalism – of DJs, bloggers, hip hop producers, and other enthusiasts. Bringing together ideas from cultural sociology, literary criticism, and cultural history, I propose community of appreciation as a notion that focuses on the participative character of music appreciation and enables us to think through the ways in which this collective engagement with musical history work towards evoking a sense of community and belonging among participants. 

IASPM day 5: How Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents. Fabian Holt #iaspm2013

BoweryHow Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents. Fabian Holt (University of Roskilde, Denmark)

[abstract only]

In the past decade, legendary underground rock clubs on the Lower East Side have closed or moved to Brooklyn, while the Bowery Presents has established itself as the major player on the scene. Why and how did this happen? This paper introduces the idea that the general process of socio-economic gentrification in New York City has been accompanied by a major cultural shift in the cultural image of rock venues. Rock clubs have adapted to gentrification in their music programming, venue design, and marketing. Based on fieldwork and archival materials, the paper examines the contrasting images of the underground rock clubs of the pre-gentrification era with the contemporary image of the ballroom-style venue developed by the Bowery Presents. Drawing from urban sociology and music venue studies, the paper argues that adaption to gentrification can be identified in clubs across music genres. The popularization of indie rock via the internet, moreover, has helped create a new live music market for rock clubs. The paper builds the overall argument that live music clubs are deeply embedded in the urban social environment around the club and therefore requires theory that takes into account not only the music but also the complex character of urban life and media culture. 

“Cumbia, nena”: etnia, género y clase en la Argentina (Ethnicity, gender and class in Argentina) #iaspm2013

“Cumbia, nena”: etnia, género y clase en la Argentina (Ethnicity, gender and class in Argentina). Pablo Alabarces (Universidad de Buenos Aires-CONICET, Argentina)
[abstract only without commentary – the translation took too long!]

La popularización de la cumbia argentina, un proceso que ocurre en los últimos cuarenta años, implicó su transformación en la música por excelencia de las clases populares: la música de los pobres, su consagración como el género más popular, en el doble sentido de su consumo –las cifras de ventas la colocan como el género más vendido– y de su significación de clase. La cumbia argentina configura una escena compleja: es una escena transnacionalizada –aunque prescinde del diálogo con las otras cumbias latinoamericanas y a veces privilegia el intercambio con el hip hop– y a la vez se aferra a la idea de género, no como un repertorio de rasgos fijos –apenas la marcación rítmica– sino como una etiqueta que define un repertorio cultural, básicamente de distinción de clase social –una distinción a la vez negativa (no somos chetos –de clase media, pudientes) y positiva (esta es nuestra música, música de negros). Este trabajo quiere discutir esos caminos, señalando a la vez cómo el estudio de la cumbia –tanto sus textos, musicales o líricos, como sus prácticas (desde la producción a la danza)– pone en juego a la vez problemas de clase, género y etnicidad, posiblemente como ningún otro producto cultural en la Argentina contemporánea.

[translation – Google-translated with JB edits]

Cumbia in Argentina has become steadily more popular in the last forty years, becoming the quintessential music of the popular classes. It has been perceived as the music of the poor, and it has become the most popular genre in both senses of the word – sales figures place it as the best-selling genre, and its cultural significance a a populist form. Cumbia Argentina sets a complex scene: its scene is transnationalized, but it does not particularly open a musical dialogue with other Latin American Cumbia, sometimes favouring an exchange with hip hop. And yet it clings to the idea of ​​genre, not as a repertoire of fixed traits, marking just the rhythm, but as a label that defines a cultural repertoire of social class distinction – a distinction that is both negative (defined as NOT middle class or wealthy) and positive (this is ‘our music’ – music of black people). This paper discusses these issues, studying Cumbia from two perspectives – the texts, musical or lyrical, and their practices (from production to the dance). This mainstream genre brings together issues of class, gender and ethnicity, possibly more than any other cultural product in contemporary Argentina.

IASPM day 4: Popular Music as Prophecy (Rupert Till) #iaspm2013

Popular Music as Prophecy: Composing the Future. Rupert Till (University of Huddersfield, UK)

Attali describes how popular music organises the structures and movements of society into audible sound, before such socio-cultural developments are clearly visible. He described three eras of music and sound, as did Cutler and Frith after him. However he predicted in 1977 a fourth era of sound yet to come, focused on composition. This paper investigates this prophesied new world, discussing the implications of presenting creators of popular music as composers. It investigates how popular musicians describe their creations and what this means. It explores their aesthetics, why they write music, and what the relations are of their compositions to modes of mediation and distribution. It attempts to define popular music composition, and its relationships with songwriting, arrangement, improvisation and production. It asks what we might prophesy for the future of society, on the basis of a musical world where popular music composers circulate their music directly to their audience, in virtual and social media music communities outside of existing national geographic boundaries.

Rupert starts with his theoretical framework, citing Attali (1977), Cutler (1993) and Frith (1996). Allati has a ‘4th code’ focusing on composition [from his Four Stages of Music]. His Ritual (Oral – 10,000yrs)/Sacrifice (c.400yrs)/Repetition (recordings – c.100yrs)/Composition (deregulation – the future?). Attali’s view is that when the focus is on making and sharing music for pleasure we (will?) begin to enter the ‘composition’ phase.

He points out that popular music ‘composition’ deconstructs the elitism of the classical tradition and therefore may be more apt for a ‘Composition’ age. He then talks about songwriting and describes it as a ‘special case’ of composition, for several reasons, not least because it involves lyrics. He alludes to ‘team composition’ and the blurred line between songwriting, production and arrangement, especially in rehearsal/recording studio creative environments. In Attali’s view (1977, remember) was that in a notational ‘composition era’ these activities could be carried out at home, by an individual.