Category Archives: Performers

Performing Asian America: An annotated bibliography

The term “Asian American” refers to people of Asian descent who have settled in North America beginning in the mid-18th century. Encompassed within the term is a wide range of ethnic groups and immigrant experiences stretching from Japan, Korea, and China, to India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The earliest Asian immigrants were Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and South Asians who came for economic reasons and worked on building the railroads or in agriculture. Subsequent waves of migration since the 1960s have included refugees escaping from political conflict in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, and Afghanistan. Laws passed in the United States such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, which barred further immigration from Asia, and Executive Order 9066, which facilitated the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II, highlight instances where Asian immigrants encountered racism and segregation. Many have overcome such challenges by maintaining connections with their homelands, especially through music, dance, and the dramatic arts.

The diversity of social classes and ethnic heritages of Asians in North America are represented in a wide range of performance traditions. Using the term Asian American music, for instance, has been highly contested and can refer to any music made by Asian Americans or simply music made about the Asian American experience (Wong 2004). Some artists have voiced concerns about the phrase “Asian American music” suggesting it could be essentializing or implies a unified aesthetic. Dance scholars have made the case for establishing Asian American dance as a critical field of inquiry bringing topics of Asian American studies into dialogue with dance studies. By interrogating issues of racial belonging and identity, citizenship, and model minority stereotypes in the context of dance, the field offers a framework for Asian American embodiment.

The scope of Asian American music and performance also has a historical component given the different waves of migration. Early Chinese immigrants of the 18th century brought to North America their love of Cantonese opera and narrative song traditions often heard in the Chinatowns that emerged in cities across the continent. From 1890 to 1924, Japanese immigrants brought various folk, popular, and classical music and dance to places such as California and Hawai’i. After 1965, the constituency of Asian America was transformed by an influx of different types of migrants including laborers from the Philippines, China, and Japan, war refugees (Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan), and educated professionals and wealthy entrepreneurs from across Asia.

Active scenes for various genres of Asian music and dance emerged along with newer styles blending Asian and Western musical elements. The establishment of San Jose Taiko in the context of the 1960s Asian American political movement opened a space of racial consciousness even as it forced dancers, choreographers, and musicians to navigate the external pressures of representing the often essentialized ideals of Asian America. Some immigrant musicians enthusiastically learned instruments such as piano and violin and became active in Western art music, citing it as a form of social capital that could lead to upward mobility. Others immersed themselves in jazz and hip hop, creating new experimental genres. Today, Asian Americans are singer-songwriters, metalheads, rappers, and performance artists as well as butoh dancers, taiko performers, and bhangra musicians. Each of these shifting artistic identities has contributed to the nuanced complexity of representation that comprises Asian American music and dance.    

The following bibliography represents selected texts taken from RILM Abstracts of Music Literature that enhance our knowledge of music, dance, theater, and Asian American experiences. It comprises publications that detail varying perspectives, genres, mediums, and activities.

Written and compiled by Russ Skelchy, Associate Editor, RILM

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  • Baily, John and Asif Mahmoud. Tablas and drum machines: Afghan music in California (London: Goldsmiths College, 2005, motion picture). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2005-17147]

Abstract: A film exploring the musical life of the Afghan community in Fremont, California, with particular attention to issues of cultural identity.

  • Bryant, Lei Ouyang. “Performing race and place in Asian America: Korean American adoptees, musical theatre, and the land of 10,000 lakes”, Asian music: Journal of the Society for Asian Music 40/1 (winter–spring 2009) 4–30. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-344]

Abstract: The Walleye kid: The musical, written by R.A. Shiomi and Sundraya Kase with music and lyrics by Kurt Miyashiro, was one of two musical productions incorporating themes of transracial and transnational adoption staged in the Twin Cities in the spring of 2005. The musical, produced by the Minneapolis-based Asian American theater company Mu Performing Arts, follows a young Korean American adoptee’s journey of self-discovery while adjusting to life in rural, white Minnesota. The production is used as a case study to examine the creative processes used in contemporary Asian American artistic expression, the Korean American adoption experience in Minnesota, and the use of the musical theater to express complex issues surrounding the transnational adoption experience.

  • Cayari, Christopher. “The education of Asian American music professionals: Exploration and development of ethnic identity”, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 228 (spring 2021) 7–24. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2021-3584]

Abstract: Asian American people make up approximately 5.8% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019) and pursue careers in a variety of musical professions. However, a monoracial view of Asian Americans that conceives of all Asian Americans as a homogenous group without regard to ethnicity or cultural background has led to widespread stereotypes. The desire to acculturate to U.S. culture and Western European art music ideals can pressure Asian Americans to play certain instruments, restrict their involvement to areas of music, or force them to portray their ethnicity in offensive ways. This study looked at the racial and ethnic identity development of nine Asian American music professionals from various career paths in education, performance, curation, and history through a Web survey and subsequent semistructured interviews. Findings pertained to the musical upbringing of participants both inside and outside of school, the social contexts that affected participants’ musical endeavors, pressures from dominant cultures that participants faced while in school and during their careers, and the actions participants took in their careers that were a result of growing up as Asian Americans in various music learning contexts (e.g., school, community, familial, and informal).

  • Chambers-Letson, Joshua. A race so different: Performance and law in Asian America (New York: New York University Press, 2013). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-29192]

Abstract: Taking a performance studies approach to understanding Asian American racial subjectivity, the author argues that the law influences racial formation by compelling Asian Americans to embody and perform recognizable identities in both popular aesthetic forms (such as theater, opera, or rock music) and in the rituals of everyday life. Tracing the production of Asian American selfhood from the era of Asian Exclusion through the Global War on Terror, the book explores the legal paradox whereby U.S. law apprehends the Asian American body as simultaneously excluded from and included within the national body politic. The last chapter examines the group Dengue Fever and the racialization of Cambodian-America.

  • Hong Sohn, Stephen. “Calculated cacophonies: The queer Asian American family and the nonmusical musical in Chay Yew’s Wonderland“, The journal of American drama and theatre (JADT) 29/1 (fall–winter 2017) 20p. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-50880]

Abstract: Chay Yew’s productions commonly address queer Asian American experiences and associated themes, including the struggle to survive amid hostile familial ties and exclusionary social contexts. This article explores such issues through an extended analysis of Wonderland, a dramatic production involving four roles. Three of the roles—a Man, a Woman, and a Son—comprise an Asian American nuclear family. The fourth figure, a Young Man, is revealed to be playing the Son as an adult. Each role bears the burden of expanding the audience’s vision to include the queer Asian American as part of a domestic social construct that better integrates non-normative sexualities as part of its core foundation. The article shows how Wonderland diagnoses this problem through its thematic depictions and offers an intriguing intervention through its deployment of form—what Yew describes as a “nonmusical musical”. I investigate the “nonmusical musical” as a quintessentially queer racial performance form that employs what I term as calculated cacophonies, which elucidates how Wonderland uses dialogic, sonic, and thematic relationalities to undercut the portrayed destruction of the Asian American family. The presence of calculated cacophonies allows Wonderland to spotlight some guarded optimism: there may be a sustained possibility for the queer Asian American son to find a place in the heteronuclear family.

  • Liu, Sissi. “‘Kungfu/jazz’ as a new approach to music theatre making: Fred Ho and ‘manga opera'”, Studies in musical theatre 11/2 (2017) 197–214. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2017-35087]

Abstract: Kung fu and jazz—performing art forms that originated from the racial others—will be used as shorthand for two concurrent, interdependent, and dialectically opposing cultural processes: one that prioritizes boundary formation or reinforcement, and one that favors boundary elimination or crossing. The processes of kung fu and jazz are analyzed in the case of Ho’s Voice of the dragon (2006), and the paradoxical process of negotiating between the two are explored in Ho’s creation of a new genre, manga opera. I propose that in a world of increasing global encounters, racial and ethnic multiplicities, and political and cultural complexities, kung fu/jazz provides a politically progressive and transgressive approach to the process of boundary-conscious musical theater-making.

  • Nguyen, Mimi Thi and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu. Alien encounters: Popular culture in Asian America (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2007-17171]

Abstract: Showcases innovative directions in Asian American cultural studies by exploring topics ranging from pulp fiction to multimedia art and import-car subcultures. Contributors analyze Asian Americans’ interactions with popular culture as both creators and consumers. The volume reflects post-1965 Asian America paying nuanced attention to issues of gender, sexuality, transnationality, and citizenship, while unabashedly taking pleasure in pop culture. Issues of cultural authenticity are raised by addressing Asian American participation in hip hop and jazz, the emergence of an orientalist “Indo-chic” in U.S. youth culture, and the circulation of Vietnamese music variety shows. Taking popular culture seriously reveals how people imagine and express their affective relationships to history, identity, and belonging.

  • Sharma, Nitasha Tamar. Hip hop desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a global race consciousness. Refiguring American music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2010-5669]

Abstract: Explores the worldviews of young U.S. people of South Asian descent (self-identifying as Desis) who create hip hop music. Through their lives and lyrics, hip hop Desis express a global race consciousness reflecting both their sense of connection with Black Americans as racialized minorities in the U.S. and their diasporic sensibility as part of a global community of South Asians. The author emphasizes the role of appropriation and sampling in the ways that hip hop Desis craft their identities, create art, and pursue social activism. Some of the Desi artists at the center of her ethnography produce what she calls ethnic hip hop, incorporating South Asian languages, instruments, and immigrant themes. Through ethnic hip hop, Desi artists such as KB, Sammy, and Bella Deejay express alternative desiness, challenging assumptions about their identities as South Asians, children of immigrants, minorities, and U.S. people. Desi artists also contest and seek to bridge perceived divisions between Black and South Asian Americans through racialized hip hop. It is described how they uncover connections between South Asians and Black Americans, highlighting in their lyrics links such as the relationship between Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Mahatma Gandhi. By taking up themes considered irrelevant to many Asian Americans, Desi performers including D’Lo, Chee Malabar of Himalayan Project and Rawj of Feenom Circle create a multiracial form of Black popular culture to fight racism and enact social change.

  • Villegas, Mark R., Kuttin Kandi, and Roderick N. Labrador, eds. Empire of funk: Hip hop and representation in Filipina/o America (San Diego: Cognella, 2014). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-5390]

Abstract: Gives long overdue attention to the most popular cultural art form practiced by recent generations of Filipina/o American youth. The anthology features the voices of artists, scholars, and activists to begin a dialogue on Filipina/o American youth culture and its relationship to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. The text also offers the opportunity to question the future of hip hop itself. Individual chapters explore Filipina/o American hip hop aesthetics, community-building, the geography of hip hop in Filipina/o America, sexuality and power, activism and praxis, visual culture, and navigating the hip hop industry. This text gives readers a thoughtful introduction to an often-overlooked aspect of American society and culture.

  • Wang, Oliver. Legions of boom: Filipino American mobile DJ crews in the San Francisco Bay Area (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-13936]

Abstract: Armed with speakers, turntables, light systems, and records, Filipino American mobile DJ crews, such as Ultimate Creations, Spintronix, and Images, Inc., rocked dance floors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. This book chronicles the remarkable scene that eventually became the cradle for turntablism. These crews, which were instrumental in helping create and unify the Bay Area’s Filipino American community, gave young men opportunities to assert their masculinity and gain social status. While crews regularly spun records for school dances, weddings, birthdays, or garage parties, the scene’s centerpieces were showcases—or multi-crew performances—which drew crowds of hundreds, or even thousands. By the mid-1990s the scene was in decline, as single DJs became popular, recruitment to crews fell off, and aspiring scratch DJs branched off into their own scene. As the training ground for a generation of DJs, including DJ Q-Bert, Shortkut, and Mix Master Mike, the mobile scene left an indelible mark on its community that eventually grew to have a global impact.

  • Wong, Deborah. Louder and faster: Pain, joy, and the body politic in Asian American taiko. American crossroads (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-7730]

Abstract: A cultural study of the phenomenon of Asian American taiko, the thundering, athletic drumming tradition that originated in Japan. Immersed in the taiko scene for 20 years, the author has witnessed cultural and demographic changes and the exponential growth and expansion of taiko particularly in Southern California. Through her participatory ethnographic work, she reveals a complicated story embedded in memories of Japanese American internment and legacies of imperialism, Asian American identity and politics, a desire to be seen and heard, and the intersection of culture and global capitalism. Exploring the materialities of the drums, costumes, and bodies that make sound, analyzing the relationship of these to capitalist multiculturalism, and investigating the gender politics of taiko, the book considers both the promises and pitfalls of music and performance as an anti-racist practice. The result is a vivid glimpse of an Asian American presence that is both loud and fragile.

  • Wong, Yutian, ed. Contemporary directions in Asian American dance. Studies in dance history (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-1207]

Abstract: The definition of Asian American dance is as contested as the definition of “Asian American”. The term encompasses not only a range of national origins but also a dazzling variety of theoretical frameworks, disciplinary methods, and genres—from traditional to postmodern to hip hop. Contributors to this volume address such topics as the role of the 1960s Asian American movement in creating Japanese American taiko groups, and the experience of internment during World War II influencing butoh dance in Canada. Essays about artists look closely at the politics of how Asian aesthetics are set into motion and marketed. The volume includes first-person narratives, interviews, ethnography, cultural studies, performance studies, and comparative ethnic studies.

  • Yoshihara, Mari. Musicians from a different shore: Asians and Asian Americans in classical music (Philadelphia: University of Temple Press, 2007). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2007-5967]

Abstract: An examination of the phenomenon whereby musicians of Asian descent enjoy unprecedented prominence in concert halls, conservatories, and classical music performance competitions. A confluence of culture, politics, and commerce after World War II made classical music a staple in middle-class households, established Yamaha as the world’s largest producer of pianos, and gave the Suzuki method of music training an international clientele. Soon, talented musicians from Japan, China, and South Korea were flocking to the U.S. to study and establish careers, and Asian American families were enrolling toddlers in music classes. This historical backdrop is punctuated by interviews with Asian and Asian American musicians, such as Cho-Liang Lin, Margaret Leng Tan, Kent Nagano, who have taken various routes into classical music careers. They offer their views about the connections of race and culture and discuss whether the music is really as universal as many claim it to be. A Japanese translation is cited as RILM 2013-34104.

  • Zhu, Ying and Quynh Nhu Le. “Body, time, and space: Poetry as choreography in Southeast Asian American literature”, Dance chronicle: Studies in dance and the related arts 39/1 (2016) 77–95. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-26748]

Abstract: This collaboration between a dance scholar and a literary/critical race studies scholar engages cross-disciplinary strategies of reading poetry to complicate contemporary discourses surrounding Southeast Asian American cultural productions. We offer an analysis of Phayvanh Luekhamhan’s Rubber bands and Diep Tran’s Schools, focusing on their incorporation of elements integral to both dance and Southeast Asian diasporic poetry: body, time, and space. Choreographic in form and content, these poems shed light on the embodied repercussions of imperialism, war, and migration, and call forth the moving body as central to both recording and cultivating the formation of communities in diaspora.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Analysis, Asia, Dance, Dramatic arts, Ethnomusicology, Jazz and blues, Musicology, North America, Performers, Politics, Popular music, Uncategorized, World music

David Byrne and performance

In a 2004 interview, David Byrne recalled “In hindsight I realize that at first I used to get onstage out of some desperate need—I was so painfully shy that strangely it was the only way I could express myself. So it was cathartic and powerful, but hardly what you would call pleasure.”

“When Talking Heads became a big funk ensemble, I sensed there was something more. I began to dance, to enjoy myself, to sense the connection between secular music and the gospel church, with the ecstatic religions like Candomblé and Santeria.”

“Now it’s completely pleasurable—just the physical and emotional pleasure of singing is completely transporting. The act of singing recreates the emotions that went into the songs in the first place—like adding water to freeze-dried food, the emotions get reconstituted and the singing is the water you add. And I still dance, sort of.”

Quoted in “An interview with David Byrne” by Dave Eggers (The believer II/6 [June 2004]; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2004-22964.)

Today is Byrne’s 70th birthday! Above, performing with Talking Heads in 1983; below, with his American utopia tour in 2018.

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Playing at work: An annotated bibliography on music and labor

Over 150 countries around the world celebrate Labor Day, or International Workers’ Day, on 1 May. With origins in the mid–19th-century eight-hour workday movement, this date (May Day) was established in 1889 by the first congress of the Second International to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. Today, the holiday functions largely to recognize the struggle and achievements of laborers everywhere. The criteria by which music making is judged as work, the power of collectives to safeguard the rights of music workers, and the determination of appropriate remuneration for musical services are constantly being negotiated by musicians and institutions. Simon Frith’s article “Are workers musicians?” (cited below)—an exploration of how UK musicians’ unions have been shaped by the conceptual division of the musician as laborer-craftsperson, or professional—ends with a familiar opposition: music as work versus music as play. Frith elaborates:

The belief that music—making music—is in itself, fun, a pleasurable activity that shouldn’t be thought of as work is embedded in our culture. Music is something humans do; we are all musicians—hence the vast number of amateur musicians, people who play for love. Such love of music is, of course, why people are willing to pay for musical labour in the first place, but it also means, perhaps, that they don’t really regard or music as work. Its value is precisely as non-work. Musicians may, then, be workers, but they shouldn’t be!

Aside from the reductive tone of this quote’s opening sentence (one might rightly question, “Whose ‘cultures’?” and “In which contexts?”), the musician as non-laborer (or player, rather than worker), is a common trope encouraged by the music industry, fans, journalists, and even pop musicians themselves. To cite just one examples of the latter, Lou Reed, in an interview for the documentary Rock & Roll, recounts the conditions that led to his place in The Velvet Underground. He recalls, “I had a real problem with authority. Always have. I had a real problem with being able to hold a job, a normal job. I only had, I think, three in my life. Some lasted a half hour and some half a day. I had often thought, like, ‘What are you going to do, for a job? You can’t do anything’. And I fell into the band thing.” The positioning of popular music making as a desirable alternative to the repressive power structures foisted upon those with “normal” jobs facilitates the notion that pop offers a high (or relatively high) degree of autonomy to its practitioners. Reed’s experimental—some would say, and did at the time, “unlistenable”—1975 album Metal machine music would serve as just one of innumerable sonic examples of musicians complicating this putative autonomy. Whether resulting from an interest in drones, noise, minimalism, and the postwar avant-garde, or a defiant gesture to RCA Records, pop audience expectation, and genre boundaries (or some, all, or none of these), it made a statement on the (perceived or real) options available to a pop musician.

Frith’s remarks on music’s pleasurability and Reed’s appeal to autonomy are tenacious elements of discourses surrounding popular music making that have at times led to pop musicians being denied the status of worker. This denial is worthy of inspection and holds implications for other forms of music-related activities, but it is also glaringly limited. A more complete picture of a topic as complex, wide-ranging, and wide-reaching as music and labor would include numerous genres (traditional, art, and pop musics), activities (composition, performance, editing, recording), organizations (unions, libraries, private companies, state institutions), and functions (entertainment, ritual, edification). And of course, in the spirit of the holiday, it is worth remembering that music may be mobilized to serve the struggle for workers’ rights more broadly, through protests and activist movements that operationalize the emotionality embedded in chants, songs, and melodic speech. People sound defiance, and that too does work.

The following bibliography presents a selection of texts taken from RILM Abstracts of Music Literature that may advance our knowledge and awareness of specific aspects of music and labor. It comprises publications that are international in scope and that detail varying perspectives, genres, collective activities, and economies. It is hoped that they will serve as a spark for further research. But perhaps leave that for tomorrow and take today off.

Written and compiled by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor/Marketing Manager, RILM

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  • Absher, Amy. “Traveling jazz musicians and debt peonage”, American music: A quarterly journal devoted to all aspects of American music and music in America 37/2 (summer 2019) 172–196. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2019-18326]

Abstract: The story of three brothers—Charles, Chester, and Morgan Jones—and their lives as itinerant jazz musicians in the 1930s reveals the ways in which Black musicians were still effectively enslaved by white club owners and law enforcement. In 1937, they were jailed as a result of debt peonage, wherein an employer, Dewey Helms, withheld pay supposedly in the service of debt owed by the musicians. Rarely does jazz scholarship document this system of debt peonage, and in this case, the documentation relies heavily on records of the FBI, who interviewed the brothers, Helms, and others as part of an FBI investigation. The kind of coerced labor involved in this story is well-documented in histories of the Reconstruction through World War II. Stories of Black musicians during this period, however, are often colored with a romanticized illusion of freedom rooted in the creative nature of their work. The difficulties in studying musicians such as the Jones brothers without access to oral histories, accounts of their performances, or memoirs are explored. One of the only ways to examine a story such as this is through the lens of slavery and labor culture.

  • Alisch, Stefanie. “‘I opened the door to develop kuduro at Jupson’: Music studios as spaces of collective creativity in the context of electronic dance music in Angola”, Contemporary music review 39/6 (December 2020) 663–683. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-61691]

Abstract: Demonstrates how studios producing the Angolan electronic dance music (EDM) kuduro (hard arse) in the capital Luanda are usefully investigated as social spaces of collective creativity. Interviews, observations, close listening, and ethnographic participation are triangulated. Researchers often portray kuduro and other EDM styles in the Global South using what I name the–scarcity-resilience narrative. This narrative gives short shrift to the rich cultural resources that feed into EDM styles. It perpetuates problematic stereotypes about African people and occludes the deliberate labor that kuduro practitioners (kuduristas) invest in their craft. As kuduristas routinely affirm that sociability drives their interpersonal creative processes, kuduro studios are portrayed as social spaces and kuduro’s collective creativity is construed through extended mind theory (EMT). In the analysis, first kuduro studios in Luanda are introduced broadly and then the focus is on two influential kuduro studios: JUPSON and Guetto Produções. It is shown how kuduristas mobilize their collective creativity inside the studio by tapping into aesthetic strategies and conventions of the rich popular culture that surrounds them. Via EMT, aesthetic dueling is portrayed through puto-kota (elder-younger) relationships, call-and-response, and urban vocal strategies as collectively maintained social institutions. Inside the studio, kuduristas translate these rich resources into the sonic materiality of kuduro tracks which, in turn, are designed to achieve maximum audience response through mobilizing the social institutions when radiating out into the world. The scarcity-resilience narrative of Global South EDM is de-centered by focusing on collective creativity and, as such, a fresh epistemological position is offered on the study of music studios, Global South EDM, and popular music in Angola.

  • Ayer, Julie. More than meets the ear: How symphony musicians made labor history (Minneapolis: Syren Book Co., 2005). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2005-7672]

Abstract: A history of the grassroots movement that transformed labor relations and the professional lives of U.S. and Canadian symphony musicians. The struggles and accomplishments experienced by many visionary leaders of the 1950s to 1970s offer inspiration to new generations of musicians, students, teachers, music lovers, labor historians, and orchestra administrators. Minnesota Orchestra case history documents the growth of a major American orchestra in dramatic detail and anecdotes, showing the profound effect the musician’s labor movement has had on the profession.

Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939–23 January 2018), South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer

Abstract: What is the ultimate song to celebrate Workers’ Day? Many will suggest “The Internationale” which had its roots as a poem written in the aftermath of the Paris Commune in 1871 by Eugène Pottier, a transport worker. Set to music a few years later, it became the anthem for the wider progressive movement. But I would argue that trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s iconic and internationally popular song “Stimela”—the coal train—is perhaps a more appropriate anthem for Workers’ Day in southern and Central Africa. The song speaks about local history and the migrant labour system on the mines. “Stimela” reminds everyone that South Africa’s wealth and infrastructure was built on the back of labour from all over Africa. They were the force that modernized the country. But the song is also internationalist in focus. Later recordings of the song typically begin with bass rhythms and percussion mimicking the sound of a train on its tracks.

  • Dedić, Nikola. “Muzika između proizvodnog i neproizvodnog rada”, Challenges in contemporary musicology: Essays in honor of prof. dr. Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman/Izazovi savremene muzikologije: Eseji u čast prof. dr Mirjane Veselinović-Hofman, ed. by Sonja Marinković, Vesna Mikić, Ivana B. Perković, et. al. Muzikološke studije: Monografije. (Beograd: Univerzitet Umetnosti, 2018) 472–484. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-11468]

Abstract: Identifies three models through which music is connected with the economy. Autonomy of art is shown as utterly relative autonomy, while the labor in art (music) is treated as a socially and economically determined labor. Those three models are: art (1) as a simple commodity exchange that rests on the law of simple supply and demand, then art as (2) redistribution of income through the intervention of modern state that carries with it a certain social division of labor (productive and non-productive classes) and finally, (3) it is art as a social practice of forming a monopoly rent. In our contemporary, capitalist society all three models coexist. However, in the history of Western art this was not always the case, and that is why our three-part system can be applied historically: the first model, we call it premodern, is characteristic of most precapitalist societies (at a time when there was no art, only techne, and when there was no idea of the autonomy of art which is obviously a consequence of a very specific social division of labor); the second model, we call it modern, appears with the administrative, bureaucratic state; the third model arises with the evolution of capitalist forms of production that, at one point, through art markets and the culture industry, begin to co-opt and commodify cultural products. The second and third models are, therefore, historically extremely specific and occur exclusively in bourgeois, capitalist societies.

  • Dreyfus, Kay. “The foreigner, the Musicians’ Union, and the state in 1920s Australia: A nexus of conflict”, Music and politics 3/1 (winter 2019) 1–16. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2009-3759]

Abstract: In September 1929, the general secretary of the Musicians’ Union of Australia (MUA) announced in the official journal, “there are no orchestras of any foreign nationality here now…the fight is over”, an extraordinary statement given that the nonindigenous musical traditions of this former British colony are entirely transplanted. The proximity of the date to the advent of sound films suggests a causal relationship, but the facts are more complex. The issue of foreign musicians became the site of a struggle for control of the labor market, a struggle rooted in the institutionalized racism of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 (the infamous so-called White Australia Policy), legitimized by the distinctive structures of the arbitration system and sanctioned by legal recognition of trade union autonomy with regard to membership regulation. The evolution and consequences of the MUA’s policy on foreign labor through the 1920s and its efforts to mobilize legislative support by appeals to popular concerns are examined.

  • Frith, Simon. “Are musicians workers?”, Popular music 36/1 (January 2017) 111–115. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-20901]

Abstract: Discusses working musicians in light of being considered laborers versus being considered professionals, and the historical role played by musicians’ labor unions.

  • Hildbrand, Sebastián Mauricio. “‘Todos unidos triunfaremos…’: La música para los gremios en el Teatro Colón durante el primer peronismo”, Recorridos: Diez estudios sobre música culta argentina de los siglos XX y XXI, ed. by Omar Corrado and Jorge Dubatti (Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras UBA, 2019) 273–309. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-27072]

Abstract: In 1946, Colonel Juan Domingo Perón came to power legitimately through the efforts of various sectors of society that promoted his presidential candidacy; among them the fundamental support of an as yet dispersed and inorganic labor movement. From then until the coup that ended his first period in office in 1955, he served as an effective channel for union demands on the state, as is well known; less familiar are his efforts on behalf of labor rights for the musicians’ union, in particular at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, which constitutes a significant chapter in the reconstruction not only of the history of the opera house, but of musical life during those first Perón years.

  • Kahn, Si. Habits of resistance: Cultural work and community organizing (Songspeech) (Ph.D. diss., Union Institute, Cincinnati, 1994). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1994-4550]

Abstract: Songspeech is a communication mode that is useful in multicultural communication and consciousness-raising. It draws on a number of traditional cultural forms, such as oral poetry, southern storytelling, midrash, theater, preaching, and unaccompanied song. Songspeech is located at the crossroads of cultural work, community organizing, and power, where multicultural communication forms an integral part of social change organizing. At the heart of this work are issues related to race, gender, class, and the complex interplay between them. Three southern contexts are discussed: black studies (emphasizing the 1960s civil rights movement), women’s studies, and labor studies. Examples are drawn from popular culture, multicultural studies, and social change theory and practice, including oral history, poetry, storytelling, and musical performance styles. Additional examples of the use of songspeech include the Dutch resistance to the Nazis, occupational stress, the relationship between social work and social change, the relationship between culture and community, and the need to develop habits of resistance to injustice.

  • Karmy, Eileen. “Musical mutualism in Valparaiso during the rise of the labor movement (1893–1931)”, Popular music and society 40/5 (December 2017) 539–555. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-28773]

Abstract: The Musicians’ Mutual Aid Society of Valparaíso was active from 1893 to well into the 20th century in what was then Chile’s main port city. I examine the characteristics of this social organization of Chilean musicians during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and its relationship to the rising labor movement. Moreover, I report some relevant findings based on a range of archival material. To conclude, I discuss the role of the Mutual Aid Society of Valparaíso as a forerunner to the creation of the country’s first Musicians’ Union in 1931.

  • Milohnić, Aldo. “Performing labour relations in the age of austerity”, Performance research: A journal of the performing arts 17/6 (December 2012) 72–79. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2012-15379]

Abstract: Discusses labor in relation to the performance projects Call cutta (2005) and Call cutta in a box (2008) by the collective of theater directors Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, and Daniel Wetzel, know as Rimini Protokoll.

  • Scherzinger, Martin. “Music, labor, and technologies of desire”, Sound and affect: Voice, music, world, ed. by Judith Lochhead, Eduardo Mendieta, and Stephen Decatur Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021) 197–223. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2021-3926]

Abstract: Speculatively and critically diagnoses new forms of labor, affect, and technology that have taken shape in recent decades, arguing that musical practices are at once historical precursors of current mutations across these domains, key players in the crystallization of their new contemporary forms, and sites where their new shapes may be discerned and critiqued today. In particular, the ways are critiques in which the indeterminacy of affect, along with the kinds of connection that such open affective experience can facilitate, might now fall prey to new forms of harvesting, extraction, and exploitation, which were unforeseen in earlier affect theory and in some musicological literature that valorized affective and emotional experience. Writing with an eye to recent developments at intersections of machine learning, advertising, and cognitive science, it is cautioned that affective arousal could be colonized by militarized adaptation in the same way that interactive instincts could be colonized by industrial interpellation.

  • Schinasi, Michael. “Zarzuela and the rise of the labour movement in Spain”, Popular entertainment studies 8/2 (2017) 20–37. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-26626]

Abstract: Zarzuela—Spanish lyric theatre—traces its extraordinary popularity on the Iberian Peninsula to the reign of Isabel II (1844–68). Thereafter it never lost its public appeal. In the 19th century cultural commentators debated its debt to 17th-century antecedents. Notwithstanding differing opinions on this, clearly its modern form emerged from Spanish musicians’ attempts to found a new national opera. When they failed to popularize a genre entirely in music, what remained was the zarzuela, which has both singing and spoken dialogue. This article focuses on the social nature of musicians’ hopes for a national opera, the way this arises from their difficult material situation in the face of competition from foreign music and artists, and the politics of early Spanish liberalism. After documenting the depth of artists’ concern with material life and the social language of their plan for action it suggests that we view the rise of the mature zarzuela in the light of Spain’s incipient labor movement. By doing so we in turn gain insight into an important aesthetic feature of zarzuela.

  • Schwab, Heinrich W. “Das Lied des Berufsvereine: Ihr Beitrag zur ‘Volkskunst’ im 19. Jahrhundrets”, Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 63 (1967) 1–16. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1968-2481]

Abstract: Investigation of the song repertoire of the labor organizations from the standpoint of the history of the genre and in its sociological and qualitative aspects. Describes the various organizational song books (chemists, post and telegraph assistants, railway workers, surveyors) and interprets the textual and musical symbolism of the special club” or “class” songs.

  • Stahl, Matt. Unfree masters: Recording artists and the politics of work. Refiguring American music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-9073]
American Idol Experience: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Abstract: Examines recording artists’ labor in the music industry as a form of creative work. It is argued that the widespread perception of singers and musicians as free individuals doing enjoyable and fulfilling work obscures the realities of their occupation. Stahl begins by considering the television show American idol and the rockumentary Dig! (2004), tracing how narratives of popular music making in contemporary America highlight musicians’ negotiations of the limits of autonomy and mobility in creative cultural-industrial work. Turning to struggles between recording artists and record companies over the laws that govern their contractual relationships, Stahl reveals other tensions and contradictions in this form of work. He contends that contract and copyright disputes between musicians and music industry executives, as well as media narratives of music making, contribute to American socioeconomic discourse and expose basic tensions between the democratic principles of individual autonomy and responsibility and the power of employers to control labor and appropriate its products. Attention to labor and property issues in relation to musicians and the music industry can stimulate insights about the political, economic, and imaginative challenges currently facing all working people.

  • Toynbee, Jason. “The labour that dare not speak its name: Musical creativity, labour process and the materials of music”, Distributed creativity: Collaboration and improvisation in contemporary music, ed. by Eric F. Clarke and Mark Doffman. Studies in musical performance as creative practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 37–51. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-34150]

Abstract: Explicitly offers a predominantly macro-social account, with musical creativity approached through the lens of labor. The author presents a broadly Marxist critique of the traditional romantic ideology of creativity (IOC), pointing out some of the contradictions of a capitalist system that presents all labor as alienated while regarding creative production as no kind of labor at all. As a consequence, creativity is conceived of and presented as entirely individualist and psychic, despite its organization in terms of an industrial labor market (the cultural industries). This organization of labor is manifestly a system of distributed creativity, which nonetheless clings to the radical individualism of the IOC. Through an analysis of the creative labor processes in diverse musical genres (the symphony orchestra, singer-songwriters, rock bands), the author points out the ways in which musical production, though thoroughly assimilated into contemporary capitalism, demonstrates outlier, or eccentric, tendencies, in which the primary creative agents operate with a high degree of autonomy, and in which artisanal forms of working are perpetuated. From this macro analysis of the contradictorily distributed nature of musical creativity, the essay moves to material production, making extensive use of the idea of coded voices. He points to both the abstract (schematic) and the concrete character of the coded voice, and he identifies translation (intercultural borrowing) and intensification (intercultural development) as the two primary generative processes that act upon them.

  • Woolhouse, Matthew and Jotthi Bansal. “Work, rest and (press) play: Music consumption as an indicator of human economic development”, Journal of interdisciplinary music studies/Disiplinlerarası müzik araştırmaları dergisi 7/1–2 (spring–fall 2013) 45–71. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2013-39541]

Abstract: Human development is addressed with respect to the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), a composite statistic ranging from 0 (undeveloped) to 1 (highly developed). Rather than merely industrial output, the HDI expresses the level of human wellbeing within a country (and is therefore arguably better suited to the study of music downloading than a purely monetary indicator such as Gross Domestic Product). HDI depends on three main factors: life expectancy, educational opportunity, and standard of living. We explore relationships between music consumption, human development, work and leisure, and unemployment levels in 27 geographically and economically diverse countries. We hypothesize (1) that countries with high HDI values will have increased download variability between periods of work and non-work, due to elevated levels of consumption-based leisure, and (2) that countries with high levels of unemployment will have decreased download variability between periods of work and non-work, due to a decrease in the population for whom there is a clear distinction between work and non-work. A music database, consisting of over 180 million mobile-phone downloads, is used to investigate our hypotheses. We discuss our findings in respect of HDI, the European Sovereign Debt Crisis, literature on paid and unpaid work, and the types of leisure enjoyed by people in different countries.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Africa, Curiosities, Dance, Ethnomusicology, Jazz and blues, Labor, Mass media, Musicology, Performers, Politics, Popular music, World music

Mingus and group oneness

In the mid-1950s Charles Mingus embraced the collective improvisation of early New Orleans jazz and the ecstatic worship and singing rituals of the Black Pentecostal church— two historical African-derived approaches that emphasized group expression.

Mingus used these two approaches to advance both musical expression and political and spiritual ideas, charting a trajectory toward group oneness. His recordings from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s progressed from short sections of collective interplay and group improvisation reminiscent of early jazz to longer forms of ecstatic ritual. This latter practice—in the form of solos, band, and audience participation—was a direct invocation of the spiritual communion or Holy Spirit possession that he had witnessed in Pentecostal church services as a youth.

This according to “Mingus in the workshop: Leading the improvisation from New Orleans to Pentecostal trance” by Jennifer Griffith (Black music research journal XXV/1 [spring 2015] 71–96; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-87883).

Today is Mingus’s 100th birthday! Below, Wednesday night prayer meeting (1959), one of the recordings discussed in the article.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Performers

Lightnin’ Hopkins, folk poet

A master of the blues guitar, a gifted storyteller and songwriter, Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins was one of the most prolific and successful of the Texas blues musicians of the post-World War II era.

Combining ominous, single-note runs on the high strings of his guitar with a hard-driving bass, his guitar playing included sudden bursts of speed and equally sudden silences; flurries of notes; sharp, hammered punctuations; and irregular, unpredictable rhythms. 

Hopkins’s talent for improvisation also extended to songwriting. He could create both slow and energetic songs on the spot, with subjects ranging from autobiographical matters to social protest to world events. He often seemed simply to be speaking his mind, almost talking to himself, with lyrics that were sometimes bitter, always vivid. He sang in a slow, country drawl and often answered lyrical phrases with a flourish on the guitar. This combination of haunting guitar and verbal inventiveness earned him the status of a true folk poet.

This according to “Hopkins, Sam Lightnin’” by Stan Hieronymus (Encyclopedia of music in the 20th century [New York: Routledge, 2013]); this resource is one of many included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.

Today is Hopkins’s 110th birthday!

Above and below, Hopkins in 1967, from Les Blank’s The blues accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, Performers

Sounding a history of Ukrainian sovereignty: An annotated bibliography

Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)*

 For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound,
 The first string I touch is for thee.
 The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound,
 The song from my heart will gush free.

 My song o’er the earth’s distant reaches will fly in its task
 With my dearest hopes as its guide;
 Wherever it speeds o’er the world among mankind, ’twill ask
 “Know ye where good fortune doth bide?”
  
 And there somewhere yonder my song solitary will meet
 With other such wandering lays,
 And then, joining in with that loud-singing swarm, will fly
 Away over thorn-studded ways.
  
 ’Twill speed over ocean’s blue bosom, o’er mountains will fly,
 And circle about in free air;
 ’Twill soar ever higher far up in the vault of the sky
 And maybe find good fortune there.
  
 And finding it somewhere, that longed-for good fortune may greet
 And visit our dear native strand,
 May visit and greet thee, Ukraine, O thou mother most sweet,
 Ill-starred and unfortunate land. 

By Lesâ Ukraїnka, translated into English by Percival Cundy in Spirit of flames: A collection of the works of Lesya Ukrainka (New York: Bookman Associates, 1950)

*Uncle Michael was Ukraїnka's Uncle Mihajlo (Mihajlo Dragomanov, 1841-95), a significant Ukrainian cultural and political figure.

_______________________________________

  • Noll, William. “Cultural contact through music institutions in Ukrainian lands, 1920–1948”, Music-cultures in contact: Convergences and collisions, ed. by Margaret J. Kartomi and Stephen Blum. Australian studies in the history, philosophy and social studies of music 2; Musicology: A book series 16 (Sydney: Currency Press; New York: Gordon and Breach, 1994) 204–219. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1994-4762]

Abstract: In the first half of the 20th century, the networks of music institutions in the two zones of the Ukraine were largely conceived and implemented by urban-born and urban-trained activists who were consciously creating institutionalized links with rural populations. The music and dance practices developed and distributed through these institutions were derived from rural populations, although they were stylized, notated, and arranged by urban dwellers in ways that were thought to appeal to both urban and rural groups. Most of the musical performances took place in local centers that were part of a widespread national network. Activists in western Ukraine used music to help establish and maintain a Ukrainian national identity among a large rural population with ethnic minority status in the Polish state. In eastern Ukraine the music network was intended to be the primary shaping force of village musical culture.

  • Poljak, Dubravka. “Aspekt samoupravnosti u baladnih junaka ukrajinske narodne balade”, Zbornik od XXV kongres na Sojuzot na Združenijata na Folkloristite na Jugoslavija/Rad XXV kongresa Saveza Udruženja Folklorista Jugoslavije, ed. by Lazo Karovski and Goce Stefanoski (Skopje: Sojuz na Združenijata na Folkloristite na Jugoslavija, 1980) 109–112. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1999-31936]

Abstract: Examines the theme of self-determination in the Ukrainian heroic ballads.

  • Berthiaume-Zavada, Claudette. “Résonances de la bandoura ou la mémoire vive d’un peuple”, Construire le savoir musical: Enjeux épistémologiques, esthétiques et sociaux, ed. by Monique Desroches and Ghyslaine Guertin. Logiques sociales: Musiques et champ social (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003) 129–142. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2003-16721]
Reproduction of an old-world style bandura made in Toronto by William Vetzal

Abstract: Considers the Ukrainian duma as a cultural artifact that reveals how knowledge can be built on the basis of and by means of music. The duma is a musical genre, a half-sung, half-recited epic with different accompaniments depending on the period (the lira, the kobza, and, more recently, the bandura). The bandura, a Ukrainian national symbol, is the guardian of the collective memory of the Cossack epics and of historical events. The Ukrainian duma is an example of a multifunctional form of expression in which the musical aspect is inseparable from the social, and where a musical instrument and a musical form can convey the values of a people and provide trails for the researcher to follow in understanding the behavior of a population.

  • Ostashewski, Marcia. “Identity politics and Western Canadian Ukrainian musics: Globalizing the local or localizing the global?”, TOPIA: Canadian journal of cultural studies 6 (fall–winter 2001) 63–82. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2001-22653]

Abstract: Explores how Ukrainian musicians in Western Canada use music to construct local senses of identity and Ukrainianness, while participating in a more global sense of Ukrainian history and nationhood.

  • Bajgarová, Jitka. “Ukrainische Musik: Idee und Geschichte einer musikalischen Nationalbewegung in ihrem europäischen Kontext—Lipsko, 7.–9. května 2006”, Hudební věda 2/43 (2006) 215–216. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2006-30845]

Abstract: A report on the conference on Ukrainian music and nationalism, which took place in Leipzig from 7 to 9 May 2006.

  • Helbig, Adriana. “The cyberpolitics of music in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution”, Current musicology 82 (fall 2006) 81–101. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2006-8421]

Abstract: Analyzes the relationship between political activism and what the author terms cybermusicality—an engagement with Internet music and its surrounding discourses that enables musical creativity both online and off. By looking into cybermusical phenomena in a non-Western context, this study moves beyond geographically and culturally limited analytical approaches that privilege Web-based music in the West and promote an uncritical celebration of the Internet as a technology of only the developed world. Music and the Internet played crucial roles in Ukraine’s 2004 Pomarančeva Revolûcia (Orange Revolution) when nearly one million people protested against election fraud, mass government corruption, and oligarchic market reforms. Prior to 2004, media outlets in Ukraine such as television, radio, and newspapers were government-controlled and censored. In contrast, the Internet grew in popularity as a technology that people could trust and helped activate the masses in anti-government protest. The article analyzes the revolution’s music and recordings disseminated on the Internet and examines the representative power of political song. This repertoire functioned as a particularly salient expression of citizen empowerment through the interpretation and evaluation of truth (pravda), a concept understood in the rhetoric of the revolution as the public’s “right to know” what is at the core of post-Soviet Ukrainian government propaganda.

  • Kiânovs’ka, Lûbov Oleksandrìvna. “Soziokulturelle Funktionen der ukrainischen nationalen Chorbewegung in Galizien nach 1867”, Chorgesang als Medium von Interkulturalität: Formen, Kanäle, Diskurse, ed. by Erik Fischer, Annelie Kürsten, Sarah Brasack, and Verena Ludorff. Berichte des interkulturellen Forschungsprojekts Deutsche Musikkultur im östlichen Europa 3 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2007) 403–411. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2007-34444]
Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus 1999

Abstract: After 1867 cultural areas with a strong national patriotic component began to develop within the Ukrainian choral movement. Numerous Polish choirs (Echo, Lutnia (Lute), Lwowski chór męski (Lemberg men’s choir), etc.), and Ukrainian choirs (Teorban, Bojan, Bandurist, etc.) emerged which pursued national goals in addition to societal and social objectives. The socio-cultural functions of Ukrainian choirs, which were representatives of an ethnic group without a state of their own, are examined. Their functions can be summed up as follows: establishing a national mind-set, aided by the choral culture, which was the focus of the political elite; promoting the formation of a national identity and a national memory by reviving the (ethnic) song culture; furthering general musical education by providing knowledge of the great international and national works, previously inaccessible to many; musical education—the professional musical academies of the Ukraine subsequently developed from the music schools and choirs, stimulating musical creation—a whole host of “national” compositions were composed especially for choirs; representative tasks; the “transfer” of the political and socio-cultural structures of choirs to other organizations with a similar orientation such as publishing houses, museums, and libraries.

  • Wickström, David-Emil. “Drive-ethno-dance and Hutzul punk: Ukrainian-associated popular music and (geo)politics in a post-Soviet context”, Yearbook for traditional music 40 (2008) 60–88. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2008-8821]
Ruslana in London, October 2016

Abstract: Focuses on how Ruslana, Gajdamaki, and Svoboda—contemporary groups playing Ukrainian popular music—fashion themselves based on their country of (perceived) origin and what role politics, history, and traditional music play in that process. Using a postcolonial perspective, the author argues that the identity constructed by Ruslana and Gajdamaki functions to assert Ukrainian sovereignty and thus distinguishes the Ukraine from its former colonizer Russia, while Russian-based Svoboda exoticizes the Ukraine by drawing on colonial representations of the country.

  • Kušnìruk, Ol’ga. “Refleksìâ nacìonal’nogo v muzičnomu diskursì”, Studìï mistectvoznavčì 4:28 (2009) 43–47. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-21736]

Examines the category of nationalism in music from the perspective of non-Russian musicology and proposes to introduce this category into the terminological apparatus of the modern Ukrainian musicology.

  • Wickström, David-Emil. Okna otkroj!—Open the windows! Scenes, transcultural flows, and identity politics in popular music from post-Soviet St. Petersburg (Ph.D. diss., University of Copenhagen, 2009). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-22095]

Abstract: Focuses on music production in post-Soviet St. Petersburg from the perspective of local groups, the processes that enable these groups to tour Central Europe, as well as how the groups respond to social and cultural changes in their creative work. The aim is to provide a better understanding of popular music’s role in society, especially related to music, migration, and transcultural flows, specifically focusing on the ties to the post-Soviet emigrant community in Germany. These findings also provide a deeper understanding of cultural processes in the second decade after the fall of the Soviet Union. The first part examines popular music production from a scene perspective as theorized by Will Straw (1991, 2004) and others. This is done based on experiences with the St. Petersburg group Svoboda. By tracing the social networks and hubs, as well as underlying discourses, an overview of music production in the St. Petersburg rock scene is given. The same approach is applied to the scene approach to the Russendisko, a fortnightly discotheque in Berlin run by two emigrants from the former Soviet Union playing post-Soviet popular music, with a high percentage of St. Petersburg groups. The Russendisko is special since it targets a German and not an emigrant audience. The focus is both on the Russendisko itself as well as related events in Germany. Drawing on Ulf Hannerz’s theorization of transcultural flows (1992, 1996) some of the (cultural) flows to and from St. Petersburg are traced. Here the focus is on the flow of music aided by media and people within the frames “form of life” and “market” to both St. Petersburg and Berlin. Since influences from the music style ska were quite prominent in the music heard at the Russendisko, the discussion centers around the presence of reggae and ska in St. Petersburg. Here again Svoboda, whose self-proclaimed style is Ukra-ska-Pung (Ukrainian ska punk) is used as the link between the two cities, especially since some of the group’s songs are also played at the Russendisko. An important connection between St. Petersburg and Berlin that has provided the basis for the Russendisko is the massive emigration from the former Soviet Union to Germany after 1990, which is also briefly discussed. The final part turns to identity constructions, especially how bands from St. Petersburg create a band image and market themselves. Here the focus is on how these constructions relate to concepts of collective identities, especially how groups assert their origin (from St. Petersburg/Russia) and ideas of Russian national identities. One notion of Russian national identity is that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus historically belong together. Inspired by post-colonial theory, the relationship to Ukraine is given special attention by comparing representations of Ukraine by the Russian group Svoboda and the Ukrainian performer Ruslana. The last section returns to Germany and examines first how the band identities shift when promoted to a primarily non-Russian speaking audience within the Russendisko scene. At the same time the Russendisko seems to be part of a broader German and Austrian musical focus on the East–especially linked with music from the Balkans–and the discussion is broadened to include this perspective. Returning to the post-Soviet musicians living in Berlin, the discussion is rounded off by examining why the term diaspora is not applicable within the post-Soviet emigrant community. A related monograph is cited as RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-78783.

  • Yekelchyk, Serhy. “What is Ukrainian about Ukraine’s pop culture? The strange case of Verka Serduchka”, Canadian-American Slavic studies/Revue canadienne-américaine d’études slaves 44/1–2 (spring–summer 2009) 217–232. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2010-342]
Vêrka Serdûčka

Abstract: The Ukrainian cross-dressing and language-mixing pop star Vêrka Serdûčka (played by male actor Andrij Danilko) is the most controversial product of Ukrainian post-Soviet mass culture. Ukrainian nationalists reject Serdûčka as a parody of their nation, while Russians took umbrage at her 2007 Eurovision entry, which allegedly contained the words “Russia goodbye”. This article interprets the character of Serdûčka as a jester, who makes audiences laugh at their own cultural stereotypes and prejudices, and at the same time as a representative of Ukraine’s living traditional culture, reflecting an ambiguous national identity of this essentially bilingual country.

  • Lastovec’ka-Solans’ka, Zorâna Mykolaїvna. “Rol’ tradyciї ta nacional’nyh cinnostej u duhovnij kul’turi ukraїnciv”, Naukovij vìsnik Nacìonal’noï Muzičnoï Akademìï Ukraïni ìmenì P.I. Čajkovs’kogo 85 (2010) 36–50. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2010-16673]

Abstract: Discusses the Ukrainian sociocultural values through the prism of their traditions. Sociocultural dynamics of cultural development, individual ethnic-aesthetic culture, nation’s genetic memory, national self-identification, and their expression in musical art are analyzed.

  • Radzievskij, Vitalij Aleksandrovič. “Muzykal’naâ kul’tura na ukrainskom Majdane”, Muzykal’naâ kul’tura v teoretičeskom i prikladnom izmerenii. I, ed. by Irina Gennadievna Umnova (Kemerovo: Gosudarstvennyj Universitet Kul’tury i Iskusstva, 2014) 88–96. [RILM abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-80333]

Abstract: Describes the musical components of the majdan culture as the main sociocultural dimensions of the Ukrainian culture. The music of the Èvromajdan is discussed.

  • Schwanitz, Mirko. “Rüben sammeln und Sex Pistols hören: Die ukrainische Revolution und der Mut ihrer Künstler”, Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 69/2 (2014) 62–64. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-11161]

Abstract: Discusses the poet and writer Serhìj Žadan, who is considered one of the most powerfully eloquent poets in Europe, with reference as well to selected Ukrainian artists and their situation. Ukraine is presented as the country where most poets, authors, and singers are fighting fiercely for their vision of a new and freer homeland. The translator and author Ûrìj Prohas’ko figures as one of the most important cultural mediators between Ukraine and the German-speaking countries. Andrej Kurkov, internationally the best-known and most-translated Ukrainian author, offered prescient warnings about the scenario that has now come to pass.

  • Morozova, Lûbov’ Sergeevna and Katarzyna Kramnik. “Sounds of Maidan”, Glissando: Magazyn o muzyce współczesnej 26 (2015) http://glissando.pl/en/tekst/sounds-of-maidan/. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-3900]

Abstract: Discusses the soundscape of the Majdan Nezaležnostì (Independence Square) in Kiïv during Èvromajdan.

  • Sonevytsky, Maria. “The freak cabaret on the revolution stage: On the ambivalent politics of femininity, rurality, and nationalism in Ukrainian popular music”, Journal of popular music studies 28/3 (September 2016) 291–314. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-5972]
The Dakh Daughters at Rudolstadt-Festival 2016.

Abstract: In the winter of 2013, as dramatic political demonstrations overtook central Kiïv, Ukraine, screens around the world projected live video feeds of the protests first referred to as Èvromajdan, and later simply as Majdan. Social media was pivotal in inciting the groundswell of opposition that eventually led to the abdication of power by President Vìktor Ânukovič. As part of the broad social contest over meaning that has characterized the Ukrainian Majdan and the ongoing war in Ukraine’s eastern borderlands, online communities have interpreted Majdan-themed music videos in dialectically opposing ways, engaging in bitter feuds over the meanings of politically charged tropes on the comment boards of websites and social media feeds, each side accusing the other of propagandizing on behalf of either Putin’s Russia or the US and European Union. This polarized battle over interpretation often mirrored the entrenched discourse over Ukraine’s liminal geopolitical position: forever the quintessential borderland, buffering an expanding Europe from the Russian sphere of influence. This article considers one such contested performance that circulated in the form of an edited music video, the Èvromajdan performance of the piece Gannusâ by the Ukrainian freak cabaret act known as the Dakh Daughters, a Kiïv-based collective of female actors and musicians known for their dramatic, collage-based musical performance pieces.

  • Kiânovs’ka, Lûbov Oleksandrìvna. “Verluste des ukrainischen Musiklebens in der Periode der ‘Hingerichteten Renaissance’: 1930er Jahre und nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg”, Musicology today: Journal of the National University of Music Bucharest 7/3:27 (July–September 2016) 241–258. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2016-34688]

Abstract: Describes the tragic events of the Ukrainian musical culture in the period of Stalin’s terror. The author explains—from a social and political perspective—the reasons why Ukrainian art and the Ukrainian intelligentsia had been subjected to repression. Most of the prominent artists were murdered; other examples of reprisal are considered, against the director, actor, public figure Les’ Kurbas, and against choreographer, composer, manager Vasil’ Mikolajovič Verhovinec’. The cruel extinction of blind kobza-players under Harkìv is also described. Even after World War II, repressions against Ukrainian artists hadn’t been stopped, as we find out from the case of the composer Vasil’ Oleksandrovič Barvìns’kij.

  • Sonevytsky, Maria. Wild music: Sound and sovereignty in Ukraine. Music/culture (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2019). [RILM abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-11778]

Abstract: What are the uses of musical exoticism? This book tracks vernacular Ukrainian discourses of wildness as they manifested in popular music during a volatile decade of Ukrainian political history bracketed by two revolutions. From the Eurovision Song Contest to reality TV, from Indigenous radio to the revolution stage, the author assesses how these practices exhibit and re-imagine Ukrainian tradition and culture. As the rise of global populism forces us to confront the category of state sovereignty anew, the author proposes innovative paradigms for thinking through the creative practices that constitute sovereignty, citizenship, and nationalism.

– Compiled by Katya Slutskaya Levine, Editor, RILM

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Europe, Instruments, Musicology, Performance practice, Performers, Politics, Popular music

Joe Wilder, barrier breaker

Distinguished for his achievements in both the jazz and classical worlds, Joe Wilder performed as lead trumpet and soloist with Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Lunceford, Dizzy Gillespie, and Count Basie.

He was also a pioneer who broke down racial barriers. Wilder was a founding member of the Symphony of the New World, the first racially integrated orchestra in the U.S., where he played first trumpet; the first African American to hold a principal chair in a Broadway show orchestra; and one of the first African Americans to join a major network studio orchestra

Wilder’s modesty and ability to perform in many musical genres may have prevented him from achieving popular recognition, but his legacy and contributions to music and culture are far-reaching.

This according to Softly, with feeling: Joe Wilder and the breaking of barriers in American music by Edward Berger (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014).

Today is Wilder’s 100th birthday! Above, performing in 2006 (photo by Professor Bop, licensed under CC BY 2.0); below, playing the jazz standard Cherokee in 1956.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Performers

Pollini on Chopin

maurizio-pollini

In a 2006 interview Maurizio Pollini discussed his relationship with the works of Chopin, which began most publicly with his victory at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1960.

“The music of Chopin has been with me my entire life, since when I was a boy. My love for the music of Chopin has become greater and greater for years, perhaps because I understand better this music…Each note speaks in a more clear, convincing way to the audience.”

“Chopin is an innately seductive composer. But there is an incredible depth to Chopin, and this depth should come, finally, from a performance of him…What was extraordinary is, he was able to achieve universality. It is amazing that music so completely personal is able to conquer everybody.”

Quoted in “Pollini speaks! (in his fashion)” by Daniel J. Wakin (The New York times 7 May 2006, p. AR9).

Today is Pollini’s 80th birthday! Below, a recent Chopin performance.

BONUS: The pianist at the 1960 Chopin competition.

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Filed under Performers, Romantic era

Rita Moreno, EGOT

In 1977 Rita Moreno became the third person in history to achieve what has been called the “grand slam” of show business—a winner of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards, or EGOT.

The clincher was her Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for an appearance on The Muppet show. In a 2021 interview, she recalled the experience.

“They had a studio two streets from us on Broadway. I saw [Jim Henson] at a restaurant one day, and I literally got on my knees. I said, ‘I beg you to let me do some little-girl Muppet voices.’ And I did. I would say, ‘You don’t have to pay me.’ And he said, ‘No, I do. This is a union shop. We have to pay you.’ And then, a number of years later, I went to England to do The Muppet show.”

“You [have to avoid] looking at the Muppeteer, which a lot of people do because it’s a natural instinct to look at the person who’s doing the voice. But I love comedy. This was my idea, by the way: ‘What if I’m trying to be really sexy?’ We had me in a great gown and a long wig, and I looked absolutely smashing. Animal’s last line, after I smash him with the cymbals is ‘That’s my kind of woman!’ And most people don’t hear that because they’re laughing.”

Quoted in “Rita Moreno has time only for the truth” by Michael Schulman (The New Yorker, 17 June 2021 [online]; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2021-10493).

Today is Rita Moreno’s 90th birthday! Above and below, the historic performance.

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Filed under Humor, Performers, Popular music

Choe Seung-hui and modernism

Choe Seung-hui’s career moved in the reverse of the developmental narrative often associated with non-Western choreographers who study Western dance.

The earliest dance photographs of Choe show her in form-fitting leotards and short tunics, showing off her muscular and flexible body through extended lines, pointed feet, and angular planes, her face expressing seriousness or ecstasy—the epitome what one might envision today as modern dance.

But for her, this style ultimately came to represent imitation and convention rather than innovation and creativity. Whereas those early dances followed in the styles of others and worked in their voices, it was in formulating dances involving traditional Korean models that Choe invented her own style and established something new that would influence others.

For Choe, what looked like modern dance from a Western perspective was less modern than the Korean-style modern choreographies with which she made her mark as a modernist choreographer, dancer, theorist, and pedagogue.

This according to “Locating performance: Choe Seung-Hui, East Asian modernism and the case for area knowledge in dance studies” by Emily E. Wilcox, and essay included in Futures of dance studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2020, 505–22; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature no. 202o-14576).

Today is Choe Seung-hui’s 110th birthday! Above, a photo from the 1950s; below, a partial reconstruction of Choe’s choreography.

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Filed under Dance, Performers