Music and Digital Media: A Planetary Anthropology

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  1. Georgina Born
Music and Digital Media A Planetary Anthropology

The first comparative ethnographic study on the impact of digital media on worldwide music.

Offering a radically new theoretical framework for understanding digital media through music, this volume redresses anthropology’s frequent oversight of music as a topic of study. By positioning music as an expansive subject for digital anthropology, Georgina Born demonstrates how the field can build interdisciplinary links to music and sound studies, digital media studies, and science and technology studies. Music and Digital Media includes five original ethnographies spanning pop, folk, and crossover musical genres throughout Kenya, Argentina, India, Canada, and the UK. A further three chapters engage experimentally with the platforms of music-making and distribution, presenting pioneering ethnographies of an extra-legal peer-to-peer site and the streaming platform Spotify, a series of prominent internet-mediated music genres, and the first ethnography of a global software package, the interactive music platform Max MSP.

Acknowledgements

The research reported in this book stems from a programme entitled ‘Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies’ (or MusDig), funded by the European Research Council’s Advanced Grants scheme.1 The Principal Investigator was Georgina Born, and Geoff Baker, Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, Aditi Deo, Andrew J. Eisenberg, Christopher Haworth and Patrick Valiquet were supported for research by the grant. Kyle Devine joined as our administrator and fast became a highly valued research collaborator. Several then-graduate students – Blake Durham, Emily Payne, Joe Snape and Christabel Stirling – became closely allied with the programme, contributing in innumerable ways. Alex’s, Kyle’s, Chrissy’s and Emily’s work is not fully represented in this volume but their intellectual élan and participation were vital to our collective efforts. Particular thanks go to Blake, Joe, Christopher and Kyle for their enthusiasm, energy and patience in sustaining the research dialogues that fill some of these pages. Heartfelt thanks are due to all these friends and colleagues for their inestimable contributions.

Collectively, we want to acknowledge the immense contributions of our interlocutors across the nine ethnographies making up MusDig, who graciously shared their time, thoughts and insights, practices and projects with us – those hailing from, inter alia, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, Bikaner, Tejgadh, Delhi, Havana, Berkeley, Tokyo, Montreal, Belfast, Leicester, Huddersfield, Darmstadt, Graz and the virtual hangouts of ‘Jekyll’ (chapter 5). We offer our gratitude and recognise our debts to these interlocutors.

During the project we engaged in numerous benefit-sharing activities, attempting to contribute back to the people with whom we worked. They included holding local public workshops and conferences in the fieldwork sites, bringing interested parties together to discuss relevant topics from our work. Andrew J. Eisenberg organised with Mbugua wa Mungai and Kimani Njogu a conference in Nairobi integrating speakers from the humanities departments at Kenyatta University and stakeholders from the Kenyan music and media industries. In Delhi, Aditi Deo, Vebhuti Duggal and Ira Bhaskar organised a three-day conference, ‘The Music Box and Its Reverberations: Technology and Music in India’, at Jawaharlal Nehru University to build a community of thought and practice between fieldwork interlocutors and academics. In Buenos Aires, Geoff Baker organised a one-day conference on ‘Música y digitalización en Buenos Aires’ with local musicians, journalists, critics and other stakeholders to discuss pressing common concerns. In Montreal and the UK we held several events including one, organised by Will Straw at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, titled ‘Culture, Creativity and Urban Space’ where interested parties presented their work and began sustained dialogues. In Havana, Alex Boudreault-Fournier collaborated with Isnay Rodriguez Agramonte and the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica on a substantial two-day conference at the National Museum of Fine Arts in which musician interlocutors, scholars, public intellectuals, lawyers and institutional partners together addressed cultural and intellectual property in relation to music and the arts – matters of urgent concern in Cuba. The project also employed research assistants locally and brought several musician interlocutors to the UK, supporting them in expanding their networks. We here affirm, again, our warm thanks for and recognition of their many contributions and help.

Andrew J. Eisenberg’s research benefitted from the assistance of Beatrice Nguthu, Mbugua wa Mungai, Amin Virani and the staff at Ketebul Music, notably Steve Kivutia and Patrick Ondiek. For their generosity with their time and thoughts, he especially thanks Lucas Bikedo, Timothy Boikwa, Jesse Bukindu, Viola Karuri, Robert Kamanzi, Paul Kelemba, Bill Odidi, Tabu Osusa and Harsita Waters.

Geoff Baker would like to express huge gratitude to all the people in Buenos Aires who collaborated with his research, but particular thanks to the three founders of ZZK Records – Grant Dull, Diego Bulacio and Guillermo Canale – and all the label’s artists, and also Patricio Smink.

Aditi Deo is immensely grateful to the archivists and musicians who generously gave their time to the research in India, but especially to Shubha Chaudhari, Gopal Singh Chouhan, and Naran and Vikesh Rathwa. Vebhuti Duggal played a crucial role as a research assistant for the project.

Blake Durham would like to thank the members of the Jekyll network as well as those Spotify users whose generosity with their time and insights were instrumental to his research; particular thanks are owed to KF (a pseudonym) and Murphy Fleenor.

Joe Snape would like to thank the following for their help: Dave Defilippo, Adrian Freed, Rama Gottfried, Jonathan Green, Satoshi Hattori, Rosa van Hensbergen, Holly Herndon, Matt Ingalls, Jeff Lubow, John MacCallum and the late David Wessel. His work (2012–14) was supported by the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities, University of Oxford.

Christopher Haworth would like to convey his gratitude for important dialogues with Sean Booth, Roc Jiménez de Cisneros, Russell Haswell, Florian Hecker, Alex McLean and the late Peter Rehberg. He acknowledges the additional support of a Cheney Fellowship at the University of Leeds (2016–17).

Georgina Born thanks the many people who contributed to her elements of the book as interlocutors of one or another kind. In particular, I (Georgina Born) am grateful to these colleagues for their generosity with time, conversation, advice and support: Frieda Abtan, Robert Adlington, Michael Alcorn, Aaron Cassidy, Rui Chaves, Marko Ciciliani, Michael Clarke, Eric Drott, Gerhard Eckel, Aaron Einbond, Simon Emmerson, Mark Fell, Adrian Freed, Owen Green, Lauren Hayes, David Hesmondhalgh, Andrew Hugill, Charles Kronengold, Leigh Landy, Cathy Lane, Liza Lim, Eric Lyon, Graham McKenzie, Matilde Meireles, Tom Mudd, Tony Myatt, Peter Nelson, Sally-Jane Norman, Gascia Ouzounian, Pedro Rebelo, John Richards, Chris Salter, Franziska Schroeder, Sha Xin Wei, Jonathan Sterne, Paul Théberge, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, Simon Waters and Sean Williams. Inevitably, some of you may not agree with aspects of the analysis, and any errors of interpretation are entirely my own. Jonathan, Dave, Eric and Owen: special thanks for going above and beyond in collegiality, including giving invaluable feedback to members of the group and to me.

I would also like to express gratitude for several sources of hospitality and support. Drafts of chapters were written, discussed in classes and presented in lectures on visits to the Schulich School of Music, McGill University (2013–14); the Music Department at UC Berkeley as the Bloch Lecturer (2014); the Department of Musicology, Oslo University (2014–19); Hong Kong University (2018); Humanities/Critical Theory Emphasis, UC Irvine (2019); Aarhus University as guest professor in Musicology (2017) and Fellow of the Aarhus Institute for Advanced Studies (2018–19); and Princeton University as a Global Scholar (2021 on). Among those who made these visits possible and enjoyable are Lisa Barg, David Brackett, Jonathan Sterne and Will Straw (McGill); Ben Brinner, Daniel Fisher, Adrian Freed, Jocelyne Guilbault, Mary Ann Smart, Bonnie Wade and the late David Wessel (Berkeley); Anne Danielsen, Stan Hawkins, Alexander Refsum Jensenius, Hans Weisethaunet and the late Ståle Wikshåland (Oslo); Daniel Chua and José Vicente Neglia (Hong Kong); and Julia Reinhard Lupton and Jim Steintrager (Irvine). Aarhus and AIAS demand particular recognition for providing such a stimulating interdisciplinary environment: my thanks to Mads Krogh, Morten Kyndrup, Steen K. Neilsen, Anne Marie Pahuus, the AIAS staff and my friends Christina Kkona and Adeline Masquelier. My colleagues and students at the Faculty of Music, Oxford University were wonderfully supportive over the years of incubation of the book: my warm thanks to Eric Clarke, Jonathan Cross, Samantha Dieckmann, Peter Franklin, Daniel Grimley, Tom Hodgson, Gascia Ouzounian and Jason Stanyek for collaborations and conversations. For their inspiring company as co-learners I thank Pablo Infante Amate, Anton Blackburn, Alice Kelly, Jaana Serres and Anna Thomas. On a personal level, especially warm thanks to Christabel, Joe, Christopher, Kyle, Blake, Pablo and Anton, who have been there for me (as I’ve tried to be there for them), responding with insight, well-founded criticism, humour and friendship: your intellectual company makes a huge difference. As always, Andrew Barry, Theo and Clara Barry Born have been my source of strength and love, not least during the pandemic. Andy, there are simply no words.

Additional warm thanks to the JRMA editor, Freya Jarman, for help and advice, to Anton Blackburn for heroic efforts in bringing this manuscript together in the late stages, and to Johanna Bates, Josh Rutner, Max Wainwright and the team at UCL Press – Chris Penfold and Grace Patmore – as well as Mark Broad, Leonora Dawson-Bowling and Linda Mellor, for their care and support in making the book happen.

Patrick Valiquet’s chapter, ‘Remediating modernism: on the digital ends of Montreal’s electroacoustic tradition’, is republished from the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 144(1): 157–89 (2019), copyright © 2019 The Royal Musical Association, with the permission of Cambridge University Press & Assessment. Although great care has been taken in compiling the contents of this material, Cambridge University Press & Assessment nor their servants are responsible or liable in any way for the currency of the information, for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies, or for any consequences arising therefrom. Cambridge University Press & Assessment does not endorse any commercial enterprise.
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