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Systematische Musikwissenschaft

Julia Merrill


Popular Music Studies Today

Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music 2017

Editor Popular Music Studies Today Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music
Editor Popular Music Studies Today Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music

Systematische Musikwissenschaft

Herausgegeben von J. Hemming, Kassel, Deutschland

Systematische Musikwissenschaft richtet ihr Erkenntnisinteresse häufig auf Zeit­ punkte statt auf Zeiträume. Dies ermöglicht es, Prozesse musikalischer Produktion und Rezeption detailliert in den Blick zu nehmen – von akustischen Messungen am Instrument bis zur Hirnforschung am Musikhörer, von einer Problematisierung des Begriffs der „Musikalität“ bis zur Einbeziehung musikbezogener Geschlechter­ oder Globalisierungsforschung. Entsprechend vielfältig sind die Anforderungen an methodische, häufig empirische Innovationen sowie an die dazugehörige Theorie­ entwicklung. Zugleich werden bevorzugt aktuelle oder gesellschaftsrelevante mu­ sikkulturelle Phänomene thematisiert. Die Reihe Systematische Musikwissenschaft hat es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, durch Veröffentlichung von Überblickswerken, Monographien und Diskussionsbänden das Spannungsfeld zwischen Theorie und Empirie in der Systematischen Musikwissenschaft mit neuen Inhalten zu berei­ chern.

Herausgegeben von

Jan Hemming

Kassel, Deutschland

Julia Merrill


Popular Music Studies Today

Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music 2017

Merrill (Ed.) Popular Music Studies Today Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular
Merrill (Ed.) Popular Music Studies Today Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular


Julia Merrill

Kassel, Deutschland

The conference was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Systematische Musikwissenschaft ISBN 978­3­658­17739­3 DOI 10.1007/978­3­658­17740­9

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017936656

ISBN 978­3­658­17740­9


Springer VS © Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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Table of Contents



Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music Nino Auricchio


The Monkey is Amused to Death: Roger Waters’ Masterpiece and its Commercial Failure Navid Bargrizan


Popular Music Studies in the Context of Post-Communist Historiography in the Czech Republic Jan Blüml


Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice Benjamin Burkhart


The Presentation of the Self in the Popular Song Pedro Cesar Pires


“Chinese Got Talent”: Popular Music Singing Competitions in Taiwan and China Ya-Hui Cheng


Unpacking Performance in the Pop-Rock Biopic Maurizio Corbella


From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder Virginia Dellenbaugh


Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias


When I’m (Not) ‘Ere Stan Erraught


Binaurality, Stereophony, and Popular Music in the 1960s and 1970s Franco Fabbri


Adele’s Hello: Harmonic Ambiguity & Modal Inflection in Contemporary Pop Grant Davidson Ford



Table of Contents

Mapping Popular Music Studies in Turkey Onto Studies in the Anglophone World Ali C. Gedik


Power and Resistance in Iranian Popular Music Amin Hashemi


‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ – A Survey of Electric Guitar Players Jan-Peter Herbst


Performing Disorder Peter Hinrichs, Oleg Pronitschew


From Psychedelia to Djent – Progressive Genres as a Paradox of Pop Culture Andrzej Mądro


The Resonances of Political Disputes in Hong Kong China – Case Studies of Canto-pop Ivy Man


African Manifestations in Brazil: The Crioula Drum Dance Regina Meirelles


Mach Schau!: The Contribution of The Beatles to the Development of Visual Music in Magical Mystery Tour Emilio Mendoza Guardia


Shaping the pancadão: Improvisation and Studio Creativity on Rio Funk Independent Recordings from the Early 1990s Alexei Michailowsky


“What Difference Does it Make?” Studying Urban Popular Music from Before the Generalization of the Gramophone: The Example of the First World War Repertoire John Mullen


Hearing Sexism – Analyzing Discrimination in Sound L. J. Müller


Genre Modulation as Sectional Divider Taylor Myers


Table of Contents


Groenemeyer – A Case Study on Situative Singing Styles Hendrik Neubauer, Tobias Marx


The Music of Samba Schools: A Challenge for Popular Music Studies Yuri Prado


Who said we were over it? On Nationalist Nostalgia and a Specter Haunting Europe: Popular Music and the Melancholic Presence of the Past Melanie Schiller


What Lessons can Higher Popular Music Education Learn from Art School Pedagogy? Simon Strange


Global Patchbay: Developing Popular Music Expertise Through International Collaboration Mark Thorley, Gerhard Roux


Musicology of Listening – New Ways to Hear and Understand the Musical Past Martha Ulhôa



This volume presents selected contributions to the 19th edition of the biannual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, titled “Popular Music Studies Today”. These proceedings cover a wide variety of stud- ies, focusing on present and future developments in popular music studies: Re- searching Popular Music, Analyzing Popular Music, Teaching and Learning Pop- ular Music, Remapping Popular Music, Narrating Popular Music and Technology and Popular Music. Authors from all over the world contributed, representing dif- ferent countries and cultures. Conference contributions were peer-reviewed by the academic committee which consisted of the following members: Jacopo Tomatis (chair), Jonathan Eato, Dafni Tragaki, Ádám Ignácz, Olivier Julien, Cecilia Björck, Hyunjoon Shin, Isa- belle Marc, Danijela Spiric Beard, María Luisa de la Garza and Steve Waksman. Articles are in alphabetical order of the first author. Color figures can be found in the online version, to be accessed via For the first time, the proceedings were prepared in advance, making them available at the time of the conference, held in Kassel, Germany, from June 2630, 2017.

Julia Merrill (editor) Jan Hemming (conference convener)

Kassel, February 2017

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music

Nino Auricchio

University of West London, London College of Music, Ealing, London, United Kingdom,

The composition of contemporary electronic dance music (EDM) requires consid- erable technical expertise and finesse in the creation and manipulation of sound timbre. The function of timbre in this type of music is critical for creating dynamic structure, tension and release in a work to provide the conditions for a listener to be emotionally moved in the manner intended by the composer. The analysis of existing compositional works will seek to gauge the extent of emotional impact through the psychophysiological response to music known as musical chills or frisson. This response is often felt by the listener as a tingle or shiver which may spread down the back, neck, arms or legs. Current research into physiological responses to music and their relationship to emotions, along with traditional musical analysis of chill response sections of music, rarely takes tim- bre into account. This paper intends to draw attention to and explore the relationship of timbre to the chill response in EDM, with reference to specific sound creation and manipulation production techniques.

Keywords: EDM, chills, timbre, physiology, composition


Music has the ability to manipulate mood in the listener to extremes. Perhaps the most intense of these is the feeling of transcendence beyond what people perceive as physical reality, into a deep sense of bliss, euphoria and what is often termed, the ‘chill response’. This physiological reaction can often take the form of goose bumps, shivers down the spine or a tightening of the chest as the adrenal gland releases adrenalin to counteract increased serotonin levels. In EDM the creation and morphology of timbre can often be more important to the composer as a tool to aid the manipulation in the listener than tonal events. This paper will look to identify and describe shared characteristics of timbre that help to evoke feelings of euphoria within EDM, and production techniques that accomplish this.The power of music to evoke euphoria as a psycho-physiological reaction in people has intrigued musicologists for a very long time (Guhn et al. 2007: 473). This

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_1


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desire to understand the manner in which music evokes emotions has driven pub- lished music research in the field of music cognition over the last thirty-six years (Goldstein 1980: 126-129; Juslin, Sloboda 2001: 73).

Defining the chill response

Music and emotion is an area of research, which has preoccupied musicologists and psychologists since the times of ancient Greece (Juslin, Sloboda 2010: 3). Composers of EDM want to recreate deep emotional reactions within them- selves and the listener, thus the manner as to which these conditions come about is important. The conditions under which certain emotions, and more specifically, the chill response are created, need to be understood. The chill response is defined as when a listener has a psychophysiological reaction to music (Guhn, et. al. 2007: 473). Hairs stand up on the back of the neck, shivers go down the spine, and an increase in heart rate may occur. This type of intense and pleasurable experience where dopamine is released into the brain, is usually associated with certain primal stim- uli such as eating, having sex, acquiring money and taking recreational drugs (Sal- impoor et al. 2013: 62). This internal reward mechanism can also be stimulated by music and art, which is not vital to life and abstract in nature. The amount of variation in how these abstract stimuli are embedded into cultures and individuals is vast. Dubé and Lebel (2003: 287) demonstrate that music is a powerful tool humans use to help affect their emotional state and that the chill response is a clear indication of peak emotional response to music (Panksepp 1995). Chills are also indicated by well defined patterns in the autonomic nervous system, which allow for objective psychophysiological measurement in the listener (Salimpoor el al. 2009: 1). John Sloboda, whilst at Keele University undertook at study in 1991 into what he termed “thrills” as part of the experience of listening to music. The study in- volved carrying out a questionnaire, asking people if they felt “shivers” and “chills” when listening to a predetermined set of extracts from the Western classi- cal music repertoire. There were eighty-three respondents (primarily musicians) who described their experiences when listening to the musical extracts, such as lumps in the throat, tears and shivers. Sloboda then analysed these responses and looked to establish some correlates between the responses of the participants and the music, with regard to specific musical attributes. These included shivers cor- relating to dramatic and quick changes in harmony and dynamics. Jaak Panksepp, whilst at Bowling Green University in 1995 undertook a similar study to Sloboda, also looking into the source of “chill” induced by music. Panksepp found that a particular passage of Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut (1983) elicited a large number of chill responses in his undergraduate psychology students. The passage contained

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


a number of different elements changing simultaneously, including a drastic dy- namic change upwards. It seems plausible therefore that altering the timbre of sounds dramatically and suddenly in the context of an EDM track, in a similar manner to dynamics and tonality, may also help to elicit the chill response. The study of electronic music and dance music in particular, tends to focus on the rhythmic patterns, arrange- ment and resulting drug-induced euphoria (Reynolds 1999; Brester et. al. 1999; Neill 2002: Butler 2006). Whilst this is central to understand how these forms of music have developed and progressed culturally over the last thirty years, it rarely returns to conclude whether and how the timbre of the music impacts the listener emotionally. Another pertinent question is to progress analysis of electronic mu- sic towards how it impacts upon the listener in a psychophysiological manner. External factors relating to how people respond to music are undoubtedly far be- yond the realms of the music itself. The impact of greater cultural and personal experiential factors is possibly the greatest with regard to how people respond emotionally to music. Factors can take the form of associations with certain styles of music (Levitin 2006: 236), or a personal experience, such having a ‘special’ song for a loved one. It is therefore important to attempt to separate these external factors from the chill response, and hypothesise as to whether this is in fact possi- ble.

It is first important to consider how the listener perceives EDM, being style within the broader realm of electronic music, with relation to musical cog- nition. It seems appropriate that the cognitive aspects of electronic music should be discussed initially. Acoustic instruments are by their very nature, sound pro- duction devices that are operated and articulated by people and therefore have ‘real-world’ gestural characteristics. The perception when someone listens to a recording of an acoustic instrument is that the mediator is the person playing the instrument. This in turn means that the gesture of the player is far more concrete in the listeners mind and invokes more mimetic associations. However, in elec- tronic music the link between sound production and articulation can often be dis- tanced or detached. This disassociation consequently means that any implied ac- tion or excitation of the electronic device by a person, are poor at echoing the often-intricate formation of electronic sound. Electronic instruments are not con- strained by the physical ability of a human performer to directly play the instru- ment, allowing more freedom for performance. Gesture and the sound output are no longer linked (Leman 2008: 164) with seemingly insignificant move- ments producing very significant sound outputs. Listeners of EDM can often enjoy the lack of direct gestural mediation be- tween how a sound is produced and the sound itself. It allows for the abstraction of sound to take place in the listeners mind, enabling the evocation of images,


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narratives or movies. The constructs of reality, the constraints of objects, en- vironment and actions can be put to one side. It is true that people have an excel- lent ability to gauge the action being taken through listening to a recording of it (Rocchesso and Fontana 2003: 31), and have a need to understand the source of a sound. However, the perception of electronic music to not be constrained by gestural feedback is what can make it liberating as a stlye of music. Leman (2008:

166) postulates that as the listener is not focused on the manner of a sounds pro- duction in electronic music, as they can instead focus on organisational properties of sound such as pitch, amplitude envelopes and timbre. An example could be a focus on anything from a subtle change in the tone of a synthesized string sound, to the shifting of a hi-hat pattern in the stereo image. Indeed, Eric Clark (2005:

89) states that morphology and proprioception of electronic music provides the listener with the experience of “impossible worlds” (Clark 2005: 89). The stratification of elements in electronic music tends to point toward a per- ception that the sound of a track might be taken in whole. However, when listening to electronic music, mentally dismantling the various layers of sound into distinct streams is a natural response (Bregman 1990: 47) and encourages the kind of intense and deep listening, which can then help lead to a chill response due to a change or resolution in that stream.

Chill response catalysts and their link to timbre in EDM

Studies into what characteristics of music evoke a chill response are varied, however there are some common ones that studies have identified as being partic- ularly pronounced. John Sloboda in his 1991 study into musical structure and emotional response indicated that the musical structures that provoked the chill response most reliably were sudden changes in harmony, dynamics and texture (1991: 115). Jaak Panksepp in his 1995 study (revised in 2002) indicated that a solo instrument emerging from the background of an ensemble, a high-pitched sustained note, or intense and dramatic crescendos would more likely evoke a chill response (2002: 143). Oliver Grewe et al. in their 2005 and 2007 studies also found that the entrance of a new instrumental part, change in loudness and con- trasts between two voices would evoke chills more frequently than other musical structures (2007: 303). These studies focus predominantly on harmony and mel- ody as opposed to timbre, however timbre is always directly linked to these elements by association. The following section will explore the structures and features of timbre as a catalyst for the chill response though the analysis of two EDM tracks. The pa- rameters by which the tracks will be analysed must first be established however. It is also important to make clear that timbre cannot be considered in total isolation from the other aspects of musical composition, such as tonality, harmony, melody

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


and rhythm. Gestalt theory dictates that our perception of music as humans means we group these aspects of composition together (Jackendoff and Lerdahl


The arrangement is often clearly defined with section demarcation made ob- vious through the often-sudden change of tonal, rhythmic and sonic elements. A prominent kick drum pattern is often utilised as a common characteristic of EDM. Bass line patterns often use single notes for extended periods in a track, before moving to follow a new harmonic progression. Chord progressions can vary from one or two repeating chords to more complex progressions with half bar changes, an irregular number of chords in the progression loop and use of inversions. Chord progressions are sometimes performed with an arpeggiator, often playing a syn- thesized staccato like sound, or in conjunction with a sustained string/pad sound. The arrangement can takes the form of a rhythm only opening section, 1 before the bass line is introduced, followed by a higher tonal riff or pad. This exposition will often include an introduction of other rhythmic elements, perhaps the occa- sional tonal element and soundscape textural elements. A breakdown is common after the exposition, where a main melody and chord progression can introduced. This section is likely to build with the introduction of other elements, both tonal and rhythmic, before the main driving rhythm returns and the track then enters its climactic section. This climactic section represents the summit of the track with additional tonal and rhythmic elements to enhance the overall soundscape. Following this all-out section a gradual elimination of parts takes place in the coda, often only leaving a single rhythmic part to end the track. 2

only leaving a single rhythmic part to end the track. 2 Figure 1. Arrangement overview of

Figure 1. Arrangement overview of a typical EDM track. 3

1 This is designed to assist DJs in mixing the track into a longer set.

2 This is for the same reason as note 1.

3 The shading indicates the number of layers for the respective rhythmic and tonal parts. Lighter indicates less components, darker indicates more components.


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The points at which the chill response is more likely to be experienced in an EDM track can be named as: the start of the breakdown, the start of the climax, the in- troduction of a chord progression or a specific change within it and the movement of a static bass line. There may be other moments where the chill response will occur, such as the introduction of chords (as an arpeggiation or as static pads), or the introduction of a melody.

or as static pads), or the introduction of a melody. Figure 2. Arrangement overview with most

Figure 2. Arrangement overview with most likely locations of the chill response.

The locations indicated where the chill response is most likely to occur is based upon the introduction of characteristics identified by Sloboda (1991), Panksepp (1995/2002) and Grewe (2007). These chill response characteristics being sudden changes in harmony, dynamics, texture, the entrance of a new instrumental part, crescendos and contrasts between two voices.

You’re The Worst Thing In The World by Telefon Tel Aviv (2008) The first extract from an EDM track to be analysed containing what will be referred to as a chill response point (CRP) is the Sasha Invol2ver remix of the Telefon Tel Aviv track You’re The Worst Thing In The World (2008) at 1 minute 40 seconds. 4 The track at this point has been through its initial exposition. A four-on-the-floor drum pattern opens and a synthesized arpeggiator pattern quietly

enters after 16 bars, before building up over 32 bars with increasing amplitude and

a gradually opening resonant low-pass filter. In the 6 bars before the CRP there is

a gradual fade in of a sweeping (high to low) band-pass filtered pad sound playing

a chord. 5 The bass line entered from the beginning and immediately followed the

root notes of the chord progression implied by the arpeggiated chords later on. At

1:40 there is a sudden drop of the pad and arpeggiator producing a dramatic change in dynamics and texture.

4 This is a CRP which was also experienced by the author.

5 This pad sound seems to be made by an Elka Synthex synthesizer, which was only of the few polyphonic synthesizers in the 1980s to be fitted with a band-pass filter.

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music 17 Figure 3. Spectrogram of chill response point

Figure 3. Spectrogram of chill response point (white line) in You’re The Worst Thing In The World (2008).

It is important to consider why this point in the track has elicited a chill response and not another point of timbral energy change. In this case this is the first major change in timbral density and supports the conclusions of Panksepp (1995: 193) who confirmed that dynamic crescendos help stimulate the chill response, but equally that a sudden dynamic change could also achieve the same. This particular section of the track exhibits both these characteristics, but in the crescendo and subsequent sudden drop of timbral density. There are two overall characteristics of the track leading up to and following the CRP that dramatically change. Firstly, there is a shift from gradually increasing suggestions of expanding ambient spaces of varying sizes for different parts, to no ambience for the drums and bass after the CRP. Secondly, a dramatic shift in the overall texture of the track from an increasingly dense spectrum to a relatively minimal spectrum, with only the kick and snare sounds, bass and filtered single note pattern. The charac- teristics of specific parts work to create a sense of an instantaneously changing space and proximity of the music, thus potentially inducing a chill response due to these sudden and dramatic changes. This change implies a shift from a vast extension of the sound environment using artificial reverberation, to a null extension where the sound environment shrinks as if to place the music inside


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the mind of the listener. 6 The relationship to timbre in this CRP is the change from a more to less complex spectrum. The arpeggiated chords having been made brighter in the buildup with a rising low-pass filter, closes in the final bar before the CRP. This is the only element that does not change immediately change before the CRP, which reduces the frequency content the sound takes up between 64Hz and approximately 10kHz. This spectral space allows the sweep- ing band-pass filtered chord to be unmasked as its amplitude increases in the bar before the CRP. The pad is playing a minor chord, but there is increasing inhar- monic saturation in the sound during the bar before the CRP. Inharmonicity in this context refers to Denis Smalley’s discussion on spectra in his writings on Spectromorphology (Smalley 1997: 120). This contrary motion of timbres be- tween the arpeggiated pattern receding and the relatively inharmonic pad helps to create a sense of harmonic tension and suspension, before the CRP to just bass and drums. The attenuation of the kick drum in the bar before the CRP also aids this sense of suspension and resolution being created. Panksepp (1995) noted that the powerful peak emotional state of a chill could only be precipitated through an established background mood or sense of nostal- gia. In this example the track has only just established itself and a few elements introduced, which indicates a specific reaction to the timbre of the sound as op- posed to a link with previous musical parts. A CRP at this point does however support the findings of Salimpoor, et. al. (2013: 261) that temporal phenomena of surprise are associated with dopamine release.

One Day Out by André Sobota (2009) An example of a CRP due to a crescendo is during One Day Out by André Sobota (2009). The section leading up to and after the CRP contains an element similar to a sustained high note, which correlates with Pensepp’s findings (2002) of such structures helping to induce chills.

6 There are no apparent reflections from an implied environment, therefore anechoic in nature and implies no source bonding (Smalley 1997: 123).

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music 19 Figure 4. Spectrogram of CRP (white line)

Figure 4. Spectrogram of CRP (white line) in One Day Out (2009)

The CRP takes place at the transition between a second exposition section and a more climactic section. This CRP does not introduce any new or alter any existing melodic or harmonic components, only the kick drum pattern is suspended for four bars before the CRP. Instead, only the timbre of the existing sounds is manipu- lated to invoke the chill response. The two parts that are altered in the section leading up to the CRP is a synthesized arpeggiated sound and a sustained pad sound. Both these parts become louder and brighter with increasing higher fre- quency spectral energy, which is achieved though a gradually rising cutoff fre- quency of a low pass filter and increasing the release time on the arpeggiated sound. These two sound manipulation techniques work together to produce a spectral swell, which is an example of a graduated continuant as described by Smalley (1997: 113). This climaxing of intensity is carried over past the CRP with the arpeggiation and pad both continuing to take up a large part of the upper- mid spectrum. There is considerable overlap of the various perceptual streams as the different parts intrude into each other’s spectral space. The consequence of this is that the perceptual boundaries become ambiguous with the listener no longer following individual pitches and instead, tracking spectral growth of the sounds as one motion. This is an example of the sound moving from the note point on the pitch-effluvium continuum (Smalley 1986: 65) towards a node, where tex- ture becomes a more important feature of the sound. This shift of perception enables the listener to not be grounded by the harmony, even though the bass part is still present throughout the section. This then allows the listener to focus on the


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grouped ascent of the parts and allow the overall soundscape of the track to gen- erate the euphoric wave, which may then precipitate a chill response. Smalley discusses texture-carried (1997: 114) as an example of when texture dominates the work as opposed to the mixture of gesture and texture, which usually work together in a piece. It could be said that at this CRP, texture has become dominant over gesture. You’re The Worst Thing In The World exhibits this change of focus from gesture, or gesture-framing, to texture-carried.


The purpose of the analyses is to explore how timbre and the manipulation of it, contribute to the conditions necessary for the chill response to take place within the listener. Specific changes in aspects of harmony, dynamics, instrumentation and arrangement have been identified, in the studies previously mentioned, as the musical structures that predicate the chill response. It therefore seems appropriate that a similar description of structures relating to timbre that predicate the chill response should also be established as basis for further research. Through the analyses of the tracks in this article, there is a common type of timbral change that seems to occur. This common change involves a movement from harmon- icity to inharmonicity, or visa versa, which seems to be present at a probable chill response point. This shaping of sound can be also expanded to include distinct layering of harmonic and inharmonic sounds running concurrently during a chill response point. The overriding sound pallet used in EDM is of electronically synthesized sounds, or samples that are manipulated using synthesis techniques (such as gran- ular time stretching) to such an extent that their source and gestural character- istics are removed. The use of filter sweeps to directly control the spectral content of a sound and reverberation to increase the spectral density of a sound, serve to further reduce associative characteristics. These types of sounds embody less as- sociated meanings with particular real-world sound sources and allows our per- ception of the music to become less rooted in conscious or subconscious associations. This makes the timbre of the sound become far more important in the perception hierarchy of the music and consequently makes any change in timbre far more pronounced. It also allows for the various parts within the track to be perceived as individual or combined streams when listening, which enables the listener to create their own timbre pallet depending on which individual or combination of parts they focus on at any one time. The gradual rising frequency cutoff frequency of a low-pass filter for example, could work to bring out a part in the mix and help to create the conditions for the chill response, such as those discussed by Panksepp (1995).

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


As the distinctiveness of a particular sound is altered through the application of reverberation or the movement of the cutoff frequency control on a filter, there it still a strong link maintained to its origin by the listener. Some sounds, espe- cially pads and arpeggiators in EDM can start with a degree of source bonding being apparent to the listener, which can then be reduced with subsequent manip- ulation. This in turn creates a disassociation from the potential mimetic and con- crete nature of the sounds, thus leading to a more abstract perception of the music by the listener. Perception of sound on a more abstract level helps the listener to detach themselves from more culturally established associations and allow more basic emotions to surface, such as chills. Emotional Contagion suggested by Juslin (2001) relates to the manifestation of emotions expressed by a piece of mu- sic, then being induced within the listener. This contagion, although still relatively uncorroborated, demonstrates how when the listener is more free in their percep- tion of music and sound, can experience the intended emotion more easily. Pan- nese (2012) has looked to explore the idea that all aesthetic responses to music are based upon deeper automatic biological reactions to music. The reactions of chills and other physiological responses are universal, as opposed to cultural and social associations, which are not. There are obviously wide ranges of specific musical features that vary from culture to culture. The current research into physiological responses to music and their relation- ship to emotions, along with traditional musical analysis of chill response sections of music, rarely takes timbre into account. Considering timbre specifically within electronic music proposes an important aspect of aesthetic thinking that is useful when considering the implications of electronic music production tech- niques, which often looks to override contextual boundaries.



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Clark, Eric. 2005. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dubé, L., Lebel, J. 2003. “The content and structure of laypeople’s concept of pleasure”. Cognition and Emotion, 17(2): 263-95. Emmett, G., Price III, Kernodle, T., Maxile, Jr. H. (eds) 2011. Encyclopedia of African American Music. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Goldstein, Avram. 1980. “Thrills in response to music and other stimuli”. Physiological Psychology, 8(1): 126-29. Guhn, M., Hamm, A., Zentner, M. 2007. “Physiological and Musico-Acoustic Correlates in the Chill Repsonse”. Music Perception: An Interdiscerplienary Journal. 24(5): 473-


Grewe, O., Nagel, F., Kopeiz, R., Altenmüller, E. 2005. “How does music arouse ‘chills’? Investigating strong emotions, combining psychological, physiological and psychoa- coustical methods. Annual New York Academy of Science. 1060: 446-49. Grewe, O., Nagel, F., Kopeiz, R., Altenmüller, E. 2007. “Listening to Music as a Re- crea- tive Process: Physiological, Psychological and Psychoacoustical Correlates of Chills

and Strong Emotions”. Music Perception. 24(3): 297-314. Grotowski, Jerzy. 2002 (1968). Towards a Poor Theatre. New York: Routledge. Jackendoff, R., Lerdahl, F. 2006. “The capacity for music: What is it, and what’s special about it?” Cognition. 100: 33-72. James, William. 1890. The Principles of Psychology. New York: Cosimo. Juslin. P. N., Sloboda, J. A. (eds) 2001. Music and Emotion: Theory and research. Oxford:

Oxford University Press. Juslin, N. P. and Sloboda, J. A. (eds) 2010. Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Re- search, Applications. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Leman, Marc. 2008. Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology. Cambridge:

MIT Press. Levitin, Daniel. 2006. This Is Your Brain On Music: Understanding A Human Obsession. London: Atlantic Books. Neill, Ben. 2002. “Pleasure Beats: Rhythm and the Aesthetics of Current Electronic Music”. Leonardo Music Journal. 12: 3-6. Pannese, Alessia. 2012. “A gray matter of taste: Sound perception, music cognition, and Baumgarten’s aesthetics”. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomed- ical Sciences. 42: 594-601. Panksepp, Jaak. 1995. “The Emotional Sources of ‘Chills’ Induced by Music”. Music Per- ception. 13(2): 171-207. Panksepp, J., Bekkedal, M. Y. V. 1997. “Effect of emotional music on the human EEG”. International Journal of Art Medicine. 5: 18-27. Panksepp, J., Bernatzky, G. 2002. “Emotional sounds and the brain: the neuro-affective foundations of musical appreciation”. Behavioral Processes. 60: 133-55. Reynolds, Simon. 1999. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. New York: Routledge. Roccesso, Davide and Fontana, Frederico. (eds) 2003. The Sounding Object. New York:

Mondo Estremo.

Natural Highs: Timbre and Chills in Electronic Dance Music


Salimpoor, N., Benovoy, M., Longo, G., Cooperstock, J., Zatorre, R. 2009. “The Rewarding Aspects of Music Listening Are Related to Degree of Emotional Arousal”. PLoS ONE 4, e7487. Salimpoor, N., Zatorre, R. 2013. “Neural Interactions That Give Rise To Musical Pleasure”. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. 7(1): 62-75. Sloboda, John A. 1991. “Music structure and emotional response”. Psychology of Music:

The Journal of the Society for Research in Psychology of Music. 19: 110-20. Smalley, Dennis. 1986. “Spectro-morphology and Structuring Processes”. In Emmerson, S. (ed.) The Language of Electroacoustic Music. London: Macmillan: 61-93. Smalley, Dennis. 1997. “Spectromorphology: explaining sound-shapes”. Organised Sound. 2(2): 107-26.

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Sasha. 2008. Ivolv2er. Global Underground Ltd. (CD): GUSA002CD.

The Monkey is Amused to Death: Roger Waters’ Mas- terpiece and its Commercial Failure

Navid Bargrizan

University of Florida, Music Department, Gainesville, Florida, USA,,

Despite the compelling concept, music, and the scope of Roger Waters’ 1992 solo album Amused to Death, the critics and the public received it negatively. In fact, Waters’ polemical approach to the cultural and social consequences of the techno- logical developments demonstrated a poor commercial performance, compared with Pink Floyd’s projects such as Dark Side of the Moon, or The Wall. Disputing the opinions of the pundits and the fans, in this paper I argue that the foremost reason for the negative reception of Amused to Death was Waters’ unprecedented socio-political criticism of the mass media and warfare, where he articulates that the broadcasting of war has become a form of entertainment in the television news. Following his path in writing Pink Floyd’s seminal concept albums, in Amused to Death Waters declares his harshest and gloomiest pacifistic and socialistic mes- sages, which have evoked the adverse reactions to it. He not only denounces the superficial entertainment industry, but also tears apart the idea of war. Exploring Waters’ conceptual, lyrical, and compositional genius, as well as album’s Grammy-winning mix and sound-effects, I assert that Amused to Death stands out as Waters’ highest achievement both in the musical content and its extra-musical manifesto.

Keywords: Roger Waters, Amused to Death, Concept Album, Pink Floyd, Socio-political Criticism, Rock


Imagine an apocalyptic scenario, where, once upon a time in the future, an ultra- intelligent alien species examines the cause of the extinction of the human race. After much investigation, the extraterrestrial anthropologists infer that the logic for the demise of the life on earth is the fact that the humans have amused them- selves to the point of annihilation. Depicting homo sapiens doomed “last hurrah,” Roger Waters conceives such phantasmagoric synopsis in the closing song of his 1992 solo concept album Amused to Death, his polemical assessment of the cul- tural and social consequences of the technological developments.

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_2


Navid Bargrizan

Alluding to Aldous Huxley’s 1931 dystopian novel Brave New World, where he insinuates that “the Western democracies will likely come to adore the technol- ogies that undo their capacities to think,” in Amused to Death Waters declares his harshest pacifistic and socialistic messages to articulate that the broadcasting of war has become a form of entertainment in the television news. He criticizes the superficial entertainment industry, tele-evangelism, mass media, the greed of cap- italistic market, and most importantly the idea of war; in particular, the First Gulf War: the sensational exposition of America’s eminent combat technologies, por- trayed by George H. W. Bush as a holy war (Postman 2006: xix). According to communication scholar, Phil Rose: “Waters’ primary concern in the album is the potentialities that the confluence of advanced weapons systems, war, and televi- sion have for mass desensitization (Rose 2015: 192). Waters warns us of “aestheti- cized warfare through technological fetishism” and expresses his fear of war being normalized as television entertainment as follows:

A lot of the songs on this record developed from watching television and just checking

out what’s been going on around the world in the last few years. I have this sense of

a lot of human and political disasters being exacerbated if not caused by a need that

we have in the western civilized countries to amuse our populations, in the exercise of

dramatic foreign policy, i.e. one of the things that we find most amusing is to have wars, hopefully in distant lands, and it’s a concern to me to see war as entertainment on the television. (Rose 2015: 194-209)

Despite the compelling concept, music, and the scope of the record, however, sev- eral critics, such as Andy Gill, Charles Shaar Murray, or Tom Hibbert received it negatively and described Waters as holding “darkly cynical views of life and the human condition, projecting a ‘grim misanthropy’, and writing ‘rock’s most neu- rotic lyrics’” (Weinstein 2007: 81). Hibbert says:

Roger Waters is the one whose doomy sound ‘anthems’ about ‘alienation’ and how awful everything is have worried listeners all over the world for several years. He is thought by many to be the gloomiest man in rock. The wall was gloomy and his solo albums the Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking and Radio K.A.O.S. were gloomy, and his latest work, Amused to Death, is frightfully gloomy. Waters’ voice drones along to warn us that: […] everything is horrible, especially television, war, the entire universe, and Andrew Lloyd Weber. (Hibbert 1997: 145)

While Amused to Death performed poorly in commercial sales and charts, partic- ularly compared with Pink Floyd’s projects such as Dark Side of the Moon, or The Wall, some critics have gone so far to name Waters “mister glum,” the “gloomiest man in rock,” or even “the ranting crank” (Weinstein 2007: 81). Hibbert argues that “Waters, the Mr. Glum, who refuses to even sniff at his brimming beaker of

The Monkey is Amused to Death


beer, is the gloomiest man in rock, he is enough to depress a gadfly” (Hibbert 1997: 147). Disputing the opinions of these pundits, I argue that the foremost reason for the negative reception of Amused to Death was Waters’ unprecedented socio-po- litical criticism of the mass media and warfare, where he highlights the absurdities of our existence in the age of technological progress. In the words of the sociolo- gist, Deena Weinstein: “critics see Waters as a depressive pessimist mainly be- cause his view of existence and his understanding of the function of rock run coun- ter to theirs” (Weinstein 2007: 81-82). She maintains that since most rock critics favor the message of hope, they adore, for example, John Lennon’s “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Hand,” whereas, on the other hand, Waters is an existentialist; His words are not hopeful at all. As many existential philosophers, critics have misun- derstood Waters labeling him as nihilist, when nothing could be further from the truth (Weinstein 2007: 82). Analyzing Waters’ conceptual, lyrical, and composi- tional genius, as well as album’s Grammy-winning mix and sound-effects, I assert that not only does Amused to Death stand out as Waters’ highest achievement both in the musical content and its extra-musical manifesto, but it is also a milestone of the genre.

Waters’ Pacifism and the Connotations of the Album

In this album Waters portrays an allegorical monkey as the principle role, implying Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 depiction of tribal man-ape, in his groundbreaking sci- ence-fiction picture 2001: A Space Odyssey, originally a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called Sentinel (1948). Being a predecessor of homo sapiens, the monkey encounters various cultural, political, and entertainment programs, while gazing at the television’s screen and randomly switching the channels. Constructing an in- tricate fabric of various sound-effects, throughout the album Waters constantly refers to Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. In the second track “What God Wants, Part I” for example, we here a growling wild cat attacking the man-ape, a feasible meta- phor for the existential danger of the technologies. Not only does Kubrick present the same scenario in his Odyssey, but also Kurt Vonnegut in his 1985 novel Galá- pagos, another viable literary inspiration for the album. Waters lists Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, and Kurt Vonnegut as his favorite authors, which affirms the assumption of Galápagos being a source of inspiration for Amused to Death. He mentions: “I still love Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read all of his novels several times. He’s one of my great heroes” (Rose 2015: 235). Using parts of an old British Television documentary, the opening track, “The Ballad of Bill Hubbard,” features the sober voice of Alf Razzaell, a First World


Navid Bargrizan

War veteran, recounting the real story of him and his comrade Bill Hubbard meet- ing up on the front lines during the war. The wounded Bill, to whom Waters has dedicated Amused to Death, forces Alf to leave him behind and escape. This ex- perience has clearly had such a profound influence on Alf’s life that he condemns wars (Rose 2015: 201). Bill Hubbard also represents Waters’ own grandfather, whom he lost in the First World War, and his Father, whom he lost in the second. His losses have also had such an extreme effect on his life, such that he has repeat- edly invoked their memories in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Final Cut, and clearly in Amused to Death. In fact, The Final Cut (1983), subtitled: A Requiem for a Postwar-Dream, is dedicated to Waters’ father, an allies’ army soldier, who was killed during the last months of the war in Italy. Not only in The Final Cut, but also in Amused to Death, Waters ascribes the notion of loss the function of an idée fixe, which unifies multiple layers of his cultural discourse. In the song “Late Home Tonight” for example, Waters depicts the 1986 US bombing of city of Tripoli in Libya, an operation named El Dorado Canyon with forty casualties, in retaliation for Quaddafi’s alleged role in Berlin discotheque bombing. As revealed later, however, there was not enough explicit evidence for his involvement. In Waters’ words:

I think it was just an exercise of entertainment, and trying out a few weapon systems, and little bit of training for the guys…I found it deeply upsetting at the time, particu- larly because my country was involved in it, which I disapproved of enormously. (Rose 2015: 211)

The bombing raids started exactly at seven PM, the time of the nightly news on the American national networks. According to Noam Chomsky, this was the first bombing in the history staged for prime-time television (Rose 2015: 211). Waters illustrates the notion of loss also in the song “Watching TV,” referring to the 1989 massacre of the protesting students in the Tiananmen Square in China, well-known as “June Fourth Incident.” He articulates the notion of loss to contemplate the detrimental effect of politics, violence, and war as television entertainment, enun- ciating the devastating fact that according to Ronald Reagan: “Politics is just like show business” (Rose 2015: 207). In the last and title track of Amused to Death, Waters reprises Alf’s voice expressing his haunting nightmare of abandoning Bill. Alf’s narrative, hence, frames the album as a leitmotiv, presenting Waters’ avid and outspoken pacifism. Alf’s last word points to the year 1984, the year that according to George Orwell’s prophecies in his infamous novel of the same name, the Western democracies should have experienced an imposed oppression by a demagogue, who “would ban books and deprive them of information” (Postman 2006: xix). According to Neil Postman, the late media theorist and author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death:

The Monkey is Amused to Death


Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,” instead of an Orwellian catastro- phe, however, a Huxelyan one has come true. In Postman’s words:

Huxley believed that it is far more likely that the western democracies will dance and dream themselves into oblivion than march into it, single file and manacled. Huxley grasped, as Orwell did not, that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions. (Postman 2006: 111).

Waters wrote Pink Floyd’s 1977 records Animals loosely based on Orwell’s 1945 Animal Farm, transfiguring Orwell’s socio-political examination of Stalinism to a critical satire about capitalism. In Amused to Death, however, Waters alludes to Orwell’s metaphorical 1984, although his cultural criticism takes on a vivid Hux- leyan course. While Waters intertwines his other literary interests in his polemical discourse, Postman’s acclaimed 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death” underpins Wa- ters’ whole conceptual structure. Postman claims that his book is about “how our own tribe is undergoing a vast and trembling shift from the magic of writing to the magic of electronics” (Postman 2006: 13). He argues that “a great media metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense” (Postman 2006: 13). He further argues that “a television-based epistemology pollutes public communication and its surrounding landscape” (Postman 2006: 13). Postman discusses the concept of “pseudo-context,” a fragmentary informational structure, which impose a “culture overwhelmed by irrelevance, incoherence, and impotence,” and which amuses us immensely (Postman 2006: 76). Waters signifies the pseudo-contextual format of the television in different ways: Not only the allegorical monkey switches the tel- evision channels stumbling upon seemingly unrelated programs, but Waters’ scat- tered use of metaphorical sound-effects from real historical events also implies Postman’s concept of pseudo-context. At the turn of the second track, right after Alf Razaell’s voice, the monkey abruptly switches to an interview with a teenager, expressing in the aftermath of the First Gulf War that “I don’t mind about the war. That’s one of the things I like to watch…if it’s a war going on…cause then I know if my side’s winnin’… if our side is loosin’” (Rose 2015: 202). Juxtaposing the fragment of teenager’s remark experiencing the First Gulf War as entertainment on the television, and Alf Razaell’s caustic testimony of his direct dismal experi- ence of First World War, is striking and cathartic. About the innovative and dazzling broadcasting of the 1990’s Gulf War, the first war that we have experienced live on Television, Waters says:


Navid Bargrizan

Nobody was being blown apart and yet here…was America at war. […] And ‘There goes another Patriot [missile],’ and ‘Isn’t this terrific? Aren’t we all having a whale of time?’ And we did have a whale of time… and they showed…interminably…com- puter imagery of laser targeting this and that and other and we could all get involved in the sexiness of the hardware. […] CNN has been selling itself upon the basis of those few days…saying ‘hey look, this is better than game show,’ […] and they make very little attempt to actually disseminate news…their whole thing is “Here we are, a global news service!’ And they’re not, it’s an entertainment channel… it’s pure enter- tainment. (Rose 2015: 206)

Waters draws a clear lineage between commerce, war technologies, and our per- ception of them as entertainment in the television news, what Phil Rose calls “the financial-military-industrial-media complex” (Rose 2015: 207).

Musical Representation of the Interrelationships of Commerce, Technology, war, and Entertainment

The notion of “financial-military-industrial-media complex” is, in fact, the crux of “Perfect Sense,” a thought-provoking and conceptually-compelling song in the record, which comprises two parts. The beginning of “Perfect Sense I” returns to Kubrick’s Odyssey, where the astronaut attempts to shot down the tyrant artificial intelligent. This hyper-computer, which has taken the control of the space craft, soberly expresses: “my mind is going…I can feel it….” The machine’s ironic ex- pression of its feelings epitomizes human’s doomed destiny amused by the ma- chines to death. As another implication to Kubrick’s film, the lyrics portray the monkey having a bone in his hand, a primal weapon which in “Perfect Sense II” is replaced by the ravishing nuclear weapon, a juxtaposition of the technological state of the past and the future. While the monkey hears the sounds of a Viennese string quartet, a cultural product of the elite-art associated with certain social class, we understand that in the age of television, for the monkey the time is linear:

meaning that the history does not repeat itself; that he believes the history is for fools; and that he is estranged from the memory. The monkey becomes, hence, a nihilist; he does not seek education; he does not learn from the history; he is mesmerized by the mass media; he is captivated by watching an unequal battle between a nuclear submarine and an oil rig, meta- phorically casted as an enchanting basketball game commentated by the legendary American sportscaster Marv Albert. The monkey stands for the humans, who, as passionate spectators of the basketball game, commence the battle and joyfully sing “our global anthem:” “It all makes perfect sense. It’s expressed in Dollars and Cents, Pounds, Shillings, and Pence. Can’t you see that it all makes perfect sense.” The cynical “global anthem” highlights the interrelationship between com- merce, technology, and entertainment. The meticulous metaphorical presentation

The Monkey is Amused to Death


of these connotations in a basketball stadium exemplify Waters obsession with juxtaposing diverse, yet meaningful, soundscapes in the album: the pre-historic environment of the man-apes, the peaceful country-side neighborhood where the amused monkey lives, the sport stadium, the nuclear submarine, and church are merely a few examples of Waters’ allegorical use of soundscapes and sound-ef- fects. Subsequently, his soundscapes and sound effects has brought the re-mixed and re-mastered version of the record a Grammy Award in 2015. Waters grants a recurring role to the soundscape of church throughout the album. He does so to address the tool of religion as propaganda for war, entertain- ment, and market greed. In the song “What God Wants, Part II,” for example, Waters tears apart the concept of tele-evangelism and the phony for-profit business of tele-evangelists. Expanding his use of church-soundscape in the song “It’s a Miracle,” the droning and meditative organ, choir, and electronic sounds embod- ies, in Phil Rose’s words, a “culture saturated by consumerism, self-interest eco- nomics, and technological theology” (Rose 2015: 223). In his analysis, Rose ob- serves that a tone of world-weariness pervades “It’s a Miracle;” it is Waters’ sa- tirical celebration of the wonders of production (Rose 2015: 224). While Waters conceptualizes the song around the theme of “the pressure of the marketplace” as the unethical core of the entertainment industry, he brutally criticizes Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musicals as instances of superficial art which undermines any cul- tural discourse. Regarding Phantom of the Opera, Waters says: I could not be- lieve how mediocre the stuff was. I knew it was going to be because I have seen him being interviewed on TV, and you can tell just by looking at him” (Rose 2015:



Having gone a full-circle through analysis of Waters’ postdramatic narrative, we return to the last and title track of the album, where, prior to the fictional scenario of the alien anthropologists examining the reasons for the demise of the human race, Waters re-iterates the essence of his polemic by asking: “Doctor, Doctor, what is Wrong with me? Why Am I so Out of Breath? This Supermarket is Getting Long… What is the heart life of the Color TV? What is the Shelf Life of a Teenage Queen?” In this song, while lamenting the possible destiny of the amused human species, Waters demonstrates empathy toward the treatment of women in the Western culture. Ironically, Waters has been described by critics as a mere mi- sogynist,which based on his discourse seems highly unlikely (Weinstein 2007:

81). Yet there is no doubt that the dark and cynical image that Waters has illus- trated of the world, plus his long-lasting feud with Pink Floyd’s other members, boosted the unfavorable reception of Amused to Death.


Navid Bargrizan

As I have argued in this paper, despite these adverse reactions, however, Wa- ters sheds light on the personal and social irrationalities of our existence and ac- tions, reinforced by the mega-powers which control and manipulate our lives. Jeff Beck’s virtuosic guitar, a web of complicated sound-effects, and catchy, yet cyni- cal, lyrics play a major role in the success of Waters’ concept. As one of the fewest positive reaction to Amused to Death, Mason Munoz, Columbia’s east coast mar- keting director states that:

it’s the best stuff that Waters has ever written, and he’s written some great stuff. If we could call this a Pink Floyd instead of Roger Waters, I’d be willing to betand I’m not a betting manthat it would sell ten million in this country alone. It’s really in- credible. You’ll understand when you hear the first 30 seconds of the first track. […] All I can say is, for anybody who was ever struck by anything that pink Floyd did, this will really blow their mind. (MacDonalds 1997: 142)

Neil Postman supports this argument by mentioning:

Roger Waters, once the lead singer of Pink Floyd, was sufficiently inspired by a book of mine to produce a CD called Amused to Death. This fact so elevated my prestige among undergraduates that I am hardly in a position to repudiate him or his kind of music. (Postman 1996: 167)

Waters, in fact, exploited his intellectual and artistic power, furthering Postman’s discourse, even if meant poor reception and financial loss. To summarize my analysis of Waters’ existential concerns in Amused to Death, I end this paper in Postman’s words:

Television is the command center of the new epistemology. There is no audience so young that it is barred from television. There is no poverty so abject that it must forgo television. There is no education so exalted that it is not modified by television. And most important of all, there is no subject of public interestpolitics, news, education, religion, science, sportsthat does not find its way to television. Which means that all public understanding of these subjects is shaped by the biases of television. […] Embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anti-com- munication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dada- ism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the the- ater, it is known as vaudeville. (Postman 2006: 105-111)

Transferring Postman’s thesis to the twenty-first century, we could, however, ar- gue that in the last twenty years the meta-medium of Internet has overtaken tele- vision and has become the new “command center of the new epistemology.”

The Monkey is Amused to Death




Hibbert. T. 1997. Who the Hell Does Roger Waters Think He Is? In B. MacDonald Ed. Pink Floyd, through the Eyes of the band, its Friends and Foes. New York: Da Capo:


Huxley, A. 1932. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Brothers. Orwell, G. 1945. Animal Farm. London: Secker & Warburg. Orwell, G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Secker & Warburg. Postman, N. 2005. 20 th Anniversary Edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Dis- course in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin. Postman, N. 1995. The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. New Work:

Knopf. REG the International Roger Waters Fan Club Newsletter/Magazine Issue #4. In Memory:

To Raz and Bill - From All of Us. Accessed: 8 December 2016. Rose, P. 2015. Roger Waters and Pink Floyd: The Concept Albums. Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press. Vonnegut, K. 1985. Galápagos. New York: Dell. Weinstein, D. 2007. Roger Waters: Artist of the Absurd. In G. A. Reisch Ed. Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene!. Chicago: Open Court: 81-93.


Pink Floyd. 1977. Animals, Harvest and Columbia Records, 23 January, UK and USA. Pink Floyd. 1973. Dark Side of the Moon. Harvest. 1 March, UK. Pink Floyd. 1983. The Final Cut, Harvest and Columbia Records, 21 March, UK and USA. Pink Floyd. 1979. The Wall, Harvest and Columbia Records, 30 November, UK and USA. Roger Waters. 1992. Amused to Death, Columbia Records, 1 September, USA. Roger Waters. 1984. Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, Columbia Records, 30 April, USA. Roger Waters. 1987. Radio K.A.O.S., EMI and Columbia Records, 15 June, UK & USA.


2001: A Space Odyssey.1968. Dir. Stanley Kubrick, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Popular Music Studies in the Context of Post-Com- munist Historiography in the Czech Republic

Jan Blüml

Palacký University, Department of Musicology, Olomouc, Czech Republic,

The contribution focuses on the transformations of the field of Popular Music Studies in the Czech Republic within the transition to a post-communist historiog- raphy, both in academic and non-academic discourse. Attention is paid to the changes of the contents of the field of Popular Music Studies, specifically its con- ception and interpretation of popular music history, including thematic preferences and evaluative standards. In this respect, the paper will discuss the key determi- nants of Czech post-communist popular music historiography, especially in the form of the impact of authority figures, such as a dissident, writer, philosopher and president Václav Havel, who strongly influenced Czech humanities by his holistic concept of the function of art and music, based on the dialectical relation of aes- thetic, noetic and ethical aspects, namely, relation of an artistic beauty, a true re- flection of a specific reality and a service to a moral good.

Keywords: History of Popular Music, Czech Republic, Post-Communist Historiography, Interpretation of Popular Music History

Although the word “history” often raises an abstract idea of the “story” of the objective truth, the fact is that our past exists primarily in its written form, which is largely an interpretation or reinterpretation conditioned by many factors. The shape and character of Czech popular music historiography, hence the popular music history of the last seventy years, was determined mainly by general political events associated with the rise of the communist regime to power in 1948 and its fall in 1989. If we look at the development of Czech research into popular music during the two historical phases, or more precisely during the Communist phase and the so-called Democratic one, naturally we see a number of differences at various lev- els. As far as the institutional base is concerned, under the influence of a general decentralization of culture after 1989 the existing structures went through a deep transformation, with popular music as a subject of academic research moved from the original domain of musicology into a sphere of interest to historians of con-

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_3


Jan Blüml

temporary history. Correspondingly, the scholarly attention turned to different is- sues, themes and genres of music as such, including their aesthetic, ethical and ultimately also political assessment. As today's perspective shows, general efforts after 1989 to revise the communist historiography of popular music with its ra- ther one-sided and selective interpretations of (not only domestic) popular music history acquired an ideological flavour themselves, in certain respects; the very feature they had been fighting against since the beginning. The following text aims to illustrate the development of the study of popular music in the Czech Republic after 1989 by a comparison with the previous situation, including consideration of the mentioned “post-communist” or “anti-communist” tendency that was the key determining phenomenon of the Czech humanities in the last twenty-five years. 1 Since the turn of the fifties, the development of a consistent and systematic theoretical reflection of popular music in Czechoslovakia was marked by para- doxes. Especially in the Stalinistfifth decade, popular music inspired by jazz and other Anglo-American forms was severely restricted, criticized and criminal- ized by the communist regime as an unwanted cultural import. However, under the influence of scientific communism, efforts towards the academic study nec- essary for the better understanding and potential regulation of the given phenom- enon grew immensely. An important role in the relatively early establishment of the academic discipline of the musicology of popular music in Czechoslovakia was played by, among other things, the national conference O malých hudebních formách (“On Small Musical Forms”), organized by the Union of Czechoslovak Composers in 1961, whose participants unanimously declared the need for sys- tematic and professionally informed research into popular music from the histori- cal, aesthetic, sociological, psychological, economic, and other viewpoints (Ka- rásek 1962). Consequently, a separate department devoted to research into popular music was established within the newly founded Institute for Musicology at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1962. Its task, fulfilled over many years by the most significant Czech musicologist in the field of popular music Josef Kotek was to create the fundamental concept, system and methodology for the new discipline (Poledňák 1980: 303). Although the Czech musicologists who focused on popular music had to face many obstacles during the sixties to the eighties period, in the form of censorship and limited publishing opportunities, they finally left a number of important works. In a similar manner to German musicologists, the Czechs paid great atten- tion to general theoretical issues such as terminology and definitions, 2 but also to aesthetic, psychological, educational, economic and other issues. With regard to efforts to understand and control the phenomenon of popular music, sociological research developed extensively; an example of a huge collaborative and interdis- ciplinary project was the survey Průzkum postojů české veřejnosti k populárním

Popular Music Studies in the Context of Post-Communist Historiography


zpěvákům 3 (“An Examination of the Czech Public’s Attitudes towards Popular Music Singers”), which was conducted under the supervision of Vladimír Hepner by the Institute for Research into Culture of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sci- ences in the early seventies; seemingly paradoxically, during the time called nor- malization, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, when communist repression struck popular music to the highest degree. In parallel with the systematic and theoretical research into popular music, a number of historically oriented studies and monographs also originated prior to 1989. In the 1980s, the outlined trends of Czech musicology resulted in the creation of an academically conceived four-volume Encyklopedie jazzu a moderní populární hudby 4 (“Encyclopaedia of Jazz and Modern Popular Music”). The comprehensive work, by a team of dozens of domestic researchers led by renowned musicologists and exceeding 2000 pages in total length, to this day still represents the most sig- nificant Czech output of its kind. At the time of the release of its first substantive part in 1980, the book aroused attention internationally, not only on the basis of its somehow atypical analytical approach, with numerous musical examples, but also thanks to its expanded focus outside of the usual Anglo-American sphere (Fu- kač 1984: 1). As has been noted, long-term systematic and conceptual musicological re- search into popular music in communist Czechoslovakia, which led, despite a se- ries of communist ideological barriers, to valuable scientific syntheses, was re- placed by the rather uncoordinated efforts of individual entities to reflect previ- ously neglected or banned topics in the institutionally decentralised nineties. In light of social demand, as well as the natural and immediate desire to cope with the criminalor totalitarianpast, rock music specifically its alternative or underground forms, which before 1989 were the strongest carrier of the functions of the political opposition, hence the main subject of communist repression be- came the focus of the Czech humanities. Actual musicological research generally retreated in favour of the activities of historians of contemporary history, or simi- larly focused researchers of cultural and music journalism, who paid most atten- tion to the discovery and collection of the primary sources, which could clarify the operation of the communist state’s cultural policy, its relationship to “rebellious” rock, further significant political causes, procedures regarding dissidents, and so on. 5

The extensive television series Bigbít (“Rock”), produced by Czech Televi- sion between 19972000, which within forty-two hourly episodes gives the au- thentic testimony of more than five hundred eyewitnesses to the rock era in Czech- oslovakia from 1956 to 1989, represents the most significant achievement of the Czech study of popular music in the nineties, and not only in terms of primary sources research. 6 A massive collection of documents, in addition to the hundreds


Jan Blüml

of interviews, including among other things unofficialaudio-visual recordings, government edicts regulating the function of popular music, etc., finally gave birth to the idea of establishing an institution which would systematically secure these kinds of documents and make them available to the public. In 2000, the Museum and Archive of Popular Music (Popmuseum) became that institution. 7 Of course, new trends in popular music research in the post-communist era of the nineties also brought their own standards of evaluation and interpretation of the observed phenomena, which over time became entrenched in general narra- tives of the contemporary history of Czech music and culture; including in the context of school education. However, in retrospect not all of these standards seem timeless and factually unchallenged. A basic survey of the existing literature sug- gests, for example, the problem of inadequate interpretations of musical phenom- ena whose social and artistic significance was evidently smaller than claimed; this is related to a very common problem of post-communist studies of art, namely the inability to differentiate between aesthetic meanings and ethical or political ones, or the lack of interest in doing so. In this sense, the way of looking at music history before 1989 was without a doubt influenced by the personal experiences of its actors, who in the post-revolutionary era became the interpreters. In the long-term, the post-communist humanities, including the historiography of popular music, were fundamentally determined by the voice of authorities, specifically cultfig- ures of the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989; in particular the legacy of the writer, philosopher, dissident and first post-communist president, Václav Havel


Václav Havel appeared in the second half of the sixties as a leading critic of the communist regime. In the following decade, under the influence of the specific conditions of the totalitarian state, the interesting association of his opposition po- litical activities with alternative rock music occurred (Jirous 2008, 152). It started with Havel's public defence of the avant-garde underground band The Plastic Peo- ple of the Universe within a fabricated communist trial in 1976, which soon en- couraged the creation of a broader organized anti-regime opposition movement called Charter 77. Ground-breaking historical events of the time as well as fasci- nation with the power of rock strengthened Havel's holistic way of looking at art and its function its essence should be the dialectical bond of aesthetic, noetic and ethical aspects, namely the bond between artistic beauty, a true picture of reality, and service to a moral good. This requirement, already present in the tradition of Czech leftist thinking, could have been successfully fulfilled by artists with natural political inclinations, including avant-garde rock group The Plastic People of the Universe, for instance, or protest folk singers, or rebelliouspunks; however, it could a priori exclude and aesthetically disqualify certain genres with a tendency to apoliticaland non-opinionexpressions.

Popular Music Studies in the Context of Post-Communist Historiography


Havel presented his views on art and music powerfully, not only in his rich creation of essays, but also in the context of his philosophical reflections on con- crete recordings. The romantic way of looking at music of the group The Plastic People of the Universe, which in certain of its principles resembles the sentiments of representatives of the Czech National Revival of the nineteenth century towards cultural “heroes” such as the composer Bedřich Smetana, is illustrated by Havel's philosophical commentary on the recording Hovězí porážka (“Beef Slaughter”) (recorded 19821984) from February 1984. There he wrote:

I have often wondered what actually the miraculous trickby which the Plastics

achieve their disturbing magic is. [

probably far more strongly than others, suck into their work something of the spirit of the strange space where they live. It's not just a genius loci, as people say. It is a certain specific experience of the world, as it has been shaped by history for decades and perhaps even centuries in these places; it is a spiritual and emotional atmosphere belonging to this place and typical for it more than we, who breathe it every day, can realize. The Plastic People live in Prague. In Czechoslovakia. In Central Europe. (Ha-

vel 1990: 240)


[The explanation might be] that this group,

In connection with the persecution and criminalization of group members, Havel further recalls:

More important, however at least from a cultural point of view is something else:

namely, that for which it was so hard to pay, and which was the truest motive of the will of the victims: truth, which, although experienced personally, was not by any means just private; the truth of an artistic expression of the authentic feelings of life and experience of the world; the truth, comprehensible to the environment in which it was pronounced, and with sovereign autonomy testifying about it. (Havel 1990: 243)

The thought is concluded by a somewhat one-sided and unsubstantiated assess- ment of the history of domestic rock:

perhaps it would even be possible to say that it was the Plastic People who, a few

years ago, started alone to clear a path by which now goes almost all Czechoslovak rock music that's worth something. As if they were the only ones within Czechoslovak rock music who first started to map some dominant feelings and the experience of a man of this moment, and to search for a way of expression adequate to the local envi- ronment, its tradition and language. (Havel 1990: 243)

] [

Regardless of the small social relevance of the musical underground (including The Plastic People of the Universe) during the communist period compared to other rock areas such as hard rock, progressive rock, jazz rock and new wave and also to folk, pop and so on (due not only to political persecution, but to a great extent also the eccentricity of the music itself), post-communist historiography,


Jan Blüml

with its concentrated interest and in the spirit of Václav Havel's thinking, in a sense elevated the movement to be a measure of all the popular music of the previous decades. This is confirmed, among other things, by the most comprehensive aca- demic book on the topic of Czech popular music history written after 2000, spe- cifically in 2010 by the historian of contemporary history Miroslav Vaněk and titled Byl to jenom rock'n'roll? Hudební alternativa v komunistickém Českoslov- ensku 19561989 8 (“Was It Only Rock 'n' Roll? Musical Alternatives in Com- munist Czechoslovakia from 1956–1989”). The book subscribes to the topic and valuesof the underground not only by its very title, but also by having its preface written by Václav Havel. It remains to add that the anticommunist political con- notations ensured the musical underground, especially the group The Plastic Peo- ple of the Universe, a superior position not just within current academic discourse, but also in the art world itself; after 1989, the band had an opportunity to perform at unusual places, such as the seat of Czech presidents at Prague Castle; Mejla Hlavsa, the front man of the band, performed on the grounds of the White House in Washington to considerable media interest during a meeting of presidents Bill Clinton and Václav Havel in 1998, and so on. Relatively strong tendencies of Czech historiography of the past twenty-five years to canonize popular music artists on the basis of anti-communism as the aesthetic category sui generis can be observed in the context of other musical spheres as well. This is particularly true regarding folk music, which, based on its tradition and genre identity, to a certain degree gravitates a priori towards political functions. An interesting example is one of the largest cases in Czech popular mu- sic in recent years, namely the discovery of evidence incriminating the widely known and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Jaromír Nohavica of collabora- tion with the communist secret police in the eighties. The 2006 case became the subject of reflection of historians 9 as well as other representatives of Czech culture, whereas the ethical judgments of certain of these figures often took on the nature of artistic evaluation itself. An illustrative example can be found in a statement of the music therapist, long-term organizer of musical life, and former representative of the Jazz Section institution, Libor Gronský, who opposed to the “morally cor- ruptedNohavica offers the persecuted folk singer Jaroslav Hutka, quite regard- less of the incomparably lower level of artistic significance of the latter, as if this musicological aspect par excellence plays no role whatsoever. In 2009 Gronský said:

Look at Hutka, for instance, when he returned from exile [in the time of the so-called Velvet Revolution in November 1989] and played the first concert at Letná [in Prague]

for millions of people on his way from the airport. [

This has changed rapidly. At

the moment, concerts of these musicians are attended by a few tens, perhaps hundreds of people. It is paradoxical that these artists, who really have something behind them


Popular Music Studies in the Context of Post-Communist Historiography


persecution by the regime, exile, jail did not get any satisfaction. While Jarek Nohavica, who collaborated with the secret police, is the most successful of them. And that is something I will be never reconciled to. (Lešikarová 2009)

As mentioned in the introduction, the present study focuses on the key trends in Czech research into popular music in the context of post-communist historiog- raphy. These trends are also illustrated by comparison with the situation in the previous, communist era, specifically before 1989. When talking about the com- parison of these two periods, one cannot ignore an interesting fact. Despite a num- ber of significant differences in the structure of the institutional background, the concepts of different academic disciplines, their thematic selection and research motivation, certain common principles at the level of evaluation criteria can be detected. A characteristic feature of Czech Marxist musicology before 1989 was the accentuated demand for the social engagement of art in line with communist cultural policy, of course. On this basis, so-called mass songs were emphasized in the fifties; in the seventies, in the same way, the genre of folk songs or protest songs was generally promoted; in the next decade, even punk rock aroused a pos- itive response among Czech academics in the name of the idea of social engage- ment. This fact is evidenced by the popular book by musicologist Ivan Poledňák, Sondy do popu a rocku (“Probes into Pop and Rock”), prepared in the late eighties and published in 1992. From the perspective of punk rock fans, the book was a welcome contribution to the topic; however, it also caused considerable contro- versy due to its devastating critique of several other areas of music particularly heavy metal, which, being boring”, “primitive”, “infantile, fundamentally stu- pid”, and escapist”, the author judged a negative counterpoint to “revolutionary” punk (Poledňák and Cafourek 1992: 48). The same approach, albeit in the context of a different genre and political background, persisted even in the post-communist era of the Czech academic exploration of popular music, including all its conse- quences. As mentioned, in the last twenty-five years a series of studies and books on rock music in the political underground have been published. Similar academic interest is aimed at anti-communist protest songs and folk in general. Research into subcultural and other issues related to punk has been increasing in recent years, too. Conversely, scholarly reflection on genres such as progressive rock, jazz rock and metal as well as on the whole set of pop subgenres is nearly com- pletely missing within academic discourse. The significance of these areas of mu- sic has yet to be discovered by current Czech scholarship. This concerns especially the field of musicology, which at the moment, after a long pause, is attempting to recreate its once-successful past.


Jan Blüml

1 With regard to the official state organization, in the period of 19181992 we are talk- ing about Czechoslovakia; since 1992, the independent Czech Republic, or Czechia for short. In the course of the 20th century, Slovakian scholarship and culture was to a great extent subject to Czech influences.

2 With regard to the study of popular music, Czech (or Czechoslovak) musicology was significantly influenced by scholars such as T. W. Adorno, H. H. Eggebrecht, C. Dahlhaus or T. Kneif.

3 The survey was published under the title Průzkum postojů české veřejnosti k popu- lárním zpěvákům in 1975 by the Institute for Research into Culture.

4 Encyklopedie jazzu a moderní populární hudby, Antonín Matzner, Ivan Poledňák, and Igor Wasserberger (eds); the individual four volumes were published in 1980, 1986, 1987, and 1990 by Supraphon in Prague.

5 This is illustrated, for instance, by the huge academic interest in issues relating to the political processing of the institution “Jazz Section” (banned by the communists in 1984). As was also emphasised at the colloquium on “Jazz Section” of the 21st Sep- tember 2016 at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, it is an unfortunate imbalance that an institution with great artistic impact on Czechoslovak popular music culture has been academically reflected to this day nearly exclusively from the “oppositional-political” perspective. However, the imbalance also grows just from the existence of the new socially and politically influential institutes established primarily to deal with the communist past the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is the best example.

6 The official website of the series is available at cialy/bigbit/bigbit-na-ct/

7 The official website of the institution is available at http://www.popmu-

8 Byl to jenom rock'n'roll?: hudební alternativa v komunistickém Československu 19561989 (Praha: Academia, 2010).

9 See, for instance the book Intelektuální protest, nebo masová zábava? by historian Přemysl Houda (Praha: Academia, 2014).


Fukač, J. 1984. Encyklopedie. Opus musicum 16 (6): 1. Havel, V. 1990. Do různých stran. Praha: Knihovna Lidových novin. Jirous, I. M. 2008. Pravdivý příběh Plastic People. Praha: Torst. Karásek, B., Ed. 1962. Pro zpěv a radost lidí. Praha: Supraphon.

Lešikarová, L. 2009. Gronský: Chtěl bych se setkat s Hieronymem Boschem. Olo-

moucký deník, 6 September. bych-se-setkat-s-hieronymem-boschem.html. Accessed: 20 December 2016. Poledňák, I. 1980. Nonartificiální hudba. In Encyklopedie jazzu a moderní populární hudby, Volume 1, Substantive Part: 293-304. Poledňák, I. and Cafourek, I. 1992. Sondy do popu a rocku. Praha: H&H.

Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice

Benjamin Burkhart

University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar, Institute for Musicology Weimar-Jena, Weimar, Thuringia, Germany,

Social semiotics is a new school of semiotics that has over the years been applied to the study of visual and multimodal communication in particular. As the study of signifying practices within certain cultural groups is one of the main fields of interest within social semiotics, it appears safe to assume that these ideas will be of interest in the analysis of popular music. In this article, I will present some preliminary results of my ongoing doctoral research on reggae and dancehall aes- thetics as negotiated in Germany. Using methods drawn from cultural sociology, social semiotics, and musicology, I aim to empirically describe the genre’s discur- sive, visual, and sounding phenomena. In this context, musical diversity is identi- fied as an essential part of the aesthetic discourse both generally speaking as well as with regard to the singer’s voice. Using the song “Taking Over” by the vocalist Sizzla as an example, I would like to show how vocal expression can be interpreted aesthetically. In general, the intent of this article is to illustrate ideas of popular music analysis as inspired by social semiotics.

Keywords: Reggae, Popular Music Analysis, Social Semiotics, Vocal Expression

Popular music analysis and social semiotics

In his article “Popular music analysis: ten apothegms and four instances”, Robert Walser states: “[…] I argue that any cultural analysis of popular music that leaves out musical sound, that doesn’t explain why people are drawn to certain sounds specifically and not others, is at least fundamentally incomplete” (Walser 2003:

21-22). Walser’s statement, made over a decade ago, pinpoints what is still one of the major issues in popular music studies today. According to Peter Wicke, de- scribing both musical practice and musical sound is a fairly essential aspect of analyzing popular music (Wicke 2003: 124). In accordance with authors such as Walser and Wicke, it would be advisable to, on the one hand, explore musical sound but also to try to explain people’s reactions to certain sounds on the other. In doing so, it is essential that one is aware that meaning, rather than being inherent to the musical sounds, is instead negotiated by the listeners and musicians accord- ing to their respective cultural and personal backgrounds. That is, we must find

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_4


Benjamin Burkhart

out how music signifies within specific cultural and societal contexts for specific social groups. Musicological analysis can help explain why specific sounding structures matter to certain groups of listeners. As popular music studies are highly interdisciplinary, methods drawn from a wide variety of academic disciplines have already been applied to musical analysis. The methods of social semiotics have, however, been largely ignored up until now. The aim of this article is to demon- strate how social semiotics can serve as an inspiration for popular music analysis. Social semiotics can be described as a new school of semiotics and it is espe- cially aimed at distancing itself from the universalist principles of structuralism. This means, first of all, that the study of signs is focused on so-called ‘semiotic resources’ in certain societal or cultural areas (Stöckl 2014: 155). The term ‘semi- otic resource’ describes the sign material used communicatively and convention- alized historically within various societal contexts it can refer to speech, music, gestures, colors, and many other modes (Meier 2014: 336-337). Secondly, indi- vidual sign systems are not studied independently from others: on the contrary, one main focus is on investigating the multimodal entanglements of different se- miotic phenomena. And thirdly, semiotic resources are viewed as changeable, as a product of human interaction certain signs can mean different things to differ- ent people over time and within different societal contexts (Stöckl 2014: 155-156). To sum up: “Social semiotics is an attempt to describe and understand how people produce and communicate meaning in specific social settings” (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996: 266). Originating in the linguistic work of M.A.K. Halliday (1978), the methods of social semiotics have over the years also been applied to sign systems other than language, e.g. visual communication (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996), sounds (van Leeuwen 1999), or popular music (Machin 2010; 2013; Caldwell 2010; 2014). What makes social semiotics interesting for popular music analysis is the assump- tion that people in certain societal regions interactively produce semiotic re- sources: that is, sign material with specific meaning potential. Social semiotics explicitly does not promote the existence of naturally fixed meanings. It is gener- ally assumed that there cannot be an overall “set of rules for connecting signs and meanings” (Jewitt and Oyama 2001: 134). For social semiotics, it is instead essen- tial to investigate the discursive practices in which the sign material comes into use. As Theo van Leeuwen puts it: “Semioticians not only inventorize semiotic resources, they also study registers. They also study how semiotic resources are used in the context of different social practices, and how people regulate their use in these contexts” (van Leeuwen 2005: 14). And according to van Leeuwen, we need discourses “as frameworks for making sense of things” (ibid.: 95). There are clear similarities to statements made by popular music scholars such as Walser or Wicke. Researchers should not try to explore popular music in

Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice


a normative fashion. Instead, they would be well advised to focus on the aesthetic discourses surrounding genres of popular music. Knowledge about the discursive practices can form the basis for further investigation, e.g. musicological analysis. Speaking with social semiotics, we have to find out which semiotic resources are used by people in certain contexts to communicate certain ideas. The authors of the few existing publications on popular music and social se- miotics (e.g. Caldwell 2010; 2014; Machin 2010; 2013) usually draw on Theo van Leeuwen’s (1999) approach to music and sound. Fundamental to van Leeuwen’s writings are the categories ‘provenance’ and ‘experimental’ which – according to the author – give meaning potentials to sounds. ‘Provenance’ can be described as “meaning through cultural accumulation of associations” (Machin 2013: 124), for example the sound of instruments associated with certain countries. ‘Experi- mental’ refers to sound qualities that may “derive from associations of things in the real world” (ibid.) – musical sounds resembling the sound of thunder might, as David Machin assumes, communicate power or violence (ibid.: 125). As the ideas of social semiotics were developed by linguists, it is hardly sur- prising that writings on popular music from a social semiotic point of view often focus on the singing voice – pop voices are regarded as “new semiotic resource[s]” (van Leeuwen 2009: 432). In these cases, the authors for the most part draw on the idea of ‘experimental meaning potentials’. It is generally assumed that experi- mental meaning potentials of singing voices are connected to the physical activi- ties that are necessary to produce vocal expressions. Van Leeuwen describes ‘ex- perimental meaning potential’ as follows: “The idea that our experience of what we physically have to do to produce a particular sound creates a meaning potential for that sound” (van Leeuwen 1999: 205). Citing Johson’s and Lakoff’s (2014) metaphor theory, van Leeuwen claims that metaphorical transference can only work on the basis of “our concrete experiences” (van Leeuwen 2009: 426). In pop- ular music studies, Johnson’s and Lakoff’s ideas have also been applied to discus- sions of musical sound (Pfleiderer 2003). In linguistically inspired approaches to popular music analysis, the vocal sounds metaphorically described as ‘rough’ or ‘hard’ are sometimes called ‘para- linguistic features’ (Lacasse 2010). These vocal features may communicate spe- cific meanings as conventionalized within certain cultural contexts (ibid.) they form meaning potentials. Van Leeuwen defines six of these features pitch range, level, rough/smooth/breathy voice, nasality, articulation, resonance and states:

“[…] meaning derives from all of these features, in their specific combinations” (van Leeuwen 2009: 427). Such categorizations could be widened by a musico- logical terminology of vocal expressions (Hähnel 2015) and methods of sound analysis (e.g. Hähnel et al. 2014). One consensus between social semiotics and popular music studies could be formulated as follows: vocal features such as


Benjamin Burkhart

‘roughness’ are understood to be signifying utterances that communicate “cultural patterns” (Pfleiderer 2010: 3). In general, the use of metaphors when describing musical sounds is a common practice in musicology, and many metaphorical de- scriptions of sound refer to bodily experiences sounds are described as warm, sweet, bright, or hard (Pfleiderer 2003: 26). One central issue in many writings on music inspired by social semiotics is the lack of data corpora. David Caldwell, whose study on Kanye West is indeed based on a corpus of 30 songs, claims: “A primary concern for social semiotics is to not only describe semiotic systems, but to investigate how these systems are actually used in real-life social contexts” (Caldwell 2010: 246, italics in original). What Caldwell criticizes here has been mentioned by other authors as well. Alt- hough social semiotics aim to “to describe and understand how people produce and communicate meaning in specific social settings” (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996: 266), many studies investigate only individual artifacts while ignoring the discursive context. What is missing is the reference to discursive and aesthetic practices this kind of contextualization is necessary in order to achieve the re- search goals formulated by social semiotics (Spitzmüller 2013: 160-162). When analyzing vocal expression in individual musical genres, it is advisable to firstly explore how people talk about singing qualities this can be done by undertaking a discourse analysis. In a second step, certain features of vocal expression can be described and interpreted based on information about the aesthetic discourse. It is essential to collect and describe musical features occurring in certain musical gen- res that is, semiotic resources and to explore how they are used and valued by the listeners. In the following, I aim to show how we can interpret reggae voices by drawing on sociological discourse analysis, social semiotics, and musicology.

The data corpus

The main aim of my current research project is to empirically describe the aesthet- ics of reggae and dancehall Jamaican popular music as negotiated in Germany. In doing so, I decided to combine methods drawn from cultural sociology, social semiotics, and musicology in order to analyze the genre’s verbal discourse, visual phenomena, and sound aesthetics. First of all, I decided to use the German reggae and dancehall magazine Riddim as a source for a discourse analysis. Applying methods of cultural sociology, Rainer Diaz-Bone (2010) has shown that printed music magazines with a focus on individual genres of popular music are highly suited for this kind of research. In these magazines, professional critics as well as musicians, and to some extent even fans, discuss musical styles and the cultural values linked to the music, and negotiate what can be understood as bad or good music. Since Riddim is a German magazine, we must be aware that certain discur- sive details may differ in other country’s scenes. Furthermore, Riddim contains

Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice 47

quite a lot of colored photographs of musicians as well as CD covers. These pic- tures are always linked to the articles, that is, to the verbal discourse they can tell us more about the genre’s visual aesthetics. Using qualitative empirical re- search methods, I analyzed all articles contained in the 2014 volume (6 issues, 620 articles). In a second step, I systematized and analyzed all 920 pictures contained in the 6 issues using methods taken from social semiotics (see Caple 2013). The analysis led to a category system of c. 5200 marked verbal passages and c. 15000 marked visual details. The third step is to interpret the musical sounds while draw- ing on the empirical results of the verbal and the visual discourse analysis. In the articles published in Riddim, journalists, musicians, and fans make it relatively clear which artists they believe to be the most significant for reggae and dancehall. This is very helpful, since relevant examples for musical analysis have to be cho- sen carefully. The next step then, is to attentively explore the discography of the chosen artists and to collate conspicuous features, similarities, and differences. These steps formed the basis for the following interpretation the musical analy- sis.

Musical diversity: a decisive aesthetic category

The discourse analysis showed that musical diversity is a central aesthetic category in both reggae and dancehall. Out of 2264 marked text passages directly referring to musical expression, 293 passages discuss aspects of diversity only the song lyrics (493) and the musical sound in general (302) are discussed more frequently. The singing voice can also be identified as an essential part of the aesthetic dis- course (280). Furthermore, this category contains a subcategory labeled ‘diversity in vocal expression’ (43). ‘Diversity’ is thus the most relevant aspect of discus- sions concerning vocal expression. Of similar relevance are categories such as ‘rhythmicity and flow’ (41), rather vague descriptions of ‘good singing voices’ (37), and ‘extraordinary singing’ (29), as well as ‘soulful singing’ (22). In the articles in Riddim, musical diversity is described as a key element of Jamaican music culture. German reggae singer Gentleman claims that while reg- gae always functions as a point of reference, drawing inspiration from other mu- sical styles is of similar importance (Krämer 2014: 7). Journalist Simon Kramer argues that reggae music has always been a highly eclectic art form (Kramer 2014b: 78) and Swiss singer Elijah highlights the relevance of new musical influ- ences for the composition process (Bücheler 2014: 25). In the case of reggae and dancehall voices, it is generally appreciated if one singer is able to combine dif- ferent qualities of other vocalists (Bortot 2014: 8). Furthermore, singers are posi- tively valued for their ability to sing in different ranges (Nowak 2014: 75) and to combine various timbres (Kramer 2014a: 71).


Benjamin Burkhart

Interestingly enough, some scholars argue that the appreciation of diversity in general is deeply rooted in Jamaican society and can thus be explained histori- cally. Kingsley Stewart claims:

Jamaicans throughout history have a heritage and legacy of creating multiple, dy- namic selves to survive and make sense of their realities. From the slaves brought from Africa, to Indians and Chinese who came at the turn of the century, to those who came from the Middle East, Jamaicans have long had to create and juggle dynamic, fluid selves. (Stewart 2002: 26).

Regarding musical diversity, Kwame Dawes further notes: “Dialectic, rather than dualism, then, is elemental to the reggae psyche and to the aesthetic that emerges from it” (Dawes 1999: 110). He also mentions that “[r]eggae is constantly reinter- preting the work of other musicians” – and this musical eclecticism might be “the most telling argument of a reggae aesthetic” (ibid.). Thus, aesthetic categories such as ‘diversity’ are journalistic descriptions on the one hand, but we can also connect these positive evaluations to more general cultural concepts. This means that if the aesthetics of reggae and dancehall are to be explored empirically, musical diversity should be included in the analyses. There is one vocalist among the most relevant artists frequently mentioned in Riddim whose ability to vary vocal expressions becomes quite evident when one listens to his many recordings: Sizzla Kalonji.

The voices of Sizzla Kalonji

Sizzla Kalonji (Miguel Orlando Collins) has been one of the most prominent Ja- maican vocalists ever since the 1990s. Like many other reggae and dancehall art- ists, Sizzla was up until now largely ignored by academia. Only few articles focus on the singer’s international image (Skjelbo 2015) and on the role he plays for a new generation of Rastafarians (Bernand 2012). Sizzla is especially well known for his falsetto as well as for his rough screams. But his huge artistic output he released more than 50 albums also includes balladic singing or fast deejaying; a vocal technique similar to rap practiced in dancehall music. Besides a number of songs and albums that refer stylistically to roots reggae, he also released quite a lot of music that can be defined as dancehall. In accordance with the musical di- versity mentioned earlier, many Jamaican singers have released both reggae and dancehall songs or albums. What makes Sizzla interesting for an analysis of mu- sical diversity is his ability to combine several vocal expressions within a single song or even a single line. In the following, I will demonstrate how Sizzla uses his different singing styles in the song “Taking Over” (VP Records 2001). For a vis- ualization of the vocal sounds, I used a spectrogram in order to illustrate details of the timbre. I would postulate that these sounding phenomena can be described as

Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice


small signifying utterances or, in terms of social semiotics, as semiotic resources used by musicians to communicate aesthetic values. “Taking Over” was released in 2001 on the album of the same title. Here, Sizzla is singing to the “911”-riddim, an instrumental number produced by Philip “Fatis” Burrell. The term ‘riddim’ (Jamaican patois for ‘rhythm’) refers to the ac- companying tracks of reggae and dancehall music, which consist of rhythmic and melodic patterns. The “911”-riddim is composed mainly of a guitar melody over four bars, a steady drum beat, a single-tone bassline, and piano chords accentuat- ing the eighth notes. The instrumental lacks the rhythmic patterns typical for both reggae and dancehall; “Taking Over” can be described as one of Sizzla’s songs that were inspired by contemporary R&B or rap music.

that were inspired by contemporary R&B or rap music. Figure 1. Sizzla, “Taking Over”, spectrogram, 3:13

Figure 1. Sizzla, “Taking Over”, spectrogram, 3:13-3:19.

In the spectrogram, we can see a six second segment of “Taking Over” from c. 3:13 to c. 3:19 (x-axis), with a frequency range of c. 20 to c. 12000 hertz (y-axis). The vertical lines illustrate the onsets of the drums and the thick horizontal lines at the bottom of the spectrogram mark the bassline. The various horizontal lines over a wide range of the spectrogram visualize Sizzla’s vocals. The lowest lines represent the basic frequencies, the following higher lines the harmonics and sub- harmonics. We can clearly see that the spectrum of harmonics and subharmonics is constantly changing. That is to say that Sizzla’s vocal expression varies as he uses different timbres: a ‘rough’ voice, for example. In spectrograms, roughness becomes visible if, in addition to the harmonics, there are further oscillations


Benjamin Burkhart

caused by amplitude modulations. Secondly, ‘roughness’ can be caused by a uni- form distribution of the spectral energy, which means that the structure of harmon- ics is not discernible (Hähnel 2015: 64-67). Clearly, Sizzla constantly changes his vocal timbre. At the beginning, the curved line on the syllable ‘down’ illustrates a trembling voice and a rather neutral vocal expression; there are no subharmonics. The following syllables ‘mis-te-ry’ display no significant change regarding the structure of the harmonics. Then, ‘Ba- by’ demonstrates a slight change while ‘-lon’ is articulated more roughly – we cannot see the structure of harmonics –, ‘dem’ displays various subharmonics, and ‘ha-ffi’ again is sung fairly roughly. The syllables ‘go’ and ‘down’ are sung with fewer harmonics, while the number of harmonics constantly increases until ‘mi’. ‘Dem a huff dem a puff’ is sung in a very fast tempo; Sizzla is demonstrating his deejaying skills as well. The syllables ‘mi buil-ding dem’ are again sung, similar to ‘down’, in a trembling voice. Then, the last three syllables ‘cyaan blow down’ illustrate a higher register of Sizzla’s voice. We can clearly see that the spectrum of harmonics changes significantly, and the frequencies are visible to approxi- mately 12000 hertz. Additionally, what also becomes apparent in the spectrogram is the microrhythmic flexibility. Sizzla’s vocals are accentuated quite unregularly in comparison to the metronomic drumbeat. In summary, Sizzla uses a wide variety of vocal features typical for reggae and dancehall over a few seconds, as he does in several other songs. I assume that such vocal features can be used by singers to communicate aesthetic values that are highly appreciated by their listeners in this case: musical diversity. This kind of interpretation draws on empirical results of the discourse analysis I undertook before. Hence, it is possible to analyze how musical sounds become meaningful. These sounds can be interpreted as semiotic resources, as small signifying utter- ances. Of course, singers in other genres use a variety of vocal expressions as well. But when drawing on popular music analysis and social semiotics, we have to analyze the aesthetic practice in certain musical genres similar vocal features can mean different things in different contexts. Additionally, the vocal expression of Sizzla could be further investigated, e.g. regarding the connection between lyrical aggression and rough timbre. In general, it would be advisable to empirically ex- plore these links between cultural meaning and sounding structures.

Conclusion and Outlook

The aim of this article was to show how we can interpret popular music voices based on aesthetic values held by both listeners and musicians. Furthermore, I tried to illustrate how ideas of social semiotics can be adapted to an analysis of popular music. One essential goal of both popular music studies and social semiotics con-

Popular Music Analysis and Social Semiotics: The Case of the Reggae Voice


cerning popular music is to investigate how music signifies in certain societal set- tings for certain people. Further combinations of methods from different research areas would be useful in order to carefully describe the meaning potentials of pop- ular music. Bringing together approaches from sociology, social semiotics, and musicology may be one way of achieving these research goals.


I would like to thank the Ernst-Abbe-Stiftung (Ernst Abbe foundation) for the fi- nancial support that made the work on this article possible.



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2010. Making Many Meanings in Popular Rap Music. In N. K. Knight and A. Mahboob

Eds. Appliable Linguistics. New York: Bloomsbury: 234-251.

2014. A Comparative Analysis of Rapping and Singing: Perspectives from Systemic Pho-

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2014b. Reggae Loves Soul. Various Artists. In Riddim 14 (4): 78-79. Krämer, G. L. 2014. Gentleman. Es möchte echt sein. In Riddim 14 (6): 6-7. Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. 1996. Reading Images. The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge. Lacasse, S. 2010. The Phonographic Voice: Paralinguistic Features and Phonographic Stag- ing in Popular Music Singing. In A. Bailey Ed. Recorded Music. Performance, Culture and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 225-251. Machin, D.


Analysing Popular Music. Image, Sound, Text. London: SAGE.


Towards a Social Semiotics of Rhythm in Popular Music. In Semiotica 197: 119-


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buch der interdisziplinären Diskursforschung. Berlin: Suhrkamp: 336-337. Nowak, A. 2014. EP-Check. In Riddim 14 (1): 75. Pfleiderer, M.

2003. Sound. Anmerkungen zu einem populären Begriff. In R. v. Appen and T. Phleps Eds.

Pop Sounds. Klangtexturen in der Pop- und Rockmusik. Bielefeld: transcript: 19-29.

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Stewart, K. 2002. ‘So Wha, Mi Nuh Fi Live To?’ Interpreting Violence in Jamaica through the Dancehall Culture. In Ideaz 1 (1): 17-28. Stöckl, H. 2014. Sozialsemiotik. In Netzwerk Bildphilosophie Eds. Bild und Methode. The- oretische Hintergründe und methodische Verfahren der Bildwissenschaft. Cologne:

Herbert von Halem: 155-162. Van Leeuwen, T.


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and Visual Media. A Critical Overview. London: Bloomsbury: 425-436. Walser, R. 2003. Popular Music Analysis. Ten Apothegms and Four Instances. In A. F. Moore Ed. Analyzing Popular Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 16-38.

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Sizzla, 2001. “Taking Over”, Taking Over, VP Records, 3 July, USA.

The Presentation of the Self in the Popular Song

Pedro Cesar Pires

Universidade de São Paulo, Department of Sociology, São Paulo, SP, Brasil,,

This work aims to explore the potentialities of Erving Goffman’s theory about the presentation of the Self in everyday life for the sociological study of popular song. Our argument is that, as other social expression forms, the popular song operates a stylization of every day’s life materials to create representations of social char- acters and situations. As Goffman identified self-representation codified forms in quotidian situations, there is in the popular song arrangements of representational codes to give a convincing form to the Self that is depicted in popular songs. Therefore, we can analyze the procedures used to create an “illusion of real” in the song (in the sense of convincing the listener of the authenticity of feelings and facts depicted) by using Goffman’s concepts such as “definition of the situation”, “performance”, “expression equipment” and “behavior display”. This way, it is possible to observe the popular song under the perspective of a reconstruction of the social life through the organization of expressive resources, which can consist of sounds, words or gestures. That makes from it a rich resource for the sociolog- ical study of self-representations.

Keywords: Self Representation, Erving Goffman, Popular Song, Performance

Goffman’s potentialities for the popular music study 7

In the book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman uses the theatrical performance as a metaphor and as a guide for the comprehension of co- presence situations, that is, when individuals find themselves face-to-face: how do the individual presents itself and its activities to others, which ways he uses to control and guide the impression that others make of him and the kinds of attitude that he can or cannot sustain during his performances in front of others. In those interactions, it is crucial that the individual expresses itself in a way that success- fully defines the situation that manipulates the impression of the audience and sends information that allows others to predict his behavior. Once that, during the

7 This work was accomplished thanks to the support of CNPq.

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_5


Pedro Cesar Pires

interaction’s time, there is not enough time to obtain conclusive evidences regard- ing the individual, it is necessary that he express himself and that the audience be impressed in such a way that the interaction develops itself satisfactorily, that is, according to his But in the case of the popular song, can we speak of interaction between lis- tener and music? The answer would obviously be affirmative in the case of live performance, where the premise of the co-presence of actor and audience is main- tained. It would not be so obvious in the case of audition mediated by any media. Even in this second case, the movement of expression on the part of the sender and impression of the receiver, which characterizes the representation in daily life, exist, even if intermediated. In contemporary society, it is common for an artist and audience to interact through the mediation of the mass media and the market, which leads the number of people involved in the interaction to reach colossal proportions when compared to face-to-face situations. Nevertheless, we can affirm that the songs are composed and worked to cause certain impressions on the lis- teners, characterizing a movement of expression and impression analogous to the situations of co-presence studied by Goffman. Now, as far as the definition of situation is concerned, what is being defined in the listener-music interaction? To answer this question, we can turn to Bour- dieu: « to discover something of your taste is to discover yourself, is to find out what you want ('that's exactly what I wanted'), what you would have to say but you did not know how to say and therefore was not known. » (Bourdieu 1984:

162) 8 . In a successful interaction between listener and song, we would say that the music has pleased the listener, that it is suited to his taste. In the context of the music industry, we would call such a relationship defined favorably by the sender as "success" when, more than the listener as an individual, music is appropriated by the listener as a collective. Thus, we might say that the manipulation of the impression made by the artist seeks, at least to some extent, the acceptance of the listener, the recognition of the listener. The sender satisfactorily defines the situation when there is a meeting of his work with the listener’s taste. This brings us once again to Bourdieu's reflec- tions on taste. For Bourdieu, taste, understood as the set of practices and properties of a person or group, is the product of the meeting between an offer and a demand, between a expectancy and its fulfillment, between a habitus in an incorporated state and another in an objectified state (Bourdieu 1984: 162). Precisely because

8 Translated by us from French: "découvrir une chose à son goût, cest se découvrir, cest décou- vrir ce que lon veut ( 'c’est exactement ce que je voulais'), ce que lon avait à dire et quon ne savait pas dire, et que, par conséquent, on ne savait pas.Pierre Bourdieu.1984. La méta- morphose des goûts. In: Questions de Sociologie. Paris : Les Éditions Minuit, p. 162.

The Presentation of the Self in the Popular Song


of this encounter, where to discover something of its taste is to discover itself, or to discover its own incorporated habitus in an objective state, the relation with the works of art is lived in such an intense and sacralized way. It is not by chance that Bourdieu retrieves the weberian image of the prophet, one who is able to put into words the expectations of a people. In regard to the micro and macro social spheres, we could point out another way in which songs can intervene in both, not only because of the medium of diffusion, but also in function of the content itself. As we have seen, in the listener- music interaction there may be an encounter between the content of the song and the expectation of the listener, his "taste," which, in Bourdieu's words, is what we would like to say but we did not know how to say. In Goffman's terms: when a song, defines the situation satisfactorily, it puts words in the listener's mouth, gives a forceful and unequivocal expression to experiences that are not yet clearly for- mulated. It follows that songs have considerable effectiveness in naming and de- fining situations. It is not by chance that they are widely used for political pur- poses, for the affirmation of national, ethnic, or any other social strata. But also in micro situations, the songs can assume a function analogous to what Goffman re- fers to the portraits of advertising: the formalization and stereotyping of the be- haviors. They provide a clear picture of what is dispersed and unformulated in the experience of everyday life, as well as offer behavior models that guide viewers about their own social role (Goffman 1976). It would not be absurd to suppose that the stereotype of behavior that appears in love songs, songs that talk about friendship, or any other social role can serve as a model and orientation for the listener in his or her representation of Self in everyday life. Therefore, the song as an expressive form has the capacity to define situations, both micro and macro social, as for example in the affirmation of national identities or in the stylization of personal behaviors. Given this potential of the song to serve as model and guide in macro and micro social situations, we can also reflect about its suitability to function as an auxiliary medium in the expressive reaffirmation of moral values of a community, the role of music in ceremonies - social characteristic which Goffman recovers from Durkheim (Goffman 1976). It is no coincidence that music is an almost com- pulsory element in the most varied types of celebration, both religious and civil. But we could also emphasize the role of music not only in great ceremonies, where great social units are celebrated (as in national anthems), but also in the celebration of small social units or particular social positions. By doing so, we could under- stand the segmentation of the listener public as analogous to the segmentation of social values ritualistically celebrated in the different musical styles. To justify this point, we must recover here Goffman's argument about the condition, position and social place. For this author:


Pedro Cesar Pires

A condition, a social position or place are not material things that are possessed and

then exhibited; they are an appropriate, coherent, adequate and well-articulated model

of conduct. Representing easily or clumsily, with conscience or not, with malice or

good faith, it does not cease to be something that must be staged and portrayed and needs to be realized. (Goffman 1985: 74) 9

Therefore, such social attributes are much more the result of a sustained perfor- mance before an audience than a material attribute that one possesses. We can trace a parallel to Goffman's notion of social attributes as models of performance, of practice, with the Bourdieu's notion of habitus. This concept can be understood as the internalization of structured relations in the form of dispositions. Since this incorporation of dispositions takes place in a space of structured relationships, and that such incorporation tends to function as a "structuring structure", generating future dispositions and positions; we can say that each social position will be pref- erably occupied by a corresponding habitus, and that the dramatic performance of the position - which, according to Goffman, is its own constitutive material - pre- supposes this incorporation of dispositions that enable the actor to play his role. Social positions are, in daily praxis, a performance, and such performance requires the actor to incorporate certain dispositions, a habitus. Since habitus is the determining attribute in the formation of taste and aes- thetic judgments as a consequence of the incorporation of dispositions, we can now understand the role of music as an element of ritualistic celebration of the different social positions. The consecration of any musical style carries with it the consecration of social positions and the corresponding habitus of the position’s occupants. It is not to be overlooked that music brings with it a whole series of bodily dispositions, which are crucial attributes in the appropriate performances of the various social positions. We cannot forget also the aspect that Goffman calls idealization: the most prestigious social positions are those closest to the most prestigious moral values of society. Consequently, the individual will tend to in- corporate and exemplify in his practice these socially recognized values. The knowledge of certain established musical styles is a fundamental part of the ex- pressive repertoire of prestige social positions. In the same sense, Bourdieu tells us about "noblesse oblige" (Bourdieu 1984: 169), when high school diploma hold- ers find themselves "obliged" to read certain authors, listen to certain composers, consume certain products; in short, they must live up to their social position by means of coherent practices, among which music is certainly an important aspect.

9 Translated by us from Portuguese.

The Presentation of the Self in the Popular Song


The song’s expressive equipment

We would now reflect on some of the equipment and expressive features we can find in popular songs and how they interfere in the listener-music interaction. In the first place, we must think of the figure of the sender, the artist, and the role that he has to play before the audience. Goffman defines the personal facade as the set of expressive attributes, the vehicles of the actor's transmission of signals (Goffman 1985: 31). Among them is the appearance: the set stimuli that inform about the social status of the actor; and the manner: the signals that inform us the role that will be represented in the interaction. Every audience demands con- sistency between appearance and manner, between the social status of the actor and the role he plays in interaction. This fact of daily life also extends to the world of spectacle. Every listener carries the expectation of a coherence between the sender and the message, between the actor and the role, however naive and some- times unjustified this expectation may be. For example, the fan of an aggressive rap group, who tells the cruel reality of the ghetto in his lyrics, would certainly be disappointed if the author of these lyrics was a rich boy, although this fact in no way diminishes the literary merit of their songs. We can think of less extreme examples: the author of romantic songs need not necessarily to be in love or to be an inveterate gallant, although his performance will be much more convincing if he can make the audience to believe so. Such an expectation of coherence between the actor and the role leads us to the question of illusion - the audience longs for and demands to be convinced about the reality of representation. A sociological study of the song could show us what rhetorical procedures are mobilized to sup- port the impression of reality in the feelings and facts portrayed in the song. The expectation of coherence between appearance and manner also refers to two other characteristics of representations in everyday life. The first of these is the need for dramatic achievement. It is not enough to carry out an activity, it is necessary to dramatically highlight confirmatory signs that accentuate the impres- sion one wishes to convey. It is not enough that the singer perfectly interprets a song, it is necessary that the audience is convinced that it is snatched by the content of the letter. The second characteristic is the full compatibility between man and activity, as Goffman says:

Individuals often foster the impression that the routine they are presently performing is their only routine or at least their most essential one. As previously suggested, the audience, in their turn, often assume that the character projected before them is all there is to the individual who acts out the projection for them. (Goffman 1985: 51)

Such compatibility becomes something much more delicate in charismatic activi- ties such as art.


Pedro Cesar Pires

We could also think about musical expressive resources. Just as the physical facade of a representation, the scenario, is composed of a small number of ele- ments that are repeated in a great number of different representations - which makes stereotypes arise - we also have in musical harmony a limited number of structures that serve as the basis for a great number of songs. In particular, there is a four chords structure - I, V, VI, IV - that is repeated in numerous songs of success. If we consider the harmonic basis to be the "skeleton," the foundation of the musical work, it is somewhat surprising to note that seemingly distinct songs as Let It Be (Beatles), No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley), Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers), With Or Without You (U2) and so many others are essentially the same. We call attention to this fact because it shows us how an attentive soci- ological study of this relatively simple artistic form can reveal us a series of ex- pressive codes widely used. We could thus unveil an expressive language of the songs, which would not be without interest for the understanding of a cultural phenomenon widely diffused in the contemporary world. Another illustration re- garding the song as the agency of an expressive code can be found in the function of the introductions. Popular music aimed at the mass media needs to convey, within a very short span of time, a few seconds or less, musical information that captivates the listener, "convince" them to listen to the entire song. But do not just make him listen to the song once, but it must also be something easily memorable, that makes the listener recognize the song in a fraction of a second the next time he listen to it. A sociological study of such formulas would not be without interest.

The song as "display" of expressive behavior

We would like to approach, as a last point, something we have already mentioned regarding the appropriateness of music to perform in celebration ceremonies. To clarify this point, we need to take back what Goffman understands by ritualizing a behavior. Goffman understands the formalization and stereotyping of gestures by ritualization of behavior, with the intention of highlighting their informative aspect (Goffman 1976: 1). That is, for an actor to convey his audience a friendly disposition, he can perform a smile or a handshake at the moment of his appear- ance, thus transmitting the desired information. This social feature of formalizing behaviors to facilitate and enhance their reporting content allows Goffman to an- alyze them as a display. Social life is permeated by displays, since such exhibitions function as guides to perception, transforming the attitudes of agents into some- thing easily perceivable and understandable. The ritualization of behaviors pos- sesses the property of making palpable what is unfolding, giving an intelligible and manipulable interpretation of social situations, which otherwise would remain opaque and polysemic. The displays are, therefore, guides of perception.

The Presentation of the Self in the Popular Song


Behavioral displays can occur not only in face-to-face situations. Goffman dedicates the text Gender Advertisements to the study of the ritualization of gender behaviors in advertising portraits. What is interesting in this study is the argument that advertising not only offers portrayals about what it is to be a man or a woman, but that such portraits serve as role models and guidance for what it is to be a man or a woman. They are a sort of ceremony where ideal descriptions are offered as to how each of the genres should behave, which are the ideals that we must con- firm in our daily exhibitions. It is a significant issue that behavior displays offer stereotypes that guide individuals in everyday life, and induce individuals to give meaning and a readable form of their own identities. This brings us to the final paragraphs of The representation of the "Self" in everyday life. Although the char- acter is usually associated with the individual who represents him, Goffman main- tains that the "Self" does not originate from its possessor, but from the entire scene of its action. The attribution of a "Self" to the character is a product of the scene, a dramatic effect that comes out diffusely: the "Self" is a collaborative construc- tion.

The popular song surely can be understood as a display of behavior and, in addition, as a form of expression of the "Self". That means, it can also be seen as one of the forms of collaborative construction of the "Self". It can be understood as a display because, like other displays of behavior, we have in the song an agency of expressive materials (linguistic, gestural or sound) that compete for a stereo- typed representation of a character or fact of daily life. The expressive efficacy of the song and its celebratory function of the social "Self" expressed in it comes from its use of the same "ritual language" that society uses in other spheres of representation and attribution of meaning. It is worthwhile for the song as a display of behavior, as Goffman says about advertisements: pub- licity and society have the same task of infusing ritual and ceremonial signals into situations, transforming opaque situations into easily readable forms (Goffman 1976: 27). This is not because of an extraordinary coincidence between popular song and publicity, but because all forms of portraying and symbolizing social life face this function and challenge. The interest in a sociology of music that adopted Goffman's perspective would be precisely to capture the particularities of the codes and tools of ritual representation and celebration of the "Self" in popular songs.

Conclusion: for a sociological idiom of the popular song

Throughout this paper we have only tried to map the potentialities of Goffman's sociology for the study of popular song. The concepts of "definition of the situa- tion", "performance", "expressive equipment" and "behavior displays" open the door for the sociological analysis and its main challenge: how to overcome the


Pedro Cesar Pires

dilemma between an internal and external analysis of art works. The possibility opened by Goffman lies in the homology between the ritual language of represen- tation in the various social forms. Such ritual language consists precisely in the formalization and stereotyping of behaviors, in order to highlight its informative content. In advertising portraits, Goffman identifies this language in the small- scale spatial metaphors of hierarchies and social structures: the relative size of people, the ranking of their functions, the various types of touch and body expres- sions. In the song, we can begin to grasp this language in the harmonic forms, the performances of expressive behavior and the social values celebrated in the dif- ferent musical genres.



Bourdieu, P. 1992. Les règles de l’art. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Bourdieu, P. 1984. Questions de Sociologie. Paris: Les Éditions Minuit. Goffman, E. 1985. A Representação do Eu na Vida Cotidiana. Petrópolis: Vozes. Goffman, E. 1976. Gender Advertisements. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

“Chinese Got Talent”: Popular Music Singing Compe- titions in Taiwan and China

Ya-Hui Cheng

University of South Florida, School of Music, Tampa, Florida, USA

Popular music industries in Taiwan and China were once disconnected when the Chinese Civil War separated the republican and communist leaderships. It wasn’t until 1987 that both leaders signed the agreement allowing people from opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait to reconnect. Afterward, musicians in Taiwan and China have cooperated to dominate this new Chinese mass market. However, only few musicians were able to succeed in both places. When “British got Talent,” the singing competition, became internationally popular, similar programs were rep- licated in Chinese society. Those competitions soon received overwhelming suc- cess in Taiwan and China because they were the first live television shows that invited singers from Taiwan and China to compete alongside one another. Conse- quently, more than ten million views and discussions were registered on Youtube. Furthermore, singers from those shows received rapid national success. Scrutiniz- ing performances from those competitions, this paper discusses the way they re- flect the altered social structures from Taiwan’s republican and China’s com- munist governments. Through categorizing those performances into: Chinese Rock, Pentatonic song, Folk music and Hip Hop, I argue that social background acts as a catalyst to transform the way singers interpret music. It also affects the way audiences respond to the live performances.

Keywords: Taiwan, China, Republican, Communist, Pop-Culture

Almost thirty years after Republican Taiwan and Communist China resumed rela- tions following suspension of the Chinese Civil War, the popular music industries of both countries began a positive interaction across the Taiwan Strait. Musicians benefitted greatly from the artistic collaborations that flowed between the two sides, but this smooth musical transaction did not happen as a matter of course. Long-term social challenges in the reconnection between Taiwan and China still had to be resolved. A turning point in the acceleration of cultural understanding came from the popularity of musical singing competitions derived from the “Brit- ish Got Talent” shows of a decade earlier. These televised shows provided musi- cians from Taiwan and China an opportunity to compete as well as collaborate

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_6


Ya-Hui Cheng

with each other on stage. The interaction of these two competing groups of musi- cians received overwhelming approval from both Taiwan and Chinese audiences. These interactions changed the way people in both Taiwan and China perceived each other, facilitating the ability of both populaces to understand and sympathize with similar and contrasting social conditions. As such, Chinese audiences can now better accept their different social systems through the mutual fondness of Chinese popular music. Although other factors such as economic and political dy- namics have also contributed to a positive interaction, this study will focus on musical factors derived from Chinese singing competitions and examine how they smoothed the sociopolitical paths between Taiwan and China. Before one can understand the significant quod hoc of these singing competitions and how they changed Chinese popular music culture, a brief portrait of popular music history across the Taiwan Strait is needed. In this conference’s proceeding paper, I will present an overview of the popular music industries of Taiwan and China prior to this current development. When Chiang Kai-shek lost the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong, the popular music industries of Republican Taiwan were abruptly disconnected from those of Communist China. In 1949, Chiang evacuated his Nationalist party to Taiwan. In the same year, Mao founded the People’s Republican of China in mainland China. The hostile political tensions between Taiwan and China were sustained for dec- ades. It was not until 1987 when Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, ac- cepted the Three Links proposal, offered by Deng Xiaoping of China, that allowed people from opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait to connect with each other. This new relationship between Taiwan and China changed corporate business models and marketing strategies. Many international companies launched their invest- ments in Taiwan, where the majority of consumers were Mandarin speakers who shared cultural affinity with China, in order to explore business opportunities and extend commerce in Communist China. The popular music industry of Taiwan was a particularly attractive international investment for companies such as Sony, EMI and Warner. Unlike the popular music industry in Communist China, which was vastly underdeveloped during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1965-1976), the popular music industry in Taiwan had consistently absorbed the latest in global popular music, producing the fashionable styles in music that were well received by Chi- nese audiences throughout the world. During that time, Taiwan had become a lead- ing center for Chinese popular music. Around the 1980s, the only Chinese popular music industry that could compete with Taiwan was in Hong Kong, where the majority of audiences listened to Cantonese songs. However, the Cantonese pop- ular music market was much smaller than that of music sung in Mandarin, which

“Chinese Got Talent”: Popular Music Singing Competitions


was the official language of China. Thus, Taiwan’s popular music industry pos- sessed greater business potential than Hong Kong’s. Around the 1990s, many Can- tonese singers such as Jacky Cheung and Sandy Lam learned Mandarin and re- leased their Mandarin-language albums in Taiwan. Only a few Mandarin-language singers such as Lo Ta-yu of Taiwan released Cantonese songs. This occurred dur- ing a time of economic and industrial growth in Taiwan, during which it was named one of the Four Asian Dragons alongside Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korean. These advanced marketing enhancements attracted international music cor- porations seeking to establish business partnerships with musicians in Taiwan. By joining such international companies, local Taiwanese singers and songwriters had greater opportunities to collaborate with musicians from China, or even with mu- sicians outside of Chinese circles. These outside influences accelerated the growth and diversity of the Taiwanese music business. Songwriters and signers in Taiwan embraced a broader global outlook to produce a variety of musical styles. Taiwan’s growing music market contrasted markedly with China’s, which was recovering from the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Although China’s popular music was ex- periencing a renaissance and beginning to embrace influences from Western pop- ular culture, its market was still young. The musical interaction between singers and consumers in Taiwan and China was still uneven in terms of marketing ac- ceptance in the Chinese world. It was usually easier for Taiwanese singers to par- ticipate in musical performances or be accepted in China or elsewhere; but it was difficult for Chinese singers to occupy the Taiwanese market. Musical familiarities were the main issue because popular music in Taiwan had been transmitted to and was well recognized by audiences in China since the 1970s, but audiences in Tai- wan had rarely heard of Chinese popular music from the mainland, except for Mandarin songs from the early treaty port of Shanghai. Social divisions and stere- otypic misconceptions also caused Taiwanese audiences to believe that popular music in China was inferior and uninteresting. However, even though the musical environment in Taiwan was unfriendly to musicians from China, many Chinese musicians still craved a career in Taiwan. Success in Taiwan, the leading Chinese popular music market, almost guaranteed a career in the entire Chinese music in- dustry. In the 1990s, Na Ying and Wong Faye were the only two divas from China that were able to break the social stalemate and succeed in Taiwan. Na Yin came to Taiwan from China and published her first Mandarin album there in 1994, alt- hough she had to accommodate her style to be accepted by Taiwan audiences. Wong Faye was born and raised in China and migrated to Hong Kong. She had become famous in the Cantonese popular music market before she produced her Mandarin album in Taiwan. While these two singers were exceptional cases, many other ambitious musicians would fail. Only a very few perhaps those who were


Ya-Hui Cheng

already well-established in Chinese society such as Jacky Cheung (of Hong Kong) and Wong Faye could make successful careers in Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong. When the singing competition “British got Talent” became internationally popular in 2006, similar programs were replicated in Chinese society. The most successful was “One Million Star,” produced in Taiwan in 2007. The format of the show was similar to “British Got Talent,” in which a group of selected amateur singers competed on a weekly basis. Each performer was required to present var- ious styles of music such as jazz, rock, rap, or hip hop. Singers would be elimi- nated if they failed to measure up to each week’s expectations. The reward for the final winner was one million Taiwanese dollars (hence the title, “One Million Star”) and an album contract from a top-tier music company. The show’s judges, famous musicians in the popular music business, commented, tutored or per- formed with the contestants. It was not the first singing competition program in Taiwan; similar programs were produced decades ago. “Five Lights Award” was an earlier singing competition and the longest-running TV program in Taiwanese television history, broadcasting for 33 years from 1965 to 1998. It was thus known that audiences in Taiwan have long been in favor of watching singing competi- tions. However, “One Million Star” differed from previous programs in that it in- vited judges and/or guests to interact with the singers in competition. Audiences were interested in seeing not only how the contestants competed but also in how the professional singers were able to transform amateurs into accomplished per- formers. Also, in addition to providing comments and critiques, the show adeptly highlighted the drama and sentiment of the weekly interactions between contest- ants, judges, guests and audiences. Capturing on-camera glimpses of the person- alities of the show’s participants created an intimacy between them and the TV audience. The rapport between professionals and amateurs made the audience feel that each performance was not a competition but a joyful musical game that invited everyone to experience. The success of “One Million Star” in the Chinese world went viral. Similar programs such as “Voice of China” or “Duets” (which derived and obtained cop- yrights from ABC’s “Duets”) were produced in China. These singing competitions had huge budgets for design concepts and stage sets to create high-quality shows. For instance, in the show “Voice of China” was well financed to invite superstars from Taiwan and China to judge and tutor competitors selected from Chinese com- munities around the world. While the content of this show was similar to Taiwan’s “One Million Star,” in which the sentiments and excitement of each participant were adroitly presented, “Voice of China” was the first successful program that introduced performers and superstars from Republican Taiwan and Communist China to compete. Consequently, each episode was viewed by an average of more

“Chinese Got Talent”: Popular Music Singing Competitions


than ten million people on Youtube, not counting viewers on other social media. The drama or excitement presented by the show’s competitors and the superstars were usually broadcast on the news the next day or headlined in the Chinese me- dia. Discussions about the performances spread throughout the Chinese social me- dia. Singers from the shows rapidly became national successes. These singing competitions thus provided a fast-track for singers to be recognized throughout the entire Chinese world. They also facilitated these superstars to promote their ca- reers and to extend their influence in the vast Chinese music market. More im- portantly, these shows connected Chinese people from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or elsewhere around the globe to the language of Chinese popular music.



Baranovitch, Nimrod. 2001. China’s New Voices: Popular Music, Ethnicity, Gender, and Politics, 1978-1997. Berkeley: University of California Press. Covach, John. 2009. What’s that sound? An Introduction to Rock and Its History, 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Craig, Timothy J., and Richard King, ed. 2002. Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Jones Andrew. 1992. Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music. New York: Cornell University. Taylor, Timothy. 2015. Music and Capitalism: A History of the Present. Chicago: Univer- sity of Chicago Press. Yang, Fang-chih Irene.

1993. A Genre Analysis of Popular Music in Taiwan. Popular Music and Society 17 (2):


1994. The History of Popular Music in Taiwan. Popular Music and Society 18 (3): 53-66.

Unpacking Performance in the Pop-Rock Biopic

Maurizio Corbella

Independent Scholar, Milan, Italy,

Pop-rock biopics have developed a range of strategies to render historicized per- formances, especially those considered as pivotal in a musician’s biography. The goal of such films is not merely to narrate the historical impact of live events, but to “re-perform” them for a composite audience, partly familiar with, yet partly experiencing the music for the first time. By highlighting that performance scenes have constituted moments of technical virtuosity throughout the genre’s history, I suggest that pop-rock biopics be regarded as witnessing devices to shifting para- digms of performance affordance in film. In translating live musical experience into an audio-visual narrative medium, these films reactivate the performative po- tential of past events and allow us to reflect on their intermedial constituents. I draw on examples taken from different stages of the genre’s history, showing how they variously include combinations of constructive devices, which, going beyond issues of verisimilitude, conjure up hyper-real experiences that trigger notions of presence, memory, and nostalgia.

Keywords: Musical performance, Popular music biopic, Performativity, Intermediality, Popular music and film

Representing, documenting and authenticating musical perfor- mance in pop-rock biopics

In this paper, I trace the general theoretical lines of a project entitled “Represent- ing, documenting and authenticating musical performance in pop-rock biopics”, which was supported by a grant by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) in 2015. The goal of the project is to shed light on the strategies for ren- dering performance in fiction biographical films (i.e. biopics). Fictionalized mu- sical performance has lately received growing interest in film music studies (cf. Conrich and Tincknell 2006, Herzog 2010, Dyer 2012, Doyle 2013, Winters 2014). In this respect, my choice of biopics descends from the need to interrogate cinematic performance as a means for re-mediating music making and to gain in- sight into the production of a given musician or band. As much as cinema has influenced ways of producing, listening to and thinking of musical performance, a recent body of scholarly work has shown that rock ’n’ roll and its ramifications

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_7


Maurizio Corbella

have deeply affected cinema’s ways of representation (e.g. see Donnelly 2015, James 2016). Music scholars who do not have preconceptions towards biopics (e.g. Inglis 2007, Tibbetts 2005), have preferentially addressed the genre as to its (danger- ous?) liaisons with music history. Scholars from fields other than musicology have intersected problems of stardom, gender and race representation in biopics in con- nection to musical genres (Dyer 1998, Babington 2006, Spirou 2011, Muldoon 2012, Varriale 2012). Only tangentially have their studies emphasized the per- formative potential that such films set forward in the very moment they render music-making on the screen. Musical performance in biopics can be interpreted as triggering processes of authentication of the aura of historicized events. This hap- pens not so much by positing historical accuracy as priority, but rather by drawing on the relation of trust established between the spectator and the film. If we under- stand what occurs in a movie theater as a kind of mediatized performance, the bond that is created between the film and the audience can be seen as a counter- balance of the plot taking license with historical facts. In general, the kind of au- thentication biopics seem to seek through filmed musical performance aspires to convey a sense of embodied affectivity. This shares communalities with Allan Moore’s definition of “‘second person’ authentication, or authenticity of experi- ence, which occurs when a performance succeeds in conveying the impression to a listener that that listener’s experience of life is being validated, that the music is ‘telling it like it is’ for them” (Moore 2002, 220; emphasis in the original). Performance scenes have always played a central role in the genre of the mu- sical biopic, starting with its origins in the silent era. The centrality of performance is self-evident in The Jazz Singer (Crosland 1927), which, albeit not a biopic in the strict sense, can be considered a prototype for later musical biopics. In Cros- land’s film one witnesses a diverse array of performance scenes, each of which positing a different setting, from clubs to Broadway theaters, from liturgical to domestic spaces. Al Jolson’s extemporary spoken words during his acts and espe- cially his double interpretation of “Blue Skies” in the intimate space of a private home, somehow set the tone for the shades and possibilities yet to come in filming musical performance. With the advent of the so-called pop-rock biopic, which Inglis (2007) con- ventionally dates to the release of The Tommy Steele Story (Bryant 1957), musical performance unsurprisingly gained the upper end, catalyzing the performative at- tributes of the new musical style of rock ’n’ roll. In terms of screening rock ’n’ roll performance, this film was in fact preceded by the success of Rock Around the Clock (Sears 1956), which “renovat[ed] the conventions of the classic show mu- sical” (James 2016).

Unpacking Performance in the Pop-Rock Biopic


In the first phase of pop-rock biopics until approximately the early 1980s, thus in an era that was yet to be affected by the MTV model, it is quite common to detect the attempt of using the movie theater as a plain extension of a music venue, be it a ballroom, a club, or a rock arena. A recurrent trope consisted in ending films with rather long and uncut musical acts, which would mark the apoth- eosis of the star’s celebration. Most importantly, these long performance scenes allowed cinematic and musical time to coincide, thus positing a conjunction be- tween the movie theater audience and the performers. This phenomenon can be found in such movies as the mentioned The Tommy Steele Story, The Buddy Holly Story (Rash 1978), Elvis (Carpenter 1979), Birth of the Beatles (Marquand 1979), to name a few. Film scholars generally agree in placing a chronological watershed in the his- tory of the biopic genre, distinguishing productions of the last fifteen to twenty years from earlier examples. One of the shared features of contemporary (not nec- essarily musical) biopics is identified by Belén Vidal (2014, 21) as a new attitude towards historical media materials: “At a time of veritable visual-media saturation, available archival materials (and their digital reconstructions) often crowd the screen, standing side by side or blending with dramatic reenactment. Archival im- ages and sounds form the textures of memory, whether individual or collective”. Lucy Fife Donaldson (2014, 15) adds that contemporary biopics exhibit “self-con- scious awareness of their subjects and the biopic as a form” and that “[t]he genre is uniquely placed to address the role of performance, including the extent to which lives are performed. In recent and contemporary pop-rock biopics, performance scenes are highly exposed in their meta-reflexive function: they exhibit music as music and almost inescapably foster assessments as to the value music entails in the represented bi- ography. Biopics may newly invent or re-imagine scenes of music making for which there is few or no historical evidence or documentation. They may on the other hand refer to canonized events, for which several different kinds of docu- mentation (anecdotal, written, photographic, audio and audiovisual, etc.) exist. They may use pre-existing audiovisual documentation in various ways, by inter- polating it directly or by restaging it, or they may disregard it due to different factors, spanning concrete problems (e.g. copyright licensing) to abstract aesthet- ical reasons (e.g. the wish to propose a different take on a highly auratic event). Finally, they may creatively combine pre-existing audio tracks (e.g. an official recording) with newly devised versions of songs and sound design interventions. Biopics, as much as documentaries, make the media archive meaningful to audiences. In the potentially unlimited and centrifugal access to music we have today, contemporary musical biopics and documentaries may serve the purpose of organizing, selecting, and configuring musical meaning in the space of a film,


Maurizio Corbella

while securing new markets for old music in a phase of unprecedented uncertainty in the music business. However, differences between the two genres persist, to such an extent that a production company like Jagged Films in the same year in- vested in a documentary and a biopic about James Brown, namely Mr. Dynamite:

The Rise of James Brown (Gibney 2014) and Get on Up (Taylor 2014). While, in general, documentaries and concert movies tend to privilege informative attitudes, i.e. setting footage in the frame of pertinent accounts (e.g. interviews) or historical context, biopics prefer a performative attitude towards the archive. When it comes to rendering a musical performance, biopics do not merely document historical exhibitions and embed them in a biographical narration, but re-performthem for a composite audience. Therefore, the attitude towards pre-existing documentation of a given past performance entails actualizing its affordance. The idea of “performing the document” is indebted to Philip Auslander’s the- orization of “The Performativity of Performance Documentation” (2006). For Auslander, photography and phonography (but the concept lends itself to be ex- tended to cinema) can be regarded as “species of mediatized performance” (8) that may alternatively adopt a documentary or a theatrical attitude. This dualism re- fuses an ontological divide between “documentation” (as unmediated record of reality) and “fiction” (as creative invention). By translating live musical experience into an audio-visual narrative medium, biopics allow us to reflect on the performative and intermedial constituents of mu- sical performance (Corbella 2015). My work has thus started by singling out the constructive layers of filmed musical performance in biopicse.g. the use of orig- inal/re-edited/re-staged documentary or televised footage, real audiences reacting to actors performing, newly performed/covered/playback acts, and enriched/re- mixed/re-spatialized pre-existent audio tracks through the means of sound de- signand their entrenching relationship with live musical experience.

Case studies: synopsis

The following synopsis enlists the case studies I am currently working on and pro- vides a synthetic description of the features that characterize the path of canonized performances from their historical occurrence to their rendering in biopics.

The Buddy Holly Story (Rash 1978) EVENT: Buddy Holly’s last gig @ Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, ND, Feb 2, 1959. DOCUMENTATION: Anecdotal. FILM RENDERING: Live lead vocals and guitar (Gary Busey) and live band on stage; raw aspects and “mistakes” in the performance are kept to enhance liveness.

Unpacking Performance in the Pop-Rock Biopic


The Doors (Stone 1991) EVENT: The Doors performing the first extensive version of “The End” @ Whisky a Go Go, LA, August 1966. DOCUMENTATION: anecdotal. FILM RENDERING: The song’s official studio recording (Elektra 1967) is used in the first part combined with newly recorded parts; the second segment of the song, corresponding to the live act at the Whisky a Go Go, is a cover version by a band consisting in the surviving Doors members without Ray Manzarek, and post- synced to the actors; vocals of the second part are the result of a combination be- tween post-synced and live vocals by Val Kilmer and vocals from Jim Morrison’s studio version; visually, the scene is reminiscent of “The End” live performance at Hollywood Bowl in 1968, first featured in Feast of Friends (Ferrara 1970).

Walk the Line (Mangold 2005) EVENT: Johnny Cash’s concert @ Folsom Prison, CA, January 13, 1968 DOCUMENTATION: Official live album At Folsom Prison (Columbia 1968) and several re-issues with extended track lists. FILM RENDERING: Live lead vocals (Joaquin Phoenix) and live band; the audience is formed by locals and not by professional extras; visually, the scene is reminis- cent of the TV-film Johnny Cash in San Quentin (Darlow 1969) broadcast by Gra- nada Television.

Control (Corbijn 2007) EVENT: Joy Division performing “Transmission” live on the program Something Else, BBC, 1979. DOCUMENTATION: Original TV footage. FILM RENDERING: Live lead vocals (Sam Riley) and live band (Joe Anderson and James Anthony Pearson); visually, the scene conflates a restaging of the original televised footage with the restaging of Tony Wilson’s introduction of the band when appearing on Granada Television performing “Shadowplay” in 1978.

I’m Not There (Haynes 2007) EVENT: Bob Dylan @ Newport Folk Festival 1965. DOCUMENTATION: Footage shot by Murray Lerner and first issued in Festival! (Lerner 1967); previously unreleased scenes are featured in No Direction Home (Scorsese 2005), containing also anecdotes and interviews; the integral perfor- mance is featured in The Other Side of the Mirror (Lerner 2007). FILM RENDERING: Playback leading vocals (Cate Blanchett play-backing to Ste- phen Malkmus) and band (play-backing to The Million Dollar Bashers); visual references to Murray Lerner’s footage are no evident, while references to fan’s interviews in Dont Look Back (Pennebaker 1967) and Eat the Document (Dylan


Maurizio Corbella

1972) are almost literal. The whole segment is constructed on the palimpsest of 8 ½ (Fellini 1963).

Jimi: All Is by My Side (Ridley 2013) EVENT: The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” @ Saville Theatre, London, June 1967. DOCUMENTATION: anecdotal. Film rendering: post-synced lead vocals (André Benjamin), playback guitar (Waddy Wachtel) and playback band. References both in the visuals and in the audio track are primarily to the amateur film of the song performed at Olympia in December 1967 and secondarily to Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight (Lerner 1991).

Get on Up (Taylor 2014) EVENT: James Brown performing @ Boston Garden, April 5, 1968, on the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination. DOCUMENTATION: WGBH-TV footage (James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden [Atwood 1968]), later reissued as a concert movie in 2008, in the TV documentary The Night James Brown Saved Boston (Leaf 2008), and in the documentary film Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (Gibney 2014). FILM RENDERING: Playback lead vocals (Chadwin Boseman) and band. The audio of “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)” is taken from the official live album Say It Live and Loud: Live in Dallas 08.26.68 (Polydor 1998). Visually, there are references to the WGBH-TV footage.



Auslander, P. 2006. The Performativity of Performance Documentation. Performing Arts Journal 84: 1-10. Babington, B. 2006. Star Personae and Authenticity in the Country Music Biopic. In Con- rich and Tincknell 2006. Cohen, T. F. 2012. Playing to the Camera: Musicians and Musical Performance in Docu- mentary Cinema. London and New York: Wallflower Press. Conrich, I. and E. Tincknell Eds. 2006. Film’s Musical Moments. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Corbella, M. 2015. Performativity Through(out) Media: Analysing Musical Performance in the Age of Intermediality. In C. Maeder and M. Reybrouck Eds. Music, Analysis, Experience: New Perspectives in Musical Semiotics. Leuven: Leuven University Press:


Donnelly, K. J. 2015. Magical Musical Tour: Rock and Pop in Film Soundtracks. New York and London: Bloomsbury. Doyle, P. 2013. “Burn me up this time fellas!”: When Movies Represent the Recording Studio. Continuum 27 (6): 900-912. Dyer, R. 1998. Stars. New Edition. London: British Film Institute.

Unpacking Performance in the Pop-Rock Biopic


Dyer, R. 2012. In the Space of a Song: The Uses of Song in Film. London and New York:

Routledge. Fife Donaldson, L. 2014. Performing Performers: Embodiment and Intertextuality in the Contemporary Biopic. In T. Brown and B. Vidal Eds. The Biopic in Contemporary Culture. New York and London: Routledge: 103-117. Herzog, A. 2010. Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Inglis, I. 2007. Popular Music History on Screen: The Pop/Rock Biopic. Popular Music History 2 (1): 77-93. James, D. E. 2016. Rock ‘N’ Film: Cinema’s Dance with Popular Music. New York: Ox- ford University Press. Moore, A. F. 2002. Authenticity as Authentication. Popular Music 21 (2): 209-223. Muldoon, D. 2012. Biopics and Music Stars: Masculinity, Death and Representation. Ph.D. Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona. Spirou, P. 2011. The Musical Biopic: Representing the Lives of Music Artists in 21 st Century Cinema. Ph.D. Macquarie University. Tibbetts, J. C. 2005. Composers in the Movies: Studies in Musical Biography. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Varriale, S. 2012. Rockin’ the Jazz Biopic: Changing Images of African American Musi- cians in Hollywood Biographical Films. Jazz Research Journal 6 (1): 27-46. Vidal, B. 2014. Introduction: The Biopic and Its Critical Contexts. In T. Brown and B. Vidal Eds. The Biopic in Contemporary Culture. New York and London: Routledge: 1-32. Winters, B. 2014. Music, Performance, and the Realities of Film: Shared Concert Experi- ences in Screen Fiction. New York and London: Routledge.


James Brown. 1998. Say It Live and Loud. Live in Dallas 08.26.68, Polydor Records, 11 August, US. Johnny Cash. 1968. At Folsom Prison, Columbia Records, May, US. The Doors. 1967. “The End”, The Doors, Elektra Records, 4 January, US.


8 ½. 1963. Dir. Federico Fellini. Cineriz/Francinex. BBC. 1979. Something Else. “The Jam / Joy Division”, 15 September. Birth of the Beatles. 1979. Dir. Richard Marquand. Dick Clark Productions. Bob Dylan: The Other Side of the Mirror. 2007. Dir. Murray Lerner. MLF Productions. The Buddy Holly Story. 1978. Dir. Steve Rash. Innovisions/ECA. Control. 2007. Dir. Anton Corbijn. Becker Films/CINV/Claraflora et. al. The Doors. 1991. Dir. Oliver Stone. Bill Graham Films/Carolco Pictures/Imagine Enter- tainment et al. Dont Look Back. Dir. Donn Alan Pennebaker. Leacock-Pennebaker. Eat the Document. 1972. Dir. Bob Dylan. Pennebaker Associates. Elvis. 1979. Dir. John Carpenter. Dick Clark Productions. The Jazz Singer. 1927. Dir. Alan Crosland. Warner Bros. Feast of Friends. 1970. Dir. Paul Ferrara. Crystal Productions.


Maurizio Corbella

Festival! 1967. Dir. Murray Lerner. Patchke Productions. Get on Up. 2014. Dir. Tate Taylor. Imagine Entertainments/Jagged Films/Wyolah Films. Granada Television. 1978. Granada Reports. “Joy Division”, 20 September. I’m Not There. 2007. Dir. Todd Haynes. Killer Films/John Wells Productions/John Goldwyn Productions et al. James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden, 1968. Dir. David Atwood [uncredited]. WGBH. Re-issued on DVD by Shoot! Factory (2008). Jimi: All Is by My Side. 2013. Dir. John Ridley. Darko Entertainments/Freeman Film/Su- botica Entertainment et al. Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight. 1991. Dir. Murray Lerner. Castle Music Pictures/Experi- ence Hendrix LLC/MLF Productions. Johnny Cash in San Quentin. 1969. Dir. Michael Darlow. Granada Television. Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. 2014. Dir. Alex Gibney. Jagged Films/Inaudible Films/Jigsaw Productions. The Night James Brown Saved Boston. 2008. Dir. David Leaf. David Leaf Productions. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. 2005. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Spitfire Pictures/Grey Water Park Productions et. al. Rock Around the Clock. Dir. Fred F. Sears. Clover Productions. The Tommy Steele Story (aka Rock Around the World). 1957. Dir. Gerard Bryant. Insignia Films. Walk the Line. 2005. Dir. James Mangold. Fox 2000 Pictures/Tree Line Film/Konrad Pic- tures et al.

From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder

Virginia Dellenbaugh

The New School: Eugene Lang College, Contemporary Music, New York, NY, USA,

The transformed, angelic voice is in a precarious positionbetween corpus and void, heaven and earth. As “sacred monsters” of the Baroque, the castrati had voices described as otherworldly and “strangely disembodied.” An amalgam of

male, female and childlike qualities, the castrato voice is angelic in its liminality,

a kind of tonal apotheosis. The 1950s, a time preoccupied with heaven, from

winged cars to airwave Earth Angels, saw a curious renaissance of this Baroque ideal. With doo-wop, the seemingly sexless voice of the singer shares the trait of

sounding angelic with the mythic androgyny of the castratiboth blur gender lines through vocal manipulation. Technology also allows the transformed voice to lose all traces of the body, as in Bruce Haack’s psychedelic song cycle The Electric Lucifer, “a battle between heaven and hell” which employs a voice put through a prototype vocoder to represent both angel and devil. Here, the voice is free to achieve multiple unearthly identities. This presentation will examine the imbrication of heavenly narrative and transformed voice in popular music, focus- ing on how this disjunct between voice and body can be understood as prism through which to explore shifting socio-political anxieties and desires.

Keywords: Castrati, Doo-wop, Vocoder, Angelic, Voice Manipulation

Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher and essayist, noted that “music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.” In Baroque paintings, philosophical treatises, in cinema and on theater stages,

in museums, songs and books, the angel is a constant in our history. Like us, angels

are falliblethey have no divine tenure. An angel can ascend but also fall; can

intend good and create bad. In search of redemption, both angels and humans sing an appeal to the heavens. In scripture, in glass, and on walls, singing is the angel’s premiere mode of operation, or even their reason for existence. One interpretation

of angels in the Talmud speculates that they come into existence only to sing; that

is, they are born, sing God's praises, and then they vanish. They are song and noth-

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_8


Virginia Dellenbaugh

ing more, a link that affiliates reality with celestial possibility. Fleeting and intan- gible, the angel as pure song is much a reflection of the voice itself, emerging to express, to transmit, and then gone. Beyond a purely liturgical context, the intersection of music and the divine emerges at various times in secular music history. I will briefly discuss three very different instances where the angelic or heavenly raises its head: transmitted, in the form of doo-wop; perceived, as with the reception of the castrato voice; and metabolized, through the construction of the mechanical voice as in Bruce Haack’s The Electric Lucifer. In the 1950s, the world’s eyes were turned towards the stars. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into orbit. In the same year, the International Atomic Energy Agency was founded, seeking to promote a peaceful use of atomic power after a decade of violence and fear. Crowds gathered in the Nevada desert, watching the spectacle of nuclear tests through tinted glasses. On the airwaves, small amateur a cappella groups sang “Earth Angel,” “Golden Angel,” “Angel of Love,” “Heavenly Night,” “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” and “The Angels Listened In.” Astronauts were launched into orbit, and The Velvetones crooned that “seven men have gone into outer space—I wouldn’t want to be in their place.” Doo-wop’s unmistakable sound has come to define the atomic era—close harmonies, predictable chord progressions, vocal articulations that seek to emulate the rhythms and gestures of instruments like the plucked upright bass and bowed strings. Recordings are often marked by poor miking and amateurish production qualitythe quintessential doo-wop anthem, “Earth Angel” by The Penguins, was, in fact, a demo made in a garage. The tightly harmonized voices, predomi- nantly male, are cast in a liturgical glow when conjoined with lyrics that focus on heaven, transformed into a naïve choir supporting a soaring, solo voice in a kind of pop Pie Jesu. Vocals in doo-wop span all ranges of the voice, spreading like a peacock tail of sound from bass to falsetto. Of all the colors and timbres, however, it is most often a lyric tenor that pushes into the falsetto range and takes the lead. In contrast to a classical singer, high tenors in doo-wop focus the sound and flow of air into the hard palette while singing, raising the back of the tongue and narrowing the resonating cavity of the mouth so that the resulting sound is nasal and penetrant, brassy and bright in color and timbre. This singing technique has, at its root, a simple acoustic functionthe spreading of vowels in a higher range of voice makes the voice stand out, sonically, from the saturation of the backing choir. However, much of doo-wop is marked by an exaggerated form of this high whine, almost a wail that exceeds the necessary technique to be noticed above the rest of the voices. The voice becomes pathologically cheerful, almost hystericalthe

From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder


frantic timbre makes it hard to pin the voice to an identifiable body. The voice thrives in this liminality, hovering somewhere between childlike and mature, male and female, happy and insane. As the voice that makes the appeal to the celestial other, this ambiguity functions as a kind of sonic lure, attempting to approximate that which it desires. The appeal lies in the making, repeated over and over again, never fulfilled, each song one in a seemingly endless loop of unpolished petitions. The music is doomed to a perpetual adolescence, mirroring the atomic infancy of the United States in the 1950s, eyes to heaven in hope and fear. The period was briefby the mid-1960s, rock ’n’ roll would bring the public’s ears very much back down to earth. Where doo-wop is a secular transmission, the roots of the castrati are inextri- cably entwined with the Catholic Church. For over 200 years the castrato was a hegemonic figure in Europe’s cultural life, from the first opera, Jacopo Peri’s Dafne in 1597, until the mid-19th century. A central factor for the rise of the cas- trati was a liturgical problem, and the influence of the church in the development of the castrati was manifold. Rome was not only the center of all opera life, but more importantly the heart of Catholic power, and women were prohibited from performing onstage. Moreover, religious ritual helped cultivate a preference for the pure, flute-like timbre of young boy’s voices. Catholic-run conservatories, originally founded in the 16th century as charitable institutions that housed and educated orphans, became the source for boy-singers. The slow acceptance of an ostensibly forbidden practice, castration, was both fiscally and aesthetically moti- vated. Conservatories loaned the boy singers out to funerals and other religious services but puberty made this a short-lived investmentcastration became a nec- essary evil in supplying the demand for what was, naturally, only a short phase of vocal development. Castration was risky, but the rewards were enormous. If successful, the sur- gery preserved not only the clear, pure timbre of young boys’ voices, it also had a transformative effect on the body that further augmented the voice. As singers grew older, the vocal cords elongated without the influence of testosterone, re- maining thin and flexible. The same could be said of the body; it continued to mature, but the lung capacity remained elastic, as if continuously waiting for the onset of puberty to harden and fix the bones and cartilage. This produced voices of unique strength and agility, capable of sustaining elaborate, improvised flights of virtuosity that very few non-castrated singers could imitate. The voice was be- tween a child, a contralto, and a young mansomething silvery, metallic, and compelling. Operatic soprano Emma Calve spoke of the castrato Mustafa’s voice as “strange, sexless, superhuman, uncanny” (Heriot 1975: 22). Others wondered at its “metallic, penetrating timbre” (Feldman 2015: 108).


Virginia Dellenbaugh

By the 18th century, nearly 70 percent of all male opera singers were castrati. Their fame was defined by a social marginalization and aesthetic exceptionality that both restricted and liberated. The Catholic Church forbade them from marry- ing, for example, and yet the castrati enjoyed an international mobility not experi- enced by any other form of artist. The castrato voice transcended language barri- ers, making them the first international cult celebrities. For the first time, as histo- rian Angus Heriot notes, the castrati were artists discussed, “compared and criti- cized from Russia to Portugal and from Ireland to the borders of the Ottoman Em- pire” (Heriot 1975: 13). Eighteenth-century opera became synonymous with the castrati, and yet the voice never seemed to deviate fully from its liturgical origins; the popularity of the castrato voice in opera drew the heady incense of the sacred into the realm of the profane. In the cultural imagination, it also forever linked the castrato voice to a perception of what Michel Poizat calls the “angelic function” desired in liturgy, even lending it, in the extreme, a kind of palliative magic. In 1737, the Spanish court invited Farinelli, perhaps the most brilliant castrato of his time, to the royal bedside. The king was bedridden with debilitating melancholy and the court was in despairbut when Farinelli sang to him from behind a curtain, the voice was enough to cure where medicines had had no effect. For the next decade, until the king’s death, Farinelli sang the same four arias every evening, a sonic poultice for spiritual wounds. For both doo-wop and castrati, elevated pitch is equated with celestial heightswhen an angel falls, so does the voice. The devilish is in the depths:

Boito and Gounoud’s Mefistofeles, Mozart’s Commendatore, and Dvorak’s Mar- buel are all sung by basses. In many medieval texts, the devil is even excluded from any musical dimension. Hildegard von Bingen denies the devil a voice in her Ordo Virtutum, a musical morality play composed in the early 12th century detail- ing the struggle over the human soul. Lucifer can only grunt, growl, and whistlehe is denied the harmonies of heaven. The 20th century would lend the devil another timbre. In 1970, composer Bruce Haack released his one major work, The Electric Lucifer, on Columbia Rec- ords. Haack, a Juilliard dropout, earned his living from composing music for ad- vertising and pedagogy, and even today, he is still mostly known as a composer of psychedelic “children’s music.” The Electric Lucifer was conceived as an apoca- lyptic dialogue between heaven and hell set in 2001, the first part in a triptych that, due to Haack’s early death, was never fully realized. The album is a sonic circushomemade synthesizers and Moogs layered with effects-laden loops of natural instruments and sounds. Pieces of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “The First Noel,” and other hymns mix with fragments of Bach-like counterpoint and carousel polkas. The resulting cacophony is a collage

From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder


of cultural touchstones and psycho-pompic grandeur that would make a fitting soundtrack for the late, Gnostic-revelatory novels of Philip K. Dick. It is partially the psychedelic eclecticism of Haack’s composing that resigned the album to its current obscurity; part-psychedelic prog-rock, part avant-garde classical, part jazz, it eluded a classification that might have given it a marketable identity. Haack created almost all of the electric instruments himself, including a key- board called “adam 2,” and what is purported to be the first vocoder, or vocal transformer, created for musical purposes, a machine called “Farad,” named after the 19th-century English electro-magneticist Michael Faraday. It is Farad who plays the role of Lucifer. The machine is given curious autonomy on the album, receiving equal credit as an artist in the liner notes, where he is listed alongside the other singers and instrumentalists. Haack notes that Farad is “difficult to work with.” As Lucifer, Farad’s voice is a tinny, nasal chirp devoid of nuance, breath, and color, a human voice manipulated through a machine that strips it of its bodily qualities. The advance of technology has had a remarkable effect on how we perceive the voice, if only because the advent of recording meant that the voice, in some way, could be preserved, leaving its fleshly body to be transplanted into another, technical one. The voice without its human origin has become commonplace; in everyday life, it is likely that we hear far many more disembodied voices than we do actual ones. Beyond the body/voice disconnect, technology has created a whole new realm of voices that have never had real bodies; stripped of its corporeal im- print, the voice through the machine is dehumanized, denied implicit human har- monies. The voice produced by Haack’s vocoder, Farad, becomes something en- tirely other, another beingin this case, a voice with a new, technological body. The fallen angel falls not into hell, but into the machine. Music itself can foreshadow certain sociological shiftsthe international stardom of the castrati, which overcame the borders of language and performance practice, was a harbinger of the growth of international trade and colonialism in the Baroque period. In the mid-18th century, criticism of the castrato voice re- flected a growing discontent with frivolities and excess of the ruling class. The music was perceived as “florid and choked with ornament … a guise [where] their arias resemble the ladies of France” (Feldman 2015: 186). Haack’s use of Farad to transform the voice anticipated the later acceptance of vocal transformation in pop idioms, from Cher’s deliberate auto-tune hiccough in “Believe” to the “T-Pain effect” now so ubiquitous in hip-hop. On an introspective level, an angel can also function as an abstract way to understand society in flux. Walter Benjamin was obsessed with Paul Klee’s paint- ing Angelus Novus, one of his most prized possessions until he had to leave it behind when escaping the Nazis. Benjamin referenced the work frequently in his


Virginia Dellenbaugh

writings, as a symbol of “true actuality” (Scholem 2001), and as the “Agesilaus Santander,” his individual angel or devil. The angel appears to him as both female and male, benevolent figure and devil. According to Scholem, Benjamin imagines the angel as a way to understand his Judaism, as a personal oracle, and as a guard- ian. Benjamin’s last reference to the angel appears in his “Theses on the Philoso- phy of History,” written only months before his death. For Benjamin, after seven years in exile and scarred by the traumas of the Second World War, the Angelus Novus has morphed from personal angel to watcher over historypowerless, it looks to the past, unable to intervene on behalf of mankind. Music spliced with heavenly themes can reflect more than just the permuta- tion of cultural norms; the affiliation with the divine offers a cultural prism through which to examine societal anxieties and desires. In doo-wop, the repetition of the format of the angel ballad is like rocking an infant, sucking a thumbcultural self- soothing on a national scale. The reassuring thrum of the ever-present choir sur- rounds a worshipful, sometimes pleading lead voice that teeters on the brink of vocal hysteria. Ever-present underneath the naïve, supermarket choir superficiality is a vibration of repressed anxiety, even morbidity. The lead of The Five Stars sings cheerfully of love as destructive as fission in 1957’s “Atom Bomb Baby” as the doo-wop chorus chirps over an uptempo swing beat. On “Angels Say,” The Four Fellows croon, “We’ll go to that place in the sky someday, and nothing will hurt us at all.” The heavenly adjectives so often used to describe the castrato voice, on the other hand, have little to do with heavenly escapism, rather, they articulate a more acute friction caused by the confrontation with, and simultaneous allure of, an earth-bound human voice that exceeds its natural limits. This imbues the castrato voice, and the manipulated body that produces it, with flexible, metaphysical sym- bolic potential. As an elision of the sacred and the profane, the castrato voice moves beyond mere beauty, as defined by Kant, into the limitless magnitude, cre- ating the frisson of attraction and repulsion that defines the sublime. As such it is feared and prized, perceived as an uncanny synthesis of human ambition and di- vine intervention that embodies “the ascension of a soul into the infinite on the wings of … sentiment” (Panzacchi, in Heriot, 36). The voice of Farad, a machine voice that speaks the role of a fallen angel, comes much closer to contemporary anxieties and desires surrounding advances in technology. The machine voice, quite literally characterizing the angelic and/or demonic, sings and speaks with an authority beyond human control. As a poten- tially autonomous being, in Haack’s account, Farad combines the uncanny quali- ties of the in/animate machine, like that found in Hans Bellmer’s puppets or in the singing automaton of Villier de l’Ilse Adam’s Future Eve, with a spark of other- worldly anima.

From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder


Music, as Carlyle noted, does bring us closer to a feeling of the infiniteseen through an historical lens, the infinite is a chimera that nonetheless remains a locus of both desire and fear. Music that collides with the angelic, in particular outside of dedicated religious function, is a potential shibboleth for decoding and inter- preting the ever-changing boundaries of human self-awareness as it has changed through time. Without using wordsin fact, beyond wordsit can reveal another cultural current from the time that created it, revealing projections of anxiety, long- ing, and desire that go beyond a traditional exploration of historical and cultural context.


This essay derives from a talk originally presented at the 2015 EMP Pop Confer- ence in Seattle, Washington. Thanks to the EMP committee and their chair, Eric Weisbard, as well as Courtney Rubin and Markus Schinwald.



Benjamin, W. 2003. Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings Eds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Feldman, M. 2015. The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds. Oakland: University of California Press. Godwin, J. 1995. Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International. Gribin, A. J. and Schiff, M. 2014. The Top 1,000 Doo Wop Songs: Collector’s Edition. Ttgpress,. Haack, Bruce. 2000 [Orig. 1970]. The Electric Lucifer. Columbia. CD. Hamilton, D. Ed. 1987. The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia. New York: Simon and Schuster. Heriot, A. 1975. The Castrati in Opera. New York: Da Capo Press. Kittler, F., Macho, T. and Weigel, S. Eds. 2008. Zwischen Rauschen und Offenbarung: Zur Kultur- und Mediengeschichte der Stimme. Berlin: Akademie Verlag GmbH. Leppert, R. and McClary, S. Eds. 1987. Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Marcus, G. 2014. The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in 10 Songs. New Haven: Yale University Press. Miller-Frank, F. 1995. The Mechanical Song: Women, Voice, and the Artificial in Nine- teenth-Century French Narrative. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Poizat, M. 1992. The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Scholem, G. 2001. Walter Benjamin: Die Geschichte einer Freundschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.


Virginia Dellenbaugh

Appendix A: Some doo-wop titles This list is in no way authoritative, but is provided to illustrate the many angel- and heaven-themed songs I came across in my research. I am indebted not only to print and online catalogues, but to the many doo-wop fans who have uploaded rare tracks, unreleased material, and b-sides to YouTube. Where possible, I have in- cluded dates and label information.

Nolan Strong & The Diablos. 1956. “A Teardrop from Heaven” (Fortune 522). Bobby Helms. 1957. “My Special Angel” (Decca 30423) covers: Bobby Vinton. 1963; Frankie Avalon, 1963; Bill Haley & his Comets, 1960. The Penguins. 1954. “Earth Angel” (Dootone 348). The Capitols. 1958. “Angel of Love” (Pet 807). The Five Pastels. 1962. “You’re Just an Angel” (Dome-249). The Chuck-A-Lucks. 1958. “Heaven Knows” (Bow 307). The Interiors. 1960? “My Darling Little Angel” (Worthy 1008). The Shells. 1957. “(What’s in an) Angel’s Eyes” (Johnson 104). The Ravens. 1956. “A Simple Prayer” (Argo 5621). Curtis Lee and The Halos. 1961. “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” (Dune 2007). The Academics. 1957. “Heavenly Love” (Ancho 101). Donnie and The Del Chords. 1963. “I Found Heaven” (Taurus 363). Rosie and The Originals. 1961. “Angel Baby” (Highland 5001). The Four Epics. 1963. ”Summertime Angel” (unreleased). The Collegians. 1957. “Heavenly Night” (1-tra 108). The Orients. 1964. “Queen of the Angels” (Laurie 3232). The Sultans. 1962. “God Made an Angel” (DeCade 101). The Montclairs. 1957. “Golden Angel” (Hi-Q 5001). The Claremonts. 1957. “Angel of Romance” (Apollo 3628). The Condors. 1960. “Sweetest Angel” (Hunter 2504). The Rockin’ Dukes. 1957. “An Angel and a Rose” (OJ 1007). The Cosmos. 1962. “Angel, Angel” (Big L 502). The Schoolboys. 1958. “The Angel of Love” (Juanita 103). The Neons. 1956. “Angel Face” (Tetra 4444); 1959 (Gone 5090). The Chanters. 1958. “Angel Darling” (DeLuxe 6172). The Capris. 1954. “God Only Knows” (Gotham 304). The Crests. 1957. “The Angels Listened In” (Coed 515). The Intentions. 1963. “Summertime Angel” (Jaime 1253). The Prisonaires. 1953. “My God is Real” (Sun 189). The Esquires. 1954. “Only the Angels Know” (HiPo 1003). The Velvetones with Tommy Hudson and The Savoys. 1950. “Space Men” (D-1072). The Royal Jesters. 1960. “My Angel of Love” (Harlem 105). Jerry Stone & The Four Dots. 1958. “It’s Heaven” (Freedom 44002). The Five Stars. 1957. “Atom Bomb Baby” (Kernel 002). Donald Woods and The Vel Aires. 1954. “Death of an Angel” (Flip 306). The Twilighters. 1956. “Eternally” (Cholly 712). The Continentals. 1956. “Dear Lord” (Whirlin' Disc 101).

From Earth Angel to Electric Lucifer: Castrati, Doo Wop and the Vocoder


The Bop Chords. 1956. “Castle in the Sky” (Holiday 2601). The Rivileers. 1954. “Eternal Love” (Baton 205). The Curly Bridges & the Motley Crew. 1961. “A Prayer of Love” (DC 0436). The Goldentones. 1961. “If I had the Wings of an Angel” (YRS 1001). The Kings. 1958. “Angel” (Jalo 203). The Four Fellows. 1955. “Angels Say” (Glory 202). The Harptones. 1953. “A Sunday Kind of Love” (Bruce 101). The Dubs. 1958. “Chapel of Dreams” (Gone 5046). The Clovers. 1956. “Devil or Angel” (Atlantic 1083). The Selections. 1959. “Guardian Angel” (Antone 101). The Solitaires. 1956. “The Angels Sang” (Old Town 1026). Randy & The Rainbows. 1963. “She’s My Angel” (Rust 5073). Lewis Lymon & The Teenchords. 1957. “Please Tell the Angels” (Fury 1003). The Dells. 1955. “She’s Just an Angel” (Vee-Jay-unreleased).

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking

Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

Federal Fluminense University, Post Graduation of Communication, Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,

This paper has as main goal to understand the importance of performance inside a process of crowdfunding, from the video produced by the independent musician Amanda Palmer, for the platform Kickstarter, to promote the project for launching her album, Theater is Evil. One of Kickstarter's main requirements are audiovisual productions that assist in the dissemination of artists and their projects. Such vid- eos seem to be the leading engagement products to attract "backers". However, the hypothesis is that this is not the ultimate persuasion of this model. Resorting to Reception Studies as methodological basis and using internet ethnographic as in- spiration, comments relating the video of Palmer’s project, present at the Youtube and Kickstarter platforms, were analyzed. Thus, it was possible to observe that not only the audiovisual performance is important to move "backers", but also there's a need of previous knowledge of the artist by these financiers.

Keywords: crowdfunding; performance, video, music, Amanda Palmer


This paper will analyze the comments made by fans and supporters of the per- former and musician Amanda Palmer at the platform Kickstarter and at the site Youtube. Both places contain Palmer's video where she asks money for the backup of her crowdfunding project, the album Theatre is Evil. We aim to understand if there's importance at the audiovisual production for the promotion of Kickstarter's projects or if Amanda's prior engagement with the public is enough to guarantee the quantity she asked. Our trouble starts with the knowledge we acquire by studying Amanda

Palmer, her project and the Kickstarter. First, the artist wrote on her book, The Art

of Asking (2015), "my backers (


had been following my personal story for

years" (Palmer, 2015: 13). We also discovered on her profile page at Kickstarter that the artist had two other creations before the Teatre is Evil (one EP and one event she promoted with her husband, writer Neil Gaiman). Second, the Kick- starter itself made us think of the importance of as audiovisual production to ex- plain a project. The platform states that they "strongly encourage but not require"

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017 J. Merrill, Popular Music Studies Today, Systematische Musikwissenschaft, DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-17740-9_9


Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

the making of a video. It also says that "More than 80% of projects have videos, and those that don't have a much lower success rate" 10 . Because of these reasons, we ask if a well made video can solely make a crowdfunding succeed. We believe that, as Amanda wrote on her book, previous knowledge from the audience is important for a musician to launch a project. To corroborate or refute this hypothesis, we'll be analyzing comments at Youtube and at Kickstarter, look- ing for people that a) said they'll be donating because of the video; b) said they'll be donating because they 'love', 'adore', or have positive affection for Amanda Palmer; and c) talk solely about the video. This article is an initial study around Amanda Palmer and her online perfor- mance, as well as study around the crowdfunding process. We aim, in the future,

to understand how the online performance and the crowdfunding can benefit each


Queen of "Use What You Can" 11

Amanda Palmer is an American musician and had her first contact with the artistic scene when she made The Eight Feet Bride, a living statue. She would perform at Harvard Square, in Boston, when not working at a nearby ice cream shop (Palmer,

2015). Later, Palmer joined drummer Brian Viglione to form the band The Dres- den Dolls. Entitled themselves as punk cabaret (a gender with small market, and even smaller fame outside de Boston scene), Brian and Amanda made loud rock music, with political discourse and very dramatic live performances (Piik, 2011). As a way of promoting concerts, music and low budget videos, Palmer and Viglione started to see the internet as a useful gadget. Palmer, after every Dresden Dolls' gig, would get the emails from the people on the audience that liked the band and signed them at an email list, with the purpose of advertise all the infor- mation about the band and also facilitate contact between the two musicians and the public. After some time, when the email list got too extensive, Amanda created

a forum to supply de demands of communication and interaction, The Shadow

Box 12 . The online activity of Amanda Palmer became a constant and, when The Dresden Dolls dissolved, she continued her daily online updates 13 to promote her solo work as well as concerts and public appearances.

10 See the advice on the instructions given by the platform at:, last access: 10/12/2016.

11 Term taken from Palmer's book (2015, 94).

12 The forum is still active through the link:, ac- ceded in: 10/12/2016.

13 Mostly on her blog,, acceded in: 10/12/2016.

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking


Therefore, we could affirm that Palmer goes beyond her musician self; she is a performer and an active blogger, using many social media and networks 14 to post not only about her career, but also about her personal life, giving the fans a sense of proximity and familiarity. Amanda Palmer shows herself as an artist that does not have fear of the exchange with the public; on the contrary, she sees these con- tacts as an inspiration and assurance of her career as an artist. The link she creates with her followers goes beyond Twitter, she asks for help of her followers to create lyrics, or for places to spend the nights when touring. She writes, "Explaining how I use Twitter to those who’ve never used it is diffi- cult. It’s a blurry Möbius strip of love, help, information, and social-art-life ex- change." (Palmer, 2015: 134). Palmer, most and foremost, knows how to ask.

What's Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a form of collective fundraiser in favor of a project with a short- medium time duration. It is a virtual phenomenon, since it uses digital platforms to connect the creator of the project with the funders (Gerber; Hui; Kuo, 2012). As the name itself gives a clue, crowdfunding came from the concept of "crowdsourc- ing" which is according to the dictionary Merriam-Webster, The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting con- tributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers (Merriam-Webster, 2006) The crowdfunding will focus on the idea of "funders" backing up projects with money and receiving in return some sort of recompense. The money-raising format will start with previously set values that will correspond to the "recom- penses" the backers wishes to receive. Usually, the values start from lower, to higher, in a crescent/most valuable gradation. This means that there can be many people financing small quantities and making a production happen. Crowdfunding happens from the consolidation of the collaborative internet, hav- ing online social interaction as the main space for exchanges. These spaces are formed by actors (Recuero, 2011) with common interests, affective connections and struggle for symbolic power (Bourdieu, 2009). Its organizational format lights up for a new aspect as in seen the usage of these interactions beyond the symbolic exchange , the insertion of the currency within the social connections. It is im- portant to highlight that the money presence does not eliminates the symbolic ex- changes (Recuero, 2011; Bordieu, 2009), but it seems to complement them bring- ing new visions to the connections made through the crowdfunding process.

14 Palmer makes full use of Facebook <>, Twitter <>, Tumblr <> and Insta- gram <>, acceded in: 10/12/2016.


Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

The methodology for the usage of fundraising is very similar in different plat- forms; Kickstarter is one of the many, except being one of the pioneers and is more consolidated than other crowdfunding platforms 15 . Its arrival on the internet was in 2009 and, since then, more than 12 million people funded some project, getting to 2.8 million dollars with more than 116 thousand projects succeeding. Kickstarter project itself to the world does not limit itself on only United States territory. Technically every person that desires to subscribe its project or fund someone else's can do it. That is if this person gets to understand one of the four languages provided by the site English, Spanish, French and German. The interactions and funding, therefore, are not limited by a physical territory, as we could observe with the case this paper discuss. The connection established be- tween funder, platform and other agents involved with the project promotion, need to be in sync not only with the language spoken, but also with the form of payment, as much as the currency chosen. It is only convenient that Kickstarter accept not only credit cards payments, but also uses the PayPal system, that converts currency automatically 16 .

Amanda and the Kickstarter

Knowing that fundraising platforms, and especially Kickstarter, have characteris- tics to facilitate participation all over the globe, we saw Amanda Palmer's Theatre is Evil project as a representation of this kind of globalization. As we can see on the Figure 1, the leading funders of the musician's project are United States her motherland , United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Germany.

15 Nowadays, we can count with plenty of platforms. The Forbes online magazine made a list with the top 10 crowdfunding sites, the first one is, being followed by Indiegogo and See list at: < crowdfunding-sites-for-fundraising/>, acceded in: 11/12/2016.

16 As it is explained on the PayPal website, <>.

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking


is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking 89 Figure 1. Table of the

Figure 1. Table of the leading countries backing the project 17

At the project's period, Palmer's work were largely known at these five countries, where the artist had already made concerts and that with the exception of Ger- many has English 18 as first language. Amanda Palmer requested 100 thousand dollars to press and release her al- ready produced, album; Theatre is Evil, a creation featuring the band The Grand Theft Orchestra (Palmer, 2015). One week after Amanda posted the project at Kickstarter, she already had hit the target of the requested amount. By the end of the campaign, she had made more than ten times the expected, reaching 1.192.793 dollars, from more or less 24 thousand backers 19 .

17 Information taken from the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/community, acceded in: 11/12/2016

18 It's interesting to notice that the 3th, Australia, and the 6th, New Zealand, countries at the Table are from the same continent. Amanda Palmer is largely known at Oceania, she even made an album after a tour she had over there that is entitled Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under (2011), in which she feature two songs, Australia and New Zealand.

19 Information taken by the campaign page, jects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/description, acceded in:


Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

How to ask: the video and how it is worked According to Knoblauch, Schnettler and Raab (2006), videos are an important part of contemporary life. We use it to express ourselves through art, to record im- portant moments, to communicate with each other. Maybe that is why a platform like Kickstarter chose to stimulate this kind of gadget to obtain attention of back- ers. For this reason, we believe it is important to go through the production of Amanda Palmer. The artist creates a "work of art" 20 of her pledging video. The soundtrack of the audiovisual production is made of music from the already recorded Theatre is Evil, giving the fans and the backers a first contact with the material, that she asked for help to promote. The request comes through lots of huge paper cards, hand written by Amanda herself (Palmer, 2015), explaining why she needs public help to launch her new production. This is an interesting choice, the person watching the video does not listen to Amanda's voice but instead to the music she made and asked people to buy. Even so, the viewer can also understand the message Palmer wants to deliver, since she wrote it clearly and as long as the person understands English is possible to read it. Therefore, for every effect, you read what she is asking, while listening what you ought to buy.

Comments section Analyzing fans words

Using the theories discussed above, we will analyze the comments to understand the responses Amanda Palmer's video performance engendered. We also aim to clarify if a video is essential to promote a crowdfunding project, or if prior en- gagement with public is enough to get successful results. We understand, of course, that one thing does not nullify the other; we believe a conjunction between these two factors of promotion is fundamental. Therefore we will be analyzing comments on the Kickstarter platform 21 (with 1.361 comments), where Amanda posted her campaign, and on Youtube platform 22 (with 115 comments), where the video from the campaign was posted. To choose how many comments we would use, we made a cut of, more or less, 10% in the total of each platform. Of these, we selected some comments to illustrate the categories that emerge from the qualitative analysis. We will be ex- posing comments of people that, through the internet discourse if this can be a

20 We don't intent on judge what is art or not, this term is a mere force to state how Palmer sees her works, even if only pledging for money.

21 It can be acceded through the link < /amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour>.

22 The video can be seen through the link <>.

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking


useful term express their affections, or the choice of supporting an artist as Amanda Palmer. This methodology was preferred, because, in this way, we could look more carefully through comments, applying the theories in discussion and, in the end, listing these posts in categories. We analyzed 56 comments that can be divided as:

a) people that said will be donating because the video "convinced" them; b) people that said will be donating because they have positive affection for Amanda Palmer; and c) people that talk solely about the video. These categories are important, be- cause they will configure this paper as a qualitative work, while we make a textual analysis of the comments posted by the backers of Amanda. We intend doing a cognitive process of "comprehending, synthesizing, theorizing, and recontextual- izing" (Morse, 1994: 25, highlights by the author).

Categorization Seeing this as a qualitative work, we will be doing a data analysis (Morse, 1994). The comments and the data analysis of them generate three categories. Even if we are not arriving at the qualitative results by interview, this method seemed applicable, since we could arrive at the three categories listed above. In category (a), we could see the importance of the video to publicize the crowdfunding campaign more practically. The comments of this category belong to people that clearly said they will be donating, because they were convinced by the audiovisual production, as we can see exemplified on Figure 2.

production, as we can see exemplified on Figure 2 . Figure 2. Comment on category (a).

Figure 2. Comment on category (a).

This category had 28, 6% of the total comments analyzed, as a response of appre- ciation of the video performance. On the other hand, comments on the categories (b) and (c) represented, respectively, 60, 7% and 10, 7% of the total. Even holding only 10, 7% of the comments, the category "people that talk solely about the video", every post seemed to react positively with the project, supporting and encouraging its success. The video is praised a lot (Figure 3), and those praises eventually are directed to Amanda Palmer's performance as a work of art itself, not a merely art mediation (Figure 4).

performance as a work of art itself, not a merely art mediation ( Figure 4) .

Figure 3. Comment on category (c).


Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

92 Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias Figure 4. Comment on category (c) – 2. The category (b)

Figure 4. Comment on category (c) 2.

The category (b) has, mainly, comments exulting Amanda Palmer and talking about the influence of the artist in the life of their fans, as in Figure 5. We sense some sort of gratification and the fan on the comment in question, seem to feel the need in donating, because of the time she knows the artist, as well as the good Palmer made in her life by inspiring and uplifting her when needed.

made in her life by inspiring and uplifting her when needed. Figure 5. Comment on category

Figure 5. Comment on category (b).

We can discuss, then, how connected the fans of Amanda Palmer feel with the

artist. Palmer constructs this kind of connection which we can observed in most of the comments on category (b), as she states on her own book.

When I reflect on the last fifteen years of my life in musicall (

) variety of

eye-to-eye, soul-to-soul, hand-to-hand connection I’ve shared with the members of my crowdI see it as a net. (Palmer, 2015: 75) She sees her fans as part of her connection "net". There's such a familiarity between them that the fans feel oblige to go and "help" the person that create art for them, and with them, and that was part of their personal daily life, even if they don't personally know each other. We can understand this as an exchange between Palmer and her fans, she offers them music and a sense of proximity creating the "net" and they offer her their support, financial and emotional.

and they offer her their support, financial and emotional. Figure 6. Comment on category (b) –

Figure 6. Comment on category (b) 2.

Some comments, as the Figure 6 also shows the knowledge of Palmer's fan base on mentioning the musician birthday, wishing her well and congratulating her. This gives a larger sense of the familiarity these people have with the artist. Some

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking


of them even states that the contribution is a present for Amanda, as her birthday gift, and it is also a present from the artist to the backer, as we can see on Figure


from the artist to the backer, as we can see on Figure 7 . Figure 7.

Figure 7. Comment on category (b) 3.

It's worth pointing out that this work doesn't concern with negative comments, because we intend in only analyze the content created by the public that has a dialogue with video performance and Amanda Palmer as a proponent of the crowdfunding project. The comments on the listed categories that we choose didn't show any hateful content, or negative critics' remarks. At last, we didn't use Fans Studies, but we couldn't put aside the fact that the comments at the Theatre is Evil project seem to be another space of mediation between the artist and every person that has some sort of affection link with her. That means that the project are more than just another crowdfunding, it is also a place to expand dialogues, demonstration of affection and unite fan and artist on a sense of common contribution.


The qualitative research we made appointed specific numbers for each of the three categories we could place the comments on Kickstarter and Youtube. These num- bers are very representative in a way that shows the important focus the audiovis- ual production can have in a crowdfunding project, although it also tell us that the video can't maintain the campaign by itself. The public that will be backing up the crowdfunding project need to know who is the person they'll be supporting and have some type of affection tie. Of the 56 comments analyzed, only 10, 7% related solely to the video, while 60, 7% belonged to the affection group. Simmel (2006) will point society as a group of individuals that join for com- mon interests, no matter what those interests are. From Simmel's perspective on society, we can affirm that Amanda Palmer already has her own "society" and, maybe for that reason, we could watch her great success on the Theatre is Evil campaign. Those fans her "net" admire her and her work, they form some sort of society around and with Palmer. They support each other as well as their target of affection. We have to highlight that Palmer's figure goes beyond an artist figure or the materialization of the production of art, she represents as art itself. Her perfor- mance is directly toward the public, she intends to cause reaction, responses, like


Beatriz Medeiros, Natalia Dias

performer artists from 1970's and 1980's. She tries to connect with her public through her songs (Piik, 2011) and through the interaction she establishes online (Palmer, 2015), creating a sense of familiarity and intimacy, as we could observe in some of the comments. Although apparently "true" and "authentic" 23 , we cannot forget that like everyone else and mainly public figures Amanda Palmer performs. That doesn't mean she's less "real" than other is, but it does mean that she'll only show what she truly wants (Schechener, 2013), may it be her strength or fragility, as only a human or as an artist. To conclude, this paper had the intention of comb through the questions of performance construction and its importance specially, video performances on crowdfunding projects. This is an initial work, to entice discussion on the matter, because the process of creation and mainly independent creation are very peculiar and difficult to understand (at least to understand why they do or do not work). As we could observe, the crowdfunding project proponent and the backer seem to bring in this exchange other links, might they be affective or of interest. They belong to the same society group, which means the financing goes beyond the video production. The audiovisual shows itself as an important gadget and only another form of communication between people that already have some sort of connection. This link is the most important key to a successful crowdfunding cam- paign.



Bourdieu, P. 2009. A Economia das Trocas Simbólicas. São Paulo: Perspectiva. Gerber, E, Kuo, P., Hui, J. 2012. Crowdfunding: Why People are Motivated to Post and Fund Projects on Crowdfunding Platforms. tion/261359489. Accessed: 10 October 2016. Knoblauch, H., Schnettler, B., Raab, J. 2006. Video-Analysis. Methodological Aspects of Interpretive Audiovisual Analysis in Social Research. In: Knoblauch, H., Schnettler, B., Raab, J. Ed. Video-analysis: Methodology and Methods. Qualitative Audiovisual Data Analysis in Sociology. New York: Peter Lang. Merriam-Webster, s.v., “crowdsourcing”. ary/crowdsourcing. Accessed 16 December 2016. Morse, J. M. 1994. “Emerging From the Data”: The Cognitive Processes of Analysis in Qualitative Inquiry. In: Morse, J. M. Ed. Critical Issues in Qualitative Research Meth- ods. Los Angeles: Sage.

23 We understand the term is complex and requires a long discussion around the individual, public eye and so on. However, we won't be channeling this discussion right now. We chose the term for lack of better options.

Crowdfunding is Not for Everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking


Palmer, A. 2015. The Art of Asking: or how I learned to stop worrying and let people help. New York/Boston: Grand Central Publishing. Piik, J. 2011. “If the slipper fits, you wear it, whore”: The Construction of Female Gender in Amanda Palmer’s Lyrics (1995-2009). Pro-Gradu Thesis. University of Jyväskylän:

Department of English Recuero, R. 2011. Redes Sociais na Internet. Porto Alegre: Editora Sulina. Schechner, R. 2013. What is Performance? In: Schechner, R. Performance Studies: An In- troduction. New York: Routledge Simmel, G. 2006. Questões Fundamentais da Sociologia - indivíduo e sociedade. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Zahar.

When I’m (Not) ‘Ere

Stan Erraught

Buckinghamshire New University, Dept of Media and Creative Industries, High Wycombe, UK,