Saturday, October 06, 2012

Gender construction and American 'Free Folk' music(s)

Sorry, I haven't been updating this blog. However, my diploma thesis, finished earlier this year, is out there:

"This exploratory study attempts to locate gender in heterogeneous, dynamic fields of American underground music that are best described by tracing the complex social relations that constitute them. Rhizomatic concepts (Deleuze / Guattari) are combined with Bennett and Peterson’s scene concept (local / trans-local / virtual). As the scenes are constituted on an everyday level and between like-minded friends, they can be discussed in ‘folk’ terms (via Keenan and Valentine). Gender is conceptualized as not essential and as multiply relational (via Scott and Griesebner). Tracing the field of research along narrations collected through qualitative / problem-centered interviews, mostly with musicians, the thesis can be understood as analogous to the concept of ‘minor history’ (Joseph / Kelley). The scenes are discussed in all their heterogeneity and contingency. Over the course of eight sub-chapters, a dense web is constructed that establishes connections between the results of these qualitative interviews’ analysis and further literature. These scenes appear very open and are constituted through friendship and mutual support; there is a fruitful tension between the scenes’ oft-perceived collectivity and their interest in individual creativity. DIY (Do It Yourself)-based creativity is relevant. Gender roles and relations, while rarely consciously questioned in performance, aren’t very rigid. Through some of these musics, gender and authorship are challenged, although rarely explicitly so; instruments’ use is heterogeneous and usually not measured according to rock music’s gendered standards. Nonetheless, at times quasi-archaic patterns and rigidities are encountered. The thesis closes with a plea for (self-)reflection on numerous levels."

If you get around to reading it and feel like sending me feedback, please do so -- I'd be utterly delighted to read it. I might post some more info / thoughts on the thesis and its genesis at some point.

Another thing that has been out there for a while now but not yet mentioned on this blog is my article on Not Not Fun for last year's Elevate Festival, in English and German.


viennesewaltz said...

Hi Max, congratulations once again on this fine piece of work. Just one observation: you don't seem to discuss the actual music all that much! Is this because you didn't feel it was particularly relevant to your thesis? I'm no expert in the records made by the artists you talk about, but I'm just wondering if there is any mileage in the idea that the loose, freeform, exploratory vibe that much of it gives out could be linked to the friendly, non-hierarchical nature of the scene itself?

Relating to this, it would be very useful if the thesis included some kind of discography of the scene's key recordings. I realize, though, that this may be an impossible task, given the enormous quantity of LPs, CDRs, tapes and whatnot. Perhaps just a list of your favourites, those that you feel are essential - a Primer, if you will - could be added?

Max said...

While this has already been discussed in real life, I would like to say 'thanks' again, Richard. The short version (for anyone reading these comments) is that said vibe and structures certainly are related in numerous ways, and I think it is as connections rather than as an essential homology that this relation should be discussed. Generally, my field of expertise is, simplistically put, the social rather than the sonic, and I have thus focused on the former in my work so far (although I hope there will be a further opening up towards the latter in future projects); also, it was important to me to point out that social relations, shared interests etc. are of greater relevance to these scenes' constitution than specific aesthetics -- although, of course, these aspects can never be separated, as I hope my theses imply.

I'm currently thinking of including a discography of that type in an upcoming project, more on that soon...