Thursday, July 11, 2013

Two theses

Both diploma theses are out there now, available for free download as PDFs. I generally recommend reading Gender construction first as it discusses some basic ideas in greater detail and deals more closely with the interview material collected for my project, whereas the second thesis increases the presence of secondary literature's discussion. However, both can be considered standalone papers.

Gender construction and American 'Free Folk' music(s) (2012):

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.

Politics and American 'Free Folk' music(s) (2013):

This diploma thesis, second text in a larger project, traces political potentials and engagement with power relations in local, trans-local, virtual, socially constituted 'free folk' music scenes in the USA. Qualitative, problem-centered interviews serve as guides and are connected to literature on politics and culture and, crucially, key texts dealing with past scenes' power relations and politics. The thesis's approach can be understood as analogous to Branden W. Joseph's 'minor history'. History is understood as fragmentary, constructed and non-linear. Elaboration on Joseph's writing leads to an examination of potential histories in these scenes and an application of key ideas (the implications of John Cage's work; sovereign, disciplinary, control power) to these contemporary musical-social fields, showing a variety of sometimes unactualized potentials. Nadya Zimmerman's 'Counterculture Kaleidoscope' provides impulses for discussions of DIY culture, improvisation (via Gilbert and Russell), psychedelia and these scenes' relation to contemporary capitalism. Starting with Mark Gridley's critique of constructed links between free jazz and the civil rights movement and criticism of his approach, the last main chapter presents numerous manifestations of politics in these scenes, mostly through interview and email quotes. Awareness is encountered, explicit political activity less so: 'the personal' is often 'the political'. Dealing with questions like the complicated inclusion of politics in music and perceptions of flattened, careless scenes, the thesis closes by suggesting articulation of these scenes' diverse, powerful aspects and tactics (altering of perception, collective improvisation, DIY ethics, openness…) into broader strategies that challenge seemingly given social / political / economic constructs.

If you get around to reading either paper and happen to have any feedback / comments, please contact me!

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