Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1500 20211111T1550 America/Chicago Recording Technology and Social Change AMS 2021
Expanding the Limits of Protest: Rap and Social Media in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

Music and social movements have historically gone hand in hand, but as technology becomes more accessible, body-camera footage captures more police brutality, and songs are released online instead of in-stores, the relationship between the two has changed, uniting protest and music in an unprecedented way. Historically, the most prominent forms of protest included letter writing campaigns and protest participation, but with the increased access to and accessibility of technology, protesting is more pervasive and accessible than ever. Shortly after George Floyd was murdered by police, several prominent rap and hip hop artists responded swiftly, releasing four songs that specifically address Floyd's murder and more ubiquitous examples of systematic racism and oppression.

In this paper, I argue that protest is non-binary, refuting societal critiques of "slacktivism," arguing instead that protest can be engaged with in a myriad of ways. Building on scholarship that confronts the role of social media in protest, I will analyze recent rap and hip hop releases in the wake of George Floyd's death to theorize the multivalent experience of protest music, one that can be both active and passive. I will specifically examine the taxonomy of modes of protest and the production of meaning in the Black Lives Matter movement on social media and in music. Ultimately, I will conclude that listening, sharing, and replaying protest rap is in itself a form of protest.

While many media outlets are whitewashed and detract attention from core movement ideals with trauma porn, protest music and social media offer more focused ways to engage with protest. This research will build on the scholarship of anthems by Shana Redmond, Black musicking by Tricia Rose, and the 2018 edition of Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection. This argument further underscores the belief that protest music is the greatest way of educating and unifying people, while other modes of information accumulation such as print news, TV, and radio can easily be tuned out. In contrast, socially conscious rap and hip hop engages listeners in an informative and inclusive mode of protest.

Hannah Strong
University Of Pittsburgh
Rachmaninoff in the Media: Technology, Immediacy, Modernity
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

Following his exile from Russia in 1917, Sergei Rachmaninoff embarked upon a remarkable twenty-five-year performance career in America. In addition to touring as a concert pianist, he quickly broke into the modern cultural realm of early recording, producing an impressive discography of piano rolls and gramophone recordings. In tandem with his meteoric rise to fame, Rachmaninoff became a promotional star, featured in long-running advertising campaigns for Steinway, American Piano Company (Ampico), Edison Records, and Victor Talking Machine Company. As Robin Gehl notes, from a technological, social, and economic perspective, Rachmaninoff was a clear leader in the American music scene of the first half of the twentieth century (2008).

Responding to the extensive musicological discourses that offer new, critical perspectives on musical modernism (Heile and Wilson 2019; Guldbrandsen and Johnson 2015; Tunbridge et al. 2014), I will demonstrate that the print advertisements permeating American news at the height of Rachmaninoff's fame complicate longstanding perceptions of Rachmaninoff as a conservative in relation to modernist trends. The advertisements expressed Rachmaninoff's immediate relevance to the modern day and an awareness of his historical significance. While Steinway emphasized Rachmaninoff's position in a progressive lineage of Steinway musicians, beginning with Liszt and Wagner, the companies Ampico, Edison, and Victor highlighted the value of preserving Rachmaninoff's music for future generations made possible by technological progress. With its ability to manipulate time and space, early recording technology conveyed a sense of modernity (Leppert 2015; Suisman 2010; Sterne 2003), casting a modern glow on those it immortalized. In addition to Rachmaninoff's location in time, the advertisements also addressed his location in space, which surpassed the limitations of any specific place. The advertisements asserted that Rachmaninoff, vis-à-vis the technologically-mediated circulation of his music, transcended political, geographical, and social boundaries, achieving universal significance. He was beloved by all, and with the help of gramophones and reproducing pianos, Rachmaninoff could play for everyone, everywhere, every night! In connection with his successful career navigating intersecting engagements with performance, business, and marketing, I argue that Rachmaninoff's public image both responded to and was shaped by modern life in America.

Tegan Niziol
University Of Toronto
Redefining Virtual Liveness: Holographic Performance and Instrumentality in the Twenty-First Century
Individual Paper 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 21:50:00 UTC

Across the past fifteen years, a growing number of concertgoers are attending musical performances that turn the definition of live performance on its head, featuring singers who are not bodily present onstage, but are instead holographic performers, from Gorillaz to a reimagined Maria Callas. Although many holographic concerts now draw arena-sized audiences, musicologists have only recently begun to turn attention to these performances, while journalists' pessimistic reviews have long stoked anxiety around the loss of meaningful interaction in live concerts. Drawing on reception history, participant observation, and performance analysis, this paper updates our understanding of virtual performance by examining the underlying values that draw sold-out audiences to preprogrammed holographic concerts.

In this paper, I separate holographic performances into three categories for consideration, each with different artistic goals: holographic depictions of deceased performers (Tupac, Maria Callas), virtual avatars used by living creators (Gorillaz, ABBA), and crowd-sourced characters with fictional personalities (Hatsune Miku). Collectively, these concerts represent a paradigm shift in live music performance. At present, we are positioned in a historical moment in which the meaning of these technologies has not been fully defined and accepted. Is a pre-programmed singer a musician? An instrument? Or merely something akin to a music video? I argue that holographic concerts function as what Star and Griesemer (1989) termed "boundary objects," which are used and defined in different ways by different groups, but maintain a recognizable identity across these groups even as their meanings shift in various contexts. Using Hatsune Miku's live concerts as a case study, I examine the increasingly blurred boundaries between instrument and user, performer and listener, showing how new technologies in music are stretching our definitions in ways that expand opportunities for artistic creativity and performative interaction. By examining a concert format that has received little scholarly attention, I offer a timely intervention into the dialogue about virtual experiences and instrumentality in the twenty-first century. Given our recent pandemic circumstances, when events and performances of all kinds have moved to virtual platforms, this research uncovers new implications in our understanding of the live virtual experience.  

Alyssa Michaud
Ambrose University
Ambrose University
University of Pittsburgh
University of Toronto
The New School
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