Lo relevante de lo irrelevante – Memorias de la semana IASPM

Terminal 2, Aereopuerto Guarulhos de Sao Paulo. Chile acaba de ganar la Copa América – irrelevante. Por FB sé que mis amig@s chilen@s están tremendamente felices – relevante. Y es que lo irrelevante de una actividad humana va de la mano de la relevancia, porque ese ser humano es relevante per se.

Mi vuelo sale en un par de horas. Esta semana aprendí del modernismo aplicado a la música popular en Sudáfrica, el concepto de chronotopes como situaciones específicas para la experimentación de la música en la relación de tiempo y espacio, el principio de hardware continuum en la música electrónica inglesa, la ficción de la historia de Rodríguez en Searching for Sugarman, el role-play virtual de los fans de K-pop, el discurso socio-cultural de la música a través de los memes, los colores de Spinetta, etc., etc., etc.

Hubo alrededor de 200 exposiciones. Humanamente, se podía estar presente en máximo 42. Se expusieron temas fascinantes que me llenaron de una sensación personal de acierto al ser parte de una de las industrias que muchos consideran irrelevante pero que, con evidencia en mano, demuestra ser una de las más relevantes por excelencia: la música. Y es que toca cada rincón de la actividad humana representado un excelente camino para crear, explicar y moldear el sentido (o sin sentido) de nuestra existencia. 

Regreso a Quito con muchos nuevos contactos académicos, con decenas de artículos/libros por leer, con ideas y expectativas nuevas para mi trabajo académico y de docencia, e irónicamente, más ignorante que antes pero feliz… Sócrates ya lo dijo. Charlie García lo confirmó: Si existiera una sola verdad, todos escribirían la misma canción! Obrigado a quienes estuvieron al tanto de lo que sucedía por acá.

Streaming, Data and the Internet

Music, possession and the immaterial mediamorphosis – Jan Hemming (Music Institute, University of Kassel, Germany)

Many things need to be mentioned when talking about the music industry: collecting societies, copyright, digital platforms, ownership, but this last concept needs to be challenged. For this, it is necessary to talk about the concept of mediamorphosis. Mediamorphosis affects conception of copyright. There are six phases of it. Graphic mediamorphosis through writing (first) and printing (second). Chemical-mechanical, with the invention of photography (third). Electronic, with the invention of radio (fourth). Digital, with the introduction of CD (fifth). Here is importan to note that the industry starts investing big energy towards the enforcement of copyright.

The sixth and present phase of mediamorphosis is the immaterial one. Its biggest manifestation in the music industry is the access to it, any time, for free. Thus, we don’t need to bother about possessing music anymore. This implies massive challenges to the understanding of the value of music itself that were up to some point forecasted by Firth back in the 80s, but need further research and awareness.

What if Big Data are Wrong?

– Franco Fabbri (University of Turin, Italy)

Code words, like genre, style, mode and equivalent, have been used for centuries to categorise music. One of the purposes of such taxonomies has been to devise norms of connecting the ways on how music is made and its meaning and social connections. These taxonomies have great impact in how people consume music. In the digital world, these taxonomies are replaced by tags and they are widely used for exactly the same physical purposes. Big enterprises like Amazon, Apple, Spotify, etc., use them to suggest new music and increase sales/streamings. Social sciences use these trends to analyse deeper variables between consumers and products. 

Recently, Google published an article pretending to explain the history of popularity of popular music genres based on their consumption. This article signals many errors. The nature of digital tags makes them old, unefficient and static. Therefore, more inter-disciplinary research (Computer science, semiotics, linguistics, sociology and anthropology) needs to be done to fix this, because as it is, the big data, is wrong.

Full abstracts:

Jan Hemming:
The Austrian sociologist Kurt Blaukopf (1989) first introduced the notion of mediamorphosis to metaphorically describe the influence of technology on social and economic developments. Various authors have subsequently shown the usefulness of this concept to historically trace the development of the music industry. For example, Smudits (2002) distinguishes five stages of mediamorphosis (1) graphical mediamorphosis: The invention of writing; (2) repro-graphical mediamorphosis: The invention of printing / offset-printing which allowed for mass dissemination; (3) chemical- mechanical mediamorphosis: The invention of photography and sound recording; (4) electronic mediamorphosis: Radio, amplification and studio recording; (5) digital mediamorphosis: CD, DAT, lossless copying, illegal and commercial music distribution over the Internet. All these stages rely on material artefacts which can be purchased, owned, stored and collected and thus foster music’s status as commodity. However, most recent changes in music distribution such as streaming finally bring the status of commodity to a close. It remains disputed if streaming means that a music file (or a part of it) is at least temporarily present on a computer. With regard to these developments, I wish to add a sixth, immaterial mediamorphosis and argue for the overall usefulness of this concept for popular music studies.

Franco Fabbri: Millions of ‘songs’ (including classical music pieces) have been tagged in the past years, providing information for web surfers and consumers, as well as for researchers. The very amount of data is promising: a number of studies were made, and stunning results were disseminated (like: ‘jazz is the most popular music from the 1950s’!). But what if data are wrong? Or more or less approximate? Among many sources of errors, the most evident are:
1) The incoherence of tagging systems;
2) Insufficient room for significant descriptions of musical content;
3) Limited and
4) Biased (especially ethnocentric) categories.
Most tags are user-generated, and if a user describes a piece of Greek rembetiko as ‘blues’ there is nothing other users (or researchers) can do. For popular music scholars, the existence of such an amount of unreliable data is tantalizing; as it is obviously impossible to restart tagging from scratch, methods have to be provided in order to correct existing tags, via automatic error-detecting algorithms, or by means of Wiki-like editing. The paper (based on an application for an ERC grant) will present a description of the state of the art on the subject, and possible solutions

Chile

El Condorique: Exploración de un caso fallido de vinculación entre música popular e historieta humorística a partir de diferentes nociones de temporalidad – Cristian Guerra Rojas (Universidad de Chile)

Condorito, un ícono en Latinoamérica, y el mundo quizás, tiene una relación musical peculiar desde 1960. Patricio Morales y Los Labradores compusieron una cueca referente a una fiesta con Condorito y Yayita. En 1992, una pieza instrumental jazz ístmica de Ángel Parra dice de basar en Condorito. En 1997, Elias Llanos Canales produce un álbum completo titulado Condorito: Ritmo Latino, como tributo a Condorito con la participación de varios artistas importantes de la música popular chilena. Y la milonga de Francisco Núñez en 2006.

En 1996, Televisa compró los derechos de Condorito y lo internacionalizó cambiando el formato y la frecuencia de impresión. La producción obtuvo una crítica pésima y una fracaso comercial contundente. Hay puntos que podrían explicar esto. Temporalidad socio histórica: Condorito, en su Chile local, no se asocia con los espacios caribeños, estaría más asociado a la cumbia chilena, los tangos o a la cuecas, pero no los caribeños. Temporalidad interna de la historia: la mayoría de las canciones de CRL no cumplen con la misma narrativa de las historietas de Condorito (tensión que desemboca en la última biñeta). El Condoriqué, que fue el single más representativo del CRL, es un tema festivo, basado en tres acordes y estribillos básicos. El cantante tiene un tinte baladista que no convence como personificación de Condorito. 

Comparando CLR con la milonga de Nuñez, es evidente que el éxito de esta pieza instrumental se articula una  temporalidad socio histórica, interna de la historia y narrativa que garantiza su relevancia y éxito.

(1970-1973) – Natalia Ayo Schmiedecke (Universidade Estadual Paulista)

En la década de los 60 y 70, hay dos figuras emblemáticas, los gradualistas (sin violencia) y los rupturistas (con violencia). Formaron una coalición y postularon a Salvador Allende, quien ganó las elecciones por ratificación del Congredo mas no por mayoría unánime. Luego, el ejército y grupos de derecha boycottearon el gobierno produciendo el golpe de estado que instaló s Pincohet en el poder. 

Durante los tres años del gobierno de Allende se produjeron algunos álbumes representativos. En 1970, canto al programa – inti llimany. 1971. 40 medidas cantadas. 1971. Se cumple un año y se cumple. 1972. Chile Pueblo (en el 2do año del gobierno popular). 1973. No volveremos atrás. Las ideas centrales de estas producciones: hay un compromiso con los trabajadores. Aunque la mayoría de sus intérpretes estaban alineados al movimiento rupturista, promovían los procesos gradualistas que Allende aplicaba. Las temáticas eran segmentadas en base a a las industrias claves de producción. Hay un llamado a la unidad popular. Hay una lucha de la unidad popular vs. a la oposición, incluyendo algunas parodias.

Sin embargo, toda la narrativa de los temas provocan una paradoja: más que una celebración, parece ser un intento a validar el programa político de unión popular cuando estaba siendo cuestionado por todos lados.

Música, Memoia y Derechos Humanos: El caso de un Singer-Songwriter y Torturador en la Chile de Pinochet- Katia Chornik (University of Manchester, UK) 

La relación entre música y tortura ganó interés a principios de los 2000 cuando la tortura con el uso música popular en Guantánamo por parte del gobierno de los Estados Unidos. El trabajo de Chornik consistió en una investigación de campo de Pedro Barraza (pseudónimo). Pedro fue uno de los principales agentes de Pinochet y dirigió un centro de tortura para prisioneros políticos. Barraza está en la cárcel, condenado a cadena perpetua, y las entrevistas fueron realizadas durante el 2014 en su prisión.

Pedro empezó como cadete en la milicia. El era un cantautor, al que le ofrecieron un contrato de grabación, pero al tener la oferta de convertirse un agente de la inteligencia militar, y abandonó su carrera musical. En 2010, Pedro recibió la gaviota de plata en 2010 en Viña del Mar por haber derrocado al terrorismo Marxista en Chile. En la cárcel, ha sido un compositor (songwriter) prolífico, incluso uno de sus temas es interpretado por José José. También brinda clase de guitarra y los guardias lo llaman Mozart. Chornik, presenta una grabación hecha en la carcel llamada Deja mi pasada atrás. Y otra llamada Siempre he sido libre donde su lealtad por Pinochet es evidente. 

Con referencia al uso de música en el centro de tortura, no hay prueba directa de que se la usó para torturar, pero uno de los temas que Pedro escribió en esa época, se titulaba Que bonito es vivir, un sarcasmo evidente. Aunque Pedro evadió las preguntas relacionadas con música y tortura, esta investigación ha provocado polémica para Chornik bajo el argumento de que darle una voz a los agresores puede representar una justificación de sus actos; sin embargo, ella propone que solo así se puede formular una visión completa de sus actos.

Abstractos completos:

Cristian Guerra Rojas:  En 1949 en Chile se publico el primer numero de Okey, una revista de historietas. En ese mismo numero debuto Condorito, un personaje humoristico creado por el dibujante y caricaturista Rene Rios (Pepo). Em la actualidad, aunque Condorito se ha convertido en un personaje practicamente globalizado, en Chile todavia se le aprecia como icono nacional y local. En 1997, en el marco del Festival Internacional del Comic en Santiago de Chile, el chileno Elias Llanos decidio escribir un grupo de canciones alusivas a Condorito y esto resulto en un CD titulado Condorito: Ritmo Latino, en el cual colaboraron algunos musicos de reconocida trayectoria. La cancion que logro mas difusion de este CD fue “El Condorique”, pero tanto esta pieza como el fonograma en su conjunto no obtuvieron el exito esperado en Chile. En esta ponencia me interesa explorar algunas causas posibles de este “fracaso” artistico a partir de diferentes nociones de temporalidad. Especificamente, considero la temporalidad sociohistorica, donde se contraponen la historia local chilena y la historia caribeno-internacional, la temporalidad de la estructura de las historietas en contraposicion a aquella implicada en los esquemas formales de las canciones, y finalmente el tiempo-espacio festivo frente al clima de fiesta fingida que se percibe en las canciones contenidas en el CD. Como referencias teoricas considero estudios sobre Condorito, sobre la historieta em Chile, sobre las musicas populares urbanas en Chile y Latinoamerica, y sobre diferentes conceptos y nociones de temporalidad vinculados con musicas populares.
 

Natalia Ayo Schmiedecke: Em 1970, diversos musicos ligados ao movimento da Nova Cancao Chilena declararam seu apoio a candidatura presidencial do socialista Salvador Allende, representante da Unidade Popular. Enquanto sua vitoria eleitoral aguardava ratificacao, o conjunto Inti-Illimani gravou o LP Canto al programa com o objetivo de difundir pelo pais o programa de governo da coalizao. Dando continuidade ao tema, nos anos seguintes foram lancados tres LPs comemorativos dos aniversarios do governo instaurado: as obras coletivas Se cumple un ano, !!!y se cumple!!! (1971), Chile pueblo (1972) e No volveremos atras (1973), editados por diferentes selos discograficos. Enfocando esses quatro discos, nossa comunicacao analisara as maneiras como o tempo presente chileno aparece representado em cada caso. Para tanto, observaremos as escolhas tematicas e musicais realizadas, associando-as aos interesses dos artistas e grupos políticos envolvidos na producao dos discos. Buscaremos, a partir dai, examinar como eles pretenderam intervir na conjuntura politica nacional em um momento de extrema polarizacao ideologica e de fortes tensoes no interior da esquerda. A analise dos discos comemorativos se pautara no pressuposto de que que comemorar significa “reviver de forma coletiva a memoria de um acontecimento considerado como ato fundador” recurso voltado a (re)construir consensos que cumpre um papel especialmente importante em tempos de crise.

Katia Chornik: This paper explores the intersections of popular music, memory and human rights through the case of Barraza (pseudonym), a Chilean singer, guitarist and composer of ballads. When I recently interviewed him, he showed me a gaviota de plata (silver seagull) awarded to him by the International Song Contest of Viña del Mar (Chile). This important accolade was not, however, granted for his musical talents but “for having defeated Marxism terrorism in Chile”, as the inscription reads. Barraza was in fact a top agent of the CNI, one of the secret services of Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990). As part of his duties, Barraza ran a clandestine torture and detention centre known for its heavy manipulations of political prisoners’ acoustic environment. Convicted of innumerable crimes, Barraza now serves life imprisonment. Using my interview material and drawing on research in musicology (Cusick, 2013; Grant and Papaeti, 2013), memory studies (Lazzara, 2014) and sociology (Jelin, 2002), I explore Barraza’s elusive memories of Pinochet’s prisons and their sound landscapes, how he makes sense of his own detention and confronts passing-of-time anxieties through ballads he has composed as a prisoner. My analysis suggests that for him, music has been a powerful tool to exert agency upon time.

In With the New? Online Music Industry Issues

Post-Fordism/neo-Fordism in the music industries: Are major record labels devolving risk through a neoliberal restructuring? – Guy Morrow, Denis Crowdy, Diane Hughes, Sarah Keith and Mark Evans (Macquarie University, Australia)

With the introduction of digital technologies for the production, distribution and promotion of music, the music business, from a label’s point of view, is still a risky business yet strangely risk averse. This follows a neo-Fordism model (because of Henry Ford and his car manufacturing business model), where big corporations (record labels and middlemen) externalise financial risk by passing it to the artist, who is now in charge of the investment risk of assets creation and preliminary marketing. 

Following Anderson’s ‘Long Tail’ theory, this new model is possible because of the abundance of media outlets, but at the same time, involves a higher challenge for career sustainability because of the scarcity of audience attention. Thus, the model has gone from linear to circular, where the circle feeds itself based in the following pattern: artist – fan – industry – artist – fan – industry – endlessly…where the three actors are more active and inter-dependent than ever before. 

‘The Gift that Keeps Giving’: Music Copyright and Gift in the Digital Music Economy – Kenny Barr (University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK)

Barr echoes Hyde’s (1983) statement: Where there is no gift, there is no art. Copyright and gift are not in opposition. It’s naive to say that artists give gifts just for the sake of it. Most of the artist interviewed confirm that they give gifts aiming to get into mainstream. Therefore, the gift economy is a qualitative exchange system of a copyright work that involves: skill, labour and judgement (gift of the artist), originality (gift to society) and cultural commons (gift from the commons).There is a significant qualitative and quantitative value in Soundclud exchanges: a mixed gift/market economy model.

In conclusion, the inexorable expansion of copyright erodes its spirit of gift in copyright. Soundcloud contains elements that are analogous to a gift economy. (See more at http://www.poprights.com)

No Limits: The economic value of the Dutch online music industry – Koos Zwaan, Sabine de Lat and Sanne van Oort (Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Diemen, Netherlands)

Zwaan and Delant are part of an ongoing research that analyses the economic value of the Dutch music industry. Economic value is based on record sales and live performances. According to this, Dance music is the most successful genre in the Dutch market. Only two singer songwriters feature in the top 21 most successful artist. According to the results, and all the variable taken into account, it is evident that the new business models of the music industry reflect a higher emphasis on the relationships that artists build with their fans more than the content itself.

Full abstracts:

Guy Morrow: This paper examines the research question: In modern times, are major record labels devolving risk through a neoliberal restructuring? To address this question, the music industries will be located within the broader creative industries. The argument will be made that there is a parallel between the way in which McGuigan (2010) notes that: “Television now, like other cultural and media industries, is a risky business yet it is strangely risk averse (330)” and, in some instances, the contemporary role of major record labels within the music industries. This paper draws on a series of focus groups with Australian artists and practitioners within the music industries and will feature a case study of the Australian artist management company Parker & Mr French. Within our focus groups, an interesting juxtaposition emerged: some respondents explained that they believed the industry to be constituted by many more “small and nimble” entities than in the past, while others noted an increasing monopolization. In this context, ‘artist entrepreneurship’ serves certain vested interests within the music industries; rather than artist entrepreneurship being a force of disruptive ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter, 1939), the value placed on this form of entrepreneurship reflects the increased workload that has been placed on artists themselves in a way that suits entities such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.

Kenny Barr: The music industries are, to a large extent, constructed upon the exploitation of copyright that subsists within musical works and performances. This market economy trading in music rights appears to operate in opposition to conceptions of musical creativity as a process of reciprocation, community, exchange and tradition: a gift economy. The ‘market economy/gift economy dichotomy’ takes on increased significance in the digital environment where music can be transmitted instantaneously to global audiences. Using Lewis Hyde’s seminal work ‘The Gift’ (1983) as a touchstone text, this paper examines the extent to which professional and semi-professional creators (songwriters and performers) attempt reconcile these two apparently oppositional forces as they operate in the contemporary digital music market. Drawing on in-depth interviews with a number of independent music creators operating in the UK, the paper analyses and critiques these informants’accounts of their own practices and attitudes. The paper finds that independent creators are often highly adept at resolving the apparent incompatibility between trading music as commodity and gifting music to audiences. Indeed, it appears that a mixed model of commodification and gifting lies at the heart of the commercial decision-making of creators in the digital age.

Koos Zwaan: At every pop music conference and in every music industry discussion, both within academia as well as in the professional field, it is commonly acknowledged that “the game has changed”. Downloading, video and music streaming, social media and crowd funding have opened up new alleys for the music industry. What is lacking from most of these discussions is how to measure the online presence and how to convert this presence into an economic value. This is the focus of a current study conducted by the Inholland University of Applied Sciences, in collaboration with BUMA Cultuur, the Dutch music export organization (also the organizer of events such as Eurosonic Noorderslag and Amsterdam Dance Event). The aim of our study is to design a method to measure the value of online for Dutch pop musicians. We will present recent findings from our study for which we have interviewed key figures in the Dutch music industry, as well as ‘new industry players’ including Spotify, YouTube and Deezer. We will sketch the current business model(s) and how the value of online presence of a sample of Dutch musicians can be valued.