In Britain the history of culture – and popular culture especially – is often written within a national paradigm. Books about British pop music, British cinema, British music hall, British musical and so on abound. If other parts of the world are included at all, then mostly with an eye to the United States, or regions belonging to the (former) British Empire or the Commonwealth. Contacts, connections and transfers between Britain and continental Europe are often ignored. The CBH theme issue “Writing Europe into British Cultural History” wants to highlight these omissions and to try out ways to bring them into focus.
Conference: University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway, 1–2 June 2022
Recent years have resulted in extensive changes in popular music production, dissemination, reception, and perception. New technological developments within music production and performance have created new creative possibilities for artists and bands as they make music and engage with the global music market. Many of these changes have been greatly accelerated by, if not the direct result of, the Covid 19 pandemic that has fundamentally disturbed the relationships between artists, fans, modes of performance, and music distribution. More than ever before, it has become critical to examine digitization, virtuality, creativity, and the music business as a whole in the context of such tumultuous changes. Continue reading
During the 1950s, pop cultures became a phenomenon on a global scale. From the beginning, ecstatic states of the body – caused by the use of substances, by experimenting with different sorts of sexuality, by immersing into music and dancing, by reaching out to religion and spirituality – played an important part in pop cultures. Pop cultures and ecstatic bodies often depended on and referred to each other. States of ecstasy and trance, on the one hand, constituted driving forces in the shaping and the development of pop cultures. On the other hand, pop cultures created and spread new types of ecstasies and new practices of getting ecstatic. Continue reading
Campino, singer of Die Toten Hosen, interviewed the then youth minister Angela Merkel for a special issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel with the title “Pop & Politics” in 1994. The cover featured a collage which comprised of people like Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. Among them, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols glared at the possible buyers in neighbourhood kiosks. In this issue the journalist and pop theorist Diedrich Diederichsen formulated ten theses for contemporary pop culture. Tony Parsons, one of the first journalists to write about British punk from 1976 onwards in the New Musical Express, pondered about the popularity of punk and its relation to mass culture in the 1990s. Punk as a media phenomenon and a lifestyle became part of mass culture and was a topic taken seriously by cultural critics. Continue reading
SOUND(ING) SYSTEMS examines the history of the Cold War via the so-called ‘Lautsprecherkrieg’ (loudspeaker war) and the ‘Studio am Stacheldraht’ (Studio at the Barbed Wire) in Berlin. The program focuses on the surprising political entanglements of Jamaican and Korean sound systems in the global struggle between the great powers fighting for ideological influence; the controversial use of acoustic weapons in Cuba as well as the politicization of subcultural movements. A critical analysis of the ideological demands made on sound systems separate to the Cold War, examining the global transformations of sound system cultures.
Commercial radio stations Radio Luxembourg (French and English services) and Europe n°1 are the focal point of my PhD thesis (defended at the University of Luxembourg in November 2020.). They were popular institutions in Western Europe throughout the Long Sixties (1958-1974) working across media and broadcasting transnationally. My thesis Commercial Radio Stations and their Dispositif. Transnational and Intermedial Perspectives on Radio Luxembourg and Europe n°1 in the Long Sixties postulates the existence of an overarching dispositif of commercial radio stations that enabled them to operate on various dimensions and differentiated them from other broadcasters. Continue reading
Made in Germany: Studies in Popular Music serves as a comprehensive introduction to the history, sociology, and musicology of contemporary German popular music. Each essay, written by a leading scholar of German music, covers the major figures, styles, and social contexts of popular music in Germany and provides adequate context so readers understand why the figure or genre under discussion is of lasting significance. The book first presents a general description of the history and background of popular music in Germany, followed by essays organized into the following thematic sections:
- Historical Spotlights
- Globally German
- Also “Made in Germany”
- Explicitly German and
- Reluctantly German.
Histories of German popular music generally focus on examples of West German music which were commercially successful and/or are considered to be aesthetically and musically ground-breaking. Bands such as Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! or the Scorpions are the subject of many academic as well as non-academic publications, and they are considered as canonical as genres such as Krautrock or Neue Deutsche Welle. East German musicians or movements, on the other hand, tend to be overlooked, as do specific artistic forms of expression which were developed in response to authoritarian leadership in the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR). The examination of a relationship between the GDR and the arts is almost altogether absent from a pan-German popular music history. Continue reading
Nothing is more German than Kraftwerk, not even Germans themselves. Kraftwerk has long since risen to national myth, with significant help from English-speaking writers with a certain affinity for everything German. The obituaries that appeared after the recent death of founding member Florian Schneider resemble the usual pieces written about the group. All emphasize the numerous popular references to the band and the influence their sounds, beats and melodies have had on the music world: from David Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” and “V2 Schneider” (1977) to the Kraftwerk samples in the early hip hop and techno tracks of Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” (1982) and Cybotron’s “Clear” (1983) and the work of Daft Punk and Coldplay. What they do not mention, however, is that Florian Schneider, together with his long-time partner Ralf Hütter, managed to create an image that would prove to be Germany’s most internationally successful pop export: the cold German.
Paradiso in Amsterdam is one of the most well-known concert halls in the world. Back in 1968 the former church was converted into a space with a stage. But without the rise of the punk movement in 1977, Paradiso would probably never have been able to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018. The Paradiso Punk Years is an ungoing series of booklets in which Amsterdam based music journalist Oscar Smit describes the history of punk in Paradiso.
Vom 10.12. bis 12.12.2019 findet an der Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) der Workshop: “History Goes Pop? On the Popularization of the Past in Eastern European Cultures” statt – in Kooperation mit dem Leibniz-Zentrum für Kultur- und Literaturforschung
Interessierte sind herzlich Willkommen!
Organizers: Nina Weller (European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)), Matthias Schwartz (Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research and Free University, Berlin)
Venue: Europa-Universität Viadrina, Gräfin-Dönhoff-Gebäude, Raum 05, Europaplatz 1, 15230 Frankfurt (Oder)
Date: December 10-12, 2019
Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey open their collection, Music and History (subtitle ‘Bridging the Disciplines’, 2005) by asking: ‘Why haven’t historians and musicologists been talking to one another?’ They suggest that at the heart of this absence is a problem of communication, concerning the distinct methods, knowledge and skills employed in both disciplines: does one need to be able to read, play or even ‘appreciate’ music for instance in order to make sense of it historically? On the other hand, do musicologists need an understanding of historiography to write histories of music? The issue for scholars in both disciplines is the status of the musical object: how to account for music as music, without losing a sense of its historical specificity. Continue reading
In 1989, a survey of French cultural taste revealed that Serge Gainsbourg was both one of the most popular singers and yet a near outcast in his native country. When he died, two years later, President Mitterrand called him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire”, claiming he had “elevated chanson to the level of art”. But he might just as well have acknowledged Gainsbourg as the first artist to top the British charts with a single in a foreign language. With the hindsight of almost thirty years, one thing is, in any case, certain: sampled by Beck, De La Soul, Massive Attack and Fatboy Slim, remixed by Howie B. and David Holmes, translated by Mick Harvey and covered by Iggy Pop, Donna Summer, Portishead, Madeleine Peyroux, the Pet Shop Boys and Franz Ferdinand, “the man with the cabbage head” remains the Francophone songwriter whose contribution to the international appeal of French popular music has been the most significant in the post-war era. Continue reading
In the 20th century, tango argentino, Argentinean tango dancing, became a popular cultural practice in many metropolises all over the world. The image the broader public has of the traditional pair dancing style is, to a large degree, shaped by its depiction in mostly Western, but also Latin American popular culture. Movies such as Tango, no me dejes nunca [English title: Tango] (1998), Naked Tango (1998) and Scent of a Woman (1992) as well as celebrity dancing shows like Dancing with the Stars promote Argentinean tango as a highly sexualized, intimate and exotic dance oozing with stereotypical attributes of masculinity and femininity. In this sense, tango dancing can be fascinating and engaging, but may also be perceived as disreputable or discriminatory, and, thus, repelling. This tension makes for interesting and complicated characterizations of tango dancing, both when it first became a transnational phenomenon at the beginning of the 20th century and from a contemporary perspective. Continue reading