The most recent volume of the German Yearbook of Contemporary History focuses on cultures of conservatism in Western Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. It is especially interested in the transnational and transatlantic traffic in ideas, culture, and lifestyles between Europe and the United States in the final decades of the twentieth century. The first two contributions, “‘Abolish Economists!’: The Britcom Yes Minister and the Transformation of British Conservatism in the Thatcher Era” and “Thatcherism and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musicals” by Nikolai Wehrs and Amanda Eubanks Winker explore the relationship between Thatcherism and culture. Continue reading
The social changes that went along with the political upheaval of 1989/90 in the countries of state socialism were not limited to the political system, economic structures or social conditions. The late phase and the end of state socialism were marked by a far-reaching transformation of popular culture, with global cultural changes becoming an important driver of the post-communist transformation. The conference brings together researchers from the broad field of pop history to examine the overarching trends of fundamental socio-cultural change that followed the political upheaval of 1989/90.
Conference language is English, the book presentation by Jens Balzer on November 15 is in German. Continue reading
The social changes that went along with the political upheaval of 1989/90 in the countries of state socialism were not limited to the political system, economic structures or social conditions. The late phase and the end of state socialism were marked by a far-reaching transformation of popular culture, with global cultural changes becoming an important driver of the post-communist transformation. Up to now, there have been some individual studies on the history of pop in the 1990s and early 2000s with a particular view to the united Germany, the countries of East-Central and South-Eastern Europe and the states that emerged with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but no comprehensive overview of the globally entangled transformation processes in pop culture. The conference hence aims to bring together researchers in the broader field of “pop history” to examine the overarching tendencies of this fundamental socio-cultural change and the protagonists and institutions that determined it from a comparative perspective. The focus of the conference is on pop music and the entire range of pop cultural forms of expression (e.g. film, fashion, literature).
Jeff Hayton’s monograph on punk culture in the Federal Republic and GDR could have become the standard historiographical work were it not for the many small and serious shortcomings and scholarly carelessness that undermine almost every positive aspect of the work. In fact, there is a lack of historical studies on German punk culture: since the early 2000s, only journalistic, cultural and social science works on punk in the Federal Republic have appeared, including publications in English. The steadily growing series of books on punk in the GDR have also lacked historical expertise. The only exception is Florian Lipp’s historical in-depth study on punk and New Wave in the last decade of the GDR, published in 2021, which, as Hayton himself writes, appeared too late to be included in his work. Consequently, the chapters on punk in the GDR do not offer much new information. Continue reading
Choisie ou subie, la musique nous accompagne en continu, dans les évènements extraordinaires comme dans les pratiques les plus banales de notre existence. En ce sens, la recherche s’est intéressée aux usages de la musique dans la vie quotidienne, notamment en lien avec les technologies de reproduction sonore et avec les pratiques de socialisation (DeNora 2011, Kassabian, Boschi et García Quiñones 2013). Or, la critique, qu’elle soit académique ou journalistique, notamment en France, ne s’est penchée que très rarement sur les musiques majoritaires ou mainstream du point de vue de leurs enjeux esthétiques et sociaux (Pirenne 2021), reproduisant ainsi, au sein de l’étude des musiques « populaires » la hiérarchie esthétique ou axiologique qui existait entre musiques savantes et populaires. Continue reading
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.