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Despite huge popularity and lasting cultural impact, reality television shows such as The X Factor, a British music competition that started screening in 2004, are seen by many as a cultural nadir. However, in this article I argue that, while reading reality TV as an index of an increasingly superficial, market-based culture makes a great deal of sense, it doesn't tell the whole story. Using the particular music-based dramas of The X Factor as a case study, I explore ways in which this show and populist reality television in general might be seen to embody both the predicaments and potential pressure points of contemporary neoliberal culture.
The ‘post-’ in both post-identity politics and post-genre musical practice refers to the same thing. Through readings of Taylor Swift's ‘Shake It Off’, Diplo's description of his practice as a DJ, producer and impresario, Sasha Frere-Jones's infamous New Yorker piece on indie rock miscegenation, and critical race theorists Cristina Beltran and Jared Sexton's critiques of post-racial politics, I demonstrate that progress past traditional commitments to white racial purity is both the defining characteristic of post-racial whiteness, and what makes multigenre pop practice count as post-genre. The ‘post-’ in post-identity is what distinguishes post-genre practice from supposedly more primitive forms of genre transgression, such as the love & theft-style cultural appropriation Eric Lott identifies in 19th century blackface minstrelsy or Pitbull's Latin American style racial/musical mestizaje.
You are what you hear, not what you say. This personal reflection explores how listening to music in the post 9/11 context enabled me to negotiate ideas of diasporic Muslim identity when speaking as Muslim proved much more difficult. Islamophobia and Islamophilia both apply pressures on the kind of Muslim one can be in public. Listening to electronic music genres, hip hop and punk from the US and UK opened up spaces to engage with war and terror, racism and media. Much of this music refers directly to Muslim peoples, places and structures of feeling. Yet music that isn't explicit about the Muslim is also conscripted for life during wartime in which some of us feel wary about articulating those Muslim parts of our garbled selves. Music genres have specific affordances that modulate Muslim affects and discourses, and shape new and indeterminate ways of being Muslim.
This paper sets coordinates squarely for Holleran's ‘aesthetic center of the universe’ – venturing towards the black hole of the nightclub dancefloor. Further, it will investigate those writers determined to capture the electronic essence of this at times alien dance music culture within the rather more earth-bound parameters of the written word. How might such authors write about something so otherworldly as the nightclub scene? How might they write lucidly and fluidly about the rigid, metronomic beat of electronic music? What literary techniques might they deploy to accurately recount in fixed symbols the drifting, hallucinatory effects of a drug experience? In an attempt to address these questions this paper will offer an altogether outerspace overview of this subculture and its fictional literary output.
This article takes an imagined, transnational living room as its setting, examining jazz's place in representations of the ‘modern’ middle-class home across the post-war West, and exploring the domestic uses that listeners both casual and committed made of the music in recorded form. In magazines as apparently diverse as Ideal Home in the UK and Playboy in the US, a certain kind of jazz helped mark a new middlebrow connoisseurship in the 1950s and 60s. Yet rather than simply locating the style in a historical sociology of taste, this piece attempts to describe jazz's role in what was an emergent middle-class sensorium. The music's sonic characteristics were frequently called upon to complement the newly sleek visual and tactile experiences – of furniture, fabrics, plastics, the light and space of modern domestic architecture – then coming to define the aspirational bourgeois home; an international modern visual aesthetic was reflected back in jazz album cover art. But to describe experience or ambience represents a challenge to historical method. As much as history proper, then, it's through a kind of experimental criticism of both music and visual culture that this piece attempts to capture the textures and moods that jazz brought to the postwar home.
Dysnomia is a 2013 recording by the jazz trio Dawn of Midi scored for acoustic piano, bass and drums. Eschewing jazz chords, improvisation, swing rhythms and theme and variations, the music is instead organised around repeating rhythmic loops and interlocking melo-harmonic fragments, as one groove assemblage segues into the next like an evolving DJ set. The music sounds equal parts minimal process, electronically sequenced and traditional African. This article engages the musical and philosophical concepts at play in Dysnomia to think through writing about music via three paths of speculative inquiry. The first part of the article considers works by Kodwo Eshun, Paul Morley and David Sudnow, idiosyncratic thinkers outside of the mainstream of academic music discourse who vividly approach writing about music through defamiliarising language and inventing concepts, generating associations based on comparative listening and describing the dynamics of musical process. In the second part of the article I draw on these writing techniques to direct my repeated listening encounters with Dysnomia and construct a prose interpretation modelled on the polyrhythms of the music. I conclude with a brief discussion of the phenomenological perspective on musical essences and suggest that music is a model for thinking through writing about music.
This article argues that the production and reception of certain recent electronic musics has resonated with criticisms of the perceived degenerative effects of digital technology on culture and ‘humanity’ – such as the lack of attention it promotes or the ‘information overload’ it causes – in an at least partially positive way. The resulting ambivalent aesthetics, sometimes thought of as one of ‘Internet music’, embraces particular negative notions of digital mediation in ways that can and have been thought of as satirical, exploratory or ‘accelerationist’. I examine three facets of this aesthetics: maximalism, kitsch and the uncanny valley. I also question the legitimacy of dramatising, even positively, digital media and culture as effectively ‘degenerate’.
This article focuses on two of Kate Bush's post-Aerial (2005) albums: Director's Cut (2011) and 50 Words for Snow (2011). In these albums Bush plays with the temporal qualities of recorded music to create the conditions for self-reflexive internal time consciousness to emerge within the listener. I argue that self-reflexive internal time consciousness is a process that enables a listener to gain some understanding that they are embroiled in an act of perception forged via active engagement with recorded music. Bush creates these conditions in two principle ways: In Director's Cut she disturbs the memory of previous recorded versions that are re-visited on the album so they can be mobilised as new, interpretative-perceptive acts. In 50 Words for Snow she uses duration as a structure to support the construction of extensive perception. Bush plays with time on these albums because her conceptual music relies upon the uninterrupted unfolding of consciousness as it becomes interlaced with her recordings, understood in the Husserlian sense of temporal objects. Implicit to her temporal strategies is a critique of contemporary listening conditions and how they undermine the very forging of the perceptual act.