the bubbling up

Richard Powers on the blindness of (1950s) American high culture to American music puts me in mind of De Certeau’s “bubbling up” of creativity:

…this country had a music – spectacularly reinventing itself every three years, the bastard of chanted hymns, spirit hollers, cabin songs, field calls and coded escape plans, funeral rowdiness gathered by way of New Orleans, gutbucketed and juggged, slipped up the river in cotton crates to Memphis and St. Louis, bent into blue intervals that power would never recognize, reconvening north, to be flung out everywhere along Chicago’s railhead as unstoppable rag, and overnight – the longest, darkest overnight of the soul in all improvised history – birthing jazz and its countless half-breed descendants, a whole glittering Savoy ballroom full ofoffspring scatting and scattering everywhere, dancing the hooves off anything whiteness ever made, American, American, for whatever that meant, a music that had taken over the world while the classical masters were looking the other way…

Oh, and more academically speaking, I quite like Mark Poster’s take on Hardt and Negri’s underinformed cyberdystopia. Thanks to Mel for the heads up on the inaugural issue of Berg’s new journal Cultural Politics.

this is not (only) music consumption

I’m feeling a bit serious about music today.

This is the christmas playlist I put together on a whim yesterday morning, when I woke up and realised I had free rein over the construction of christmas day for the first time in years.
Which, thank god, got me thinking again about the ways in which available cultural resources are mapped, remixed and reused by ordinary people in the service of creative cultural agency. This eclectic playlist does not demonstrate that I can use technology to endlessly “customize” my everyday life according to my “tastes”, but that I can reach out to an invisible, absent, but very real imagined public with a mixture of values that, in different ways and at different levels, I share. And secondly, that even from a position of isolation, I can participate in affective alliances that predate and proliferate far beyond my own existence. What I get back is much more than “pleasure” – it is a stake in the possible futures called into being by the timbre of sincere human voices, clarion calls to the sublime (yes, I DO like Celine) and celebrations of the warmth of the mundane. And, especially, a good laugh (please, do yourself a favour, and seek out Cartman’s O Holy Night).

Why Pamper Life’s Complexities? A Symposium on the Smiths

How I wish I could find an excuse to go to this…but I haven’t got one. I guess I’ll be left behind and sour…I wonder if they have a vacancy for a back scrubber?

Manchester Institute of Popular Culture
Manchester Metropolitan University

April 8th and 9th 2005

The Smiths have had a singular impact on popular culture. They looked like nobody else and sounded like nobody else. The music of The Smiths contained an emotional depth and a technical virtuosity that moved people in a way that almost no other band has managed before or since. In spite of their enormous cultural significance and personal resonance, The Smiths have yet to receive sustained academic attention. To date, there have been remarkably few serious examinations of the band. The purpose of this symposium is to put that right. The event seeks to draw together academics and others who wish to critically examine what The Smiths meant and continue to mean almost two decades after their untimely demise. Among the themes that we hope to address are: gender and sexuality, race and nationality, a sense of place, the imagination of class, the significance of Manchester in popular music, the aesthetics of the band, fan cultures and musical innovation.

Abstracts for proposed conference papers should be no longer than 200 = words and should be sent (via email) no later than January 10th 2005 to = Dr Fergus Campbell, School of Historical Studies, University of = Newcastle Upon Tyne,; Dr Sean Campbell, = Department of Communication and Media Studies, APU, Cambridge, =, and Dr Colin Coulter, Department of Sociology, = National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland,


I’ve finally gotten around to submitting my Masters thesis for permanent binding. It’s now online for your reading pleasure. If you find typos, don’t tell me! But any other feedback or comments would be hugely appreciated.

Here’s the abstract:

High Culture as Subculture: Brisbane’s Contemporary Chamber Music Scene

The aim of the dissertation is to discover the extent to which methodologies and conceptual frameworks used to understand popular culture may also be useful in the attempt to understand contemporary high culture. The dissertation addresses this question through the application of subculture theory to Brisbane’s contemporary chamber music scene, drawing on a detailed case study of the contemporary chamber ensemble Topology and its audiences. The dissertation begins by establishing the logic and necessity of applying cultural studies methodologies to contemporary high culture. This argument is supported by a discussion of the conceptual relationships between cultural studies, high culture, and popular culture, and the methodological consequences of these relationships.

In Chapter 2, a brief overview of interdisciplinary approaches to music reveals the central importance of subculture theory, and a detailed survey of the history of cultural studies research into music subcultures follows. Five investigative themes are identified as being crucial to all forms of contemporary subculture theory: the symbolic; the spatial; the social; the temporal; the ideological and political. Chapters 3 and 4 present the findings of the case study as they relate to these five investigative themes of contemporary subculture theory. Chapter 5 synthesises the findings of the previous two chapters, and argues that while participation in contemporary chamber music is not as intense or pervasive as is the case with the most researched street-based youth subcultures, it is nevertheless possible to describe Brisbane?s contemporary chamber music scene as a subculture.

The dissertation closes by reflecting on the ways in which the subcultural analysis of contemporary chamber music has yielded some insight into the lived practices of high culture in contemporary urban contexts.

Now I just have to find time to write the articles that are supposed to come out of it.


At Horizon 0, my new favourite online journal (at least for the next five minutes) is an evocative piece on the forms and future of remix culture.

Samples from the Heap: Notes on Recycling the Detritus of a Remixed Culture by Bernard Schutze:

Mix, mix again, remix: copyleft, cut ‘n’ paste, digital jumble, cross-fade, dub, tweak the knob, drop the needle, spin, merge, morph, bootleg, pirate, plagiarize, enrich, sample, break down, reassemble, multiply input source, merge output, decompose, recompose, erase borders, remix again. These are among many of the possible actions involved in what can be broadly labeled ‘remix culture’ – an umbrella term which covers a wide array of creative stances and initiatives, such as: plunderphonics,, recombinant culture, open source, compostmodernism, mash-ups, cut-ups, bastard pop, covers, mixology, peer to peer, creative commons, ‘surf, sample, manipulate’, and uploadphonix.

continue reading…