Session/Séance 4f: IASPM Panel 3 Reimagining Musical Belonging

Session/Séance 4f: IASPM Panel 3 Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017. 9:00AM-10:30AM, EJB Geiger-Torel Room.
Reimagining Musical Belonging
     Moderator: KYLE DEVINE (University of Oslo)

1. Exclusive Access for the Excluded: Integrated Social Dancing and Popular Music within Toronto’s Black Population at Mid-Century
     Seika Boye, University of Toronto

The history of social dance within Toronto’s black population is largely undocumented, resulting in significant gaps in African-Canadian and Canadian historical narratives. Despite shifting municipal, provincial and federal equal rights legislation in 1950s Toronto, leisure culture remained segregated. Alternative venues where African- Canadians gathered for social dancing include the Home Service Association, Universal Negro Improvement Association and University Settlement House. While each of these organizations had unique mandates, they all hosted dances that were attended by both black and non-black populations. These social dances played otherwise inaccessible African-American blues and rock and roll music and resulted in repeated and ongoing interracial community gathering that was not a reflection of dominant mainstream culture. The emerging African-American popular music that provided the soundtrack for the aforementioned dances was not available for purchase in Southern Ontario and largely came across the Canada-US border via African-Canadian railway porters. A handful of black Torontonians who played their personal record collections at dance events provided access to the most recent African-American popular music, which my research argues became central to interracial gathering and identity formation – especially within Toronto’s black youth population – at mid-century. This work emerges at the intersection of dance studies, Black Studies, performance studies, visual culture, and historiography. I look to Canadian contexts pertaining to social dance, legislation, trans-cultural exchange, leisure venues and music to inform close readings of photographs, newspapers and oral histories. I argue against reading African-Canadian documents and histories through dominant African-American historical narratives, proposing that historical and cultural overlaps are best understood in tandem with moments of departure into African-Canadian specificity. Following dance scholar Julie Malnig’s proposal that within social dancing “community [is] created as a result of the dancing”(1998: 4), the dance events I discuss become a site of revelation about race, class, gender, generation and the African-Canadian population at mid-century.

Keywords: social dance, African-Canadian, history/historiography, dance studies, youth

2. Situated Composition and Topologies of Audio Production
     Samuel Thulin, Lancaster University

In this presentation I will focus on the concept of ‘situated composition,’ using it as a way of examining developments in mobile audio production technologies and practices. Situated composition draws attention to the specific circumstances in which sound production takes place. With mobile devices and apps offering heightened mobility and ease-of-use, ways of working with sound increasingly may be undertaken by users at a range of skill levels and in a wide array of contexts outside of controlled environments designed for audio work. For example, one might use an app like Samplr to record the ongoing sounds of a place and to transform, edit, and compose with those sounds during a public transit commute. Situated composition emphasizes the interconnections between the situation in which composition unfolds and the process of composition, approaching composition as inherently distributed and collaborative in multiple ways. This approach to the situatedness of creative processes is informed by feminist science and technology studies (such as Haraway’s ‘situated knowledges’) and resonates with recent developments in studio studies (Farías and Wilkie, 2016). Emerging topologies of the ‘studio’ facilitated through mobile apps provide an opportunity for deeper exploration of audio production’s entanglements with place, space, and situation. Drawing primarily on interviews carried out with fourteen musicians, composers, sound artists, and producers who use mobile devices and apps in their sound work, as well as on research conducted through analysis of podcasts and forums, I have identified seven approaches to using mobile interfaces that entail varying relationships between practitioners, sounds, tools and the surroundings in which practices are carried out. A focus for this presentation will be issues of skill, knowledge, and legitimation, and their particular configurations at the interstices of popular music, apps for audio production, and ideas of situatedness.

Keywords: mobility, apps, audio production, situatedness, place

3. Fire Dance and Fire World in Southern Thailand
     Tiffany Pollock, York University

Thailand’s islands, widely popular among diverse types of tourists looking for beautiful beaches, parties and/or luxurious relaxation, are also infamous for a particular performance that sets the beach vibe every evening, on nearly every island: fire dancing, which is almost exclusively performed by Thai and Burmese men, is now an essential aspect of beach nightlife. Most beach bars and hotels employ fire dancers to entertain and socialize with tourists at nightly parties and events. This transnational movement practice found its way to Thailand via early backpackers and has grown into a large scene that is intimately intertwined within the affective economy of the tourism industry. Building off fieldwork with fire dancers on Koh Samui, I consider how cross-cultural encounters brought through tourism, an industry fraught with issues and inequalities, can also foster creativity and community. The growth of fire dancing in Thailand showcases the participatory nature and creative potential of exchange within touristic borderzones (Bruner 2005). This paper will highlight how performers use fire dance not only as a mechanism to gain economic and social capital, but as a platform to build community, alliances and intimate economies (Wilson 2004). The creation and functioning of these “fire worlds” are set against, and in tension with, the backdrop of the tourism industry in Southern Thailand.

Keywords: dance, tourism, community, economies, affect

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