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Ethnomusicology, World Music, and the Public Sphere

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies 122 Elm Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

Professor David Novak '92 presents a Department of Musicology Murphy Colloquium talk: “Ethnomusicology, World Music, and the Public Sphere.”

"World music has recently taken the North American experimental music scene by storm... again. Since the mid-2000s, a wave of labels and MP3 blogs like Sublime Frequencies, Mississippi Records, and Awesome Tapes from Africa have reissued obscure regional popular music recordings -- much like earlier ethnomusicological and folkloric labels like Nonesuch and Folkways -- but as "new old" media marked by distortion, and noise, and psychedelic strangeness. In this talk, I will describe how the contemporary circulation of global pop recordings -- sometimes called "World Music 2.0" -- connects the “open source” projects of digital culture with D.I.Y. analog networks of North American underground music. Recordings of Asian, African, and Latin American musics circulate simultaneously in virtual and physical forms, and are distributed online via blogs and filesharing services, as well as by labels which continue to issue CDs, vinyl LPs, and cassette tapes. The circulation of World Music 2.0 challenges ethnomusicology to accommodate emerging ethical positions about individual freedom and collective authorship, intellectual property, and cultural ownership that spin out of online redistributions of music.

David Novak '92 teaches in the Music Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work deals with the globalization of popular music, media technologies, experimental culture, and social practices of listening. He is the author of recent essays in Public Culture, Cultural Anthropology, and Popular Music, as well as the book Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation (Duke University Press, 2013).

Event Type



Academic, Musicology



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