Sounds Icelandic - Essays on Icelandic Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries - Þorbjörg Daphne Hall

Sounds Icelandic - Essays on Icelandic Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries - Þorbjörg Daphne Hall

Surrealism in Icelandic Popular Music

Sounds Icelandic - Essays on Icelandic Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries - Þorbjörg Daphne Hall

John Richardson [+-]
University of Turku
John Richardson is Professor of Musicology at the University of Turku. He is author of An Eye for Music: Popular Music and the Audiovisual Surreal (2011) and Singing Archaeology: Philip Glass’s Akhnaten (1999). He additionally co-edited The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics (with Gorbman & Vernallis, 2013), The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (with Vernallis & Herzog, 2013). He is currently working on a book on close reading and co-editing another on Einstein on the Beach. Richardson is an active musician and songwriter. His record, The Fold, will be released by Svart Records in 2017.

Description

In this chapter I will explore the cultural significance of glitch aesthetics in recent Icelandic popular music, focusing especially on music by the band múm, but also including music by other well-known Icelandic acts, such as Sigur Rós and Björk. Like Nick Prior (2008), I understand glitch aesthetics as representing an experimental sub-field within the broader field of cultural production (Bourdieu) that is designed to comment critically on the mainstream. This is implicitly a position of agency, independence and outsiderness. However, more detailed scrutiny reveals how each of these categories is complicated through sonic as well as social actions and interactions, not least the question of agency, which technological mediation and a collective approach to musicking distill into something that hardly resembles heroic narratives of creative agents. I will additionally explore an aspect of naïvism in the music, which prioritizes first-hand experience (bright tones, playfulness, childlike voices, optimism, an interest in sonic objects over song narrative, the prioritizing of background detail over the ursatz (fundamental structure) of song, and consider how this is related to the concepts of cultural and collective memory. Naïvism does not in this case imply a traditional dialectical relationship to technology by reaffirming the Nature/Culture divide (see Dibben 2009a). Rather, glitch itself becomes an aspect of this innocent exploration of materials that is of its essence childlike, a form of play in the Gadamerian (hermeneutic) sense that is reparative more than overtly critical in tone (Sedgwick 2003). I will additionally explore the relation of glitch to gender politics. While glitch has previously been thought of as the exclusive realm of male specialists, there is evidence to support an alternative reading in which the glitch (or mistake) can be understood as a way of queering conventions, ‘the queer art of failure’ (Halberstam 2001; also Jarman 2011), while partaking shamelessly through the element of naïvisim and sentimentality in the music of what Jack Halberstam calls ‘silly culture’ (Halberstam 2012; also Morris 2013).

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Citation

Richardson, John. Surrealism in Icelandic Popular Music. Sounds Icelandic - Essays on Icelandic Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 172-193 Apr 2019. ISBN 9781781791455. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=24106. Date accessed: 18 Aug 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.24106. Apr 2019

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