Beginning in the 18th century, the field of education has been characterized by intense transatlantic...
Does the Atlantic Records label, founded in New York City in 1947 by Istanbul born producer Ahmed Ertegün, epitomize the musical history of the transatlantic space? Created during the rise of the microgroove record, this label and its musicians (from Coltrane to Ray Charles) can be considered by the specialists of musical circulations as evidence of the great influence of the Atlantic space. The different issues at stake in this field are interconnected. The entries covering the economic, technical, performative and discursive dimensions of musical productions, in the light of the biographies of mobile individuals or social groups allow us to analyze their symbolic and cultural, social and political receptions.
However, the entries are not solely conceived in cultural and political terms. Between the 18th and the 21st centuries, the physical and material nature of the musical transatlantic space has changed, from oral traditions to handwritten and later edited transcriptions, from analogical records to the dematerialized MP3 format. Thus, the relatively recent contributions of Sound Studies (Jonathan Sterne) have to be paid particular attention. This change in the material regime of musical media has fostered major historical issues: the preservation of traditions or their alteration, the marketing and the broadcasting of musical productions, the spreading of the discourses, the norms and values they carry.
Indeed, the history of music since the 18th century has been written by music critics, musicologists and music historians, as well as by the artists themselves, guided by a Eurocentric judgment. This hegemonic narrative has produced aesthetic and cultural standards, integrating peripherally the music of "the Others". The romantic tradition has established codified musical genres, raised musical works as master pieces and named figures of musical genius, glorifying both the Nation and the Civilization through the great symphonic form (Brahms, Wagner and Mahler, for instance). Of course, scholars looked after the musical traditions of colonized people and of the working class, considering them as subaltern genres towards the standards of European bourgeoisie. The type of the court concert, until the 18th century, has little by little been replaced by non-restricted and chargeable concerts. In globalizing this model of musical sociability, European elites have established a new category of the hierarchic aesthetic judgement: the "classical music".
Thus, musicology, ethnomusicology and music history have regulated the study of both European and non-European music, even if composers such as Liszt, Gershwin or Villa-Lobos wrote "crossover" works, inspired by traditional repertoires. Nevertheless, medium musical genres and practices were practically ignored by scholars: light music, urban popular music and music-hall.
An official historiographical narrative has been written and institutionalized by national press and academic world, conveying the supposedly "civilized" values of the "Concert of Nations". This system of aesthetic values has flowed throughout the networks of music school and conservatories, concerts halls and music business of musical edition and printed sheet music.
Both musical avant-gardes in the early 20th century and music sociology and anthropology in the 1950s-1960s criticized these artificial sociocultural hierarchies. However, these standards and values can't be ignored as part of the "Music" thematic section. They should be analyzed and considered as sociocultural phenomena.
Thinking the musical field in terms of transatlantic circulations amounts to questioning the phenomena this space has made possible, shaped and changed. For example, studying the wide complex of so called « black music » (particularly linked with discourses of identity in the American society) forces us to adopt both a multidisciplinary approach combining economic, sociopolitical, sociocultural contexts and matters of territoriality, as well as a diachronic one. The entries of this section have to integrate the slow evolution of the musical forms. How have the polyrhythmic structures imported from Africa to the Caribbean gradually merged with the Christian liturgies? How have the radio broadcasting companies and the music industry taken over these hybrid dance rhythms to commercialize them since the early 20th century? What places and spaces have made these musical creolization processes possible, in what order and at what place? What about Congo Square, in the Tremé quarter of New Orleans? What about the cellars and night clubs of Paris where jazz became Europeanized? What about the studios and sound systems in Kingston, where ska became reggae, two exported products and media of ideological discourses of anti-colonialist liberation? As Lionel Rogosin showed it in his anti-apartheid documentary Come Back Africa (1959), Afro-American musical genres were part of the soundtrack of the African decolonization.
The transatlantic space also fosters important issues linked to both fixing processes and alterations of musical traditions. Since the 19th century, academic folklorists have led collecting activities on behalf of private initiatives or within the scope of public policies. Their knowledge has contributed to building the scientific field of ethnomusicology. During the first decades of the 20th century, the music industry developed marketing strategies to commercialize these « invented » repertoires, especially through specialized labels such as, for instance, Topic Records (1939) for the folklore of Great Britain, Lyrichord Records (1950), a world music pioneer, Canyon Records (1951), recording the musical traditions of the Native American nations. Thus, both writings (academic or not) and recordings had a significant impact on the wide range of national or ethnic feelings of belonging.
The music that was listened to or played in the resettled communities of migrants across the Atlantic has to be systematically analyzed at multi-scalar levels. It is interesting, for instance, to compare the music heard in the Irish pubs in Europe and in America, to retrieve the soundscapes and the types of cultural adaptation in the immigrants' quarters, to study the persistence of musical traditions in the regions of emigration, as well as different types of "retour de mémoire". In this respect, the various types of musical revivalism, the discographies and the festivals they have produced, have given specific models of transatlantic counter-transfers. Patricia Hidiroglou or Magdalena Waligorska, for example, have studied klezmer music festivals in Europe since the 1990s in a very stimulating way.
Moreover, the transatlantic musical circulations have to be thought of in terms of (geo)political chronology. In the field of cultural diplomacy, Jessica C.E. Gienow-Hecht and Danielle Fosler-Lussier have systematically analyzed the political dimension of the tours of the philharmonic orchestras and their charismatic conductors, of jazz, folk or pop bands by questioning the role governments have played in their promotion, as well as their impact on the diplomatic interests of the states. Musicologist Annegret Fauser has highlighted the importance of the 1889 World's fair held in Paris, as a theater of nationalistic competition and powerful musical encounters. Finally, international or regional wars and crises have had a deep impact on transatlantic musical circulations and important cyclical or structural consequences on the musical industry and sociability. Extra-Atlantic wars such as, for instance, the Vietnam War, have partially re-defined transatlantic musical practices and impacted youth culture (Michael J. Kramer, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture). To a certain extent, this kind of geographical shift in focus could be taken into account.
In this perspective, the following topics are discussed throughout different entries:
- Transatlantic circulations of the European symphonic music, especially from Europe to Americas during the 19th and 20th centuries (composers, conductors, opera companies).
- Composing a repertoire of American symphonic music, torn between the European standards and the Afro-American and Native Street music.
- The formation of styles of popular American songs, originating from transatlantic migrations from African and Europe (tango, jazz, samba, rumba among others).
- Circulation and re-appropriation of musical instruments (for instance: military brass ensembles, violins, guitar, drums and percussions)
- Transfers of repertoires and practices throughout the standardization and globalization of printed music and recorded music industry since the end of the 19th century.
- Circulations of Afro-American music from Americas to Europe (jazz in France after WW2, rhythm'n blues in Britain during the 1960s), to Africa (African pop music, Ethiopian jazz) and to Latin America (jazz, soul, funk and rap).
- Transfers of Waltz and Polka from Europe to Americas during the 19th century and counter-transfers from American space to Europe (the Brazilian Maxixe, for instance).
- Different kind of musical connections between Africa and Americas, throughout "African diaspora" within the New World.
- Phenomena of creolization between European concert music and American popular traditions, especially during the baroque period.