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little by little been replaced by non-restricted and chargeable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
- 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.