Georgina Born “On the privatisation and publicisation of music”

Music, Sound and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space Conference continued:

Georgina Born gave a very rich talk  “On the privatisation and publicisation of music” and her focus on the social aspects of listening chimed very much with my own work. These are some of the arguments I remember:

First, she was tracing the historic development of the relationship between public and private for music. The19th century is labelled “individuatisation and privatisation” (Sennett, Sterne), the late 19th century “Times-shifting and death”, the 1910s “Space-shifting and Hybridity”, 1920s “Consumerism and Mobility”, 1945 “Mass Public and Consumption”, the 1970s “Circulation and relay”.
Born suggests four optics to examine the relation of music to private and public: capitalism (e.g. commodification, markets), media&intermedia (e.g. file-sharing, intellectual property rights), subjectivity (e.g. modes of subjective listening, Bull, DeNora), and the social (that is constituted outside of mediated music (I need to clarify this point).
The concern with the social is then broken down in four key aspects:
Practice, performance, division of labour
existing social relations
institutional forces (e.g. patronage, markets)
Imagined communities or publics

Overall, Born calls for a move away from the dualism of public and private, towards a multiplicity, a zoning and nesting of public and private. This concept was another one picked up upon in the discussions for the remainder of the conference.
Born thinks that the segmentation of disciplines dealing with sound and music could be one reason why the social disappeared from much research in the area, therefore she calls for research to go beyond this segmentation – and in fact many presentations at this conference seems to be a good illustration of successful ways of doing so.
Born’s nesting and zoning is best explained with her own illustration, but I will try to describe it in words:
On a continuum of private on the left and public on the right, there are several nestings of these two. More to the left (i.e. private) are social networking and fileshearing, with a small virtual public bubble in inside a larger private/domestic bubble. (With mobile technology, e.g twitter on the phone this is of course changing). Towards the middle of the spectrum, mobile phones, ipods’ ad Sennet’s “listening alone together” are posited, depicted by a small bubble of “private/individuated” inside a larger bubble of “public”. Towards the right, i.e. public end of the continuum, features public music performance and sound systems, illustrated by a small “public” bubble inside a larger “public” bubble.
The relation of listening practices and the sensory environment. The relation of intesubjectivity and music’s sociality
After talking about social and embodied practices around music (using Butt’s and Schulz’s models) Born introduced three different socio-technical musical assemblages (that all have a history):
1. iPodism
2. live co-presence (e.g. rap, laptop musicians)
3. Internet co-creation, consumption
In conclusion, Born hinted at her current and future work in using Hannah Arendt’s autonomous publics as analytical tool to talk about the ways music can enhance models of publicness,. as for Arendt, both the public realm and the performing arts are crucial. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about this in the future.

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