Artur Szarecki – “Musicking assemblages: popular music and new materialism”
New materialism refers to a series of theoretical approaches that criticize anthropocentrism, rethink subjectivity by playing up the role of non-human forces, emphasize the self-organizing powers of material processes, and explore complex and often discordant relations between those processes and cultural practice, as well as ethical and political concerns emerging thereby. As such, they are often in sharp contrast to the ontological presuppositions of mainstream social and cultural theory. Consequently, the project will involve a series of theoretical considerations that aim to rethink some of the foundational assumptions of popular music studies according to the “flat” ontology inherent to new materialist perspectives. This will entail developing the concept of musicking assemblages and attempting to map out and analyze several empirical case studies, like: TOYOMU’s reimagining of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo; Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s recreation of Miles Davis’ classic album Kind of Blue; albums containing animal sounds an contributions, like One by a group called Be and the series “biomusic” by Anna Nacher and Marek Styczyński; and the YouTube phenomenon of “misheard lyrics.” In particular, the project will attempt to account for how processes of emergence, nonlinear dynamics, nonhuman agencies and affectivities manifest within these musicking assemblages. The overall aim is to overcome the anthropocentrism inherent in prevalent accounts of popular music and highlight the variety of material agencies and their complex interactions involved in music’s constitution.