Multi-Local Avant-Gardes? From Beirut and Beyond

Performance «Sonic Traces from the Arab World» at the Symposium «Volatile Frequencies»

Musicians from Asia, Africa and Latin America organise sound and sound forms with the principles of the Avant-Gardes, Pop Avant-Gardes and Jamaican Bass-Cultures. They interact in transnational networks with musicians, DJ’s and producers worldwide and create self-confident past-colonial positions. This key note speech intermingles close and critical ethnographical analysis of music and musicians from Beirut with examples of contemporary music making from other places. Overall it argues that these musicians are members of a (finally) truly trans-local Avant-Garde. Especially their staging of violence (and exotica) does however show that within the real cultural markets some of the old post-colonial dependencies still persist. A keynote speech by Thomas Burkhalter.

Thursday 18.11.2010, City, University of London. At the symposium: Volatile Frequencies: Topologies of Authority, Technology and Production in Contemporary Middle Eastern Music Practices.

About the Symposium

What kind of diverse practices might constitute an experimental Middle Eastern music? Are there points of relation to the regional orthodoxies? Is such a framing of new work relevant? Halim el Dabh, Ali Reza Mashayekhi, Muslimgauze, Mazen Kerbaj, Hassan Khan – new practitioners operate at the interface of cultural heritage and possible futures and an initial survey reveals a vibrant practice, emergent especially over the past ten years in centres such as Cairo and Beirut.

The Volatile Frequencies conference seeks to collate research that translates, mediates and frames practices specific to sonic disciplines (music, sound art, musicology) arising in relation to the Middle East and North Africa, and to critically connect with wider academic currents. It will emphasize current post-graduate research and scholarly approaches. A number of relevant contextualising works include the forthcoming The Arab Avantgarde edited by Thomas Burkhalter, Kay Dickinson and Ben Harbert, Steven Goodman’s Sonic Warfare, John Hutnyk’s Critique of Exotica and Laudan Nooshin’s Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. The day proposes to formulate understandings and critical hearings of the debates within and without the region in relation to new sonic practices, prioritising practice that favours experimental and exploratory approaches. Volatile Frequencies will be in conjunction with the first edition of the MazaJ Festival of Experimental Middle Eastern Music; the programme includes a weekend of concerts and a second day of discussion hosted by The Wire Magazine as part of their Salon series. The salon will act in counter-point with the post-graduate day; providing a contrast to, but also a potential meeting point of scholarly with journalistic approaches.

The MazaJ festival is co-produced by Zenith Foundation, Sound and Music, and The Wire Magazine. The two days of exchange aim to offer an erudite appraisal of the area, and is international in the scope of participating academics, and practitioners.