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Portrait: © Georgina Born

14-06-2015

Music has been a vital part of human cultures for millennia, and today it continues to evolve, taking vastly different forms around the world. Proceeding from the rich diversity of human music-making, Prof. Georgina Born has been investigating its transformation in the current digital era.

From musical performance and composing, through recording and mixing, to circulating and listening, in recent decades, music has been intensively exposed to digitisation. Access to the Internet has spread worldwide, and new media platforms foster radical changes in the environments for creating and consuming music. Prof. Born investigates these developments, aiming systematically to advance the state of contemporary music research, while also contributing to social and media theory.

The core of this project entails six ethnographic studies of music and digitisation in six countries: Argentina, Canada, Cuba, India, Kenya and the UK. The comparative analysis of the resulting research data reveals some striking trends.

The line between professional and amateur musician is eroding, and musicians find it increasingly difficult to make a living. Informal music economies are expanding, while copyright law lags behind these realities. Music consumption oscillates between online and offline spheres and music’s social dimensions are transforming. Ideas of “digital heritage” encourage local recording and online archiving of traditional musics, while the Internet is changing our relationship to music history. Popular and art digital genres that were dominant in recent decades (e.g. electronica, academic electroacoustic music) are being eclipsed by new trends (e.g. microsound, glitch and noise). Post-digital and hacking practices with the use of analogue media including vinyl, tape and basic electronics have emerged in reaction to the digital.

Based on this work, Prof. Born is developing a new framework for contemporary music studies. The interdisciplinary nature of the project will result in the creation of an innovative theory focused on music’s mediation, integrating elements of social, anthropological and media theory