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The project deals with musical flows between the so-called “West” and Asia and the shifts in the asymmetric power relations that characterize these flows. These shifts were initiated by the global success of new musical genres, which emerged as creative responses to the contact of formerly incongruent musical traditions. The scape-model, Arjun Appadurai developed to describe processes of cultural globalization, the domestication concept of Joseph J. Tobin, together with recent ethnomusicological theories of musical change serve as theoretical framework while the research design is characterized by a combination of empirical data collection (multi-local field work) and post-hermeneutic techniques of (musical) text analysis (e.g. Adam Krims’ analysis of musical poetics).

"Japanese Gentlemen Stand Up, Please!"

On the Domestication of Western Popular Music in Japan and the Impact of J-Pop in the West

Oliver Seibt
This project is concerned with the domestication of Western popular culture in Japan during the last two decades and the development of shibuyakei and visualkei, two popular music genres that emanated from this process and became very successful on a global scale. Thus they helped to promote a change in the international reception of popular culture from Japan: formerly perceived as a romping place of uncreative copycats, it is nowadays acting as an international pop-cultural avant-garde.

Film with Oliver Seibt on visual-kei

Video example:

"Sounding out the Wave" 

National Dreams and Global Streams of Korean Popular Music
Michael Fuhr

This project wants to find out how globalization affects the transformation of popular music in South Korea. It analyzes the field of pop music since the 1990s, with the emergence of popular phenomena like ‘k-pop’ and ‘Korean wave’. It seeks to understand the conditions and effects of transnational flows, asymmetrical relations and the role of the imaginary ‘other’ in music production and consumption. A specific focus lies on aspects how pop music is utilized and connected to strategies of identity construction in order to shape national and transnational representations. 

"Producing Punjabi Pop"
Music, Media, and Cultural Identity in Northern India

Patrick Frölicher

Patrick Frölicher’s sub-project investigated the transnational phenomenon of Punjabi popular music video production that emerged since the late 1990s. Based on ethnographic field work as well as post-hermeneutic media analysis (following Krims 2000), the project examines social and cultural changes triggered by the new medium “music video” in the field of Punjabi popular music. However, Punjabi music videos are not investigated as mere audio-visual texts, but as social phenomena. Linking discussions from media studies and cultural anthropology, the sub-project regards media as practices, shaped by various discourses and performances by different actors. Punjabi Pop is a transnational network formed by human actors such as text writers, singers, musicians, music directors (composer and arranger in one person) and last but not least recipients, joined through different technologies such as recording studios, video technology, as well as institutions (record companies, TV channels). The actors’ manifold are influenced by aesthetic, technological and economic aspects.

As Peter Manuel (1993) explains, Punjabi music scenes in Great Britain and in India had largely developed independently of each other during the 1980s.  Various changes in technological (computer-based production and distribution) as well as ideological terms (adapting Hip Hop/Rap/Black Music elements rather than band-based “white” rock music, as happened during the 1980s) led to the emergence of the transnational mediascape of Punjabi Pop.

Preliminary outcomes: already during the 1980s, the main source of income for artists were live shows rather than record (or rather cassette) sales. With the decline of sales of physical sound carrying objects such as cassettes or CDs, the music video is quickly replacing the production of music albums as the prime medium for the circulation of Punjabi Pop. Yet some strategies for the representation of singers and dancers are met with severe criticism from consumers, as shown in the ongoing discussion about “dirty” (“ganḍa”) or “vulgar” videos. 

Therefore, commonly used representations of Punjabi rural life are more than just romanticizing depictions of an assumed bucolic paradise. Rather, they are strategic attempts in a symbolic struggle for the definition of “Punjabiyat” (Punjabi identity).

“From subculture to elite culture”: for diasporic Punjabis, the explicit adaptation of sonic as well as visual elements from Hip Hop and Rap has to be interpreted in the context of the specific diaspora situation, as a strategy against the “common experience of marginalisation” and an attempt of empowerment. In India, however, this political subtext gets lost, and rather than an ethnic “subculture”, such videos turn into an elite culture embodying discourses as caste superiority (“Jatt”), and gender inequality (“boys do the bhangra, girls dance the giddha”). In spite of a frequent regional chauvinism, other important factors such as the “tough guy” image make Punjabi Pop videos attractive for non-Punjabis as well.


Studies of the Aspects of Zen-Buddhism in the Selected Works of Cage, Takemitsu and Zender

Yang, Hsiao-hua
This  project confronts the question of how the aesthetics of Zen-Buddhism were perceived by the three composers John Cage, Toru Takemitsu and Hans Zender. Considering practices of composition, historical background, and regional differences, the project traces how “Western” composers were influenced by “Eastern” thought – and how, conversely, their music influenced Asian composers in their search of their own roots.  Selected pieces are Music of Changes (1951), 7 Haiku (1951/52) and Ryoanji (1983-85) of Cage; Le Son Calligraphié I-III (1958-60), Ring (1961), November Steps (1967)  of Takemitsu; Lo-Shu-Zyklus (1977-1997), Haikai (1982) and Fūrin no kyô (1988/89) of Zender. 

Analytic Investigations Concerning Asian Composers in Germany

Isabell Seider

This project deals with the question to what extent Asian composers who have lived or studied in Germany have, consciously or unconsciously, adapted their musical language to Western musical grammars and aesthetics – if they have adapted it at all. Furthermore, it will be investigated in what ways such a potential fusion of Asian and Western musical aspects can be realized artistically. The time frame spans from 1945 (with regard to the post-World-War-II discussion, based on philosophical and aesthetical considerations formulated mainly by Theodor W. Adorno, of whether it is appropriate to occupy oneself with other cultures) to the end of the 20th century. There will be a focus on those Asian composers who pursued further studies in the cultural environment of the Western “avant-garde”, as well as the “Darmstadt-Cologne School”. The approach will be analytical, taking various compositions as a basis, the goal of which is to determine whether there are any (specific) common musical characteristics – in style, instrumentation, sound, temporal patterns etc. – resulting especially from bi- or multicultural experiences in the lives of the selected composers.