EUME Workshop
Do 04 Apr 2019 – Fr 05 Apr 2019

Beginnings and Legacies of Recording Technologies in the Eastern Mediterranean

Convened by Diana Abbani (EUME Fellow 2018/19) and Yektan Türkyilmaz (EUME Fellow 2017-20)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

At the turn of the 20th century 78-rounds-per-minute (78RPM) shellac records appeared in the “Orient” – almost simultaneously with their appearance in Europe. Within a decade sound engineers working for European companies swept the major cities of the Middle East and North-Africa, the Caucasus, and Asia to record performers for local markets and international distribution. Gramophone records, recorded locally yet pressed in Europe swiftly became a major commodity in global trade. This new technology and commodity had bearings beyond its merchandise value; it reshaped the music, culture, society, politics and economy at local, national and global scales simultaneously.

The shellac record was a global(izing) medium from the outset; it paved the way for novel encounters, connections and exchanges across and beyond the Mediterranean towards Asia, Europe and the Americas, and Africa, creating a shared heritage of sound/music archives in the region. This workshop will probe the immediate and long term implications of the recording technology in various formats. In the early years the recording repertoire presented a diverse blend of agents and performers, musical traditions, languages, dialects, and genres, a variety that unparalleled in the succeeding periods and which has often been deliberately erased from the national narratives on public culture.

The recording technology, followed by the radio broadcasting starting in the 1930s, dramatically (re)framed the public space: Enabling, for the first time in history, separation of production and consumption of music, it helped create new notions of audience, musician and, artistic taste and genres. These new technologies brought about opportunities as well as technical restrictions that radically reconfigured music performance. The easy and fast circulation of music discs produced music stars at regional, national and even at global scales. The increased musical contact through the radio induced and inspired hybrid popular genres and enabled processes of homogenization at once. Nationalist homogenization efforts were steered by states and major companies that often took over the control of the medium and the modes of production and dissemination.

This workshop will bring together historians, anthropologists, musicologists, political-economist and archivists, in four or five panels over two days, to discuss different aspects of the emergence of the commercial recordings and its implications in the region and beyond.

The workshop will address mainly, but not exclusively, the following questions:

  • In which ways did the recorded sound in various formats reshape the soundscapes in the Eastern Mediterranean?
  • What were the limits and opportunities of recording technologies? Who has been recorded and who has been excluded? Who had access to the recordings and the recording industry? And in which ways did the notion of newness and beginning expand and determine the limits?
  • What were the spaces of listening? And how did the record industry create a new notion of audience and public space?
  • How did different recording technologies (re)configure the political economy of public culture?
  • How do the recent mushrooming (national/regional/ethnic) archiving practices by institutional repositories and personal collectors reshape and pass on the early musical recordings?
  • What possible new methodological horizons can the recorded sound/music materials open up for the Humanities and Social Sciences?

The workshop will take place in Berlin at the Forum Transregionale Studien over two days, with two to three panels of 90 minutes a day, a lecture and a plenary discussion. The workshop is convened by Diana Abbani (EUME Fellow 2018/19) and Yektan Türkyilmaz (EUME Fellow 2017-20).

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