(De)Hierarchizing Culture? Practices and Aesthetics of Transcultural Music Production in Berlin

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Kristina KOLBE, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
This paper contributes to the study of contemporary cultural production, specifically dealing with the emergence of transcultural aesthetics and practices in music and the way these might interrogate established Western-European paradigms of cultural value and legitimacy. More specifically, I look at the programme ‘Selam Opera’ situated in Berlin’s highbrow music sector, which seeks to promote Turkish and Turkish-German artists to develop a sort of grounded aesthetics which exceeds forms of expression connoted by Western-European history. Building on ethnographic data, qualitative interviewing and musical analysis, I examine the music created by the Turkish and Turkish-German artists and interrogate to what extent these forms of cultural production might stretch beyond established constructions of national musical paradigms and institutions. I herein hold that musical texts and scores, like other forms of cultural scripts, bear crucial cultural information within them, illustrating processes of cultural fusion and synthesis or of co-optation and misrepresentation. With regard to techniques of composition, instrumentation and performance, I suggest that the musicians embody specific transcultural positions within Berlin’s music sector which internalise the blurring of and interweaving between Western and Eastern musical systems. However, while such musical practices challenge bounded Western-European notions of aesthetical value and legitimacy, their organisational frame of production and dissemination is decisively shaped and often restricted by Berlin’s established musical institutions. Thus, the paper points to both opportunities and tensions in the renegotiation of Berlin’s urban spaces as sites of transcultural production. It further critically assesses how these might provide platforms for Berlin’s Turkish-German communities to resist, challenge and possibly redefine their often-marginalised position in the cultural field. Thus, the paper links an analysis of the aesthetical and organisational nature of contemporary music-making with broader debates on postcolonial representation, thereby highlighting the intersection of hierarchizing discourses of ‘race’ and ethnicity in relation to contemporary cultural production.