DJs as Cultural Brokers. The Performance and Localization of Recorded Music Across Time and Space

G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


Internal Authors/Editors


Publication Details

List of Authors: Kim Ramstedt
Publisher: Åbo Akademi
Place: Åbo
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-952-12-3619-8
eISBN: 978-952-12-3620-4


Abstract







In this doctoral dissertation in musicology, I study DJ practices in contempo-
rary Finland. I am particularly interested in how DJs function as cultural bro-
kers when music in recorded format travels across time and space. The main
question my study seeks to answer is how are musical cultures localized, or
made meaningful in a new socio-cultural environment through DJ perfor-
mances and therein related activities. This question is investigated over four re-
search articles in three distinct case studies, each focusing on a specific musical
category, conceptualized as a “disc culture” (Thornton 1995), emphasizing the
centrality of recorded sound as a medium of the music. The three categories of
music investigated in my thesis are dancehall reggae, Finnish iskelmä music and
Latin American music. These categories, which from the local audience per-
spective represent remote musical cultures, are not to be understood as fixed,
but rather as narratives that are constructed in the performance setting. The
concept of performance, following Auslander (2004), is applied as an analyti-
cal concept to all empirical material. As such, although the study also includes
analysis of DJs’ stage performances in a nightclub setting, I am also concerned
with how the DJs work as brokers off stage. This work, which could be char-
acterized as taking place in the space between production and consumption,
influences values and meanings that listeners ascribe to the music. Method-
ologically this study combines ethnographic accounts with theoretical investi-
gations. Empirical material analyzed in the study includes interviews with DJs,
observational field research in nightclubs, media discourses, promotional mate-
rial, individual recordings and set lists from DJ performances.


My research shows how the function of records as a medium is under con-
stant negotiation, as records are in various ways altered and embedded into a
DJ’s work. The authority of a discrete musical work is questioned in my case
studies in several ways, as ideas behind records find new forms of expression
and as industry driven distinctions between the live performance of bands as
collective audience experiences and recorded albums as objects intended for
domestic private listening are discarded. I argue that genres moving to another
cultural sphere will not maintain all their inherent values and meanings, as
the terms for the adaptation of the music is negotiated between the DJ and
the local audience. The audience intimately involved in the localization process
is, however, not a homogeneous group and members of the audience who are
less engaged in the performance setting can become outside observers to the
unfolding drama of the events. The DJs’ strategies to facilitate the process of
localization include various practices of framing through the choice of musical
repertoire, and through verbal and visual communication. I maintain that DJs
play a significant role mediating between the remote production and local con-
sumption of a musical genre. Through their work, DJs can challenge dominat-
ing cultural narratives and explore alternatives to established discourses.





Last updated on 2019-09-12 at 03:59