Spontaneous results of an organised musical experience: a residency of Arab and British musicians in the United Kingdom
(Université Lumière Lyon 2-EVS)
Paper short abstract:
Whilst most empirical studies of artists’ encounters and the development of ‘fusion’ music are based on bottom-up musical formations, this paper will focus on the top-down dimension of a planned ‘musical encounter’ and ‘challenge of cultural stereotypes’ which took place last May in London with 15 Arab and British musicians.
Paper long abstract:
Last May, a fascinating artists' residency took place in the United Kingdom, bringing together 12 musicians from all over North Africa and the Middle East, and 3 musicians from the UK. As part of a wider research project funded by the British AHRC, I conducted an ethnography of this 3-week long musical encounter. Fostered by a British cultural institution, this residency had two different aims. On one hand, it intended "to create new work". On the other hand, it aspired to develop networks amongst the artists from the Near East-North African region and between them and the British music scene. Therefore, while many different musical genres were brought together (rock, jazz, hip hop, classical Arabic music, etc.), the Arab origin of the majority of the musicians (but not necessarily of their music) was also an important dimension, aiming to challenge the 'classical' British representation of what music from this region "should be", as well as showing a contrasted United Kingdom to the visiting artists. Whilst most empirical studies of artists' encounters and the development of 'fusion' music are based on bottom-up musical formations, this paper will focus on the top-down dimension of this planned 'musical encounter' and 'challenge of cultural stereotypes'. The presentation will investigate the ways in which this double aim, implemented 'from the top', produced musical creation and individual relations 'from below'. Finally, specific methodological and ethical challenges will be addressed, in particular the tension between artists' expectations for, and organizers' reservations on, the involvement of the researcher.
Sounding ethnography: mutuality and diversity in musical life