Welcome to our website, the online home of our Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project, Popular Music and Cultural Memory: localised popular music histories and their significance for national music industries. Visit our site regularly for updates on our research's progress, as well as links to our project's outcomes as they appear. Find out more about our project and its aims here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sites of Popular Music Heritage Conference

The School of Music at the University of Liverpool, UK, has announced a forthcoming conference on popular music and cultural memory called 'Sites of Popular Music Heritage'. The conference will be held in Liverpool on 8-9 September 2011 and is currently asking for contributions in three thematic areas: popular music heritage in the museum; heritage, place and local identity; digital archives and online practice. Deadline for abstracts is 30 April 2011.

The conference is being organised by Dr Rob Knifton and Dr Les Roberts of Liverpool's Institute of Popular Music, in collaboration with the Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University. Les is a postdoctoral researcher for the UK arm of our sister project in Europe - Popular Music Heritage, Cultural Memory and Cultural Identity (POPID) - which has been funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area).

Sarah and Alison will co-author and present two papers based on work from this project:

Big Things, Wax Things, Bronze Things: canonisation and cultural memory in Tamworth, Australia's 'Home of Country Music'
This paper concerns the regional town of Tamworth, NSW, Australia, a place that prides itself on its reputation as Australia’s ‘home of country music’.  Based on fieldwork conducted during 2011’s Country Music Festival, a ten-day event held in Tamworth each January, the paper considers the ways in which the stories surrounding Australian country music’s history are produced and circulated in this town. This is a place which is determined to record, memorialise and narrate a coherent and public story about its country music heritage, and which, in doing so, consecrates certain performers and contributes to the production of an Australian country music canon.  The paper focuses in particular on the processes through which particular aspects of that heritage (musicians, cultural intermediaries, songs, etc) become dominant or canonical within this narrative.  This work belongs to a larger project about popular music and cultural memory in Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, which investigates how ‘official’ accounts of popular music history and heritage rub up against the more personal recollections of individuals.  In Tamworth, the ‘official’ account is realized in real spaces, as well as performed in a range of annual ceremonies and practices, and in this, the town is unique in Australia.  When considered alongside the fact that country music itself is heavily invested in heritage, storytelling and honouring its songwriters through a strong tribute and covers tradition within its musical practice, the paper argues that country music as a cultural formation is perhaps best thought of as a ready-made memory culture.

Preserving Popular Music Heritage in the DIY Institution: three case studies of popular music archives in Australia and Austria
National archives are key institutions in the preservation of the material aspects of cultural heritage.  In Australia, for example, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is ‘responsible for developing, preserving, promoting and providing access to the nation’s moving image and recorded sound heritage’ (NFSA website), and is accordingly supported by federal funding, and an institutional structure designed to meet these aims.  Alongside such national institutions exist a range of specialist archives, some of which are dedicated to specific genres that are marginalized, or at least not a focus, in national collections, and many of which operate largely without governmental support. These archives operate under similar mission statements.  To varying degrees these small archives might be considered DIY (do-it-yourself), as they exist on small budgets that often rely on donations or membership fees, and remain open and accessible only through the generosity of an army of volunteers. This paper introduces research in progress related to three such archive facilities: the Country Music Hall of Fame and Archive in the regional city of Tamworth, Australia; the Victorian Jazz Archive in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia; and the Archiv Österreichischer Popularmusik (SR-A) in Austria’s capital, Vienna.  Reflecting on some in-depth interviews with staff working at these archives—most of them volunteers—this paper considers some of the policies and everyday practices that contribute to the creation of these archives, and explores the ways in which these archivists, who are working outside the dominant frame of projects of national archiving, see their role as contributors to the collective memory of the musics that they preserve. As such the paper is less concerned with the content of these archives, but rather with the conditions and processes that shape their popular music collections. 

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