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Music

Music, Media and Technologies

Danielle Beverly (Northwestern University in Qatar) - Analog artifacts in the Middle East: music, memory, materiality, movement

11:00-13:00 - Session II: Media and transnational flows

This talk addresses how analog artifacts – specifically vinyl records and cassette tapes – travel into, around, and out of the Middle East. Since the 1990’s, digital dissemination and commodification of music has ostensibly eliminated a desire and market for physical music media internationally. Yet, I argue vinyl records and cassettes are making their way into MENA culture, often as previously owned analog artifacts, now brought and sought by a transient, migrating set of populations.

As modernity intensifies, as borders open, as residents and expatriates travel freely, and as a younger generation embraces cultural artifacts from outside their own countries, a new constellation of music migration has emerged. Physical music artifacts are traversing geographies and generations. Some are newly minted “collector edition” reissues, to be purchased in large Gulf cities. Yet many were already in existence, having been pressed in decades past, in other countries. These used analog music artifacts are circulating again, finding new ownership in the Middle East.

I focus on which genres are traveling, and what physical traces indicate where they’ve migrated from, and how far? Further, who were the original owners, who is buying them, why, and what will this mean for a rapidly changing culture, and the creation of an ongoing cultural memory? I will discuss how censorship has hindered migration, yet argue that with current fluid borders – both geographic and social media borders – weakening censorship will not obstruct future dissemination. I will also discuss how a disconnect between artifact and machinery to play it nevertheless results in collection, if problematizing actual use.

Further, record collection tends to be a pro forma gendered exchange, with more men participating than women. Since gender segregation is formalized in much of MENA, I will explore how gender is impacting this small but growing trend of ownership.