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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Samuel Horlor

Horlor, Samuel (2019). Popular Song Afterlives: Oral Transmission and Mundane Creativity in Street Performances of Chinese Pop Classics. Journal of World Popular Music 6(1): 10-31.

Author(s) from Durham


Amateur live performances on the city streets of Wuhan give afterlives to songs of Chinese pop’s canon; they are sites for this repertory to be adapted and assimilated into musical worlds beyond those of the artists and industries responsible for its original production and dissemination. Singers here learn the songs by following commercial recordings, a process I understand with reference to oral transmission as it enables and constrains creativity in ways reflective of the social and technological circumstances of performers’ lives. Recordings feed into the spread of change among Wuhan’s amateur singers, with certain limitations and new possibilities also resulting from the technologies and skills available on the streets. Looking at popular song afterlives exposes mundane layers of creativity, and it comments more broadly on prosaic drivers of new meaning in current popular music practices.