Starting Over? Popular Music and Working in Music in a Post-Pandemic World

Stahl, Matthew W. | $24,971

Ontario Western University (The University of Western Ontario) 2021 SSHRC

COVID‑19 forced a pause in music practices across genres and sectors. The International Association for the Study of Popular Music (Canada) (IASPM) and the Working In Music research network (WIM) take up this issue in jointly organizing a conference with a primary focus on disruption and recovery of vital music practices: « Starting Over? Popular Music and Working in Music in a Post-Pandemic World. » The two organizations draw scholars and students from diverse disciplines such as communication, media studies, cultural studies, musicology, and ethnomusicology and other cognate fields, as well as sociology, anthropology, labour studies, and public health. The event provides an opportunity to disseminate research on music practices, practitioners, and institutions from across disciplines. London, Ontario is an ideal location for this conference, as its formerly flourishing music worlds—from rock, rap, and folk to community orchestras—have endured nearly two years of suspension, suffering losses of core performance venues and other opportunities to perform and partake in local live music.

This project speaks to three of SSHRC’s challenge areas. The digital economy: music and the platform economy shape one another via music circulation systems like iTunes and Spotify. The arts transformed: digital technologies have sustained music practices during the pandemic, enabling music consumers to support music makers through forms of neo-patronage. The emerging asocial society: the virtual meeting systems crucial to pandemic music practices both enable and constrain performers and audiences, in part because of built-in time delays that impede simultaneous music performance, introducing new forms of distance between performers and between performers and audiences.

The conference features a (confirmed) keynote address by award-winning Canadian musicologist William Cheng. Cheng’s recent book Loving Music Till It Hurts (2018) examines how judgments of music reflect and justify forms of cultural and social stratification: e.g., gender, ability, wealth, education, race. Moral judgments of people operate through judgments of music, shaping patterns of opportunity and access; Cheng’s work speaks to rebuilding music infrastructures that reflect values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

We are partnering with Tourism London to host a public panel discussion on music-making in London during and after COVID‑19 at Museum London. Influential participants in London’s musical life will speak on the effects of the pandemic and their insights about rebuilding more inclusive and durable music institutions. The panel will be co-produced and moderated by London’s Music Industry Development Officer Cory Crossman. We have invited London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan to participate and offer insights from a policy perspective. The public will be invited to bring questions and concerns for what we hope will be a productive discussion.

The conference, jointly hosted by Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies, the Don Wright Faculty of Music, and Western Research, will provide training and mentoring opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students in both faculties, and support collaboration between the two faculties in terms of graduate supervision and opportunities for research collaboration.

Partnering with municipal, private, and non-profit actors, the conference will pose new questions for the assembled researchers and opportunities for collaboration between Western University researchers (faculty and graduate students) and London’s music communities.

Please note that, at the time of writing, the call for papers has recently been distributed and therefore we are unable to list confirmed presenters at this time.

Avec un financement du Gouvernement du Canada

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