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2019 | Buch

Nocturnes: Popular Music and the Night


Über dieses Buch

The night and popular music have long served to energise one another, such that they appear inextricably bound together as trope and topos. This history of reciprocity has produced a range of resonant and compelling imaginaries, conjured up through countless songs and spaces dedicated to musical life after dark. Nocturnes: Popular Music and the Night is one of the first volumes to examine the relationship between night and popular music. Its scope is interdisciplinary and geographically diverse.

The contributors gathered here explore how the problems, promises, and paradoxes of the night and music play off of one another to produce spaces of solace and sanctuary as well as underpinning strategies designed to police, surveil and control movements and bodies. This edited collection is a welcome addition to debates and discussions about the cultures of the night and how popular music plays a continuing role in shaping them.


Chapter 1. Introduction: Because the Night…
The Introduction outlines many of the key concepts regarding the night and popular music, with a particular emphasis on their relationship to and within the city. A number of historians, sociologists and theorists of the city at night are covered, as are many approaches to music in the city. Bridging these different bodies of scholarship, the editors outline many of the concerns that relate to thinking through the complicated relationship between music and the night, from policing the streets and developing policies, to some of the more liberating dimensions associated with the nocturnal dimensions of popular music, set out here as a preamble to the various discussions taken up in the ensuing chapters.
Giacomo Bottà, Geoff Stahl
Correction to: “Tonight you’re still on my mind”: Nostalgia and Parody in Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly
Nathan Seinen


Chapter 2. “In the Pitch Black Dark”: Searching for a “Proper Allnighter” in the Current Northern Soul Scene
In their negotiation of the discourses and scene boundaries of northern soul, the younger members of the British scene seek hidden and dark places in a desire to carve out their own interpretation of insider participation. These dark, suburban places privilege individual experience over public performance, experimentation over the polished. In doing so, the northern soul nocturnes of the “proper allnighter” challenge the dominant discourses of the scene’s older and influential generation. Positioned by young people in opposition to an internal mainstream, the “proper nighter” offers a space for the performance of authentic participation which is cloaked by darkness, informed by imagined scene pasts and set to a soundscape of the rare and the underplayed.
Sarah Raine
Chapter 3. Putting Paris and Berlin on Show: Nightlife in the Struggles to Define Cities’ International Position
This chapter examines how local cultural policies, which draw on the “alternative” music scene, participate in capital-cities’ international positioning, within the context of strong competition between metropolises to attract investors and firms. Paris and Berlin serve as case studies. Territorial branding strategies rest on music venues in order to renew the cities’ image, while these venues also serve as a focal point for spatial planning policies. In Berlin, urban renewal creates resistance among independent cultural intermediaries who feel threatened by the arrival of bigger players in the cultural industries, towards which public policies are geared. In Paris, public support for festive events organized in neighbouring cities participates in gentrification processes, as well as to the symbolic overtaking of the margins by the centre.
Myrtille Picaud
Chapter 4. Pubcrawling Lisbon: Nocturnal Geoethnographies of Bairro Alto
In this chapter, we argue the urban night of Bairro Alto in Lisbon (Portugal) is strongly characterized by the promotion of alcohol-fuelled leisure among young people, which is very well represented by the rapid expansion of pub crawls during night-time hours. However, Bairro Alto’s nightscape is also characterized by street cleanliness and high noise level in public space; race, gender and class inequalities; heteronormativity and patriarchalism; liminality and labour exploitation; and hypersecurization of public space and social, moral and political control. All this features very well in Lisbon’s pub crawl culture. Based on an extensive ethnographic fieldwork, we argue pub crawls and their alcohol-fuelled carnivalesque expressions of (simulated) joy and happiness can be seen not only as a new element of social distinction shown by these “party tourists”, but hypersecurized micro-spatiotemporal evasions of the (precarious and uncertain) everyday life of pub crawls’ clients.
Jordi Nofre, Daniel Malet Calvo
Chapter 5. When Night Fails? Wellington’s Night-Time Culture in Flux
This chapter explores the different ways in which two music venues have learned to negotiate with different constituencies in the Wellington, New Zealand. From local neighbours to the Wellington City Council, how the owners of these venues have dealt with what are described here as informal and formal relationships demonstrate the manner in which the night-time economy of contemporary Wellington operates as an ambiguous space. Drawing from interviews with the owners and promoters at two established venues on how a notion such as urban amenity operates according to often capricious interpretations opens up a discussion on the city’s night-time economy and the owners’ complicated orientation towards “neighbourliness”.
Geoff Stahl
Chapter 6. Learning by Doing: Young Indonesian Musicians, Capital and Nightlife
This chapter explores young musicians’ strategies to accumulate relevant forms of capital in their struggle in the music fields. Particularly, the site of analysis focuses on the music scenes in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which is famous as a city of culture and tolerance. As a manifestation of secondary habitus, the music community and its night activity offer free space for young musicians to interact with fellow musicians, learn the feel of the game and accumulate valuable forms of capital. These processes of learning are manifested in the regular jam session, gigs and informal gatherings in the music community. Using embedded participant observation and interview data, this chapter explores in detail the forms of cultural capital and social capital that are constantly reproduced through night activity. The chapter also argues that night activity actually accelerates the process of acquiring embodied cultural capital and social capital among young musicians. This chapter proposes that valuable qualities of youth creativity can be developed through night activity, in contrast to common perception in Indonesia that regards night activity as a waste of time and irrelevant for young people.
Oki Rahadianto Sutopo

Dark Histories

Chapter 7. “Sounds and Scents Turn in the Evening Air”: Sense and Synaesthesia in Popular Song Settings of Baudelaire’s Evening Harmony
This chapter examines the way in which the night is performed and transformed in two “popular” settings of Charles Baudelaire’s poem “Harmonie du soir”, first published in 1857. Taking as a starting point the qualities associated with the musical nocturne, as outlined in Franz Liszt’s 1859 preface to John Field’s Nocturnes, the chapter argues that the principal qualities of the form provide a useful lens through which to read interart approaches to performing the night. Exploring the varied aspects of the night presented in Baudelaire’s poem, and examining ways in which these have been transformed through musical settings of “Harmonie du soir” by Ruth White (in English) and Nawel Ben Kraïem (in French), the chapter seeks to demonstrate how engagement with the artistic possibilities of the night has evolved in popular music, mediated through poetry.
Caroline Ardrey
Chapter 8. Got Any Gay Music? London’s “Anti-Gay” Queer Clubs 1995–2000
In the mid-nineties, a number of nightclubs emerged across London that were reactionary to the mainstream of Soho’s commercialized gay culture. With a DIY ethos and genre-bending music playlists, “Anti-Gay” queer clubs sought to welcome a broad church of people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. This chapter considers the motivations, ascendancy and corporeality of “Anti-Gay” queer clubs. By contextualizing this otherwise under-researched scene, three overarching themes emerged: identity, positioning and aesthetics. These themes are explored in reference to relevant academic literature and a reflexive interpretation of the remembered histories of the DJs, prompted and gathered through interviews.
Leon Clowes
Chapter 9. Music and Fear in Night-Time Apartheid
Much has been written about the control of popular music in apartheid South Africa, with a strong focus on censorship in particular. This chapter explores a specific under-documented aspect of that control: the repressive darkness experienced by musicians performing at night-time in the face of apartheid laws restricting freedom of movement and association. From curfews to roadblocks, the apartheid government attempted to control movement and association in night-time South Africa. Music was especially affected by laws which curtailed night-time movement and association given that most public performances take place in the evenings. Different forms of control impacted on (especially black) musicians’ ability to freely perform in South Africa. The chapter documents musicians’ experiences of night-time harassment during and travelling to and (particularly) from night-time performances. Integrated into this analysis is a discussion of music that documented these night-time difficulties, the writing and performance of which demonstrated musicians’ attempts to recognize and resist the intentions which such moments represent. The chapter reveals that despite apartheid government attempts to bring the night-time under its control, musicians fought back through the music they composed and their insistence on performing at night.
Michael Drewett

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

Chapter 10. Nocturnal Paradox: How Breakdancing Reveals the Potentials of the Night
This chapter is an exploration into how breakdancing (“breaking”) can be a vehicle for understanding the inherent tensions and dualities of the night, or what I term the “nocturnal paradox”. It moves beyond hegemonic discourses and regulations of night-time culture that are increasingly focused on its economic valorization to show how breaking—an activity in Sydney (Australia) that exists outside economic transactions—can offer a means to experience and navigate the nocturnal city in new ways. At a time when the strict regulation of lockout laws has spurred a slow decline in the economic-viability of nocturnal cultural activities in Sydney, breakers utilize the empty urban landscape to freely experiment with creative expression. This chapter moves beyond the often-limited and paradoxical framings of night-time culture to show how breaking reveals the potentials of the night.
Rachael Gunn
Chapter 11. Can We Play Here? The Regulation of Street Music, Noise and Public Spaces After Dark
The urban night is a contested realm of the city, offering many possibilities to understand the social and cultural dynamics intertwined in its existence. Conflicts emerging over silence, zoning and occupation of public spaces are usually translated into regulation and, in many cases, controversial law enforcement. The work presented here aims to analyse the regulation of street music and public spaces after dark, discussing how it impacts urban life. The research is based on fieldwork carried out between 2013 and 2017 in two cities: Rio de Janeiro and Montreal. The research methods included a theoretical framework on public spaces, street performance and regulation, as well as in-depth qualitative interviews (with street musicians, government representatives, professional associations, subway representatives and sponsors), and participant observation in festivals, subways and performances.
Jhessica Reia
Chapter 12. Transformative Darkness: Fear, Vigilantism and the Death of Trayvon Martin
On 26 February 2012, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman spotted Martin on a late evening walk through the gated Sanford, Florida, community in which his father lived. Martin was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and had recently purchased a pack of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea from a local store. Zimmerman was convinced that the black teen looked suspicious and called the police after trailing Martin through the area. Minutes later Zimmerman approached Martin and shot him. Martin’s death led to national outrage about the flagrant policing of black males in the USA. It also sparked endless questions about race, vigilantism and Zimmerman’s intentions when he encountered Martin that dusky evening. This chapter examines emcee Chosan’s song “Hoodie On” (2013). Chosan eulogizes Martin and critiques the perception of black youth as threatening and dangerous figures in suburban settings. Moreover, Chosan demonstrates the heightened sense of fear surrounding night-time encounters with black males. He emphasizes that a transformative darkness occurs where darkness is metaphorically converted into light. The darkness that Chosan refers to represents negative assumptions about black males, ensuing fright, and the violence emerging as a consequence. I will use lyrical analyses, musical analyses and personal communication with Chosan to explore the depiction of Martin in this nocturnal context. Additionally, I will address how documentation from the Trayvon Martin case illuminates how such ideas contribute to fatal incidents triggered by unwarranted policing and increased incidences of racial profiling.
Abimbola Cole Kai-Lewis

Midnight Rambler

Chapter 13. Songs of Apple: The Flâneuse in Nocturnal Tokyo
This chapter explores Tokyo as depicted in Sheena Ringo’s songs, Marunouchi Sadistic, Kabukicho no Joou, Kamisama Hotokesama and Nagai Mijikai Matsuri. The chapter aims to offer a re-mapping of identity and thoughts of Ringo, through the images provided in the songs as narrated by the figure of the flâneuse, a wandering figure often not the subject of detailed scrutiny when discussing these contexts. In order to do this, the chapter focuses on the close reading of the lyrics through the flâneuse’s exploration of, meditation on and interventions in nocturnal Tokyo.
Karen Anne Mata
Chapter 14. A Hustle Here and a Hustle There: Lou Reed in the City of Night
Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” has become a symbol of sexual openness in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even so, it is easy to feel that Reed’s engagement with matters of gender and sexuality is inadequate to the complexities of his subject matter. Set against a backdrop of musical irony and camp disavowal, the song all-too glibly presents the difficulties experienced by LGBTQ people, women, and people of colour. In this chapter, I argue that the song inherits its contradictory mix of sincerity and flippancy from Stonewall era representations of New York’s LGBTQ community. Reed provides a musical depiction of what the novelist John Rechy calls the City of Night, the nocturnal queer community hiding in the City that Never Sleeps. In this spirit, the record captures both a sensibility of freedom, the possibility and experimentation offered by the shadows, but also the darkened affect of a world experienced in terms of secrecy, defensiveness and shame. For better and worse, then, “Walk on the Wild Side” embodies the doubled hopefulness and despair of the City of Night.
Jarek Paul Ervin
Chapter 15. “Tonight You’re Still on My Mind”: Nostalgia and Parody in Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly
Donald Fagen’s debut solo album The Nightfly (1982) takes as its theme the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s and is a partly nostalgic, partly sardonic recollection of the suburban society in which he grew up. The title track presents the character of the late-night DJ, as a tribute to the legendary figures who sparked the young Fagen’s interest in jazz and bequeathed to him the hip outlook, including social criticism and celebration of black culture. This chapter examines two related features of the album that reflect the hip perspective: the combination of a satirical treatment of mainstream Eisenhower-era society (in the lyrics) with a parody of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll, swing, and other popular genres (in the music); and the development of the topic of the night, imagined as a space of freedom, a source of inspiration and a realm which invites encounters with the unfamiliar. Instead of the debauched and dangerous creatures of the night that had appeared on Steely Dan albums, The Nightfly presents a series of vignettes of suburban types (teenagers and their parents) in various nocturnal environments, as they contemplate the future, reminisce about the past, engage in flirtation and seduction, and confront menacing antagonists. Fagen’s narrator looks back historically, with both affection and irony, behind the façade of sanitized American life, finding youthful dreams that are swiftly set aside and adult temptations that can turn into deadly threats. I go on to suggest that the album contains an additional level of satire, directed against the widespread 1970s nostalgia for an idealized Fifties, which by the early 1980s had become associated with conservative politics.
Nathan Seinen
Chapter 16. Algorithm of the Night: Google’s DeepDream and (Dis)Harmonies of an Eternal Nocturnal
Jonathan Crary’s conception of 24/7 capitalism indicates eroding distinctions between night and day, a notion I extend towards distinctions between nocturnal dreaming and wakeful states as epitomized by a recent music video: Calista and the Crashroots’ “DeepDream”. This video uses Google’s DeepDream, a platform that leverages artificial intelligence algorithms to mutate visual forms into abstractions indicative of nocturnal dreamscapes. DeepDream’s algorithmic rendering extends this abstraction to night-time itself, a phenomenon in which the temporal distinctions of night and associated dreamscapes give way to an “eternal nocturnal” consistent with the logics of perpetuity in 24/7 capitalism. I argue for a consideration of this eternal nocturnal as derived from a “hypermodulation” of harmonies and disharmonies in “DeepDream”. The video harmonizes sonic forms and visual imagery, yet the algorithmic abstraction of its imagery entails a nocturnal dreamscape that is not a departure from waking life, but instead more readily at hand for waking life. In this way, nocturnal dreaming is at hand to obfuscate sleepless conditions of 24/7 capitalism and also at hand as a commodity that feeds back into the perpetual churn of 24/7 capitalism and algorithmic processing. As I ultimately argue, the disharmony between waking life and nocturnal dreaming is hypermodulated through the harmonies of sonic and visual forms, attuning sleepless denizens to the logics of 24/7 capitalism and manifesting an eternal nocturnal.
Christopher M. Cox
Chapter 17. Afterword
This Afterword locates the study of music and the night in relation to several new developments in cultural analysis. One of these is the emergence of “night studies” as an interdisciplinary enterprise devoted to examining the night in its social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions. Another is what I call the “urbanization” of popular music studies—their increasing concern with music’s place within the politics of proximity characteristic of the contemporary city. These developments have provided a rich context in which music’s relationship to the night may be understood.
Will Straw
Nocturnes: Popular Music and the Night
herausgegeben von
Dr. Geoff Stahl
Dr. Giacomo Bottà
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Print ISBN