Call for submissions
Nostalgias: A special issue of Volume! The French Journal of Popular Music Studies
Edited by Hugh Dauncey (Newcastle University) & Christopher Tinker (Heriot-Watt University)
Volume!, the French peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of popular music, seeks contributions for a special issue on nostalgia and popular music in a variety of national, international and transnational contexts.
This issue will explore the ways in which popular-music-related nostalgia is produced, represented, mediatised and consumed. Morris B. Holbrook and Robert M. Schindler define nostalgia as
A preference (general liking, positive attitude or favourable effect) towards experiences associated with objects (people, places or things) that were more common (popular, fashionable or widely circulated) when one was younger (in early adulthood, in adolescence, in childhood or even before birth) (2006: 108).
Nostalgia is a perennial feature of the popular-music field, and has assumed during recent years an increasing prominence within many national contexts. This issue represents an opportunity to contribute towards defining the field of popular-music-related nostalgia, engage with and build on existing studies in disciplines as diverse as popular music studies, cultural studies, psychological studies and consumer/marketing research, and situate nostalgia in relation to other associated phenomena such as memory, commemoration and retro.
A key aim of this issue is to explore how nostalgia contributes to the development and status of particular popular music forms and genres. Barbara Lebrun’s study of French chanson néo-réaliste, which rose to prominence during the 1990s (e.g. Pigalle, Les Négresses Vertes, and Les Têtes Raides), indeed highlights the ‘incohérences’ and ‘contradictions’ of the genre, which is ‘réactionnaire et rebelle, vieux-jeu et moderne, élitiste et collectif’ (‘reactionary and rebellious, old-school and modern, elitist and collective’) and combines nostalgia, conservatism, protest and distinction/cultural exclusivity (2009: 59-60).
The role of popular music nostalgia in identity formation is a further concern. As Tia DeNora observes, ‘Music can be used as a device for the reflexive process of remembering/constructing who one is, a technology for spinning the apparently continuous tale of who one is’ and as ‘a device for the generation of future identity and action structures, a mediator of future existence’ (2000: 63). Andy Bennett focuses on ‘how the increasing dominance of the retro market in contemporary popular culture is enabling respective postwar generations effectively to relive their youth and to engage in nostalgic representations of what it means to be young’ and ‘how such nostalgic perceptions impact on perceptions of contemporary youth and questions the validity of terms such as “Generation X”’ (2001: 153).
Media/internet coverage of popular music nostalgia is particularly extensive in many national contexts. Chris Tinker (2012) has, for example, examined the significance of popular music nostalgia on French television, particularly following the launch of the successful Âge tendre et têtes de bois (‘Young and Headstrong’, David Looseley’s translation) series of concert tours and holiday cruises. Such coverage has several functions: to represent the past more positively than the present (‘simple nostalgia’), emphasise joy rather than the ‘bittersweetness’ (Hirsch 1992; Baker & Kennedy 1994; Madrigal & Boerstler, 2007…) often associated with nostalgia, represent a fantasy return to youth, and promote social and cross-generational cohesion. Coverage also supports popular music nostalgia as a commercial force but problematises its status within the wider musical and cultural field.
Of particular importance are the ways in which popular music nostalgia is experienced by listeners and consumers. Holbrook and Schindler describe, for example, how, ‘via a process called nostalgic bonding, a consumer’s history of personal interaction with a product during a critical period of preference formation that occurs roughly in the vicinity of age 20 (give or take a few years in either direction) can create a lifelong preference for that object’ (2006: 109). Cases include informants who ‘experienced strong nostalgic bonding with musical recordings’ (119), a young DJ who ‘describes his endless hours spent with a particular mixing device’ (119) and a bass fiddle/double bass player in New York who ‘focuses on a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) button given to street musicians who perform in the subway’ (120).
A further – more institutional – dimension of the imbrication of nostalgia and popular music is the way in which public policy has gradually developed definitions of heritage which extend to cover fields of popular cultural practice and forms, specifically allowing popular music artists, genres and works to be included not only in private/commercial ‘Halls of Fame’, but also to figure in official institutions supported by cultural policy. In the UK, the National Centre for Popular Music was a short-lived example of this trend but in other established museums, popular music is increasingly ‘remembered’ either through special collections, or simply made more visible through curatorial devices such as the V&A museum’s ‘subject hub’ for Pop and Rock music. In France, the Cité de la musique has established a successful intermingling of celebration, education and nostalgia through temporary exhibitions devoted to pop music artists and genres. Nostalgia is a component in the transformation of popular music into heritage.
Other, more general, lines of enquiry include the following:
– nostalgia for specific decades, periods, movements, fashions
– nostalgia and popular music canons
– nostalgia and the past, present and future
– nostalgia and the formation of individual and collective identities/social cohesion
– nostalgia and (inter)generation
– categories of nostalgia: ‘simple nostalgia’, ‘reflexive nostalgia’; ‘interpreted nostalgia’ (Davis 1979); ‘restorative nostalgia’ and ‘reflective nostalgia’ (Boym 2001); first-hand (‘real’)
– nostalgia and ‘simulated’ nostalgia (Baker & Kennedy 1994) or ‘vicarious’ nostalgia (Goulding 2002)
– nostalgia and ‘uncertainties of the present’ (Pickering & Keightley 2006)
– nostalgia and disruption (Davis 1979)
– releases and reissues – music, book and film; cover versions; revivals and comebacks
– nostalgia in mourning – deaths of artists/musicians and other figures
– nostalgic anniversaries – birth, death and career
– nostalgia in discourses of popular music and culture
– nostalgia tourism (Connell & Gibson 2003)
Again, these are meant to be suggestive, not to define boundaries.
Early abstracts: authors are requested to first send an early 200-300 word abstract by 30 July 2012. Deadline for final papers: 1 December 2012.