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Theses Doctoral

Zou Qilai!: Musical Subjectivity, Mobility, and Sonic Infrastructures in Postsocialist China

Kielman, Adam Joseph

This dissertation is an ethnography centered around two bands based in Guangzhou and their relationships with one of China’s largest record companies. Bridging ethnomusicology, popular music studies, cultural geography, media studies, vocal anthropology, and the anthropology of infrastructure, it examines emergent forms of musical creativity and modes of circulation as they relate to shifts in concepts of self, space, publics, and state instigated by China’s political and economic reforms. Chapter One discusses a long history of state-sponsored cartographic musical anthologies, as well as Confucian and Maoist ways of understanding the relationships between place, person, and music. These discussions provide a context for understanding contemporary musical cosmopolitanisms that both build upon and disrupt these histories; they also provoke a rethinking of ethnomusicological and related linguistic theorizations about music, place, and subjectivity. Through biographies of seven musicians working in present-day Guangzhou, Chapter Two outlines a concept of “musical subjectivity” that looks to the intersection of personal histories, national histories, and creativity as a means of exploring the role of individual agency and expressive culture in broader cultural shifts. Chapter Three focuses on the intertwining of actual corporeal mobilities and vicarious musical mobilities, and explores relationships between circulations of global popular musics, emergent forms of musical creativity, and an evolving geography of contemporary China. Chapter Four extends these concerns to a discussion of media systems in China, and outlines an approach to “sonic infrastructures” that puts sound studies in dialogue with the anthropology of infrastructure in order to understand how evolving modes of musical circulation and the listening practices associated with them are connected to broader economic, political, and cultural spatialities. Finally, Chapter Five examines the intersecting aesthetic and political implications of popular music sung in local languages (fangyan) by focusing on contemporary forms of articulation between music, language, listening, and place. Taken together, these chapters explore musical cosmopolitanisms as knowledge-making processes that are reconfiguring notions of self, state, publics, and space in contemporary China.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Music
Thesis Advisors
Ochoa, Ana M.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 28, 2016
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