The rock'n'popmuseum is a partner of the research project “Music Objects of Popular Culture”, which kicked off in September 2018 as part of the “Language of Objects” funding scheme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Together with the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Weimar and the Centre for Popular Culture and Music at Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, we are investigating “music objects”. While Weimar is exploring storage media (CDs, records, tapes) and Freiburg focuses on music players (music furniture, walkman), our sub-project “Generators of Sound” deals with musical instruments (electric guitar, synthesiser) and recording media (mixing console). All project partners are collaborating with affiliated or partner collections.
According to the assignment, the aim of the project is “to analyse the music objects of popular culture in Germany from 1945 to the present day in their technical-historical and consumer-aesthetic diversity, to understand their functions and meanings within changing socio-cultural constellations and to enable innovative concepts for presenting them in museums.” This is demonstrated in a hands-on manner by our sub-project. First of all, music objects - in our case the mixing console of the CAN studio and a Dr. Böhm home organ - are “scrutinised” from three interconnected aspects:
1. The object: How does it feel? How does it work? What materials is it made of? Does it have any special features in design, functionality or handling that catch the eye? What traces of use can we find and what relationship to the user might this indicate? This makes “hands-on” research with and on the object unavoidable, even if it has to take place within the narrow framework of conservation rules for the collections.
2. Production and history: What cultural and technical concepts influenced the design? What “images” of later use did the designers have in mind for the equipment and how did they advertise it? In what market was the equipment positioned and how? In this context the focus is on company texts, especially chronicles, but also “paratexts” such as signage, advertising brochures and manuals as sources.
3. Consumption: When and how was the equipment acquired, used, stored or collected? What influence did it have on musical practice and creation? How close is its connection with the biographies, the lives of its users? Eye witnesses are essential for answering these questions. This applies both to the evaluation of so-called “first-person documents”, such as old photos and videos, as well as expert and narrative interviews.
Conclusions and new insights into the (material) history and culture of popular music in Germany are to be gained “through” the objects. The selection of the analysed devices strikes a balance between types of use, decade, distribution (East/West) and associated music genres. Against this background, some instruments from the former GDR were also added to the collection of the rock'n'popmuseum.
But the purpose is not just to gain new findings but also to make them available to the public. Alongside specialist articles and publications, we are working on a comprehensive project website which, alongside the case studies, will also feature people who talk about their special biographical or professional relationships with their “music objects”.
For more information, updates, and our previous lectures and articles on the project, please visit: www.musikobjekte.de
Alan van Keeken, M.A.
Subproject “Generators of Sound”
Phone: +49 (0 ) 2562 814819