Conference in Austria on Music and Democracy

I spend a few late summer days in Austria, at the conference Participatory Approaches to Music & Democracy, organized by the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, and located at Hotel Marienhof, Reichenau and der Rax, southwest of Vienna. I participate with a paper about the green music movement in Norway in the 1970s, linked to my project about singing as identity marker and agent in conflict.

At this interesting and inspiring conference, music researchers and other contribute with ideas about music and democracy from various perspectives, for example linked to power structures in music streaming services. Keynote speakers include David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds) and Deborah Wong (University of California).

Here is the abstract of my own paper:

Political activism and the green musical wave in Norway

The 1972 referendum on Norwegian membership in the European Community created an enormous political engagement. Notably the “No-side” used music for spreading their message and mobilizing people. The appropriate political music had a green, environmental-friendly appeal, associated with the arguments against membership in EEC, which was seen as a capitalistic project that would threaten Norwegian nature and fishery resources. The green wave was connected to broader countercultural movements in the 1960s and 1970s, such as anti-war campaigns, folk revivals, feminist and left-wing ideas, in which various forms of music always was a central means for social and political activism.

The green political activists had a notable interest in local culture, and amateur-driven musical activities were cherished. Singer-songwriters and folk-musicians were as a rule considered to be more political relevant and authentic than rock musicians, since rock and other popular genres were considered to be expressions formed and manipulated by the commercial music industry. However, which music forms were considered to be most appropriate became increasingly debated in the green political movement.

In this paper, based on interviews and written sources, I will introduce some voices from the green political music scene of the 1970-ies, and ask how music became a tool for political activism among environmentalists. Was this music movement really a democratic grassroots movement, driven by engaged people in local communities? Finally, I will ask whether there is such a thing as “green music” or music associated with the ecological political movement today. Are green politicians and and activists concerned at all about music as a tool in their political work?

Gjermund Kolltveit

Music archaeologist, ethnomusicologist, musician – Nesodden, Norway. Main research interests: sound and sound tools (e.g. jew’s harps, lyres, ringing stones, bells) in human culture and soundscapes.

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