Music Matters. Materiality, Knowings and Practices in Performing Arts


Perspectives from popular music studies

Ralf von Appen

The main topic “Music Matters. Materiality, Knowings and Practices” relates to popular music studies in a number of ways. One key aspect could be the study of how current practices - ways of producing, distributing and listening to music - are being changed through the manifold effects of digitalization (which might be interpreted as a kind of de-materialization).

In particular, research could focus on:

• The effects on current sound aesthetics, song forms and harmony of new recording technologies (catchword “Bedroom Producer”) which allow high-quality productions with simple and affordable means;

• the repercussions of such changes on the aesthetics of professionally produced music;

• the influence of new channels of distribution such as YouTube, Spotify or Soundcloud and the associated playback devices (smartphone, laptop) on the aesthetics, form and sound design of current music;

• the changes in listening habits and the functions of music in the age of its constant and immeasurable digital availability;

• the influence of the algorithms of streaming providers on hegemonic canonization processes and users’ everyday music selections, and

• the effects of digitalization on the generation of knowledge about music: digital availability allows corpus analyses to an extent which was previously impossible; at the same time service providers collect enormous amounts of data on the listening behavior of users which can be used for "big data" studies.

To explore the extent to which "things" such as interfaces and new hardware devices, but also software and media platforms, act as non-human agents, academic work on material culture, human-thing relationships and actor network theory provides a helpful starting point.


Eglash, Ron (2013). “Technology as Material Culture.” In: Christopher Y. Tilley, Webb Keane, Susanne Küchler, Michael Rowlands and Patricia Spyer (Ed.): Handbook of material culture. London: Sage, pp. 329–340.

Jörissen, Benjamin (2015). „Bildung der Dinge: Design und Subjektivation.“ In: Benjamin Jörissen and Torsten Meyer (Hg.): Subjekt Medium Bildung. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, pp. 215–233.

Pinch, Trevor (2019). “From Technology Studies to Sound Studies. How Materiality Matters.” In: Epistemology & Philosophy of Science 56 (3), pp. 123–137.

Seifert, Robert (2018). Popmusik in Zeiten der Digitalisierung. Veränderte Aneignung – veränderte Wertigkeit. Bielefeld: transcript.

Straw, Will (2012). “Music and Material Culture.” In: Trevor Herbert and Martin Clayton (Ed.): The Cultural Study of Music. A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge, pp. 227–236.